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Daughter Lies Repeatedly

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I am a divorced mother with 3 girls Two eleven year olds and one thirteen year old. Life has been hectic for the past four years.

One of my twins (11 years old)is self-conscious about having acne and is putting my makeup on before leaving the house. I have to leave for work early so I am usually not at home in the morning during their routine.

Two things concern me: Allie knows that I do not allow the wearing of makeup but, repeatedly continues; Also, Allie lies about it. I am seriously concerned about this for many reasons. What I am finding is that I truly do not know how to discipline her for repeadtedly doing something she does not have permission to do and the consistent lying about it. She's also taking and wearing a lot of both of her sister's clothes and then lying about it. Please help!

A: Your daughter is telling you something through her disobedience. I suspect that a good deal of her lying about putting on makeup and wearing her sister's clothes has to do with her being discouraged about her appearance. My guess is that her continuing to put on your makeup, despite your "no makeup rule," has to do with her desire to cover up her acne problem. The emotional turmoil that adolescent acne inflicts on kids cannot be underestimated. It makes kids feel ugly and lacking in any appeal at a time when they yearn for popularity and acceptance. She could be trying to look more grown up through makeup but I bet it's more of a cover-up remedy than anything else. She's lying to you and continuing to break your rule because she is desperate to make her face look better.

I would strongly suggest that you focus on the underlying reasons for her disobedience rather than on her lying. Show her some compassion and tell her you understand how she feels, especially if you had acne when you were an adolescent. Offer to take her to a dermatologist. There are many successful treatment approaches to acne today and most kids can be helped significantly with a dermatologist's help.

When you think about it, her lies are not malicious or attempts to hide something terrible that she has done. You might want to say to her, " Honey, I know that you must be feeling sad and discouraged about some things and that's what is making you tell these lies, put on my makeup and wear your sister's clothes. Let's figure out how you can feel better. I will help you in any way that I can. I know that you're a great daughter and that you don't like lying to me. I know that we can make things better for you if we work as a team." She needs your understanding and empathy, not your anger and blame for being a liar. I think that this approach will help turn things around. I'd welcome your feedback after you take this approach.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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