Lying Teens: 5 Types of Kid’s Fibs, White Lies and Exaggerations


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Lying is something I am hearing about a lot recently.  Teens themselves are complaining a lot about their friends lying or even getting caught in their own web of fables.  Parents, seem exhausted by the constant exaggerating, lying or fibbing that they are constantly having to decipher with their tweens and kids.  I think this is a serious issue that is not written about enough because everyone is talking about it, but no one knows others are talking about it.  Parents of fibbers come to me with their head hung low or with an email that starts off with a paragraph saying they feel bad that their kid is the only one doing it.  Everyone is having this issue, and everyone should be dealing with it immediately, because often times, I think that lying with kids only gets worse.

1) Lazy Lies

First lets make a distinction.  I think many teens ‘lazy lie’ these are lies they make when they just do not want to do something else. It is important to be able to recognize these from actual menaving lies, like:

“I already finished my homework, so can I watch the end of Lost?”

“I took the cups down from my room”

2) Forgetful Lies

Or there are lies that they truly do not remember the answer too.  This happens a lot when I work with kids on school work pride and taking a larger role in their learning. They truly do not remember what the truth is, so they make something up and try to convince you (and themselves) that this is the truth.

“I swear we do not have to do the whole chapter of reading for homework tonight.”

“Mom did say we could have dessert after dinner even if we didn’t finish our pasta.  I think…well I was watching Hannah Montanna when she was talking about it, but I am pretty sure that is what she said”

3) Persuasive Lies

These can bend the truth or be a flat out manipulation in order to get what you want.  You find teens doing this especially when it comes to new house rules, time with friends or new priviledges.

“Jessie’s parents will be home.  Jessie told me so himself”

“Dad told me to tell you that I can go out and play now.”

These lies can usually be debunked with a simple yell down to dad or a fact check.  If you catch your kid in one of these it is important to take some serious consequences (see below) right away.

4) White Lies

My parents explained what this was to me when I was little and I think it was important for me to know at a young age.  A white lie is a lie that you tell for someone elses benefit or because you think the truth is unnecessarily painful.

“Mom you look soooooo skinny!”

“Oh yes, grandma, your casserole was the best on the table.”

I don’t think kids have the aptitude, nor should they have the need to tell white lies…afterall aren’t kids the only people who tell it like it is?  I also think that there are certain adults who prefer the truth no matter how hard it is to hear.

5) Compulsive Lying

This is the kind I worry about most.  Even though it is the most frequent kind of lying, it can be the hardest to detect.  This is because teens and people who compulsively lie, often have layers upon layers of fibs and one cannot know how to decipher between truth and reality.  Moreover, compulsive liars themselves sometimes get confused about what is true and false and often can be very persuasive.

How to Deal with Kid Liars:

Here are some options to think about if you are seeing lying with your kids:

  • Serious the first time: The first time you find your kid lying or catch them in a fib, I would make a very serious deal out of it so they realize right away how bad lies can be.  Often times, I think teens and kids get away with small lies, or are caught to not much consequence and figure that lying is much easier than truth.  You need to show them this is not the case.
  • Consequence and Lie Tie-In: Consequences for lying should have to do with the actual lie.  If they are caught stealing candy, they should have to pay out of their allowance and go buy new candy with you.
  • Rewards! If you have serious consequences, with teens you can also think about having rewards.  If you have a compulsive liar, you could make a rule where every week that goes by without lies, you will give her a ____ (whatever she likes) maybe 10 songs on iTunes.  Make it small enough so they can be incentivized and large enough to make them want it.
  • Examples: This is one case where I think personal stories and examples are useful. When I speak with teens I often give them very personal examples of how I or friends have been caught in lies with serious…or sometimes no consequences and the effect both had on me and those around me.
  • Mental Lie Guilt: I think it is important to explain to kids that even if they do not get caught, there is a very definite mental effect on your own lies.  Tell them about how people who steal or do something bad and then do not talk about it…often the worst punishment is your own guilt.  This is a perspective most kids have not heard, but is very real.

Most of all, talk to your kids about lying and know that if it is a problem in your house, you are not alone. This is a normal part of growing up and can be stopped if dealt with directly.  Hope this post has helped, feel free to add your stories or ideas in the comments.

12 Responses to “Lying Teens: 5 Types of Kid’s Fibs, White Lies and Exaggerations”

  1. rose
    April 2, 2009 at 3:49 pm #

    Interesting observations. It’s easy to brand a kid a liar and leave it at that. It’s good to remember it’s not black and white.
    I have to respectfully disagree with rewarding the compulsive lair. They have difficulty with the truth and the only way you will know they lie is if you catch them. It’s easy to get away with a lie if you don’t get caught, and if the C.L. got away with the lie, he/she is likely to lie and lying.

  2. Vanessa Van Petten
    April 2, 2009 at 4:31 pm #

    Hi Rose

    Thank you so much for your observations, it is definitely a very grey issue and has lots of fuzzy boundaries, thanks for pointing it out!


  3. A Teenager
    April 6, 2009 at 12:33 pm #

    I have a 3.9 GPA. I have been accepted into VT, JMU, and CNU all early decision. I don’t drink and I don’t do drugs. My own mom still checks what I do and I am a senior in high school. It’s not that she doesn’t trust me but I am forgetful at times. I have said, “I swear we do not have to do the whole chapter of reading for homework tonight” because we honestly didn’t have to read the whole chapter.

    Personally, I think you need to look deep down inside you and ask yourself, and don’t lie to yourself, if your child has the aptitude to be a liar. If they do, then certainly look above and check it. But if not, then yes, check it, but don’t freak out if they say one of those things. Most likely they are being sincere.

  4. Vanessa Van Petten
    April 7, 2009 at 8:30 pm #

    A Teenager

    Thanks so much for adding your thoughts on this!


  5. Nancy
    April 10, 2009 at 12:17 pm #

    Great thoughts on a tough topic. Po Bronson wrote an interesting article for New York magazine last year on kids lying:
    A big takeaway for me was how important it is to let tweens and teens have some appropriate places for automony so they won’t lie to create that autonomy.

  6. Vanessa Van Petten
    April 10, 2009 at 1:27 pm #

    thanks so much, I will check it out!

  7. Vanessa Van Petten
    April 18, 2009 at 12:12 pm #

    Hi nancy!

    Thanks for this! I will check out the article

    Thanks for reading!


  8. d jero
    December 18, 2009 at 10:38 pm #

    I have a teen that tells lies not white lies BIG serious scary lies to the point he shares these lies with the school and i was called in for a confernece ! these lies are not about me but they ar about him being involved in shootings gangs etc……these lies are not small they are huge and very concerning any ideas…

  9. Jeanette
    January 3, 2010 at 4:58 pm #

    I just followed the link put in by Nancy dated April 2009.

    It clearly tells us that the kids who lie the most have parents who are not very strict and let them get away with too much. Also that overly strictness can push a child to rebel is a MYTH….
    I was brought up super strict, you know what? it made me sneaky and most of my behaviour and lies were well thought out.
    I have been married more than once, and left because my husbands weren’t just strict, they were mean! Bullies who really didn’t understand that respect wasn’t automatic, fear was.
    Anyway, My 14 yo just spent a month of school holidays with her stepfather and his new family. I got several phone calls informing me that she lied non stop most of the time she was there, telling his Girlfriend and her daughter that he beat her and stealing from them too.
    She is one of 5 children so its not the first time I’ve dealt with this… and no I still dont know the answer.
    She lies constantly here too, lies about going to school, and taking her sister’s clothing, cd’s etc. Her answer is always the same… “I dont know”
    I’ve tried virtually all means of discipline, from grounding to taking away all her privilages.. it doesn’t stop.
    so what is the answer? how do we make them talk to us and tell us what is going on?

  10. laura
    June 21, 2011 at 1:10 am #

    hi i am a teen and i have been known to fib (as in the i didn’t eat the candy fib)

    two points i would like to make

    1 a teen needs to be acosed of the right thing e.g. if i get away w lying ill think its easy, if i then get in trouble for something i didn’t do ill think that if i lie or not i will be acused for it so what is the point. this means that you need to have a way of always knowing who did what without lies even needing to come in to it. also when getting someone in trouble dont list the things you think they have done because half the things on this list they won’t have done and those are the only ones a teen will hear.

    2 DO NOT lable a child as a liar because i know thati have found that if i ever have second thoughts about a lie i will often think well i lie its what i do (luckely im begining to break that habbit). the reason for this, i think, is that as a teen i am looking for an identity and any thing you say is helping us find that. so don’t let them think you think of them as liars. this includes right now i found this site because my mother was looking up how to deal with liars and i saw it when i was looking though the history on my computer and it made me feel dirty. if and child sees that you where on this they will go “oh ok i am a liar”


  11. StealthGenie
    January 11, 2012 at 5:15 am #

    I’m not talking
    about the types of kid lying.I just want to monitor my kids
    activities.Someone told me to use StealthGenie a mobile spy application to
    monitor cellphones activity.Kindly tell me that this software is ok for me?


  1. 4-10-2009 Articles This Week | Radical Parenting - April 10, 2009

    […] Lying Teens: 5 Types of Kid’s Fibs, White Lies and Exxagerations Lots of teens and kids lie, but when does it cross a line and when should you be worried? Here are a few ways to tell the difference and know your teen is not the only one fibbing. […]

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