(Closed) Daughter might be a pathological liar. Help

posted 7 years ago in Parenting
Post # 137
6738 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: June 2014

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@TexasSpringBride:  In regards to the birth mom, have you considered trying to terminate her parental rights and adopting the daughters yourself?  This way, if something does happen to your DH, you will keep the girls? This isn’t legal advice; I’m not a family law lawyer, but perhaps going to see one to see what you can do (if anything) would be helpful. 


I also think that maybe it’s time to see a new therapist.  I don’t agree that she has antisocial personality disorder, but I only majored in Psychology in undergrad and that was quite a while ago already lol. 


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@TexasSpringBride:  I also believe in the truth being better than lying and giving someone hope.  There’s a reason hope was in Pandora’s box, I always say.  It’s actually a terrible feeling when there’s nothing to hope for (in your daughter’s case). 

Post # 138
845 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: February 2014

I’m not a mom but I am a devoted auntie. I’d say maybe look for a new therapist. And tell her the story about the boy who cried wolf – often. She needs to understand that eventually no one will belive her anymore even when she is telling the truth.

Post # 139
413 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

+1 for investigating for a new therapist/diagnosis. I’d try shopping around, looking at reviews of therapists, asking for recommendations for ones specializing in pediatric behaviour problems. They might not be helping as much as they can. Said as a former child depressive who really didn’t get better until my therapist improved.


Sometimes it isn’t even about diagnosis but achieving the right ‘match’ in therapy before people make real improvements, even kids.

Post # 141
440 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: November 2012

@TexasSpringBride:  I can’t help thinking this will get buried under all the other messages you have here giving such great advice, but I wanted to just chip in.




I am a child of a mother who abandoned her children. When she left I was 6 years old. I now have relationship with my mother which I find satisfying and I no longer have any issues with the the fact she left. (This I consider to be very lucky, from a father who loved me completely and through a stint in therapy when I was in my early 20s)- in the 80’s you generally didn’t send a child to therapy so I can’t comment on the use of this.




Anyhow, when I was younger I used to lie about things, not necessarily as elborate as your SD but the same principle. I’d lie about where I was and where I’d been, I remember saying that the teachers didn’t let me eat my food at lunch time. I’d answer back in classes, I’d be sneaky about my lying so it almost came across as an innocent missunderstanding.




At the time I couldn’t explain why I was acting the way I was, it was as confusing to me as it was to everyone around me. At certain times I was as loving and sweet as the next child but then sometimes I just hit an emotional wall that I didn’t know how to cope with and I used to lash out by lying.




Many years later I now understand why I acted this way, it wasn’t to gain attention (although that helped) I was acting this way to see if people still cared about me, my thinking was, if my own mother didn’t want me, why does anyone else? Taking things away from me, grounding me and threatening me with punishment of any other kind didn’t work because I didn’t care about anything. I’d already lost the thing I loved the most.




I had no outlet that suited me to express my confused emotions, I wanted to inflict the pain I was feeling on other people so I would hurt them in similar ways to your SD.




The crunch for me was when, after one lying episode my father sat me down and said, I don’t care what you did, I don’t care that the teachers are mad, and that you’re in trouble, I care about you and I want to know what you need from me to fix this. It wasn’t a one off conversation but him getting on a level with me and telling me that my actions didn’t stop him loving me was what I needed to hear.




Rejection to a child is about the worse thing you can get, be it through abandoment or death, it makes you question the very purpose of your being. If the person who should love me the most can leave me, then so will eveyone else.




I don’t know if it a tact you’ve tried but helping your SD to understand WHY she’s lying rather than the fact that lying is wrong will help her express why she’s doing it. I’d encourge you to express – even if it sounds like its falling on deaf ears, that her mother leaving her wasn’t her fault, that her mother left because of X,y,z and that you love her and are so proud that she is a part of your family.




This is a huge area, and I’ve already gone on longer than I thought I would! But please feel free to PM me if you have anything you want to speak about more. I have a lot of empathy towards your stepdaughter, I’ve been there and I believe that under all the misdemeanour, with the right angle you can resolve this sooner than you think.




Post # 143
746 posts
Busy bee

What Soon2BeeMrsG said!  Exactly.  Rejection and abandonment can all cause BPD “traits”, or even more generally emotion dysregulation.  if she lost the thing that meant the most to her when she was young – her mother –  she’s not going to care about other things, including her effect on other people.  

It’s like, being abandoned at a certain point in a child’s life can halt their development, and now you essentially have a 4 year old (or however old she was when her mom left) in an 11 year old’s body.  She can’t regulate all these scary emotions, and lying is the one thing she’s found that helps her gain control.  If it’s not stopped, she will turn to drugs, stealing, sex, etc. etc.  This is how people get diagnosed with all sorts of personality disorders, when perhaps it’s just that they still haven’t dealt with the trauma from years and years ago.

Absolutely get another therapist.  One who deals with dialectical behavioral therapy, as a PP mentioned, or family systems therapy (FST) or rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT).  This, I think, could really turn it around for her.  She needs to learn two things: trust and consequences.  But especially trust – to know that everyone in her life won’t leave her like her birth mom did.  

Good luck to you and <hugs>!  You are are being an AMAZING support for her, and I hope she realizes how lucky she is down the line.  Make sure to take good care of yourself during this difficult time.  🙂

Post # 144
11231 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2013

I’m so sorry that things aren’t better, OP. I know this is very hard on all of you.

I very strongly agree that you need to seek a new therapist or a psychologist who specializes in children. She needs more help than the therapist is giving her, especially when the therapist says to continue what is obviously not working. I totally agree with you that someone needs to tell her that her mother doesn’t want her. Not like that, obviously, but she keeps striving for her attention and she isn’t going to get it. She needs more help than anyone can currently give her.

I do like the suggestions that she visit juvie or jail, but I just don’t know that trying to scare her straight is going to work. I honestly believe that she has a disorder that therapy isn’t going to help.

Post # 145
20 posts

Not a parent, but I have read the entire thread so far, and everything you have said sounds exactly like my younger sister. She exhibited the exact same behaviors your daughter is all of her life (she is now 20). She would lie about her chores, her favorite animals, friends at school, stories, you name it, it was a lie. She would tell friends that she was a horse trainer and lived on a farm, when she barely had been around horses and we lived in a subdivision. Around age 12 or so, the lying got destructive. She realized she could use lies to manipulate the people around her to get her way. It escalated further and further. She would steal money and then lie and say someone stopped to give her money on the street. Totally obvious lies. The worst thing she did was, at 16, tell a counselor at school that my dad burned her with cigarrettes and physically abused her. My dad is in law enforcement and was suspended and put under investigation for her allegations. My half brother and sisters were taken by CPS and I had to meet with CPS and vouch for my stepmom and dad so that my stepmom could retain custody of HER kids. When it all came out that it was a lie, my sister said that she wanted him to get in trouble because she was mad he grounded her. She could have ruined his life, and her brother and sister’s, because she was angry at her dad.

 I know my parents had her in therapy for over 9 years, had her on medication, involved her in things, and took everything away. (at one point she had a bed with 1 blanket, 1 pillow and 5 sets of white shirt and khaki pants in her room with no door.) None of it phased her. In fact, very similar to other PP’s, she laughed when she was little and threatened with spanking, and thought it was funny. My parents are divorced but both parents were active in our lives, and my stepmom has treated us better than her own kids our entire lives (she’s been there since my younger sister was born).

I know I have rambled on a bit, but I wanted tell you my story to warn you to watch your other children. My sister’s problems exhausted my family, and they spent so much time trying to fix and react to her, that the other kids’s needs were put on a back burner. My youngest sister even started copying the lying behavior, once she saw how effective it was. I still refuse to have a relationship with my problem sister, because of what she tried to do to my dad. I hope you can figure it out how to help your daughter, for your sake and your other children’s. I wish you all the luck in the world, and pray you find something to help her, before it ruins her life, or someone elses.


Post # 146
7643 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: July 2012

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@TexasSpringBride:  Honestly, I’ve read two pages, and it seems you have tried everything except a new therapist. I would try a new therapist with some new ideas. If that doesn’t work, I honestly would place her…there are many places that take children with behavorial problems, and I think that may be your best option. This girl sounds like she is eventually going to end up hurting someone.

Post # 147
746 posts
Busy bee

OP, I would like to add a couple more things to this thoughtful discussion.

For fifteen years i suffered through many diagnoses – borderline, bipolar, depression; i was an addict and I stole and lied for a long time.  I hurt people I loved, but I mostly hurt myself.  Looking back at my old self, I see someone who totally felt abandoned and had absolutely zero self-esteem.  As unpopular as this might sound, I think the suggestions to take her to juvy, show her a jail, etc – those kinds of things will totally not help.  She sees the consequences, and would probably mimic the “appropriate” behavior to you at the time, but she isn’t getting it, like it isn’t connecting on that primal innate level.  This happened to me many a time.  Taking her to a jail I think is only going to reinforce her inner fear of being abandoned there.  

Now, that doesn’t mean she should only be praised and given lots of attention!  I truly think she needs a therapist she can connect to – someone she feels safe exploring those areas that she cannot explore with you or her current “dud” therapist.  I cycled through about a dozen therapists throughout my teens/twenties and things never really got any better until I found my current therapist – someone I trust and felt safe exploring lots of painful memories – that I couldn’t do with anyone else.  

Some people, for whatever reasons, have a fiercely guarded inner wall.  Your daughter does, because the person she should have been closest to left her.  That’s the most devastating thing that could happen to a young child!  Like, you said you’ll ask her why she lies, and when you start to get at the issue, she stalls and says IDK and gets hysterical.  THIS is where the change needs to happen, THIS is exactly where a good, trusted therapist needs to help her understand and respond appropriately to her feelings, in the moment.  

Don’t underestimate the power of anxiety in our lives to show us where/when change needs to happen.  When she acts out, especially when she gets hysterical and DOESN’T KNOW WHY – that’s when you can really get through to her/make her aware of her reactions.

Again, my two cents.  I hope any of my (longish) posts help.  What a wonderful mom you’re being!  :0   

Post # 148
112 posts
Blushing bee

Definitely would suggest a new therapist. Also, get your hands on ‘Daring Greatly’ by Brene Brown. It sounds like your daughter struggles with abandonment, fear, and feeling shame and unworthiness from being rejected by her own mom. Dr. Brown’s research deals with a lot of these same issues… it’s too much for an 11 year old to read, but you and her dad could get a lot out of it to understand and help her.

She’s written a beautiful ‘Parenting Manifesto’ for families… http://www.oprah.com/own-supersoulsunday/blogs/Dr-Bren233-Brown-The-Wholehearted-Parenting-Manifesto

Good luck. Someday all your effort for her is going to pay off!

Post # 149
1623 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: July 2012

As a psychologist (albeit not a child psychologist), it sounds to me like you are dealing with quite a bit more than abandonment issues.  What type of therapist is your daughter currently seeing?  I think she really needs to be seen by someone who is a full-on clinical psychologist who has seen Axis I and Axis II disorders before (even better if you can find someone who specializes in kids and has worked with Axis II before).  Obviously none of us can really diagnose her this way, but I think it would benefit your entire family to have her thoroughly looked at by a PhD psychologist (not all therapists have training in major disorders and thus may be less likely to see them) or a psychiatrist for personality disorders.

Post # 150
9916 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2013

I only read to page three because lunch is over (yes we eat at 10:30!!!) but I was thinking…instead of her punishment being positive things happen to other people, what if instead she had to do something positive for the person she hurt with her lie?  For example, she has to now ask the sub what she can do to help her, and her teacher as well.  Then you help her perform tasks that help those people.


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