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How Can I Get My Tween to Stop Lying?

By Julia Taylor, Educational Consultant

Question:

I have a problem with my 11-year-old telling me lies. She is constantly making up stories. She is mad at someone or something everyday. I can't even talk to her without her getting defensive about what I say. She is very tall and also overweight, and the other kids pick on her. If I tell her not to eat a lot before dinner, she always tells me they had a bad lunch at school and she didn't eat anything. If I tell her to wait anyway, she gets mad and tells me I think she is fat! I know she is eating something at school but I never know if she is lying or not. If I don't let her eat, she will sneak food when I walk out of the kitchen. What can I do or say to help build her self-esteem? I have tried getting her in activities and she doesn't like them. She was in marching band but they aren't doing any games at this time. I could use some suggestions.

Answer:

For these issues I wouldn't treat them as lying; the scope of the problem lies much deeper than telling the truth or not. It sounds like your daughter needs a serious self-esteem boost. There are a lot of activities that are not necessarily "athletic" that can help girls develop camaraderie with one another, build leadership skills and help girls with social skills. For example:

  • Girl Scouts (particularly if you find a fabulous troop leader)
  • The YMCA often has amazing leadership programs for middle-school students.
  • Girls on the Run is a national program that does involve exercise - but also includes a course of self-esteem building activities and group "counseling" type sessions about body image, friendships, etc.
  • Craft stores like AC Moore and Michael's often have jewelry-making classes, and places like "Paint your own Pottery" offer the same for teenagers.
  • If she likes children, she could sign up for a baby-sitting course and start out volunteering at a local church or synagogue.

In terms of your relationship with her, I would steer away from hiding food or making comments all together. If you are concerned about her eating too many foods that are not nutritious (nothing is "bad" in moderation), I suggest keeping a low stock on those foods and having plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and good sources of whole grains around the house. Portion them out in snack-sized bags and have them readily available. Grocery stores like Whole Foods Market have grocery store tours that you can sign up for, and they teach families about nutrition and how to shop for healthy foods on a budget.

Lastly, make sure your daughter has plenty of people in her life whom she can confide in. Talk to her teachers, school counselor, etc. Let them know what is going on and ask about her behavior when she is away from you. If she is having problems making friends, sometimes school employees can help in terms of involving her in an ambassador program, school leadership programs or different clubs where she can meet people who share similar interests. If you find yourself constantly worrying or feel she is a danger to herself or to others, please seek the immediate help of a professional counselor or doctor. It never hurts to have a professional opinion.

Julia Taylor is a professional school counselor for Wake County Public Schools in Raleigh, N.C.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.