What do I do about a lying teen?

My 15-year-old daughter is a compulsive liar. She is an otherwise good kid but when confronted about something she has done will lie most of the time. What should I do?

You might cast your mind back over the course of your daughter’s childhood and try to remember what consequences she has faced when caught in wrongdoing. If she got away with lying, would it protect her from some negative consequence, such as physical punishment? Even if a particular negative consequence no longer occurs because of her age, a habit formed in early childhood can be difficult to break later, despite the fact that the expected negative consequence may no longer be present. (Think, for example, of Pavlov’s dog, which salivated on cue even without the presence of food once it was conditioned to expect food at the sound of the bell.)

In any case, it appears that your daughter may need counseling to help her overcome whatever caused the bad habit and to begin to develop the positive habit of telling the truth. Once truth-telling becomes a habit, it will be easier to pursue it as a virtue. You may wish to contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute, a Catholic counseling apostolate, for either counseling or for a referral to a Catholic counselor in your area.

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