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Stop Your Teen from Lying to Your Face

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What can you do to prevent your teen from becoming a liar -- not to mention ending up on a Most Wanted list?

Virginia Pelley: Kari Ferrell promised friends she could get them backstage at music festivals, a perk of her concert production company job. She told others she was pregnant, some that she had a psycho-stalker ex, and some that she was dying of cancer. None of it was true.

mom confronting her lying teen

Known as the "hipster grifter," Ferrell landed on the Salt Lake City Police Department's Most Wanted list at just 22 years old, with five warrants for forgery, retail theft, and passing $60,000 in bad checks before she turned herself in earlier this month.

Certainly, Ferrell's is an extreme case. But what should you do if you discover your teen has been lying? Betsy Brown Braun, child development and behavior specialist and author of Just Tell Me What to Say, offers this advice:

Check the stress level.
"Teens are under huge amounts of pressure. When there is lying, it's not uncommon that it's to avoid responsibility. You have to look at your situation. Does he have too much going on in his life? Parents have to look at the big picture instead of just the lying."

Get kids moving.
"If your kids have gotten to 14 years old and they're not involved in something, where have you been? Kids who are active have a strong sense of themselves" -- and don't need to lie or steal to fill a void.

Take time.
"Spend time with your kids. It's the most potent medicine to give your child or any human being. That's how you build relationships."

"Nobody is 100 percent honest," Brown Braun says. "But I think that once most kids gain life experience, they know what will happen when they lie -- it will bite them in the butt."

next: Missing Children and the Power of Media
63 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jim May 26, 2009, 8:35 AM

Good advice to be sure, but there is such a thing as a middle ground. I was a teenager once, and really can’t imagine having been a teen and not lying to my parents. Why? They were way too involved, pushing me to be involved in things I wanted nothing to do with. My mother was constantly living out her unfulfilled life vicariously through me. Instead of just letting me be a teen, go to movies, go to the occasional party, and treating me like I had some common sense (which I did; no booze or sex), they just assumed all the bad, sensationalist things they heard about in the media or from other sensationalist parents was rampant, and would assuredly happen to me. Today, 24 years old, and I still lie to them, and have a very complicated relationship with them.

Always look for the middle ground.

Anonymous May 26, 2009, 7:03 PM

Ferrell was arrested, she didn’t turn herself in. Get your facts straight.

Anonymous May 26, 2009, 8:22 PM

Always be the best you can be. Never compromise who you are to find a so called “middle ground”. Remember character counts and your character is in play. It’s okay to be true about what you believe in. It’s not your problem if you tell the truth. If you think you are going to tell a lie remember your own power to not even respond.

Sarah May 27, 2009, 4:18 AM

Anonymous #2, I think you should stay off the internet until you reach the mental age of at least four. That kind of smarmy sincerity has never helped a single person. Ugh. Disgusting freaks like you who can only think in black and white are why we have religious wars and Republicans to deal with. God, I hope you don’t have children, or if you do, that they’ve found themselves some good therapists. I shouldn’t have even clicked on the Gawker link; I think I am actually shaking with rage.
Jim, sorry for yelling at the person who was responding to you! I don’t mean to cause a scene.

Thomas Reimel May 27, 2009, 1:25 PM

Anonymous #1 completely correct: Ms. Ferrell did not “turn herself in” as she claimed, rather, that was another of her lies.
There is a kind of delicious irony to a writer getting taken in by the very exemplar she chosses, though, in a piece about how not to be lied to!

Ugh MOMS May 29, 2009, 6:27 AM

Really? REALLY? Kari is a sociopath or something right? It’s not like she was your average teen.

ALSO: I back that Sarah up all the way.
Anonymous #2 is a close-minded fool.

Miranda May 31, 2009, 4:36 AM

Ferrell was not a typical teen. Firstly, she was not a teen at all, and secondly, she grew up in complicated circumstances, being adopted by a family of Mormon background and of a different ethnic background. Hardly “normal” circumstances.

Fishman July 22, 2009, 11:46 AM

Here is some more information to help you deal with a lying teen.

kiki December 22, 2009, 12:54 PM

The way to stop your kid from lieing is always going to be hard buut there is alwys ways to deal with it maybe take some advice. Umm…. what are you talking about who is farrelll??

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