My ten-year-old stepdaughter has recently developed a habit of telling bold-faced lies to avoid getting in trouble/having to do something she does not want to. How do we respond to this?
The child’s parents have been separated since she was three, and for the past five years she has primarily lived with parent A and myself. She is supposed to see parent B on alternating weekends and twice during the week. B often cancels these scheduled placement times with just a few hours’ notice. Recently this has started to greatly upset the child (previously she acted indifferent or just a little disappointed). The child has always had some behavior problems, primarily ignoring people when they talk to her, arguing when asked to do something, and not following directions. She has been screened for hearing problems and her hearing is normal. She has also been screened for learning disabilities and ADHD and at that time (two years ago) she did not meet the criteria for those conditions.
The current situation
In the last few weeks, my stepdaughter has started telling lies to avoid getting in trouble, and she doubles-down on the lies even when confronted with evidence to the contrary.
The lies can be very small, for example saying that she brushed her teeth, to pretty substantial, for example saying that she did not get in trouble at school even after we received an email from her teacher explaining how she misbehaved and what the consequences were.
The part that is very concerning is that she digs in and doubles down on the lie when confronted with evidence that her lie is not true. She truly seems to believe that her lie is reality. Example:
Parent: You need to brush your teeth.
Child: I already brushed my teeth.
Parent: You did not brush your teeth. I watched you walk into the bathroom, play at the sink, and walk back out without brushing.
Child: I did brush my teeth!
Parent: I am telling you to brush your teeth now.
Child: (crying and/or yelling) I told you I already brushed my teeth!
She has also started yelling and crying when she is doubling-down on the lie. In the past she would usually accept that she had been caught in a lie and accept the consequences/do what she was asked to do. She was not one to easily cry.
We have received reports from her teachers at school confirming that the same behavior occurs there.
The next steps we will take are meeting with her teachers and school counselor, and we have made an appointment for her to meet with a counselor outside of school. Parent B is kept informed of the events occurring and is encouraged to participate in the process but so far has chosen minimal to no involvement.
As an aside, I strongly suspect that something happening when the child is with Parent B is fueling this, and/or Parent B’s lack of interest and involvement in the child’s life is fueling this behavior, but that is not something Parent A or I have the power to change.
Until we can meet with the counselors and get more information about what the underlying problem is and how to address it, how do we respond when she is doubling-down on her lies? We are left feeling like sputtering idiots when she is denying things that we saw happen with our own eyes, and questioning our own grip on reality. And we are not sure how to respond when she tells us something that seems implausible but which we can't prove or disprove.
For the big lies she has told about her behavior at school, she lost TV/electronics for one week, and after the latest set of lies a few days ago she was grounded from those things indefinitely. When she raises her voice or starts crying as in the example above, she is sent to her room and told we do not talk to each other that way. Is there a better way to deal with this? Is it important to get her to admit that she is lying, or should we just stop engaging with the lie and move directly to issuing consequences?
In the last few days it has become unpleasant to spend time with her or engage in conversation because it might devolve into an argument about the nature of reality. Even small things could trigger an argument. Our patience is worn so thin and we have no idea how to address this. If she was an adult I would say she is gaslighting us.
This question is very similar in nature, but the answer doesn't seem likely to help and doesn't address some of my other concerns.