How to Respond When Your BPD Person Lies

It’s almost one hundred percent certain your child, tween, teenager, or young adult has lied or will lie to you about something at some point during these years. Because lying happens.

During the teen years we all found ourselves at some point creating an entire life of our own, separate and distinct from our parents. We formed personal opinions on social issues, political issues, what kind of music we liked, what kind of people we liked, what kind of person we wanted to be, and the kind of people we wanted to hang out with.

You may not have lied to your parents at all while you were a teenager, but you should know that if you never lied to your parents, you were in the minority.

Things teens might lie about

Who they're hanging out with

What they're doing

How they feel

Whether or not they have a love interest

Studying for a test

Finishing their homework

Things their friends do (or are allowed to do)

How they spend their money / allowance

Whether or not they've tried alcohol, drugs or cigarettes

Whether they've been in a car driven by a friend who'd been drinking

Anything that happens in their life

If it happens in their life, there’s a chance they might lie to you about it. That’s not to say they will, but research shows there’s a chance they’ll fudge the truth about all of the above.

Adolescent lying, however, is not a positive milestone. It may be an indicator that they’re meeting other positive developmental milestones, such as emotional and psychological differentiation from parents, independence, loyalty to friends, and moral/ethical reasoning, but the lying itself is not a positive characteristic. It’s something parents need to address, resolve, and move past in order to help their teens grow into responsible, accountable adults.

Most often teen lying is harmless, but there are times when it’s not harmless. If a teen is lying to cover up behavior that’s dangerous or illegal, that’s an entirely different story. It’s time to take it seriously. It’s still not time to freak out. We never recommend that. But it is time to let your teen know you absolutely will not let it slide.

An atmosphere of trust and communication is still crucial. But lying to cover up drinking, using drugs, or illegal activity may be an indicator of an underlying problem. If you think your teen is lying for those reasons — or if your teen repeatedly makes up untruths or wildly embellishes facts with no apparent guilt, remorse, or indication they know it’s wrong — then it’s time to consider enlisting professional help in the form of a fully licensed and credentialed psychiatrist or therapist.

Responding to lies

Recognizing the type of lie your person is telling and understanding the reason why they’re lying can be a really powerful window into your person’s mind and their needs.

Understanding their motivation will give you the best direction in which to move as you deal with the lies.

Keep in mind that a pattern of many broken promises, failed relationships, or repeated lies that were intended to harm another requires additional support and professional guidance. If the lying is less severe, below are some effective ways to begin to create an environment where the person can feel safe enough to be honest. After all, most people don’t get up in the morning planning to hurt others or to lie. Most of us don’t want to damage our relationships. Remember that you, too, have altered the truth at one time or another.

how to respond when your emotionally sensitive person lies


Resist the urge to trap your teen in a lie. You’re not law enforcement. You’re a parent. No one wants to be called a liar! If you do so, you can expect them to respond defensively because doing so creates a very negative environment that your person is likely to avoid at all costs.

Stay calm.

Flying off the handle, raising your voice, angry lecturing, and freaking out will not help. Having a discussion in a reasonable tone will help. You want your person to trust you. Creating a highly-charged emotional atmosphere is likely to backfire. Your teen will want to retreat and do anything they can to end the conversation as quickly as possible.

Don't take it personally.

When your teen lies, it’s not an attack on you. When (if you did) you lied to your parents during adolescence, you were probably not doing it to hurt them. Teen lying is, in most cases, more about them than it is about you.

Ask yourself: Do I know for sure this person is lying?

Ask yourself: Is this a situation that has frequently led this person to lie?

Ask yourself: What is MY emotion and thought about this lie?

Focus on their words and the content of their communication.

Notice if the lie has broken, destroyed or harmed someone or something that does not belong to them.

Ask yourself: Is there any other information I need before moving forward?

If all of the above has been done, then and only then...

Ask: What can you tell me about this?

Use a sincere and curious — not confrontational or suspicious — voice. Listen to gain insight as to the need they were meeting by lying.

Ask open ended questions.

Avoid yes or no questions or any questions that have a "right" or "wrong" answer. Notice their response. Do they say, "I don't know"?

Let them know that lying upsets you and why.

Calmly communicate that lying upsets you because the worst thing about a lie is that it destroys trust in the person telling the lie.

Do not punish honesty.

If they admit to telling a lie, make It clear that you will not be punishing/blaming etc.the person for choosing to not tell the truth because you place a high value on honesty.


Validate that you can see why they might have felt a need to lie based on the kind of lie AND that you hope they will consider other ways to solve the problem before lying in the future.

Remember that it's a process.

If your person has gotten into the habit of lying, it may take some time to get them back on the honesty track. Be patient, be loving, and be calm. It may not happen overnight, because the behavior probably didn’t spring forth overnight. Establish and communicate reasonable outcomes for lying, proportional to the lies. Take away screen time, move up curfew, or restrict the use of your car. Whatever you do, allow your teen time to adjust.

Model honesty for them.

Your teenager sees and hears way more than you think they do. If they see and hear you telling white lies all the time, then that increases the chances they’ll tell them all the time, too. Lying can snowball: being comfortable with the little lies may – but not always – lead to being comfortable telling big lies. Next time you’re on the phone about to tell someone, “Sorry, I’d love to help, but I can’t, I’m busy right now,” when your kid is right there on the couch next to you and can see you are not busy, do the right thing: be honest. Your kid will take notice.

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