Childhood ADHD and Lying: Why It Happens and What We Can Do
My family and I have recently dealt with a little problem that pops up randomly and unexpectedly: my little boy with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been telling lies. He lies about things he would not even get in trouble for if he told the truth, which makes the situation even more frustrating. I started wondering, though, if this behavior is linked to his ADHD. Is there a connection between childhood ADHD and lying, and what can I do to tackle the issue?
When It Comes to Childhood ADHD, Lying Is Usually a Coping Mechanism
As it turns out, kids with ADHD do tend to lie about little things. According to Chris A. Zeigler Dendy, MS, a former teacher, school psychologist, and children's mental health professional, children with ADHD lie to get out of tasks that are difficult for them.1 For instance, my child will say that he is done cleaning his room when he has barely started or that he is finished with a school project when he clearly is not. This is how he tries to avoid a task that feels gargantuan for him.
Of course, sometimes he lies to get out of trouble, too. According to Dendy, this is probably because he is so impulsive, but sometimes, he tells more lies to cover up the deception he just told. The latter is more disturbing for me since it feels like a deliberate story he rehearsed in his head before talking. So what is a parent to do about childhood ADHD and lying?
What I Can Do About My Son's Childhood ADHD and Lying
When I realized my kid was lying to me, I knew that I had to do something about it. Whether he has ADHD or not, I've seen the damage habitual lying can do, and I do not want him to experience that. This is a behavior I need to correct sooner rather than later—preferably, in love. How I handle each instance depends on what the lie is about, but here are a handful of ways I have learned to deal with my little boy's childhood ADHD and lying:
- I drill the importance of honesty into his little brain. I tell him that if he lies to people too much, they will not be able to trust him. It might sound harsh, but that is the truth.
- I give him extra help on chores I know are difficult for him. I give him explicit directions that I repeat as necessary, and I remain close by in case he needs me. I would rather he ask for my help than lie to me just because something feels too hard.
- I do not ask questions that I know will be followed up with a lie. This is one of Dendy's suggestions, and I use it with adults, too. When I know the question on my mind will be answered with a lie, I just choose not to ask it.
- If my kid lies to get out of trouble or to cover up another lie, I put him in time-out. Being too impulsive or frustrated is one thing, but intentionally continuing to lie is another. This is a poor decision on his part that I need to correct.
- I try to avoid accusing my child of lying. If I cannot prove it, I let it go. I want him to be honest with me, but I also do not want him to think of himself as a liar.
Do you struggle with childhood ADHD and lying in your family? How do you deal with it? Let's start a conversation in the comments below.
- Dendy, C., "The Truth About ADHD and Lying." Attention Magazine, April 2018.
Sharp, S. (2021, February 3). Childhood ADHD and Lying: Why It Happens and What We Can Do, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, May 9 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/parentingchildwithmentalillness/2021/2/childhood-adhd-and-lying-why-it-happens-and-what-we-can-do