ADHD and Lying: What Every Parent Needs to Know

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ADHD and lying go together more frequently than some parents would like. Not every child with ADHD has a greater tendency to tell white lies. Still if you are a parent of a child diagnosed with ADHD, you might start to see signs of lying and deception.

The reality is that some children with ADHD do have a tendency to lie more than other children. Still, ADHD doesn’t produce deceptive behavior in all children. Some children with ADHD go the opposite direction and have a compulsive tendency to tell the truth.

If you are dealing with ADHD and lying in your household, we want to look at what might be some of the reasons for this and what you can do to help modify the behavior and encourage honesty.

What Causes ADHD and Lying

Processing or Communication Problems

ADHD and lying occur sometimes in children simply because the child has a difficult time expressing themselves. They may tell lies when they think they are being honest in trying to express themselves. They might even just be forgetful. The disconnect for the child might not actually be in that they are trying to be dishonest but rather they simply struggle to honestly communicate.

ADHD might not necessarily cause children to lie, but its symptoms might make it more difficult to speak honestly. Processing or communication problems result in misunderstandings. These misunderstandings cause honest lying behaviors that the child might not be able to help.

Low Self-Esteem  

While it might not always be the case, ADHD and lying occur with some children due to low self-esteem. In some children, ADHD compulsive lying begins due to how the child perceives him or herself.

Children with ADHD have a difficult time separating emotion from fact. They struggle with focusing in class and keeping up with assignments. Many times they find themselves on the outside looking in. They appear strange to their classmates. They feel out of place.

As a result of these feelings, they sometimes turn to telling lies without even knowing why they are doing it. At the core, though, they might be just trying to be like all the other kids.

Coping Mechanism

Additionally, although it might not be low self-esteem causing the root problem, the child most likely is trying to cope with something. They might also start lying because they can’t remember and don’t want to keep saying they forgot. They might be lying because they feel shame at failing so much.

Whatever the root cause, the start of ADHD and lying can lie in the way the child feels about themselves and how they cope with trying to fit in.

How Can I Address ADHD and Lying?

Identify the Root Cause

The first step in addressing ADHD and lying is identifying the real underlying feeling. You need to know the cause, whether that is forgetfulness, low self esteem, a processing problem, or a coping mechanism. Once you have identified the feelings causing the compulsive behavior, it is then that you can reclaim parental control and help them stop lying.

For instance, if your child lies to deal with low self-esteem, work with his teacher to be sure he feels more a part of the class. If the underlying motivation is avoiding having to confess their failure, help to monitor the tasks they struggle with most until they don’t fear failing.

Whatever the case, be patient and understanding. Truly understanding the root cause can take time. Addressing the feelings might take even longer.

Try to Identify With How They Are Feeling

Correcting ADHD and lying begins in truing understanding the underlying feelings. Put another way your child doesn’t need punishment, she needs compassion. Try to truly understand the feelings as they feel them.

Part of this means not punishing them for something they don’t understand. Another part involves not forcing them into situations in which you know they will lie.

Compassion and true understanding takes time. It’s important, though, that you don’t put a label on them as a liar when it most likely isn’t something they intend themselves.

Confront the Lying

It’s good to know and understand the root cause. Still what do you do when your ADHD child lies? Quite simply, you point it out to them.

Resolving ADHD and lying starts with confronting the lying. Once you have identified the root cause, your next step should be to call out the lies when you hear them. Your child might not understand they are lying, but you can’t help them unless you specifically identify the lying instances.

Whenever your child lies, tell them they are being dishonest. Don’t punish them for the behavior (remember: resolving root causes). Rather, tell them what the truth should be. This way with confronting the lie in the moment, you are teaching your child how to be truthful in the future.

ADHD and Lying: The Big Takeaway

What we are not saying in this article is that lying is ok or that you should not discipline your child when they are wrong. In fact, we encourage disciplining ADHD children. We also encourage knowing and following the right ways to discipline as opposed to the wrong.

The big takeaway of this post should be the recognition of the need to understand the root feelings at work in your child. Lying can often time be an indicator of something more going on. Be patient with your child and show them compassion.

Confront the lying, but don’t punish your child for something outside their control. ADHD and lying don’t have to go hand in hand. Work with your child to find a manageable solution.