Children lie for many reasons.
Children who have been diagnosed with ADHD tend to lie more often. That’s because children with ADHD have trouble with executive functions like:
- managing time
- paying attention
- remembering details
- planning and organization
- and multitasking
Much of the time children with ADHD don’t lie to be dishonest. Lying is a symptom of their condition.
Think about it this way.
You tell Johnny to help his little brother pick up his toys. It doesn’t happen. When you ask Johnny about it, he tells you that you never asked him to help. Johnny wasn’t paying attention to you and never processed your request.
The Different Processes of the ADHD Brain
Researchers studying part of the brain called the caudate nucleus have discovered that this area of the brain brings information together from different parts of the brain to assist with cognitive functions, like memory.
“The study indicated that this portion of the brain is smaller in people with ADHD. Other research found that people with ADHD don’t use the anterior cingulate cortex. This region of the brain helps focus attention.” Source: Additudemag.com
Kids with ADHD will lie at times (like all people on the planet) because they want to avoid getting into trouble or being shamed.
They will also lie because they may be processing information slowly but notice the expectation for a quick answer, so they make one up on the spot.
Being impulsive is another reason kids with ADHD lie. There are times when a child will tell a lie before they process whether what they are saying is true.
By far, the number one reason children lie is that they fear getting in trouble. They don’t want to admit to, or always know how to handle:
- friendships and relationships
- poor grades
- disappointing others and punishments
- being shamed at school or rejected for missing assignments or progress chart participation
How to Help ADHD Kids Who Lie
First, it is not in your child’s best interest to accept or cover up, a lie. Unchecked lying that happens too often reinforces that a child has no accountability for their actions which can lower self-esteem and set up behavioral problems in the future.
Additionally, punishment-based approaches to lying seldom work with neurodivergent kids.
- Never shame a child who has lied. It is much better to talk to them about trusting and believing what they say. Help them understand what they could have done differently.
- Remember that lying is often a symptom of ADHD. Your job is to help your child to learn that they must stop and think before giving an honest answer.
- Don’t ask questions that set a child up to lie: “Did you do this?” Instead say, “How are you going to fix this or make this right?”
- Many times, a lie can be hedged before it is spoken, if you can ensure that the child heard the request, processed the information correctly, and has simple steps to follow.
A good reminder for all adults is to remember that kids with ADHD are at a higher risk for:
- eating disorders
- substance abuse
- teen pregnancy
- trouble with the law
- not graduating high school
- automobile accidents
- teen pregnancy
We can help our children understand and manage the consequences of lying. For more information, we suggest the following reading material:
The Boy Who Cried Wolf ADHD Style
The Truth About ADHD and Lying
ADHD and Lying: Why Does Your Child Lie?