Published on ADDitudeMag.com
Strategies to Help Your ADHD Child Fib Less
Understand why kids with ADHD are more prone to tell lies — and learn what you can do to help guide your ADHDer to honesty.
by Carol Brady, Ph.D
children lie occasionally. But because of impulsivity and low self-esteem — and
their tendency to make mistakes that they think need covering up — kids with
ADHD are especially prone to stretching the truth. How should parents react when they catch their child
in a lie? Use these strategies to help your child recognize the importance of
telling the truth.
Lying, an ADHD Symptom?
The impulse to tell fibs does not make your youngster a bad
person, nor is it evidence of a character flaw. It’s just a byproduct of ADHD —
almost a symptom. And like other symptoms of the disorder, it can often be
helped by medication. But even with drug therapy, your child may need extra
coaching to understand the importance of truth telling.
Explain the Consequences
Some kids tell lies out of insecurity, concocting fanciful
stories in an effort to boost their popularity. Punishing an insecure child is
likely to do more harm than good. Instead, make sure your child understands what
will happen if she gets caught in a lie. The downside of telling a lie — even a
relatively benign one — may be obvious to grownups, but kids need to be
reminded that lying usually causes more problems than it eliminates.
Practice the Pause
Instead of taking time to respond appropriately (and
truthfully) to tough questions, impulsive kids blurt out an answer — even if
the answer is an exaggeration or a blatant falsehood. Teach your child to
silently count to three before speaking, and to use that time to formulate a
If your child says something you know to be untrue, stay
calm. Reacting angrily, or with obvious dismay, will only make your child feel
the need to tell additional lies to defuse the situation — and end up digging
herself into an even deeper hole.
Give your child the opportunity to reconsider her answer.
When you catch your kid in a fib, give her another chance to answer, with no
consequences for lying. Whether this “truth check” is done immediately or a few
hours later, it teaches kids to second-guess an untruthful answer.
When a child lies to cover up mistakes or misbehavior, it
can be tempting to pile on the “consequences.” But in encouraging honesty,
rewards are often better than punishment. For example, giving your child a
small token when you catch him being truthful will encourage that behavior in
Telling White Lies
lies by having your child pretend that he has just received a
birthday gift he doesn't like. Now ask him which response he would most
B. “I’ll never play with this thing.”
C. “Thank you for the nice present.”
If your child picks C, congratulate him, and discuss why
that was the right choice. If he answers A or B, explain why the gift-giver’s
feelings would be hurt, and how white lies are appropriate in such
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