Q: Why Is My Child Lying to Me About Everything?
Children with ADHD don’t lie to hurt our feelings or to spite us or because they lack a moral compass. They lie because they are lacking some critical skills, and it’s our job to help them develop the tools they need.
Q: “When does the ADHD lying stop — or how can we correct it?” – VA Beach Dad
Hi VA Beach Dad:
I can’t offer an accurate “deadline” for when the lies will end since I don’t know all the circumstances: What specifically does your son lie about? Are the lies significant — cheating? stealing? — or are they more about everyday occurrences such as doing homework or responsibilities around the house? How often does this happen? Instead, I’m going to focus on the best way for you to help your son.
First, please know that children with ADHD may lie more often than other children. Their lying doesn’t typically stem from a place of defiance. It comes from feeling overwhelmed or challenged by what is being asked of them. Let me give you an example: You ask your son to clean his room. A little time goes by, you ask if he cleaned his room, and he says yes. But when you go into the room, it still looks like a complete mess and you’re left standing there completely bewildered why he would lie about something as benign as cleaning a room.
The issue isn’t that he intended to lie, but that the task he was given to do was either too hard, too big, or too complicated — he didn’t know even where to begin, so he froze. And when push comes to shove, some kids would rather lie and face those consequences than try to do what is being asked. Bottom line? For some kids with ADHD, lying is just easier.
Second, know that how you respond to the lying makes all the difference in the world. I know this is going to be hard to hear, but I learned a long time ago not to take the lying personally. Again, I don’t know what your son is lying about, but in my experience, ADHD lies have little to do with disrespect or even hostility. They come from a place of confusion or lack of problem-solving skills.
Here are a few tools to help you help your son.
- Take the emotionality out of the equation. To be clear, I’m not saying you can’t be upset or pose a consequence. But shaming your child or even asking why he lied is going to get you nowhere. In my experience, it only escalates the situation and steals time from focusing on the reasons behind the behavior.
- Instill appropriate consequences. I 100% believe in consequences that fit the crime. So a natural consequence to your son not cleaning his room might be that he can’t go see his friends until he does. However, focusing on the root of the issue and helping your son overcome those challenges is just as important. In other words, telling your son he can’t go see his friends until he cleans his room isn’t going to get you anywhere unless he knows HOW to clean his room.
- Set up an appointment to discuss. This strategy is one of my favorites. When your child is caught with his hand in the cookie jar, the most typical response is for him to get defensive and deny! The next time your son tells a significant lie, present this option to him instead: “I understand that you might need to gather your thoughts to explain to me what happened today. Let’s talk at 8 pm so you have some time to prepare what you are going to say.” This strategy allows your son to have some space to remember the circumstances leading up to the behavior and to get his thoughts and emotions in order.
Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.