I read your post w much empathy and also wished I could in some ways, go back in time, better equipped w more insight. I wondered what it wd be like to have my 21-yr-old daughter be 7 again, so I could re-visit sooo many moments like what you are having with your daughter now. My daughter wasn’t diagnosed w ADHD until age 12, after her lying reached new heights—-she was suspended from middle school for several impulsive lies/decisions/actions. How did she get to that point—did she lie as a small child, often about obvious things? Yes. And did I become furious about untruths, citing its damage to trust-building & relationships, taking each lie as a personal affront and recounting “The Girl Who Cried Wolf”? Sadly, too many times to count.
Loving lectures, time-outs, sending her to her room—-you name it—-neither incentives nor consequences seemed to help. I’ll be honest—-our relationship has suffered due to the lying and my responses, as she has continued in using this as a coping/escape mechanism whenever she feels anxious, nervous or insecure, even though once the lie is found out (and it always is) the truth comes with loss of friendships, jobs and other disastrous circumstances. Her therapist explained that in the face of a direct question, no matter how innocuous it is, my daughter has a deer-in-the-headlights moment & feels as if someone has put a gun to her head & the answer becomes a life and death matter. She blurts out anything to get the attention off her, not having the foresight to consider that a ridiculous untruth often leads to even MORE questions! Her one lie causes her to think she has to tell multiple ones, and so the tangled web is formed & tightens around her. There is no inherent malice or disrespect in this flawed coping tool. She has been taught & understands the difference between truth and a lie. But when in her mind it’s survival at stake, there is no choice to make; if an answer is required & she just blurts one out—-and boy, have there been some doozies. When the truth is revealed & she must confront the victims of her lies, which we always encourage and facilitate her being able to do, there is an abundance of shame, fear, anxiety on her part. I recognize that some of that comes from almost a lifetime of getting in trouble for lying. There is almost always anger & just about every negative emotion from the hurt party. Despite such negative consequences you’d think she’d avoid this behavior——progress is so very slow. High school was such a painful and difficult experience, we ended up homeschooling, which solved one issue but further isolated her socially in many regards. One gap year turned into 3; while she always worked, lies played a part in losing several jobs. Only recently has she found a field of interest along w determination to finish a course & pass w flying colors—-soon to begin exploring a job as a CNA. She is diligently working to be truthful in her social interactions. We keep her as accountable as we can, she also has worked in a young socialization group and individual therapy.
I share a little of our story, not to discourage you, but to lend perspective. How I wish, when I was where you are, I could have had a mom that’s farther down the parenting path tell me that it’s a much longer, arduous path than I thought. That the mountains I thought I was facing are in fact, molehills. That preserving our relationship had as much to do w allowing her to save face as it did to point out the wrong of the obvious lie.
I would instruct and model ways of correcting immediately, misspoken words like saying, “Why did I just say that? “That’s not what I meant…”, always followed by, “Sorry.”
Look at the heart, not always the actions. Through the most distressing situations for me as a parent, when my daughter lies, it hasn’t ever carried malicious intent, desire to defraud or injure; it was to get out of the interrogation spotlight and also often to feel important, interesting, liked. While ADHD has it’s challenges and pitfalls, we have also told our daughter it is her superpower that in the course of a lifetime can be discovered, identified, understood, harnessed, and used for good. Godspeed to you, mama——never give up.