Lying…when it's obvious

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    • #117266

      This is the first time I’ve posted and I’m just beside myself with anger and sadness at the same time. I walked into the bathroom where my 7 YO ADHD daughter just got into the bathtub and noticed a yellow plum of urine in the clear water. I asked why she just peed in the tub and she insistently lied over and over directly to my face that she didn’t do it. How can she do that?! And, better yet, what consequence should I use? I’m so sad that I cannot trust my daughter and angry that she has this different brain. I tried to explain calmly the moral of “Little Boy Who Cried Wolf” and about trusting relationships. However, all I can think about is the future we have in a non-trusting mother-daughter relationship. I know she’s trying to save face, but COME ON…I saw her do it! How does that not register?! And, again, what should I do about the lying (it’s not just the peeing in the bathtub thing…there are so many other examples)? Thoughts? Has this or something similar happened to you? Thanks, in advance, for any helpful insight.

    • #117398
      Penny Williams

      This is a common problem for kids with ADHD. They are not meeting expectations/disappointing others/ in trouble so often that they try to avoid it at all costs.

      It’s important for you to stop adding personal moral or ethical judgement to this action. It’s not disrespect. It’s a brain that functions differently and is filled with more challenges in everyday life. And, kids with ADHD are 2-3 years behind their same-age peers in many ways developmentally. You’re really parenting a 4 or 5 year old in many ways.

      The Truth About Your Child’s Lying

      Raising a Child Who Wants to Behave

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #117493

      Lying is an impulse control thing. People with ADHD might tell obvious untruths because they fear there will be consequences for doing something or not doing something, and without really thinking about the situation they snap to a lie. I know I’m much more honest as an adult even when I’ve done messed it all up, but as a kid I think most things I said were not true. I’m sure that sucked for those around me. It took a process of thinking about how lies make me feel about myself and how they make other people feel in order for me to learn to control that impulse. And controlling that impulse is a skill that has to be learned, there are some techniques out there. I know it’s going to be frustrating and will be a long-term project to overcome this, but acknowledge your child when she tells the truth let her know how it made you feel that she did, and hopefully this will help her connect what she says to the way people feel about her. When you’re in trouble a lot (and kids with ADHD are) it’s easy to feel drawn to positive reactions and knowing that what you’re doing is something that gets other people’s approval.

    • #119283

      I am new, but felt compelled to reply to this one. I was a horrible liar as a child. Like you, my mother would ask me time and time again whether I had eaten the cookies or whatever the offense was at the moment, despite clear evidence that I was lying. I would look her in the eye and swear up and down I hadn’t done whatever she was accusing me of. I was in constant fear of consequences. But when I was reading your post it struck me that what if the offense was taken for granted as the having been committed. That is to say, rather than “did you pee in the bathtub?” Approach it with something like this, “looks like you peed in the bathtub let’s get out and run fresh water.” If she denies it after that, just brushed it aside as no big deal. “ I see some yellow in the water, let’s start with fresh water.” When I reflect on how I would’ve felt as a child if my mom had approached it like that I would’ve felt relief on several levels. One, I didn’t have to lie, two, I made a mistake and it’s OK and three, I made a mistake and mom loves me anyway.
      Just my thoughts.

    • #119294

      I was diagnosed recently as an adult but I do remember lying constantly as a child, for no particular gain. Interestingly, as an adult, I find that I pathologically tell the truth, even when the consequences of doing so will cause me personal detriment.

      Personally, I wouldn’t make a big thing of it. I would think that your daughter thought she was going to get in trouble and so it’s a very logical thing to do. There are no major consequences to peeing in the bath, urine being 91-96% water diluted into about 100 litres and you’re talking minute amounts of urea and other salts. (I’m pretty sure each of my older brothers and sisters pee’d in the bath before it was my turn as a kids…).

      As mentioned previously, I definitely wouldn’t take it personally or see it as a moral failing. Basically, don’t sweat the small stuff. All kids, ADHD or not, will lie to avoid getting in trouble.

    • #119295

      I seriously get why you are so frustrated and angry! I have ADHD as an adult and my children have it. It’s just that intense fear of rejection we have that makes it too hard to admit we screwed up. (Side note: In the bathtub incident, isi t possible she didn’t realize she peed in the warm water?)
      What to do about it: If she knew she peed, the best thing to do is say, ‘why did you pee in the water?, then immediately follow that up with ‘let’s drain the water and try again’, even before she has a chance to respond. If you treat it like a huge deal, it will be far harder for her to admit guilt. You are far more likely to get an ‘I’m sorry , Mom’ acting quickly to correct it than to question her. Emphatically questioning her is literally the worst thing you can do (She probably has no answer for that). However, if you you redirect and finish the bath and then, very non-emotionally (no anger, disbelief, frustration) ask her, what happened, she may have an answer. She’s had some time to think about it and you’ve had some time to calm down.
      So what do you do when what they do IS a big deal? Kids with ADHD are incredibly intelligent and self condemning! She will punish herself much more than you can. Do you best to stay calm and trust in the moral values you have already taught her in church or through whatever your belief system is. Just remind her of those values when something happens with a single sentence, not a lecture, and let her stew on it. She will put it all together. She’s old enough to do that now.
      Hope this helps!

    • #119297

      Followup: I really like what the other members had to say as well! I lied like crazy as well. It was truly impulsive. Damnmouse has some very good thoughts on that. Just be careful not to get super angry and also, remember she needs your love SO VERY MUCH MORE than your correction. That is the one thing I still struggle with as an adult. Shame stays with me for anything I mess up, even unknowingly. I had to change religion to find one that preaches love and grace on a weekly basis. The culture of my family church growing up was very focused on what others thought of you. Kids with ADHD do not thrive in that kind of environment. My mother did not understand me and gave up trying to which meant she gave up loving me. Never give up on her! Never give up loving her! The fact that you are writing in says you do still love her very much, enough to share your story to get help! This is a very good thing! Kudos!

    • #119298

      I agree with Texcy’s post. I have many years of experience teaching students with ADHD and raising a son with ADHD. One of the reasons the lying happens is directly related to shame and fear of rejection. I agree that avoiding asking a question will eliminate the telling of the lie and is a better approach. I would be sure to state the truth and also add something like “I know you wish that didn’t happen” or “I am sure you feel bad about the choice you made and we can make a plan together to make a better choice next time”- depending on the behavior.

    • #119299

      I’m totally there with you!! My ADHD daughter turns 7 this week, and this has been our greatest struggle for the last few months. After months of her telling extensive, blatantly obvious lies, we’ve finally begun to make headway. To begin with, I had to figure out the “why”. My daughter, in particular, is very sensitive to being “in trouble”, especially if we yell. Her instinct when called out on something is to lie; it’s not only impulse control, but self-preservation. At the same time, she knows that she did something wrong, and there’s a part of her that wants to be caught, as children need boundaries and limits to feel secure, so she would sometimes even point out something that she had done, and say that “someone” did it, but not her. Once I discovered the “why” I began to work on the way *I* responded. Yelling at her for things that resulted from her lack of impulse control, and sometimes unintentionally shaming her for them, only contributed to her “need” to lie. I started really evaluating the behavior and whether it was a “heart” or “brain” issue; ie: whether she was being intentionally defiant/disobedient, or just acting on a childish impulse. If it was a childish impulse, I began to simply explain why it wasn’t a good choice. My daughter is very empathetic, so a strong emotional response to the most dangerous choices (like walking 2 blocks, at the break of dawn, without telling anyone that she was even leaving the house, and talking to a stranger in a minivan!!!), has been the most effective at getting through to her. On the other hand, heart issues such as defiance, disrespect, selfishness, meanness, etc., we talk about in a different way. I know that she deeply wants to be well-behaved, and she’s definitely a people pleaser, so pointing out the root of the behavior is helping her to realize that she doesn’t want to become the kind of person that the behavior indicates. Above all, I moderate my voice to be kind, understanding, and encouraging, even if I have to add a note of sternness to it. I was at my wits end, but let me tell you: it’s working!! At first, I realized that the habit of lying wasn’t going to just disappear, so I allowed one initial denial as her instinctive response, but she was expected to be truthful when I followed up with “Is that the truth?”. The first couple times, it took one or two more questions, but I praised her when she told the truth, because I knew that it was hard and scary for her. When she realized that I wasn’t going to freak out, she began responding truthfully more and more quickly. Now, she is even admitting responsibility when I ask who did something, or how something happened, rather than letting her brothers take the blame. I’m SO proud of how far she’s come, and I still praise her for being truthful. Occasionally, we’ll have a setback, and in the moment I feel utterly defeated and frustrated beyond belief, but it’s a far cry from where we were even a month ago, so I don’t hold it against her for long. I hope this is helpful and encouraging for you! Good luck!

    • #119302

      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.

    • #119323

      You have a moral code, a standard of behaviour that you want your child to learn and live by. That’s okay. However, she is seven and does not yet have the ability to understand morality, honesty and truth-telling as you do. To her, it is not a lie. It is an attempt to convince you that her reality is valid. Yes, it is perhaps because she feels shame or guilt but is developmentally too immature to label it, understand what causes it and separate reality from fiction, hence persisting when the evidence is there to see.

      Children are not mini versions of us. They are learning to construct their beliefs and personalities through how they experience the world.

      It may be that she is learning to do this as a strategy from demands and standards that are already to high for her to reach? Urine is sterile and and it is only pee in the bath water! Better to start with Oops!, laugh about it and gently remind her next time to say she needs to go to the toilet!

      It’s an opportunity to learn and bond, not create distance and be offended!

      Learning and problem-solving through love, compassion, acceptance and laughter is better.

      Be a mum, not a judge.

      PhD ADHD DAD

    • #119379

      When my son was still in daycare, he saw an episode of Little Bear that was SUPPOSED to teach honesty and responsibility. Little Bear got into mischief and kept blaming “Mr. Nobody.” Everyone saw through it and eventually he learned to own up.

      We received calls from the daycare. Our son was getting into all sorts of trouble and blaming “Mr. Nobody.” Instead of learning the lesson Little Bear learned, he decided, “This bear’s got a great racket going!”

      He is 16 and still lies about everything, such as “Did you start your laundry?”

      Our 10 year old daughter also brazenly lies.

    • #119429

      Most everyone has agreed that the lying is a response to avoid getting into trouble. ADHD kids get chastised enough that they avoid getting anymore negative attention. It took me a while to finally get what was going on with my daughter. She was lying at school too and it was hurting her reputation as well. It got to be that if anything happened, it must have been her, whether it was or not. I realized that if I changed tactics and didn’t confront her with the impression that she was guilty, she would be more likely to be truthful. One time I went to check on the dryer and saw the whole load thrown on top and a new load was drying. Others in my house, including my husband, are notorious for being too lazy to grab a basket just a few steps away and put the laundry into that. But, this time my daughter was the only one home to do it. I had just about had it. I knew I would not get an honest answer, so I thought about how to confront her about it. I calmly went to her and stated that I just saw the whole load of laundry on top of the dryer and would she know anything about it? She actually admitted that it was her and that she couldn’t find a basket! I reminded her where they are kept and to not put the laundry on top of the dryer next time. I realized that she was trying to help and I would have discouraged that if I had accused her as I normally would have. The thing is, this should be the approach with anyone. If it is not a lie that you would get, you would get defensiveness from anyone. They are reacting not only to being accused, but also to the anger or frustration. I think that it was here that I read an article that lying was a sign of intelligence. Kids read adults and based on the attitude AND question will respond to what they think you want to hear or to avoid punishment.

    • #119286

      First, I’m really sorry that you are struggling with this. It’s really difficult to navigate. I have 2 children with ADD, my son was diagnosed at 7. It was obvious from very early on. My daughter was diagnosed at 13 and we missed all the signs because they are so different in girls. So many years I made the same mistakes, begging her to tell me why she lied about EVERYTHING which just made her tell more lies to avoid things that she was having trouble processing. She’s lied to me, my husband, her teachers, her friends….

      Your daughter is not a bad kid. She is actually pretty awesome with her ‘different brain’. She just can’t process in the moment and she knows you want an answer and she gives you one and usually it’s all downhill after that. It’s a process to work through and help them to be more mindful of this. Making it a negative just invites more shame and that’s a hard cycle to break.

      Learn as much as you can about your daughters brain and help her to understand what she is able to at her age. Parenting with love and empathy is so important. I spent so many years not understanding why my daughter was the way that she was and I felt/feel immense guilt that we missed it for so long and we’re having to help her relearn healthy coping skills. My pediatrician said now that I know better, do better. I spend my days learning about my kids brains and devour books and podcasts. I have made it my mission to advocate for my kids and love them for the people that they are and not the people I had hoped they would be. Our life is a circus, but it’s my circus.

      So many resources are geared toward boys, this was helpful to both me and my daughter.

      All the best!

    • #119629

      My daughter, who has ADHD, does the same because she wants to avoid getting into trouble and/or disappointing someone and it is almost an auto respons. The best advice I got was not to ask questions where there is an obvious answer or where I knew the answer. Unless you think she intentionally peed in the water, you mya have just said “I see that you had an accident, once we clean this up you can tell me what happened.” That gives her time to turn off the “auto lying” and downplays the severity of the incident; sometimes getting upset about little lies just reinforces the lying.

      Every morning if you ask my daughter if she brushed her teeth, she will tell you yes whether she has or not; we learned to say “Good, now you can brush them again” just to be sure that she had actually done it!

      It is VERY frustrating…

    • #120624

      Oh boy, I happen to come across this posting yesterday evening, after having a huge discussion with my 12yr old about lying. we went back and fourth about him damaging things and then denying it “it wasn’t me mom” . the conversation escalated rather quickly, but something interesting happened at some point he told me “mom it’s very hard for me to tell you the truth, I always feel like I’m going to get into more trouble, or I just can’t tell you the honest truth, it just doesn’t come out of my mouth” I was amazed that he even was aware of this! that immediately calmed me down, I sat next to him, I told him we can work on this and offered support. I started with having the whole conversation about lying and how he gets into more trouble telling a lie then the truth, after that we spoke about trust, if I was able trust you we would be able to get along better and I won’t have to question you 100x’s like he hates! we agreed on trying to work on this. COMMUNICATION and PATIENCE is key . I use to yell before and call him a liar and drill him “why is he lying?” that just left us both mad, and 9 out of 10x’s it led to a punishment that was not necessary. sigh…. thank you all for sharing your stories.


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