Behavior & Discipline

The Truth About Your Child’s Lies

A lie is a lie is a lie, right? Maybe not, if your child has ‪‎ADHD‬. Often, those lies are used to avoid getting blamed, to hide their own insecurities, or simply to get some attention. Learn why promoting honesty — without punishing every lie — is the best way to react when your child tells you the teacher didn’t assign any homework (for the fifth day in a row!)

A child crossing his fingers behind his back while lying, which smart parents will have a strategy to deal with.
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Liar, Liar

All 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 telling a fib? Use these strategies for what to do when your child lies to help kids recognize the importance of telling the truth.

A girl with ADHD scowls after being caught telling lies
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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.

Mother talks with daughter with ADHD
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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.

[Free Download: The Best Discipline Strategies for ADHD Children]

A boy with ADHD sits with his hands folded to practice not telling lies
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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 truthful answer.

A father disciplines his child when she lies
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Remain Calm

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.

A father and son sit on the beach and talk about what to do when he lies
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Truth Check

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.

A girl with ADHD covers her mouth after telling a lie
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Reward Honesty

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 the future.

[What to Do if Your Child is a Chronic Fibber]

Two girls with ADHD hug at a birthday party
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Telling White Lies

Explain white 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 likely give:

A. “Yuck.”

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 situations.

[How to Encourage Honesty in Your Child]

2 Related Links

  1. My son will lie about everything , even when I catch him in a lie he will tell me he’s not, I get so overwhelmed at times with him not telling me the truth, it can be the littest thing he did and he will still tell me he didn’t do it or say it, does he know he’s doing it or is it just something that he has no control over.

  2. About those so – called “white lies“;and then specifically to the example given in the article:


    Principally speaking – that is on the background of “our“ Christian Civilization with its most basic & fundamental yet ever so beautiful operating values and all their transformative power:

    They’re still lies. They’re not, somehow, “kind of okay“ – let alone actually okay.

    It then follows that it’s better to use our creative intelligence as human beings

    -(even perhaps beforehand, like by coming up with and collecting feasible alternatives & repeatedly “going over“ these)

    – to try to avoid telling one than to tell a lie.

    Any kind of lie.

    The type of situation mentioned in the article can serve as a good, simple example.

    Why resort to lying at all?

    Acceptable alternatives?

    Just a couple of ideas off the top of my head to illustrate ☺💐:

    “Thank you very much for your present!“ or “Thank you so much for your kind gift!“, … etc. etc.

    This way, we’re honoring the giver’s good, friendly intentions while “actively overlooking“ 😉💑👼, so to speak, the specifics/details of whatever we don’t like.

    Problem solved. Mission accomplished. 🙆😎

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