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ADHD and Lying: Why It Happens and What You Can Do, Term Life

Now, most kids tell untruths at some time. It truly is a natural part of growing up. They try to get away with something and hope they won’t be punished if they deny it. Or they tell a lie and blame someone else for what they in fact did.

But apart from the lying most children do at some point, kids with ADHD may tell lies as a part of their ADHD symptoms. Here’s an example:

David tells his dad he’s headed to the library after school to do homework. But instead of going right away, he impulsively decides to hang out with friends. And when he gets to the library, he’s so distracted he doesn’t get any work done.

Later, his dad asks to see his homework, and without thinking, David lies and blurts out that he left it at the library. This is an impulsive response to a situation created by David’s ADHD symptoms.

Ironically, kids with ADHD generally don’t make great liars. It’s hard for them to keep their answers straight and consistently remember the untruths, especially when asked several times.

There’s a saying that I like to point out to these kids: “If you always tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.”

For you as a parent, it’s important to distinguish willful lying from what I call “ADHD symptoms untruths.” How do you do that?

If you observe your child over time, you’ll begin to get a good sense of when he’s likely to lie and in what situations. You can preempt a lot of lies by guiding the conversation and asking the right questions.

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Let’s go back to the example with David.

His dad might know that David has a hard time getting started on his homework after school. And if he wanted to see whether David did his homework, he might say something like this:

David, I want you to tell the truth and I know sometimes you say things without thinking it through.

So, before you answer, here’s what I know happened. I spoke to the librarian. She said she saw you arrive late at the library. She told me you were horsing around a bit. Now, think for a moment before you answer—did you do your homework at the library?

Just asking a child to think before you allow him to answer may help you sort out intentional lies from impulsive responses. In fact, kids often do tell the truth when confronted by what parents already know.

Another thing to consider: A child doesn’t always think through what might happen if he actually tells the truth. Including that the reaction might not be bad. That’s why in David’s situation his dad might say:

David, there’s still time tonight to finish any homework. So if you didn’t get your work done at the library, you can finish it now.

By letting a child know the consequences, you can help them think through his response.

Obviously, this blog post is just a small sampling of the very complex issue of ADHD and lying. But I hope it gives you a window into why lying happens and what to do about it.

Keep in mind when you are a child with ADHD and get in trouble, it’s easy to get caught up in untruths. Helping kids become more able and willing to tell the truth is critical for them as they move into adolescence and adulthood.

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If you need more tips on talking to your child about lying, check out Parenting Coach.

Any opinions, views, information and other content contained in blogs on Understood.org are the sole responsibility of the writer of the blog, and do not necessarily reflect the views, values, opinions or beliefs of, and are not endorsed by, Understood.

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