Do you feel that your child is constantly telling lies and you’re worried if they even know the truth!?
Our children with ADHD are more likely to lie. But there is good reason why this happens.
Your child is not a depraved, dishonest, social misfit with a personality flaw. Honestly.
Their ADHD brain just makes it tricky. How you respond to these lies, half-truths, stories will make all the difference to how your child reacts and feels.
WHY YOUR CHILD WITH ADHD TELL LIES..
The thing you’re asking them to do is boring. Chores like picking up a sock or brushing their teeth is dull and not at all motivating for their busy ADHD brain. They crave interest, danger, excitement – so a task that seems dull just won’t get done. So if you ask “Have you got dressed?“. The answer may be “Yes“. A lie – but told to get you off their back from the nagging.
Conversely, lying makes things interesting. Whether it’s a wind-up or an exaggeration, your child may lie to just spice things up. They may be looking for a reaction. “I left my phone on the bus” may not be the truth – but the reaction is entertaining to a a little person with ADHD.
Your child with ADHD will find themselves in a variety of undesirable situations. They are vulnerable and naive. So there will be occasions when they lie to protect themselves. “Did you hit your brother?” “I didn’t” is a lie although there were umpteen witnesses. But your child is impulsive and acts before thinking. They may not have the language or maturity to explain what happened. So to save face and to protect themselves, it may be easier to lie and deny.
Sometimes a task is just too big for a little person with ADHD. Their executive function difficulties mean they have trouble with organisation and initiation. They get distracted and lose track of time. So if you send your child up to their room to tidy the mess, then shout up “Have you tidied your room?“, guess what the answer will be….? Your child with ADHD will not know where to start, will then notice a pile of comics that need reading and then before you know it, nothing has been done. To avoid confrontation and to cope (which is ironic as of course they’ll be found out) they shout down “Yes I’ve been tidying my room” which of course is not the truth.
The time that matters to a little person who is time-blind is now. Not half an hour away. Not next week. The here and now is the only time that registers with an ADHD brain. So if you ask “Are you ready to go to Granny’s in 10 minutes?” the answer you’re likely to get is “Yes“. Do not be fooled. Ready to a child with ADHD means that coat, bag, shoes, socks are sort of ready – but not quite. Even consequences like you’ll miss the train are not motivating enough as the concept is too abstract.
A teen playing on their XBox won’t want to come off the screen which is exciting, motivating, makes them feel successful and is connecting with their friends. So if you ask “Have you turned off the XBox?” of course they’ll reply “Yes” (or some other variation…). It is so difficult to turn away from a game which is designed to be compelling and sets our children up with a real sense of FOMO.
Relationships are tricky. Your child with ADHD has to work super hard to fit in. So they may fabricate stories to align themselves with a group. “Oh I have those trainers at home” “I’ve been to Disneyland” may be lies and most certainly your child will be rumbled. But many of our children with ADHD exaggerate details in their lives to make friends.
An ADHD brain is jammed packed with thoughts, ideas and emotions. So often your child may not even hear an instruction or may simply forget as it’s not lodged in the memory. So when asked “Did you just hear what I asked?” it’s easier to just say “Yes“. To own up that they seemed not to be listening or ignoring is a further illustration of why our children feel rubbish about themselves. Remember our children work in the here and now so are not contemplating future consequences.
HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD
Create a culture in your family that telling the truth is always the way to go. If your child has been caught lying, don’t make a big thing of it. Say you understand and try and work out how to stop them lying in the future. Reward telling the truth with a smile, hug or high five. Notice characters in stories and on TV and in books who tell the truth.
TIME TO CALM DOWN
Your child may be embarrassed and feels ashamed of a lie they have told. Have a period of time for everyone to calm down before you react and say something you don’t mean. Your child feels bad enough without any added humiliation. Have a set time when you come together, to discuss what happened. No blame, no shame and no need to say the word sorry. They need to show they are sorry.
A WAY OUT
Always have a way out of a lie. Help your child to understand why they lied rather than feel the need to tell bigger lies because they are backed into a corner. Sometimes there do need to be consequences but together with your child work out what these will be.
Your main role I think is to establish a great relationship with your child. You want your child to be able to come to you when the shit has hit the fan. If they feel you are going to shout, yell, punish then they may not come to you. Instead if they feel you will listen and support them make better decisions, they will let you know when they need help. Let your child know you are in their corner.
CAN YOU LET IT GO?
Is the lie something you can just let go? Do you really need to pick your child up every time they tell a lie? Our young people with ADHD have heard 20,000 more negative messages that someone who is neurotypical. So do you really need to add to that quota? Own up to something when you are wrong so they can see that we all make mistakes.
Don’t ask the question ‘Have you done your homework?’ when you actually know the answer. And your child may lie as homework is soooooo unmotivational. Instead say “Shall we sit down and tackle your 3 maths sums together?”
Never humiliate your child and call out a lie in front of their siblings. This will make them angry, hateful and feel like they are at the bottom of the family pile…
Use timers, planners, apps, calendars, charts, folders, lists, alarms, schedules to help your child with their planning and organisation. Make boring tasks more fun. Break big tasks down into small steps. Use a chart and visuals so your child knows the expectation and what time to finish. Use a Now + Next board so they know what is happening when they have finished.
This really is a 21st Century dilemma exaggerated by lockdown. For a young person with ADHD a screen has been a connection to social relationships. Agree times when they can go on. Agree finish times and use a variety of alarms to help when the time is up. Have something fun and motivational to do after whether it’s watching Netflix together, reading a story to your child or a calming activity you can do together.
Hope that helps.