Here, we will discuss the impulse issues that children with ADHD face which can result in more misbehavior and additional bouts of lying. To begin with, it should be understood that lying definitely frustrates many parents; it is indeed very aggravating to learn that one’s son or daughter isn’t telling the truth, and it seems the more parents push and dig, the worse the lying becomes. While there are a plethora of editorials and studies about children and lying, most of them do not focus on those particular kids with ADHD…and that becomes something of a different situation. We will eventually get to ways parents can effectively approach this situation and help their child with positive and creative solutions.
ADHD and Lying Behavior
In “neurotypical” children, the habitual act of lying can appear in three, four and five-year-olds, and if there’s no punishment attached to the “crime,” the pattern normally disappears on its own. However, a child who lies with ADHD – and who also exhibits intense behaviors – is another matter altogether, and it can change everything. A child with ADHD faces some challenges that usually resort in more misbehavior and additional lying, and parents need assistance with this.
Let’s take a young girl with ADHD as an example: By virtue of her brain feeling more – the aforementioned “intensity” – and her impulse issues (the ADHD), a girl is going to find her way into trouble over and over again. A girl’s prefrontal cortex (routinely immature even in average six-year-olds) is overloaded with sensory information, and before her brain can even sort through consequences, empathy or compassion, her body has acted (some experts have likened this to the “train leaving the station” complex).
Experts understand that the ADHD brain is a lot like having a bucketful of information (as everyone has), except that the ADHD brain bucket exhibits larger holes at the bottom – all of the positive consequences and adaptation are not absorbed into the brain. The bottom line: The child is essentially not learning from her experiences.
Adding to this complexity is the fact that the girl may be sensitive, meaning that even as she easily walks into trouble due to her executive functioning issues, she also feels that her own family is “against her” (irrespective of kindness or compassion expressed towards her). Exhibiting sensitive or intense feelings causes our brains to often shield us against feelings that are deemed too painful, while sensitive kids appear to not “learn their lessons” as other children do.
At the core of this matter is the fact that for children with Attention Deficit Disorder, lying is often an unintentional act. As a parent, you may have difficulty deciding whether you can chalk the lie up to ADHD or a deliberate attempt to deceive, and sometimes you will never know – but with deductive reasoning, we can usually pick out the truth.
Lying is a Natural Instinct
Parents must understand (if they can’t recall from their own childhoods) that learning to lie is a normal stage in childhood development. When very young, children may lie simply because they have a hard time telling reality from fantasy; by the time four-years-old rolls around, kids know the difference between telling the truth and lying, and they should understand that lying is wrong. Some kids lie to avoid discipline and disapproval, and when they get older may lie to avoid doing homework in substitute for playing video games, maintaining privacy and independence or protecting a friend. Think about it: We’ve all been there.
As we have covered, kids and lying presents a more difficult situation for parents of a child with ADHD. According to Peter Jaska, Ph.D. and president and clinical director of ADD Centers of America, what parents may construe as a lie when it comes to ADHD is often an “organizational” or “record-keeping” issue rather than a deliberate attempt to deceive. At other times, lying may be due to the fact that ADHD causes a child to become impulsive and perhaps “spin a tale” before trying to explain his or her actions…or considering the consequences of not telling the truth.
Parents should also consider that a child with ADHD may not have purposely planned the lie or lied on purpose, and while the situation may call for some kind of discipline, it also calls for understanding. So…if your ADHD child is lying to you, count to 10, take a big breath and consider the possibilities.
How Parents Can Deal with ADHD and Lying Behavior
If your child has lied to get out of an unpleasant or boring task, think of a way to make it more exciting – let him or her watch TV while folding towels or listen to music while cleaning the bathroom. You may also consider:
• No Longer Labeling Him or Her as a “Button-Pusher”
As we stated, this misbehavior is likely not intentional, and it only makes you angrier because you keep waiting for the kid to “just stop it.” However, your child needs your help, so if you have to, write this on a sticky note for reference: He or she is not misbehaving and lying intentionally.
• Releasing the Idea That He or She is Lying to Manipulate You
The lying is a function of the ADHD child’s brain defending him or her from vulnerability and pain – they are not trying to hurt you as a parent, nor are they attempting to “throw anybody under the bus.” View your child as one trying to do the best they can, and this will help you to find empathy and compassion.
• Not Asking Him or Her to Lie to You
What we mean by this is that if you know what happened between siblings, don’t ask for the details. Even if you don’t know what happened, it’s best not to ask about the details, as this will just lead to lies. If you know he or she did something wrong, don’t inquire as to “why”…just push the moment forward.
• Intervening Before He or She Finds Themselves in a Mess
If you are aware the child is struggling with his or her siblings, you have to help them navigate more – this may equate to more supervised activities, more time with you, less independence around other family members or other engagements. You will proactively ensure he or she doesn’t steer right into disaster.
• Finding an ADHD Expert to Get Help
Looking to an expert organization like C8 Sciences for resources on all the latest ADHD approaches is a practical move when you and your spouse find yourselves raising a child that’s making you very tired…and very frustrated. There are also a gaggle of books you can pick up on the subject, including the excellent Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder by Edward Hallowell.
We emphasize the strengths of a child with ADHD and concentrate on growing those strengths, rather than just trying to lessen the more “annoying” behaviors. Looking into support groups that gather other parents with ADHD children is another good option, as it will help you feel not quite so isolated in your struggles while giving you a safe place to vent your feelings without feeling judged.