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ADHD and lying: Why kids with ADHD might lie a lot

By Gail Belsky

Most kids lie or avoid telling the truth from time to time. But with kids who have ADHD, you might find yourself often asking, “Why are you lying again?”

Not all kids with ADHD tell frequent lies. In fact, some are impulsively honest, which can create its own problems. But for those who do lie, it can quickly become a habit. 

Usually, these lies are about everyday things like chores and work. Kids with ADHD struggle with starting and planning out tasks. So, they might not do them, and then lie and say they did.

Or they might lie about a minor mistake, like dropping and breaking a dish. Even when it’s clear they did it, they insist they didn’t.

Why would they say something that’s so obviously false? To avoid having to face difficulties and ask for help. It’s a way of coping with the challenges caused by ADHD.

Lying takes away the pressure of having to figure out how to do tasks. And for many kids with ADHD, that’s worth getting in trouble for, especially if they’re used to it.

Dive deeper

What causes kids with ADHD to lie

When kids with ADHD lie, impulsivity often plays a role. They’re not always able to stop and think before they act. So, they’re more likely to do things that get them in trouble, and then turn around and lie about it.

Impulse control is part of a group of skills called executive functions. Kids with ADHD often struggle with these skills. Having trouble with these skills also makes it hard for kids with ADHD to understand and think about consequences.

They may also have wishful or “magical” thinking. Some kids with ADHD are unrealistically optimistic. They think everything will just fall into place on its own. 

Learn more about ADHD and wishful thinking .

When teens with ADHD frequently lie

With teens, the situations that lead to lying can be very different from what they were trying to cover up or avoid as kids. For example, instead of the lies being about homework, they might be about skipping school.

Teens with ADHD are more likely to engage in risky behavior than other teens. Trouble with executive function gets in the way of using good judgment and makes teens more impulsive.

Find out how to respond when teens with ADHD lie .

Next steps

When kids can tackle tasks and do a good job, there’s less reason for them to lie. Managing ADHD symptoms makes it easier for kids to plan, organize, focus, and keep track of what they’re doing. 

It’s important for families and medical professionals to work together to find the best treatment for each child. That might include medication and behavior therapy.

Also, the challenges of ADHD can make kids feel bad about themselves and lose confidence. Approaching them with empathy can boost their self-esteem and make them feel safe when things don’t go well. That can cut down on the lying. 

Discover ways to help kids improve self-esteem .

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom