8 Ways to Help Your Grade-Schooler With ADHD Stop Lying
Rae Jacobson, MS
It can be upsetting if your grade-schooler with
ADHD frequently lies—even if you
understand why she’s lying. Here are tips to help your child with ADHD build coping skills that can help her stop lying.
1. Look behind the lie.
It may seem like your child tells lies for no reason. But those lies can clue you in to things she may be struggling with. If she says she didn’t throw a toy at her sibling when she clearly did, it may not simply be to avoid blame. She might be upset that she
couldn’t control her emotions.
A good first step to teaching her coping strategies is to help her identify what she’s feeling. Then tell her you’ll help her find better ways to express her feelings.
2. Speak with empathy.
Imagine it’s your child’s turn to empty the dishwasher. When you ask later if she did it, she lies and says yes. In truth, she started, but then she became distracted and forgot to finish unloading. So she lied to avoid getting in trouble.
Showing you understand what led to the lie can make her more willing to take responsibility. You might say, “I know it can be hard for you to stay focused. But I’d rather you tell the truth and then finish your chore than lie about it. It’s the lying that makes me feel mad and hurt.”
3. Set reasonable expectations.
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Kids with ADHD often use lies to get out of tasks that cause
anxiety. If your child has a lot of homework one day, she might tell you she doesn’t have any just to avoid having to think about it.
Setting goals she can achieve helps remove a reason to lie. If she has a long assignment, you can tell her that after every two pages she finishes, she can take a break. Making the task more manageable can reduce stress and give her confidence that she can get the job done.
4. Give opportunities for telling the truth.
Even after she’s lied, it’s important to give your child the chance to be truthful (and
praise her when she is). Let’s say she tells you she loaned her new jacket to a friend, but later she admits she left it on the bus.
Try to focus on the truth, not the lie. You could say, “Thanks for telling me what really happened. I know it’s hard for you to keep track of things, and I’m proud of you for being honest.”
5. Help her consider consequences.
When kids with ADHD lie, they often do it on impulse and without considering the consequences. Talking your child through past scenarios will help her tie her actions to the outcome.
Let’s say she’s not allowed to play video games if she hasn’t cleaned up her room. The next time she needs to do that chore, remind her what happened the last time, when she lied about doing it. She still had to clean up, but she lost her video game privilege for a week because she lied.
6. Work together to find strategies.
Kids with ADHD often view lying as a way to avoid stressful situations. From your child’s perspective, “losing” the homework might mean getting in less trouble and feeling less embarrassed than admitting she didn’t or couldn’t do it at all.
You can turn this into an opportunity to support your child. Work together to find strategies to help her navigate trouble spots. You can also work on ways she can
self-advocate and ask for help before problems arise.
7. Set a good example.
Younger kids look to parents for cues on how to behave. If you use fibs in your own life, especially to get out of doing things you’d rather not do, your child is likely to get the message that it’s OK for her to tell lies, too. As your child’s greatest role model, it’s important to be truthful in front of her all the time.
8. Give it time.
Remember that all kids lie sometimes, and that behavior takes time to change. Your child might not use coping strategies instead of lying right away. And even once she does, it can be easy to fall back into old habits when stressful situations arise.
Try not to worry or get upset if that happens, and keep working with her to
build coping skills. Doing that while she’s young will lay the groundwork for using successful strategies in the future.