Best approaches for lying: Our son is... - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

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Best approaches for lying


Our son is 8 years old with combined ADHD. He is bright and gets good grades but is constantly calling out in class and impulsively not listening to his teachers. Last year he was involved in a bunch of scuffles that hurt other children and we got frequent calls. This year that is better. Our biggest concerns are social. His play is very immature and controlling. He is very self centered. His only interests are video games. He avoids sports unless we coerce him. We have a very hard time setting up play dates due to his lack of interest and inflexibility, and he doesn’t get invitations, even to birthdays.

But the issue that keeps coming and going at home is he lies a LOT. He lies about washing his hands, brushing his teeth, cleaning up, taking medicine, eating his meals (he dumps them and lies). Sometimes this seems to die down a little and we think he’s learning, but we’re in a flare up now. He lies when you have clear evidence he’s lying. These days he gets even more huffy about how dare you accuse him. But he’s terrible at lying and covering things up. He’s starting to tell lies about what his little sister (2) has done and that’s a red line for me. Don’t want to get another child involved in a dysfunctional mess.

Any tips? I know he’s supposedly 3-4 years behind mentally, so lying might be a little more likely. But the relentless sticking to his lies I just don’t get at all. And why would it get worse with time? How long does this phase last? He’s super non-emotional and deadpan about all this stuff so it’s irritating and you never get a feel of remorse. We’ve had endless conversations about how we might punish him for breaking rules, but he’ll get a much lighter punishment if he tells the truth. His counselor has had a few. I’m fed up and want to resort to draconian punishments. But I know that’s wrong and anyway the only thing he cares about is video games. Ack, help!

21 Replies

Applecrisp- this is a very common issue with children who have ADHD. The way we deal with it is don't "collect" evidence. So for example if we know he tells us he has brushed his teeth and we go feel the tooth brush and it is dry. The next day I stand there and say, please brush your teeth.

Usually the reason they don't tell the truth is due to not wanting to do something. This often looks like being lazy, but it often is that they are hyper focused on something else.

I hope this makes sense. This is what has worked for us. It is hard for to see it as not telling the truth. We are always working on him telling the truth and some of this is maturity. It is getting much better for us.

Take care

Thank you for your reply. I definitely agree that avoiding interrogating him is smart. When you talk to your child, what angle do you use about why not to lie? We’ve tried it’s against our rules, it’s wrong, it’s a childish thing to do (and he is growing up and wants big kid privileges). None of it seems to make him care.

I’m worried about when he’s older and there are drugs and other trouble around. It seems impossible that we can keep not asking him about anything, ignoring stuff, and trying to watch him forever.

Honestly, they do not see it as lying. For example, our son eat a protein bar between yesterday and this morning. So when we said did you get up and eat it he said No.. we knew he did. We moved on and later I asked him again and he said it wasn't in the middle of the night it was yesterday afternoon. He said he was hungry ( because he doesn't eat his lunch we pack) and eat it. Then he said he wasn't lying becuase it wasn't in the middle if the night.

They don't see it the way we do and I have stopped working about years from now. I work on TODAY. When he gains some maturity he will change and I have to get through life everyday I can't even worry about tomorrow I have to much stress about today.

Hope this makes sense, I have really grown a lot with this becuase in the beginning it drove me crazy. I have to keep my stress level down an live life to many things to deal with. We just

Dont ask about if he has eaten it and tell him dont eat xxx or we move it away so he is not tempted.

Hope this helps you, he will the future. He knows about Karma so with really bad stuff he will learn.

Yes!! The lying drives me CRAZY!!

Here are a few articles from that I have found useful. Its been a very informative website for me:

That being said, whipping out more draconian measures from time to time isn’t completely without value in our house. They just need to be used sparingly to be effective, and also done as a plan / with a calm mindset, and not in the heat of the moment.

Very helpful links, thank you!

This is my achilles heal. I love onthemove's way of handling this, but sometimes I just have to call her on it.

Me: "Did you brush your teeth?" (btw, what is up with the NO BRUSHING OF THE TEETH?) Daughter: "yes". Me: "are you sure, because you know I know everything" Daughter: "How DO YOU DO THAT?'" Uh, you do this every.single.night.

Me: Did you turn your Math homework in?" Daughter: "Yes" Me: "Great, bring me your binder so I can go through the rest of your paperwork" DEEP SILENCE.

Me: "Did you put your plate in the dishwasher?" Daughter: "of course". "are you sure?" Daughter indignant: "Mom. Yessssss." I pull the plate out from under the couch. Daughter: "Oh the dog must have gotten that from the table."


in reply to camos1985

I know you weren't trying to be funny, but I'm cracking up. The plate under the couch?? Really??? This morning my lied about brushing her teeth. I said ok, no prob, you'll be paying the bills by the time your teeth will need dental work...I walked away. I heard her brushing 5 mins later. These wins are rare. Honestly, I think fighting them to do it just makes mine NOT want to do it. Cutting your nose off to spite your face, my mom used to say.

in reply to Crunchby

Oh I was trying to be funny! If we didn't have a sense of humor we would REALLY be stuck! And yes to the plate....

in reply to Crunchby

"you'll be paying the bills by the time your teeth need dental work" Hahahahah! That made me laugh out loud! Thank you :) You brightened my day!

Wow! I don’t have any advice but you are describing my 10 year old boy exactly. I feel better knowing I’m not alone.. this is so hard..

Holy cow!!! Teeth brushing, shower taking, hair washing, deodorant using…. I’m so lost. Middle school. I thought this was when they would do it if for no reason other than the terror of being the smelly kid. I guess if every kid is though, no one can tell about another.? Even wearing clean anything other than her shirt. I’m totally lost in this area. These were things I never thought I’d worry about with a girl simply because my experience was totally different and each step of the way I have to remember that my experience and hers are not mirrors. The craziest part to my husband and I is how little is truly asked of her. Being African American her self care routine is a little different and too much washing hair and stuff is not good. So it’s not a big time taker in all reality.

But lying in general …. Over all kinds of stuff I usually wouldn’t care if she wasn’t lying about. And I hear what is said but it really is tough not to worry about lies about more life changing stuff like drugs and worse. I’ve been there. I don’t want that for her. It is something that keeps me awake at night it terrifies me.


in reply to Alliea79

I’m with you. I know we can’t ruin today thinking about the future. But as someone else said they just do/say whatever they think works in the moment. How that’s not going to lead to taking whatever drug they’re handed, terrible sex decisions, etc, I don’t know. Because nothing we do seems to even make the tiniest dent in his behavior when we’re not watching him like hawks.

Alliea79- at some point they have to make the choice of right or wrong, just like a Neuro-typical child. We teach them morals (everywhere they hear and see drugs are wrong) we tell them the consequences and us worring about it will not make them less likely to do it. We make sure (or try) they are not hanging with the wrong crowd and we continue the journey. Honestly that is how I deal with it.

But for now I stand and watch the teeth brushing and deodorant applying. Then move on with life.

I agree with Onthemove!! My son is very smart, 8 1/2 ADHD Combine. He uses the words in your question to answer it...we use to have trouble arguing with adults, viewed him as lying until we start asking open ended questions. Not accusing questions. Instead of why did you break the crayon in half- which according to him he did not, the teacher said he did. I asked him how did the crayon go from one piece to two pieces? He told he cut it because he and a classmate both wanted the same color and he thought this way there would be two crayons that color. He was right, he didn’t break it- he cut it...and it wasn’t done in an angry state, more out of a solution to a problem...sometime you have have look at it through their prospective, and what they might have been trying to accomplish with their choice sometimes viewed as a lie. With eating dinner, ask what he ate before he dumped it, or make it clear before dinner what “eating your dinner” means- 3 bites of everything on the plate? Brushing your teeth...holy cow still trying to figure this one out...pulling the sister into it, my son does that, I think he does it because he is feeling all the pressure on him not meeting the worlds expectations and wants to show us someone else who is not doing things correctly too so it is not just him- almost like he is waving a big flag saying help me I am feeling really bad/sad/losing my confidence. I always look at that moment as a sign to stop everything and talk about 3 things we have done very recently that are positive- good luck mama!!!

Wow! This is one of the best descriptions I have ever read. Yes, they will see their reason as correct and argue ot to the end. The example of the crayon is perfect, they are doing the friend a favor, meanwhile no one wants their crayons cut. The fine details is what they focus on. Challanging, but once you get this they make sense.

Best of luck!

You are describing my son exactly! All of it. And why is tooth brushing so hard? And shampooing hair? I have no advice-only commiseration. The social stuff is what is breaking my heart these days. I just hope it gets better.

My son has ADHD and is 24 and he STILL lies to us! (Not nearly as much and not about anything really important...) My 19 year old niece is even worse with her lies. So I have to say that it seems to be an unfortunate characteristic with ADHD kids. But not a true character defect, so don't worry that your son has some sort of personality disorder because he lies! We think one of the reasons our kids lie so much is that they've constantly been in trouble much of their lives.....and they want to avoid any type of punishment. It doesn't matter if the lie is discovered almost immediately - they just say or do whatever seems best "in the moment". Poor impulse control is also another big reason, and the fact that our kids are behind developmentally. We gave up on the punishments when our son was small....we just pointed out the actual truth and made him brush his teeth, or pick up the dishes or whatever. Homework as always a problem and I just learned never to believe anything he said about it! That's sounds terrible,but it actually hasn't impacted anything. He is now in college and I don't check homework! (But I do check other things, like bank accounts, doctor appointments, text book return...!) I would try and avoid fights about the lies because there will be issues that you will need to fight over at some point. One last point....I also think our kids are embarrassed at times because they know that we know they lied, so they will make up anything to get past it.

It is good to see this from other points of view. In my life experience a lie has always been the most ultimate betrayal. Doing the wrong thing is sometimes an accident but in my (old) thought process a lie is very intentional. It is new and a delayed response for me to understand that for our kids the lie part may be as unintentional as the rest of the situation. I’ve always seen the lying part as a personal act of harm aimed at me. I need to give som wiggle room with my daughter. Not til reading this thread did anything like that make any sense, so I very much thank each of you. It is a very interesting school of relearning our beliefs and often instinctive reactions these days. I’m an old dog— learning new tricks takes time, clear understanding and so much practice. I’m thankful to have a patient and kind group here to walk me through this.

I’m starting to understand that a kid with ADHD might be lying for different reasons than a neurotypical person. A neurotypical person might lie as a strategy to gain something - and might also have fear of getting caught or a concern of hurting someone. For example, I have lied to my parents about certain things I did in high school and college ;-) both so that I wouldn’t get in trouble and also because I didn’t want to worry my mom. But a kid with ADHD has poor impulse control, doesn’t have a great sense of logical consequences and has weak insight into other people's perception or feelings. So they aren’t lying the way a neurotypical person would. Also, if your kid is starting to develop a sense of shame about certain behaviors, the lie might be coming from a place of string emotion - which is even less logical. The lying is possibly more like hitting - it’s impulsive. I was completely mystified by the toothbrushing thing too - so I googled it and ended up on a sub-Reddit of adults with ADHD talking about why they hated brushing their teeth (!) So first, there are a million sensory issues (cold, wet, minty) plus a lack of interest (it’s boring) plus having things they were way more interested in that they didn’t want to stop doing and also being overwhelmed by all the other stuff they had to do in the morning. There was also a discussion of strategies they had developed as adults to make their morning tasks simpler and more routine. And also a number of people wishing they had developed toothbrushing as a habit when they were children. That was really helpful to me because a habit is different from being expected to logically think through a lot of actions - it’s kind of the opposite actually. So we now set the toothbrush up and give it to our daughter. I want to lay in the habit first - we can expand to self reliance later. So this is all a very long way of saying that I think that (for us at least) the very best way to avoid bad behavior is to set up the environment so it’s less likely to happen. You create a virtuous cycle. Then if you can reduce the incidents of lying, you can take the times when it does happen more seriously. Our family issue is physical aggression (fun times) but I think it’s the same thing, actually ... And it’s so hard to know what to do about it. Hope you can get through this!

in reply to MaudQ

Those are some great insights! At home, one if my main goals is to just get a desired behavior into a habit, and once we make it through the long battle of getting there, things tend to go much better.

Applecrisp and the others who have issues with lying. I fully understand, my son would often try to lie, but we started using certain forms of discipline. Once we stuck to it and were consistent the lying discipline it soon started slowing down and was eventually gone. Oh he would try every now and then, but we went right back to the original form of discipline. I believe the discipline has to be something a child doesn’t like. No video games for every day there is a lie, taking a tooth brush and scrubbing the floor in the bathroom (this was the best one} Taking away TV or other items a child like is ok. We need to remember who the adults in the family are. I was never going to allow my child to use his ADHD and Dyslexia as an excuse for any form of behavior. I just needed to be stronger and more creative in things. I can say that today my son is successful, living a responsible, productive and enjoyable life. Beautyoutofashes54

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