Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is a very common condition affecting individuals and children from even very young ages. In fact, about 6.1 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD in 2016 (Danielson et al., 2018). Children with ADHD struggle with a lot of things beyond just paying attention, such as low self-esteem and communication problems, social skills, and behavioral regulation, among many others.
ADHD can look very different from individual to individual and therefore there are different presentations of ADHD, reflecting inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, or a combination of both behaviors. Regardless of the type, there's only one thing certain about this condition. It affects your child's or teen's personality, academic performance, and social functions. Your child may be a creative kid, but he may show a symptom of ADHD that could lead to more significant behavioral or emotional issues that persist into adulthood.
Children with ADHD may have impulse issues that result in misbehavior, particularly lying. Lying is never a good trait, and many parents find it irritating when they learn that their child is lying. They are often perplexed by the behavior and really just don't get why it is happening.
What's more frustrating is that the child's tendency to lie gets worse as parents try to admonish them. The more they point it out and try to help their child or teen, the bigger the whole their kid digs. When confronted, kids can be angry and emotional and that leads to even greater conflict. This is the struggle that the parents of children with ADHD face.
Hillary was a teen with a long history of lying, ADHD, and anxiety. When she was a child, Hillary began to lie to avoid “getting in trouble” then over time she began to lie about everyday things that left her parents confused and frustrated. Then it shifted to lying about food and hiding food in her room. They tried therapy and meds with no real change in Hillary's behaviors. It all came to a head after Hillary was busted for lying about not going to classes in college when in fact she went off to college and never went to one class!
By the time the family came to our BrainBehaviorReset™ Program, things were really broken down. After some intensive work, we got to the core of why Hillary was lying, shame. She had a deep shame about her struggles and when the lying started, she just didn't know how to stop. With a regulated and calm brain from neurofeedback and PEMF coupled with family therapy, Hillary was able to stop her subconscious lying habit.
Is Lying Normal Among Children with ADHD?
Whether your child has ADHD or not, making little white lies is a stage that they go through. It's actually normal for children to lie because, at a very young age, they don't know the difference between fantasy and reality just yet. However, when the child gets older, they get a clearer picture of the truth and start to understand that it is wrong to tell a lie.
But then, things are different for children with ADHD. Because of their impulsive behavior, they may blurt out a lie more frequently than neurotypical children. They do this not with the intention of deceiving but because they have issues with their executive functions.
Kids with ADHD often lie to avoid punishment, blame, and feelings of shame. Kids with ADHD can have extreme sensitivity to criticism and a variety of behaviors can result including lying, anger and emotional outbursts. Having one's behavior constantly criticized is going to of course cause a child or teen to feel bad about themselves. ADHD doesn't just affect school but rather all aspects of one's life.
In extreme forms, a person with ADHD who is very sensitive to perceived or real criticism can have a comorbid condition called rejection-sensitive dysphoria (RSD). This is a condition that affects a large percentage of those with ADHD (upwards of 70 percent) and overlaps with ADHD symptoms. Children and teens with RSD are prone to emotional dysregulation when they feel criticized or rejected. They display strong emotional reactions that can disrupt a child's and their family's life and adults too, as it often leads to friction and upset with others.
So, if you have a child with ADHD and they lie, most of the time, they didn't do it on purpose. While there might not be a good reason why they lied, the imperfections in the different parts of their brain prevented them from acting normally. They may be stuck in a subconscious behavioral habit that is rooted in anxiety, shame, or fear of criticism or rejection.
Even so, their problem with lying has to be addressed accordingly. To do so, you may solicit the help of a school psychologist or private therapist if possible. The lying instances of your child may seem to be little things now. But if left ignored, they may turn into more serious behaviors, including at-risk behaviors such as substance abuse or even criminal activity later. Moreover, they may mask more serious clinical issues such as anxiety, OCD, or depression.
Getting to the root cause of the lying, but also creating a safe place where they can express themselves and assess their behavior is important too. Don't personalize the behavior and instead think of lying as just another behavior that your child or teen is capable of unlearning.
The Link between ADHD and Habitual Lying
As previously stated, children with ADHD have issues with their cognitive functions. Executive functioning is what helps a person pay attention, organize, plan, remember, manage time, and multitask. If the child suffers from executive dysfunction, then they will have a hard time doing simple things like completing homework assignments.
One study was performed on a patient 19 years of age who has a 4-year history of cheating and lying. The subject presented neuropsychological abnormalities related to attention deficit, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Cerebral MRI scans showed neuroanatomical alterations in his brain, which could account for his lying behavior (Lagemann et al., 2012).
We certainly know that impulsive kids are more likely to make mistakes because they don't think things through. We need to think of lying as a behavior that can be unlearned. That does mean we need to put effort into teaching kids a new behavior at the same time as looking at root causes.
The brains of people with ADHD are different from the neurotypical brain. Their frontal lobes, which are the “job manager” of the brain, have low brainwave activity and poor brain communication. Because the physical structure and function of their brain are different, their executive functioning is affected. As a result, your child may not adapt well and absorb positive consequences. It means that your child may have a difficult time learning from their experiences due to poor memory. Hence, the need for a high level of reinforcement.
Children and teens with ADHD process situations differently than neurotypical kids. Aside from being very sensitive, they may get into trouble very often because of their poor executive functioning skills and specifically poor behavioral inhibition. In other words, they have a hard time putting the breaks on. Problems with impulse control, transitioning, and starting and finishing tasks are common. That means parents have to “nag” their kids a lot, and for this reason, the child may not feel loved while the parents may feel that they are being defiant.
Even though parents may find it difficult to understand why their children could lie unintentionally, it does happen most of the time as a subconscious “habit.” As parents struggle in trying to weigh whether it's an ADHD lie or a deliberate lie, a lot of understanding and deductive reasoning can help. Also, it is worth being a part of reputable support groups to get ADHD education and resources, such as Dr. Roseann's Natural Parenting Solutions group.
How to Address Lying in Kids with ADHD
Children with ADHD need a lot of people around them who can offer love and acceptance. As parents, it is your job to support them and teach them to celebrate their brain while at the same time teach them hacks for their processing challenges. Here are ways to help your child with ADHD and lower the instances of lying.
#1 Patiently correct the problem
As stated earlier, ADHD children rarely lie intentionally and instead lie as a deeply subconscious habit that develops over time. Therefore, you can't just tell them to stop it because more often than not, they can't do anything about it either. Understand that there's always a constant battle happening within them. We need to look at those root causes and think about what is driving the behavior. Tell your child that it is not the right thing to do, but do it as gently as you can while teaching healthy replacement behaviors.
#2 Be compassionate
Children with ADHD, especially teens, may feel that everyone is against them, including their parents. They feel shame and rejection, and often just don't feel good about themselves. One reason why they are lying is that their brain tries to shield them from pain and vulnerability. Lying has become their coping mechanism. Understand their predicament and be compassionate. Your empathy will go a long way in helping you to not feel so irritated and preserving your relationship too.
#3 Move forward
Confronting your ADHD child about the lying incident is not going to help. If you can get the details of the incident from a reliable source, such as a teacher, sibling, or babysitter, do so. “Fact-finding” will only lead to more impulsive lies and frustrations. While it is nice to know the root cause of the lies it is far better to talk about the options your child has.
For example, “Joey, okay we both know what is going on, so let's work on a solution. Would you rather do X or Y next?” Here we acknowledge without shaming and teach your child there are other options. If we get sucked into the lie or get a child to admit or apologize, it will be at the expense of learning another way to act. Hope you had an “ah ha moment there!”
The next time you notice signs that your child is struggling, intervene. Just because your kid is smart doesn't mean they know what to do and lying may just be a way to cover up their fear of asking for help.
Offer help before they make even bigger mistakes. Solicit the assistance of other family members as well. Providing positive reinforcement and promoting supervised activities will take them out of a bad situation and lead them to the right path.
#5 Do not give punishments
Our parents may have focused on punishment but we know that isn't how the brain learns best. When we remove our own feelings of irritation about lying behaviors, it is way easier to think of lying as just any other annoying behavior like picking their nose, touching their sibling, or pinching.
It is normal to have punishments for lying but this won't be as effective for your kid with ADHD. In fact, it could make matters worse. It is better to focus on natural repercussions and reinforce desired behaviors. The more you punish them, the more likely an ADHD child is to lie. To get a more truthful response, find constructive ways to correct your child.
Treatment for Children with ADHD
If you suspect that your child has ADHD, the first step is to take him or her to a trusted healthcare provider. Getting an accurate diagnosis is crucial to creating the right treatment plan.
At our Ridgefield clinic, we only use science-backed natural solutions to address ADHD behavior problems. We help parents and children understand the symptoms of ADHD and provide the right path to solutions.
If you're looking for alternative ways to treat your child without resulting to using medications with harmful side effects, a good option is neurofeedback therapy. It works by calming the brain by altering the brain waves and putting them in a focused state. Children who have undergone neurofeedback for the first time show great results in addressing their symptoms.
Neurofeedback is one of the most effective non-invasive ways to address ADHD. This method is powerful yet medication-free. It exercises your child's brain to reinforce their subconscious, which teaches the brain how to change its own behavior.
There are thousands of research studies that show the efficacy of neurofeedback in treating many issues including ADHD. One study compared the effects of neurofeedback and cognitive therapy on children aged 7 to 11 years old with ADHD. Results show that neurofeedback participants exhibited greater and faster improvements in their symptoms after six months of therapy than those who had undergone cognitive therapy treatment (Steiner et al., 2014).
Science shows us that neurofeedback therapy helps focus the brain and reduce symptoms associated with ADHD so kids can do better in school and at home. When used along with behavior therapy, your child's brain will be able to learn better executive functioning and independent task completion. It will help increase concentration and motivation while reducing certain ADHD symptoms, such as distractibility and impulse control.
Neurofeedback is an effective and safe method to treat a range of mental health issues and conditions. If your child has Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, then we can work with them in person at our Ridgefield, CT clinic or remotely. The most important thing is to not wait and take action toward getting your child the right kind of support and we can help you do just that.
Danielson, M. L., Bitsko, R. H., Ghandour, R. M., Holbrook, J. R., Kogan, M. D., & Blumberg, S. J. (2018). Prevalence of Parent-Reported ADHD Diagnosis and Associated Treatment Among U.S. Children and Adolescents, 2016. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 47(2), 199–212. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2017.1417860
Lagemann, T., Wolf, M., Ritter, D., Doucette, S., von Kummer, R., & Lewitzka, U. (2012). Cingulate cortex aplasia and callosal dysgenesia combined with schizencephaly in a patient with chronic lying. General Hospital Psychiatry, 34(3), 320.e11–320.e13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2011.10.002
Steiner, N. J., Frenette, E. C., Rene, K. M., Brennan, R. T., & Perrin, E. C. (2014). In-School Neurofeedback Training for ADHD: Sustained Improvements From a Randomized Control Trial. PEDIATRICS, 133(3), 483–492. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2013-2059
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