ADHD and Lying: Why Does Your Child Lie?

ADHD and Lying Why Does Your Child Lie
Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

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 and lying 

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's Story

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. It's a typical scenario of ADHD and lying. 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.

Lying For Attention?

Parents often question if the child is lying for attention or if there is something else going on. Constant arguing may have children even asking themselves, “Why am I lying for attention?” 


The reality is most ADHD kids lie to avoid punishment, shame or embarrassment.  Parents can feel like kids are being disrespectful when really they don't know what else to do. It is important to not personalize the behavior and focus on teaching kids strategies

The Link between ADHD and Habitual Lying

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 

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 for these reactive kids 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!”

#4 Intervene

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, emotional regulation 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.

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.

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.

Dr. Roseann is a mental health expert in ADHD who frequently is in the media:

When children lie prone to fabrications, what does it indicate about their behavior, and can it be related to ADHD?

Children who lie prone or frequently fabricate stories may struggle with impulse control, a common issue in ADHD. This prone lying can be a reflection of a chronic lying disorder or habitual lying, requiring interventions beyond typical punishment for lying.

How can parents effectively deal with a liar in the family, especially when the lying is habitual and the child has ADHD?

Dealing with a habitual liar with ADHD involves understanding the roots of the behavior, such as impulsivity or seeking attention, and responding with consistent, supportive strategies. It's crucial to differentiate between someone that lies all the time due to ADHD and those who may have learned such behavior as a coping mechanism.

What are the consequences for lying in children with ADHD, and should punishment be used?

Consequences for lying should be constructive and aim to teach, rather than simply punish. For children with ADHD, positive reinforcement and behavior modification are more effective, especially when dealing with a person who lies a lot or exhibits ADHD sneaky behavior.

Can impulsive lying in children be a sign of a chronic lying disorder, and what role does ADHD play?

Impulsive lying may be a symptom of a chronic lying disorder, which can be exacerbated by ADHD due to difficulties with self-regulation. It's important to address these issues with appropriate punishment for a 12-year-old lying and to understand the lying reasons that may be rooted in ADHD.

Are children with ADHD who lie also likely to exhibit stealing and cheating, and how can parents address these issues?

ADHD can be associated with a range of impulsive behaviors, including lying, stealing, and cheating. Parental interventions include structured guidance and professional support, considering the compulsive liar symptoms and the need for therapeutic interventions for lying.

What therapeutic interventions can help a teenager who makes up stories for attention, possibly due to underlying ADHD?

Therapeutic interventions for a teenager with ADHD who lies for attention might include cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, and neurofeedback. These can address underlying issues like lying to avoid conflict or lying as a coping mechanism.

Why do kids with ADHD often resort to persistent lying, and how can ADHD resources help?

Kids with ADHD might lie persistently due to impulsivity and challenges with executive function. Resources on ADHD offer insights and strategies for managing these behaviors, including lying for no reason or lying about illness for attention, which are signs of where problems lie in managing ADHD.

Why do some people who lie all the time develop these patterns, and is it different for those with ADHD?

People who lie all the time may have learned it as a maladaptive coping mechanism. In ADHD, it's often due to impulsivity and executive function deficits, which may lead to constant lying or lying en español, indicating the universality of this issue across cultures.

When a person with ADHD exhibits sneaky behavior, such as sneaking food, could it be related to their ADHD symptoms, and how should parents address it?

Sneaky behavior like sneaking food may stem from impulsivity or self-regulation issues in ADHD. Parents should address it by setting clear boundaries and reinforcing positive behaviors, understanding that this is not lying for attention but a part of ADHD and sneakiness.

How can a parent deal with a lying manipulative child, particularly if the child has ADHD?

Dealing with a lying manipulative child with ADHD requires patience, clear communication, and consistent consequences that focus on learning and growth. It's essential to avoid labeling them as someone who lies for no reason or someone who lies constantly, and instead focus on ADHD lying and stealing intervention.

What is the appropriate punishment for a 12-year-old lying about serious matters, and should ADHD be considered in determining the response?

The appropriate response to a 12-year-old lying should consider the child's ADHD and focus on teaching the value of honesty through natural consequences and positive reinforcement, rather than punitive punishment. This includes understanding the compulsion movie parents guide for lying and the compulsive lying symptoms that may be present.

Is lying for no reason a common issue in children with ADHD, and what can be done to curb this behavior?

Lying for no apparent reason can occur in children with ADHD as part of their impulsivity. Strategies to curb this include creating an open, communicative environment where honesty is valued and rewarded. It's about addressing the lying child psychology and not simply applying punishments for lying teenager without understanding the ADHD context.

If a child with ADHD is not telling the truth consistently, is this considered a pathological behavior, and how can interventions for stealing and lying help?

Consistent dishonesty in a child with ADHD might be considered pathological lying if it's pervasive and detrimental. Interventions for stealing and lying can help by teaching alternative behaviors and improving self-regulation, which are important when dealing with ADHD and pathological lying.

Why might an adolescent with ADHD lie and steal, and what does this indicate about their emotional and psychological state?

An adolescent with ADHD may lie and steal as a response to the challenges of impulsivity, executive functioning deficits, or emotional dysregulation associated with their condition. This behavior might indicate a need for coping strategies to deal with feelings of inadequacy, frustration, or the desire for immediate gratification. It may also reflect underlying stress, anxiety, or a lack of problem-solving skills. Understanding that these actions are not necessarily deliberate or malicious can help caregivers approach the situation with empathy and seek appropriate interventions, such as behavior therapy or skills training, to help the adolescent learn more adaptive behaviors.

When dealing with compulsive lying symptoms in a child with ADHD, what steps can parents take to encourage honesty?

Parents can address compulsive lying symptoms in a child with ADHD by fostering an atmosphere of trust and openness. It's important to reinforce the value of honesty through positive feedback and to understand the reasons behind the lying—whether it's to gain attention, avoid punishment, or due to poor impulse control. Consistent guidelines and clear communication about the importance of truthfulness can be established. Role-playing scenarios and discussing the potential outcomes of lying versus telling the truth can also be helpful. Additionally, collaborating with therapists or counselors can provide professional strategies to reduce lying behavior.

How can lying be a coping mechanism for kids with ADHD, and what alternatives can parents provide?

For kids with ADHD, lying can be a coping mechanism to escape confrontations, hide perceived failures, or deal with overwhelming demands. It often stems from impulsivity or a desire to avoid the anxiety associated with their challenges. Parents can offer alternatives by guiding children towards more effective communication and self-expression techniques. They can teach children to articulate their needs or stressors openly and without fear of negative repercussions. Encouraging them to engage in activities where they can succeed and feel confident can reduce the need to lie. Building executive function skills through games and structured tasks can also give children the tools to manage their impulses better.

In managing ADHD lying and stealing, what role does consistent parental guidance play, and how can it be implemented?

Consistent parental guidance is key in managing ADHD-related lying and stealing. This involves setting clear rules and expectations, along with reliable routines that children can understand and follow. Parents should explain the reasons behind rules and the consequences of breaking them, ensuring that these are applied consistently. Positive reinforcement for truthful and honest behavior, along with fair and predictable consequences for dishonesty, helps children learn accountability. It's also beneficial for parents to model honest behavior and provide opportunities for children to make amends after dishonest actions. Regular family meetings can provide a safe space for children to discuss issues and build trust.

Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”

Are you looking for SOLUTIONS for your struggling child or teen? 

Dr. Roseann and her team are all about solutions, so you are in the right place! 

There are 3 ways to work with Dr. Roseann: 


You can get her books for parents and professionals, including: It’s Gonna Be OK™: Proven Ways to Improve Your Child’s Mental Health, Teletherapy Toolkit™ and Brain Under Attack: A Resource For Parents and Caregivers of Children With PANS, PANDAS, and Autoimmune Encephalopathy.

If you are a business or organization that needs proactive guidance to support employee mental health or an organization looking for a brand representative, check out Dr. Roseann’s media page and professional speaking page to see how we can work together. 

Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Licensed Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of media outlets including The Mel Robbins Show, CBS, NBC, PIX11 NYC, Today, FORBES, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Business Insider, Women’s Day, Healthline, CNET, Parade Magazine and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.

Dr. Roseann - Brain Behavior Reset Parent Toolkit

She coined the terms, “Re-entry panic syndrome” and “eco-anxiety” and is a frequent contributor to media on mental health. 

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge has three decades of experience in working with children, teens and their families with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, concussion, dyslexia and learning disability, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression and mood disorder, Lyme Disease, and PANS/PANDAS using science-backed natural mental health solutions such as supplements, magnesium, nutrition, QEEG Brain maps, neurofeedback, PEMF, psychotherapy and other non-medication approaches. 

She is the author of three bestselling books, It’s Gonna Be OK!: Proven Ways to Improve Your Child's Mental Health, The Teletherapy Toolkit, and Brain Under Attack. Dr. Roseann is known for offering a message of hope through science-endorsed methods that promote a calm brain. 

Her trademarked BrainBehaviorResetⓇ Program and It’s Gonna be OK!Ⓡ Podcast has been a cornerstone for thousands of parents facing mental health, behavioral or neurodevelopmental challenges.

She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health, Neurotastic™Brain Formulas and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Mental Health Professional (CIMHP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach.  She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF).

© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2024

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.

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