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ADHD in Girls

impulsive lying in 10 year old daughter. Help!

Hi there. I just stumbled upon this website last night and am so thankful that I did. We have a 10 year old daughter who we adopted from Ethiopia at the age of five. She has been on meds for about a year and has made huge strides in her ability to focus at school but she continues to compulsively lie. She even went so far recently to manifest a lie about someone else out of the blue. She said she was excited about Christmas and she just shared this lie with me. In her mind it just made sense. We have noticed more ‘spaciness’ lately and already have an appt with our pediatrician to discuss med adjustment next week. Do any of you struggle with lying from your children?? I’m also st a loss for hos to discipline for this. Lying is so offensive to my husband and I but if she truly can’t help it how do we discipline??

Thanks in advance for your responses.


Hi mcph505!

Lying is a common problem for those with ADHD. There have been some great past community discussion on lying—see the links below:

There are some great articles on on ADHD and lying as well:

You will get a lot of good information on why this is a common problem with kids with ADHD and also some ideas on how to tackle the issue from these articles and discussions.

Good luck!
ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Dec 27, 2013 at 6:43pm

Well, I can appreciate your strong value in desiring honesty but values mean very little to the reality of an ADHD brain. That is not to say people with ADHD cannot have values or don’t, not at all.  But value is a character issue - ADHD is a physiological issue - meaning you can no sooner “discipline” away a physiological response than you could discipline a near sighted child into seeing better.

I notice you did say that you notice her being more spacy - the drugs do need to be adjusted regularly.  She could have had a growth spurt or change in metabolism that requires an adjustment. And you also mention that your pediatrician prescribes her meds, am I reading that correctly?  I would strongly suggest you seek a pediatric psychiatrist for your child.  This is a brain function issue, not a broken arm or a virus.  You wouldn’t take a child to a psychiatrist to prescribe medicine for the flu, they don’t have the expertise - this condition, as no doubt you realize, is extremely complicated and wiley and you need the help of an expert.  It is very treatable, not curable, but you can always be doing things to make it better with expert help.  If a psychiatrist is not available seek out an expert in ADHD.  You need someone who is up on all the latest research and medications and symptoms, and pediatricians are generalists, not specialists.

If you can find someone with expertise they can also help you get to the bottom of the lying.  It is not for no reason she is doing it, but she may not be aware of the reason either.  There is a trigger certainly, anxiety is the most likely cause, the need for attention possibly.  But remember people with ADHD don’t have a learning problem - so no doubt she is well aware of the values you’ve taught her - it is an implementing problem.  She can’t think back to the lessons she’s learned and apply them to her actions now so as to anticipate what might happen if she lies.  She just can’t.  She’s not doing it on purpose, she’s not being manipulative or a bad child.  She has something like a pothole inside her brain where the chemicals can’t fire over that hole to get to the other side.

Dr. Russell Barkley has the best description - People with ADHD can’t think back to their learning and experience to look ahead to see what might be coming in the future in order to figure out what to do now.  They only have what is happening now - that is it.  So no discipline is going to fill in that hole where the brain is just not firing.

Probably, in the moment it happens, the best thing you can do is let her know you are skeptical of the veracity of what she’s saying without judgement - that is the hard part.  ADHD children (and adults!) are hyper sensitive and will dig in deeper if their anxiety button gets pushed - then the pothole gets bigger.  I notice this with my own child - if she makes an excuse for something that I know is not true, if I can manage to say calmly “Is that really true? That doesn’t sound reasonable to me” she may respond with “No, I meant—-” so back pedaling is the best I get.  If there is one iota of anger or disapproval in my voice or face she totally digs in and tells more lies to cover the original one!  It is happening in real time, her anxiety is triggered, which makes her ADHD worse and she has no idea what the problem is, only that she has to somehow dig herself out of the feelings of stress - truth, honesty, lies, respect - none of it comes into play at all.

It would be like in one of those moments when you walk into a room and for the life of you you cannot remember what it is that you came for, if someone was standing there and yelled at you “Why can’t you remember! What is wrong with you! You’d better remember quick or I will discipline you!”  You didn’t do it on purpose or intentionally or because you are a bad person or incompetent - your brain failed to hold on to the required information.  For a few moments, your brain did what an ADHD brain does all the time.  It is no fairer to discipline them for it than to discipline or yell at you for that momentary brain lapse.  In fact, the more you discipline and yell and judge, the more anxiety you create in the ADHD brain, the worse it functions, then the more “wrong” they feel for something they know they have no control over, so more stress and feelings of unfairness and despair, and so the more pushback you get in the opposite direction of where you want them to go.  And this all happens, if you pay close attention, in a matter of minutes, even seconds sometimes.

It is manageable, but you may have to set your values aside, and get some help from experts.  It will make you life much easier if you are enlisting help from those with expertise - more helpful for your daughter too!

Posted by YellaRyan on Dec 28, 2013 at 12:46am

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