Kids lie. A lot. About anything. About everything.
And we’re only now just catching on to it.
It used to be a truism in legal circles that when you put a kid on the stand, you were getting the truth as the kid saw it because kids don’t lie.
Which, ha, no. Not true. Apparently no lawyers ever interacted with kids all that much. Or no parents ever became lawyers, mostly because they already had to deal with an annoying individual who constantly split hairs on meaning and radically, deliberately misinterpreted the most obvious of instructions. Also known as a little dude.
And, it turns out, kids with Attention Deficit Disorder are more prone to lying than most neurotypical kids.
All children lie occasionally. But because of impulsivity and low self-
esteem — and their tendency to make mistakes that they think need covering up — kids with ADHD are especially prone to stretching the truth.
Imagine that. A kid who is like to act without thinking, which mostly likely will lead to things getting out of his or her control, and someone who, because no one has ever thought all that well of their intelligence or behavior, believes the worst of himself or herself.
The impulsivity makes them act. The low self-esteem makes them do anything to avoid being called onto the carpet and told what failures they are again and again.
A definite recipe for lying. So we know going in that AD(H)D kids are more prone to lying. So what should we, as parents, do about it. I know smacking the lie out of a kid won’t work. Not from personal experience, thankfully, but from talking to others and doing some research on the topic. (Hey, it’s not like I’m winging this from my butt all the time.)**
Because these sorts of kids tell lies from their own insecurities, it seems obvious that we shouldn’t punish them for it. At least not when they’re young or not at first.
Instead, make sure your child understands what will happen if she gets caught in a lie. The downside of telling a lie — even a relatively benign one — may be obvious to grownups, but kids need to be reminded that lying usually causes more problems than it eliminates.
Insecure kids want to make themselves look better, be perceived as better kids. Impulsive kids are more likely to blurt out an answer — any answer — when they’re in a tough spot.
Teach your child to silently count to three before speaking, and to use that time to formulate a truthful answer.
One important point I’ve always thought worked well was to reward honesty. Don’t make it blatant like, “I’m giving you a quarter because you told the truth.” Because then they’ll run around shouting exactly what they think of as truth at the top of their lungs and expecting to be rewarded for telling Mr. Johnson his toupee looks dumb. But, every once in a while, put a hand on her shoulder and tell her how proud you are to see her telling the truth, even when it’s hard.
There is one good thing about kids lying. For the most part, they’re terrible liars. They consider, “Godzilla broke in while chasing a tiger,” to be a perfectly acceptable answer to “What happened to the lamp?”
When you catch your child in a lie, offer him a truth check. That is, give him one chance — consequence free — to tell the truth. If he does, no harm, no foul. If not, then bring the natural consequences.
Hey, no one ever said parenting was easy.
The good news is that, until someone comes up with a lie detector that can cook waffles***, we’re still pretty much indispensable,
Footnotes & Errata
* Hah! No. I most certainly can tell a lie. Not that I’ve ever lied to you. No, of course not. I would never lie to you.
** 98.4 percent most definitely doesn’t count as all.
*** There’s no app for that.