stealing and lying: why our adhd kiddos do it

Stealing and lying: why our ADHD kiddos do it

“Did you touch these?” my husband asked me, gesturing to the chewing gum on his desk. “Nope” I replied, feeling heavy and disappointed. We both knew where the missing gum went. Why did we have to go through this again now… on the night before his birthday. *sigh*

Do all kids steal?

I wondered this the first time I found things in Lachie’s school bag that didn’t belong to him.

They were just little things, like a pacer (mechanical pencil), but that wasn’t the point. He was old enough to know better.

It is common for younger children to steal, because they don’t know any better.

By the time your child is 5 or 6, however, they know that stealing is wrong.

That doesn’t stop most kids though, they just try to hide or sneak their loot so that you don’t find out about it.

Why do they do it?

There are a number of reasons why children might steal:

  • they lack self-control
  • they want something and you can’t/won’t buy it for them
  • peer pressure or to fit in
  • jealousy
  • attention

“Why do you think he did it?” hubby asked. “He felt like he was missing out” I replied. “He wouldn’t even know what it was because we don’t usually buy it. I’m sure he thought they were lollies & probably swallowed them.” I continued. 

What to do about it

Understanding WHY your child is stealing is very important.

In our case, Lachlan felt like he was missing out.

We choose to manage Lachlan’s ADHD without medication, instead following a diet prescribed by our Naturopath. It can be rather restrictive, but, for the most part, he accepts and follows his diet without any issues. (Check out my Ultimate guide to helping kids make healthy food choices).

On occasion, though, he will take something he knows he shouldn’t eat. When he does this, he always sneaks it. So we know that he knows that it’s wrong. So, what should we do about it?

“Never imply that your child is bad. Stealing is bad, not the child.” Anthony Kane, MD

Here are some tips from

  • stay calm
  • don’t take it personally
  • don’t accuse or confront your child
  • make sure they know it is wrong
  • if you catch them red-handed though, endeavour to help them return the goods and apologize
  • put it in the past

“He knows it’s wrong. He still has sugar in his system from the shortbreads the other day, messing with his judgement. I don’t think we need to take this any further. He probably feels bad enough already.” I say to my husband. “Besides, it’s his birthday tomorrow, let’s just put it behind us” I continue. My husband agreed.

Kids that lie?

Lachlan can’t lie to save himself.  But that doesn’t stop him from trying.

He gets this little smirk come over his face. That, or his lips will tighten, trying to conceal it.

Maybe you have seen that smirk too. Or maybe your kiddo doesn’t give themselves away, like he does. Either way, it’s so frustrating!

“Where are they?” my husband had asked Lachlan when he first discovered the gum missing. “I don’t know” was his reply. [hmm… not “where’s what?” but “I don’t know”] My husband asked again, reminding Lachlan that if he lied about it again, he would be in more trouble than if he just told the truth. “In the drawer” Lachlan gave in. 

Why do they do it?

Most children usually lie to avoid getting into trouble.

Some other likely reasons include:

  • to avoid hurting other people’s feelings
  • to get attention
  • peer pressure
  • to cover or hide mistakes

What to do about it

Lachlan lied to avoid getting into trouble. Our approach to that, was to tell him that lying about it will see him in more trouble.

Honesty is the best policy because as my kids have have discovered, Mum usually finds out!

Here are some tactics for responding to and preventing lying:

  • As with stealing, it is important to understand why your child is lying and address that.
  • Establish and maintain a good connection with your child so that they feel safe telling you the truth.
  • Lead by example and don’t be afraid to appear vulnerable… if you have ever lied to them about something, apologize to them or give them an example of a time that you lied and regret doing so.
  • Explain the ‘boy who cried wolf’ theory. Make them understand that they may tell you something important one day and you won’t believe them. Then discuss ways that they can earn your trust back.
  • Avoid labelling your child a ‘liar’. Distinguish between the behaviour and your child and don’t hold a grudge.
  • Find someone that both you and your child trust, so that they have another adult to turn to if they feel uncomfortable speaking with you about something.

Stealing and Lying: why our ADHD kiddos do it

ADHD children act impulsively. As mentioned above, a lack of self control may be the reason your child steals.

So how do you deal with our ADHD child stealing?

The same way we do with ‘typical’ children. In fact, I found this article on, which is identical to, and written by the same doctor as, the article above.

Lying is no different.

We love our children, we want them to mature into clever, well-adjusted, members of society.

Irrespective of the label that they have been given, we must recognise that stealing and lying are normal behaviours for children.

It is easy to get trapped into blaming ADHD and feeling like a victim when you came across a challenge. Trust me, I’ve been there; “Whhhhhyyyyyyy meeeee?!”

To rise above and to recognise that you and your child can and will get through this challenging time, is where the magic truly happens.

You can do it, Mum!

“Well, now that we have put that to rest… let’s enjoy his birthday tomorrow.” I say to my husband. “Can you believe he is 10 tomorrow?!” he replies. “Where does the time go?” I ask.

Have you been dealing with stealing or lying? How have you handled it? Leave a comment below.


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