To tell if a child is lying or just fantasizing can be quite difficult. Toddlers don’t lie deliberately, they can only communicate their experience with the world in limited ways due to knowledge and language skills. Bigger, school-aged children start paltering and fantasizing with purpose in order to see what they can get away with without getting in trouble.
So if you need help to distinguish where fact meets fiction, these tips will help.
9 Why Do Children Lie?
Maybe there is that one kid who hasn’t lied at least once to their parents. However, kids who do lie want to avoid being told off, feeling humiliated, and avoid physical punishment. Children can start lying as young as 2 years old, and can actually now be counted as a developmental milestone according to leading psychologists.
Some kids use lies to insulate themselves from hurt. For example, a child often brags about adventures at school, talks about his amazing friends, but according to his teacher, he is solitary and hasn’t any friends. Or they lie about what goes on at home or what another person has done to them to stop others from getting in trouble or causing further trouble for themselves.
Often the problem is - how to recognize, if the child is lying? It’s easier to tell if your child is lying than it is to spot a lie told from other people’s kids. So, you can recognize a lying kid from several queues your child will give.
8 If Your Child is Lying
The first naïve lie is not a problem, it’s more the continuance and development of the lies told. Children who are 4-6 years old are most likely to lie about school, homework, teachers and their friends because of the responsibilities and rules that they have to adhere to at such a young age that in some cases are too much for them to live up to.
You shouldn’t react harshly to any lying and avoid physical punishments, especially for an innocent lie. Of course it’s important for your kids to follow rules, but the more severe your reaction to their lie, the more likely they will lie to you in the future to avoid being punished again. The best time to talk about honesty and lying is before you catch them in a lie, when they won't be put on the defensive. Talk about lying when they're relaxed and at ease.
Also, if you openly tell lies in front of your children, it will be hard to fight with your child over their lies. Honesty should be the cornerstone of your relationship with your kids, if family members are not honest with each other, it’s only natural that the children will often start copying their parents behaviour.
If you create a safe space for your children to be themselves and express themselves, then your kids will more openly share their sadness and worries with you. And lastly, it’s important to talk to your older kids (9-12 years old) about lying and the truth so they understand what the truth means to you and how it can help or hurt your relationship.
7 That Bewildered Face
The first tip to help you recognize a lie, is learn to read the facial expressions of your child. You probably know, that lying is not easy, and for kids it’s even harder. While thinking of a lie, your kid’s head will be working hard to think up the lie and keep the details of their lie straight, all this will be revealed in their face.
True feelings are most often reflected in the face, these are called micro expressions. Performed emotions are unnatural, meaning they are performed too fast or too slow. People express their emotions with their whole face, so if what you’re being told is bullshit, one thing you might notice is that your child’s blinking pattern drastically changes. Either too much blinking or no blinking at all. And they might look at the ceiling as though the answer is there.
6 Eye Contact
Eyes are like a mirror of person’s mind. Especially for the kids, who usually are not experienced and proficient liars. Try keep the eye contact when talking to your child. Children who are lying to you avoid the eye contact. When little children are lying, they don’t look into their parents eyes, but bigger kids can look you in the eye while lying with practice. For example, the teenager, looking straight in your eyes, can tell you they haven’t smoked when they in fact have.
Additionally, too long eye contact can reveal that children are lying as well. There are a few other tricks you should know when talking about eye contact and lies, if a child pretends being surprised - he looks carefully at you and his eyes enlarge. But this wonder isn’t real, a truly surprised toddler often opens his mouth widely too.
5 Is This Story Real
Younger children tend to tell more fantastical tales when avoiding the truth, but getting the truth from older children might seem a tad more difficult. The more details you ask about surrounding the circumstances of the suspected event, the more inadequate facts you will hear if the story is false.
Sometimes to find a lie, try changing of subject. You’ll notice that your child feels more relaxed when you’re discussing another topic. Then go back to the lie and ask for more details about what they’ve told you before and you can easily catch them in a lie.
If you miss any facts in the original story, you can ask them to repeat the story. If it’s a lie, you’ll probably hear a different and totally new story. If the kid is lying, he may try to give fewer details on purpose to decrease the ability of being revealed.
4 Repeating the Question
If your child repeats your question, for example, “Where have you been after school,” it can be that he is preparing to lie. By repeating your question, he strongly tries to create a story to tell you. If your child is not lying, they’ll simply answer the question without unnecessarily repeating the question.
Another clue that your child is lying, is the use of your own words in their answer. For instance, if you ask, “Did you eat the last cake today,” and your child answers, “No, I didn’t eat the cake today,” then they’re most likely lying to you. Also pay attention to how your child answers the questions. If he uses long sentences instead of simple answers, you can suspect they’re lying to you.
3 Body Language and the Truth
Everyone knows that body language can be very telling. From the shoulder shrug, or head shaking these gestures usually mean that you’re being lied to. One of the biggest tell-tale signs of lying is fidgeting. If your child strokes their arms, mops unseen dusts from their clothes, stretches and other uncommon movements out of physical discomfort then you’re most likely being lied to.
Another sign that your child is lying to you is touching the face. If you child touches their ears, nose or cheeks, it can mean that he’s trying to “cover’’ his lie. If he often touches his face – for sure, he is hiding something ugly. Check if your kid reaches from his nose to the ear, but if he won’t touch his own breast or the places around the heart, he’s most likely telling you a false story.
2 Trying to Protect Themselves
Your child’s defensive reaction in itself can be a clue that they’re lying. If your child has an over-the-top reaction to your accusation, this can indicate that they’re lying. The more passionately your child denies any wrongdoing and insists on their innocence you might have a fibber on your hands.
Another way they may protect themselves is through deflection. If they insist that they had a smaller part in the issue or that someone else is more to blame than them, you’ll have to splice the truth from the story you’re hearing. And if your child is this defensive, you can talk them off the edge and help them to see that telling the truth isn’t going to result in severe punishment.
1 Listen to the Way Your Child Talks
Sometimes it’s possible to tell the lie from the way your child talks. This can be evident in a number of ways, they may try to “outtalk” anyone trying to explain the situation. If your child doesn’t allow you to ask a question or get a word in, then they’re most likely lying. Or they may just ramble on about what happened rather than being direct about it.
Furthermore, they may just repeat themselves over and over again. If they can’t elaborate on what they’re saying, then most likely you’re being lied to. So listen for repetition and always ask for clarification or more details if your child insists on telling you the same thing over and over again.
Another clue is your child’s voice, its timbre, the clarity of pronounced words will change when they’re lying. So, check the tips above and try to combine gestures, facial emotions and the way kid talks. You probably will see when he tells the truth and when not.