Telling a lie or deceiving makes any individual feel anxious and worried, and children are no exception to this. There are several expressions and gestures associated with lying. Having a knowledge of these reactions can help you understand when your child is lying to you, so that you can correct such behaviour immediately. Let’s read on to know more about the ten common telltale signs of lying in children.
- Avoids/changes the topic of conversation: If your child displays a sense of relief when conversation on a particular topic is over or tries to deflect your attention and avoid a discussion, you should investigate the matter a little more. Children usually indulge in such behaviour when they are caught in an uncomfortable situation that would require them to tell a lie.
- Has poor eye contact: Usually, older children avoid meeting your gaze or making eye contact with you when they are telling a lie. However, it may not be so in the case of very young children, as they have difficulty differentiating reality from fiction. So, your preschooler may look you in the eye and say her dragon friend paid her a visit in the afternoon. As for older children, with time and practice, they may learn to lie with a straight face. So, look out for very little or too much eye contact ─ this can be a sign of dishonesty.
- Shifts body weight: If your child keeps shifting his weight from one leg to the other while talking to you, it could be a sign that he is not comfortable with what he is saying, and may not be presenting the true picture.
- Gesticulates: Fidgeting, excessive blinking or not blinking at all, defensive reactions such as animated hand movements, touching the face or nose, or scratching the ear are all subtle signs of lying.
- Explains in detail: When your child gives you more information than usual about something, watch out! If he is usually not a big talker but can’t stop talking about something, it may mean that he is trying his best to sell his point.
- Delays response: Repeating the question before answering or delaying the response could mean that your child is trying to buy some time to come up with a suitable answer, which may not reflect the truth. Also, if your child doesn’t answer your question directly, it could mean that, although her consciousness is not allowing her to tell a lie, she still needs to tell a lie for some reason. For example, if you ask, “Did you skip your maths class today?” and she says, “Come on mom, I know it’s bad to skip class.”
- Is inconsistent: When your child’s version of a story sounds inconsistent and has missing links, it’s probable that he hasn’t had the chance to rehearse the lie that he came up with. If your child is being too smart and speaks as if his answers are very well-rehearsed, that is also another sign of lying.
- Exhibits altered speech: Sometimes, when your child speaks in either a low or high voice, it may mean that she is trying to lie. Lying can increase her anxiety level, which could result in variations in the pitch of her voice. Also, while lying, the pace of speech begins to vary. So, your child may speak faster than normal or pause frequently or stutter.
- Masks expressions: Tying to lie can give rise to expressions such as fear, relief, anger or pain. Your child may try to mask these expressions while he is lying. If you observe your child’s face carefully, you can understand when your child is lying by trying to hide his expressions. Also, sometimes, there could be a disconnect between your child’s facial expression and his words. For example, he may say, “I’m upset that you are leaving me back at home to study for my test,” but by looking at his face you can make out that he is waiting for you to leave.
- Keeps a distance: If your child keeps a distance from you or has a book or a pillow drawn to her chest like a barrier, it’s another non-verbal clue that should arouse your suspicion.
How to correct your child when he lies
For 2 to 3-year-olds:
- Children begin telling lies prompted by various reasons such as being unable to differentiate fantasy from reality or to avoid punishment. So, when your toddler tells a lie, respond gently and let him know that what he is saying isn’t true. Don’t react harshly or punish him, as it would make him reluctant to open up to you. Enforce consequences like taking away his favourite toy for some time or not giving him his favourite snack when he tells a lie.
- You could also tell him stories that instil values of honesty.
For 3 to 5-year-olds:
- When your preschooler lies to you, take the opportunity to talk to her about why it is important to be honest and truthful. Don’t label your child a liar, as it may make her lie more to avoid taking the blame.
- When your child spins a fanciful tale and tries to present it as a true incident, tell him in a gentle way that she has a wonderful imagination. But, at the same time, also tell her that saying the truth makes more sense to the listener.
For 6 to 12-year-olds:
- When you catch your child in the act of lying, give him a warning with a chance to come out clean by telling the truth. Also, remind him about the consequences he would need to face if he lies the next time.
- Explain to your child how his reputation will take a beating once others begin regarding him as a liar. Make him understand that this will make it hard for people to believe and trust him.
While the above tips can prove helpful in correcting lying behaviour in your child, the best way to prevent your child from lying would be to appreciate his honesty when he comes forward to tell you about his mistakes. Such appreciation will encourage him to speak the truth always.
Other tips to ensure your child speaks the truth:
- Be a good role model. For example, when you say to someone over the phone that your spouse is not at home when he is right next to you, you are giving some really strong signals to your child who is watching that ‘lying is okay’.
- When your child does something wrong and you are angry, take time to calm down and approach the situation. Always let her feel that you love her no matter what. She should feel confident to come to you with anything.
- Always find out why your child is lying. It will help you in your response. More often than not, it’s the fear of disappointing you. So, be gentle and firm when you discipline, no matter what your child’s age is.
"Honesty is the best policy." So, let us strive our best to raise honest children.
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