How to Catch Your Child Lying

by Chelsea Fitzgerald

    You may think you've caught your child in a lie ... but then she turns on those crocodile tears and looks at you with those angelic eyes, and suddenly you're doubting yourself, feeling like a rat for accusing her, and wondering about the trustworthiness of the family member who told on her. Learning to be a more effective lie detector gives you an opportunity to teach your little one about honesty and its value. The better you get at it, the more you can nip this trait in the bud before she grows into a compulsive and skillful liar.

    Step 1

    Watch your little one carefully when you question him. Generally, when people tell the truth, their facial features are relaxed and they will look you in the eye. If your child's gaze wanders or his face looks pinched with anxiety, beware: A fib is probably coming out of those cherubic lips.

    Step 2

    Take note of unusual amounts of squirming or fidgeting when your child answers your questions. This is a telltale sign that she's uncomfortable with the answer and wants to hightail it out of the room.

    Step 3

    Listen to your child's answers and phrasing. Notice if she seems to stall or neglects to answer the question directly. This often happens when your tyke is trying to formulate a lie on the spot. Long pauses are also a dead giveaway that a lie is on its way.

    Step 4

    Ask your child to repeat the story if you suspect he is lying. Typically, the story changes if it's not the truth and nothing but the truth.

    Step 5

    Tell your child you're going to question his friend or another adult who was also a witness to the event. Toddlers and preschoolers will generally spill their guts if you threaten to ask another eyewitness.

    Step 6

    Speak in a calm and reasonable tone when asking your child about an event that may tempt her to lie. Many children, especially toddlers, lie to escape punishment or keep from disappointing a parent. Avoiding yelling or angry expressions will make her more comfortable with telling the truth.

    Step 7

    Explain to your preschool child that making up creative stories and fantasies is perfectly acceptable during playtime when everyone knows the story is just a tall tale. Such stories are a fun way to stretch her imagination, but they're not appropriate as a way to escape punishment. See if she'll take this opportunity to fess up that she's fabricating right now.


    • Point out to your child that the punishment is always much worse if you catch her lying. Give her examples to show the degrees of punishment. For instance, if she was running in the house and broke a lamp accidentally, she would have to help you clean up the mess and concentrate on not running in the house. If she lied and said that someone else or a pet broke the lamp, you would make her do those things plus extra chores. Explain that her dishonesty, not the accident itself, would cause her to have to earn the money to replace the lamp.
    • Make honesty one of the basic and most important rules in your home. Even toddlers and preschoolers can tell when you're telling a white lie. Show your child how to be honest even when it is not convenient. For instance, if Grandma asks if you like her new hat, tell her truthfully that the pink color is very becoming, if this is the case. Don't announce after she leaves that it was the most ridiculous hat you've ever seen and not expect your tyke to notice that you were fibbing to Grandma.

    About the Author

    Chelsea Fitzgerald covers topics related to family, health, green living and travel. Before her writing career, she worked in the medical field for 21 years. Fitzgerald studied education at the University of Arkansas and University of Memphis.

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