Children who lie may be smarter than you think!

Children who lie may be smarter than you think!

Find out what really happens when a lie is carried out!

Let’s be honest, we do not like lies! Especially when it comes from our children. Lying can occur in a variety of ways, from pushing the blame, to exaggerating stories of their lives.

However, as we venture more into the cognitive aspect on how a lie works, you might want to rethink that “time-out” the next time your child utters another bluff!

Lying displays cognitive advancement

According to, clinical psychologist Jean Piaget elaborates that children around the preschool age are at the moral development of ‘egocentrism’. This does not mean a child is selfish, but rather they only have the ability to view the world from their point of view alone.

Therefore, it takes a sophisticated mind for children to differentiate their experiences with others. For example, a child might lie to get out of trouble, because he or she knows that the teacher was not around. Therefore, lying can be a strong indicator of a child mastering the concept of ‘putting themselves in someone else’s shoes’, overcoming egocentrism!

You might want to try this out this experiment with your child. Take a color pencil box and place it with anything obscure (e.g erasers). Then carry out the following three steps:

  1. Ask your child what he thinks is inside.
  2. Open the box and show it to him, then ask what is really inside.
  3. Then, ask if another person were to guess, what would they think is inside?

Lying shows your child’s social understanding of people

As a preschool teacher, I’ve seen and heard many creative ways a lie was being told. Note that I used the word creative, because it takes more than just saying something out of the ordinary.

For instance, saying that aliens ate the last cookie would not be convincing enough to get them out of trouble. Careful consideration of realistic answers would make up a good lie. Social understanding, or rather ‘street smart’ would be determined based on the efforts made to convince someone else otherwise with their bluff.

This includes self-control, as mentioned by Kang Lee on a TED conference, where a good liar includes hiding their true emotions being shown in their speech, facial features and body language.

Even though lying is a good sign of cognitive and social development in our children, lies should never be encouraged. It may be a step forward to understanding others, and perhaps going away from selfishness, but the idea of deceiving others is not good.

How to deal with a child who lied

Mind your body language

  • When calling out a child’s lies, make sure to avoid any form of guilt trips or threats, be it through the tone of your voice, or even the eye contact that you have.
  • Ask what are their reasons behind this lie, it can range from fear to even a habit.

Explain the importance of the truth

  • Children might be unaware of the consequences of lying, along with why it is important to tell the truth. Explaining it to your child would empower them to think on their own the next time an opportunity arises to speak a lie or tell the truth.

Allow the child to reflect

  • Now with the ability to see others’ perspective, tap on this new skill your child has mastered. First, ask them what would be the consequences of the lie carried out. Then, ask them how the other party involved would feel. For example, asking how do they feel when someone gets punished in their place.
  • Avoid any form of guilt trips, and mind your body language, as often enough, children response based on how we react, not based on what we say. As the saying goes, actions speaks louder than words!


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Written by

Rebecca Ting

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