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How to Tell When Your Children are Lying

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Ever had that moment where your gut tells you something is off? Where your detective skills go into hyper drive trying to decipher what is going on. That moment where your child looks you in the eye and your heart is broken and raging at the same time because you know they are lying to you.

Most of us have caught our children lying. As a therapist, I have seen the destruction that lies can do in families and relationships. Whether it’s your thirteen-year-old daughter lying about who she’s talking to online or your three-year-old lying about coloring on the wall, it causes tension between parent and child.

Lying is telling a false statement with the motivation to deceive someone. There is intention to get away with something, get out of trouble, avoid conflict, or make someone believe something other than what is true.

Our kids and teens are no different when it comes to lying. Our society teaches and promotes kids to be entitled to do what they want regardless of the consequences.

As a mom, I’m sure you’ve been faced with those moments when you aren’t quite sure if they are lying or not.

When in doubt, here are a couple things to look for to tell if your child is lying:

Lack of eye contact

Your child may be lying if he is avoiding looking at you. Some will even go so far to hide their face or eyes or keep looking down or away. Younger kids might actually run off and hide. We can tell so much from looking at someone’s eyes. Look for this clue if you think your child may be telling a falsehood.

Reactions don’t match

Have you ever heard someone totally overreact to something that isn’t a big deal? This can happen when a child is lying. Their words and reactions don’t match up with the situation. This can mean they know more of what’s going on and they are trying to defend themselves about something you may not even know about…yet!

Mood swings

For some kids, this will be acting super sweet in order to hide what has happened. For others, it can be unusual anger or even withdrawing from the family. Depending on what is normal for your child, this could mean that your child is trying to hide something.

Swallowing and clearing throat

Non-verbals can give us a lot of clues to what may be going on. When a child is deliberately pausing his speech in a tense situation to swallow or clear his throat, this can be an indicator of fear and guilt . If you notice this behavior, it’s a clue to know the truth may not be out in the open.

Signs of anxiety

Similar to the last one, you will often see a child seem anxious and stressed when lying. They may fidget, blink rapidly, or have a changing in breathing. These non-verbal clues combined with other clues can indicate that your child is lying.

The story doesn’t fit

Some kids can be great storytellers, so use your mommy detective skills and figure out what facts are true. Ask questions that can weed out the story from the fact. Some kids may avoid giving details in order to maintain the lie. This is the tangled web people can get trapped in. When a story just doesn’t match, it’s a good idea to explore it more. Along with the moral issue of lying, here are the other challenges you will face raising a teen.

Remember that each child is different and has different mannerisms. If you notice some or all of these traits, it doesn’t mean he is lying. But it does mean you shouldn’t ignore it and see what else is going on. The good news is that most teens prefer hands-on parenting.

So what is the funniest way your child has tried to cover up something?

Teri Claassen is a Jesus follower, wife to Dan, mommy to one boy and one girl, a foster mom to kids in need, and a therapist at Renewed Horizon Counseling in Tampa, FL.


Have you ever been hurt by someone’s lie?

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