“This is my happy face,” my youngest son showed my wife and I with a smile.
“This is my lying face. I can tell the difference because I can hear the laughing in my head.”
This leads to the question, “How do you really know when someone is being mistaken about the truth, giving misinformation, or lying?” I am no expert and I don’t mean to brag, but I have caught a few kids in lies during my tenure as a teacher and years as a parent. When you can’t hear the voices in a person’s head,
- Watch their body language. Once when I asked one of my sons if he had a cookie in his mouth, he covered his mouth with his hand and mumbled, “no.”
- Notice a lack of eye contact. When I confronted my oldest son about his hitting his little brother, he hid his eyes from me by running away from me. I know the little one was truthful when he told on his brother because I could see the tears in his eyes.
- Look for nervous behavior. During a quiz, I noticed a student looking at me every thirty seconds. I sat down next to him to help him feel safe and assuage his nerves. I whispered to him, “Are you having trouble?” He replied, “No.”
- Ask for details. When I asked a young lady if she had read the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet last night and she said, “Yes,” I asked her about what happened. She told me the two characters talked on a balcony. I pressed for more details. She told me they were brother and sister.
- Beware of negativity. Several years ago I smelled cigarette smoke coming out of the bathroom at school. When I informed the unknown young man that I had to escort him to the office, he denied doing anything wrong. He kept claiming he didn’t smoke as he flushed a toilet. He then accused me of always picking on him.
- Listen for the pause. Often students will pause when confronted with a question. They may utter an “um” or “ah” as they formulate their lie. Well, at least that is what I found to be true.
- Ask again. One year on Christmas Day, I noticed about 20 candy wrappers on the table. I asked my middle son if he ate them. He denied it and was too young to immediately blame a sibling. A little while later he complained of a tummy ache, so I sat on the couch with him. He regurgitated all over the couch, carpet, and me. I asked him again and he admitted he had lied.
- Listen for “honest” phrases. This year I have several students who start their explanation for not having homework with phrases like, “to be honest” or “the truth is.” Honestly, I don’t know why they try.
I know some experts have more tips, like look at the pupils. However, this seems obvious since pupils and politicians have a commonality: they lie like teenagers trying to get out of trouble.