Happy Face, Lying Face

“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,

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.


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Filed under Education, Humor, Learning, Lessons from students

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