My hypothesis is this: If a kid (aged about 12 or older) knows how to be a good liar, and how to spot other (good) liars will actually be more honest, or at least be able to be in relationships of higher quality in the long run.

I'm setting the age limit at 12 because a younger kid who can lie without you realizing it would be a nightmare.

Please note that I don't have kids. In fact I'm not even in a relationship but I'd like to hear your opinions. I was looking for a psychology site but didn't find one on SE. If you think my question is a better fit for another site please flag it.


2 Answers 2


It is a fair parenting question, so I'll answer it even though it is hypothetical. My answer would be no, spotting a liar is a completely different skill than lying. While spotting a liar may be a good skill, being a good liar would likely encourage lying rather than prevent it.

As a parent I think it is unlikely that this question would ever come up in real life. With 12 year olds you're going to have your hands full getting them to do their homework and helping them through the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood. I'd prefer to concentrate on teaching useful life skills and keeping them out of trouble.

  • 3
    Being a good liar encourages a career in sales.
    – DA01
    Jul 5, 2013 at 17:35
  • 2
    Good one @DA01! Maybe politics as well!
    – GdD
    Jul 5, 2013 at 18:38
  • I wouldn't like my child to be a salesman but that's the idea. His or her life will be dominated by liars, he might as well know how to outfox them. I'd like to draw a parallel to the gun debate (yes I'm that brave!) but, case in point, you wouldn't give a gun to a 12 year-old no matter what your position is. My reasoning is that by learning deception early on, he or she will be more natural at it (and potentially an excellent salesman).
    – rath
    Jul 6, 2013 at 2:35
  • You are correct that this is an unrealistic scenario. Your answer made me think about my parents when I was 12 and boy they had their hands full. Cheers
    – rath
    Jul 6, 2013 at 2:37

A kid (even younger) should know the basics of how to bluff in some sort of table-game. And it should do "I pretend to be a policeman/mother/lion who does xyz" in a game. Or doing magic tricks with a straight face. All of that helps with being aware of their own mimic and gesture, and it helps being more aware of simple inter-human "tactics" that they will meet everyday.

As for protecting them from more sophisticated liars, the important "skill" is realizing that and how they can be fooled (a skill many adults still lack).

When I was a teenager, I found a book of some ufo-conspiracist. I was fascinated, and the arguments of the author seemed very conclusive. But at the end of the books there were some photos, one depicting an ancient maya stone-relief. The text had claimed that every child would recognize it as a being riding a rocketship. But when I saw the picture I realized that no sane/adult person (who had seen rocket-ships would depict them that way. I realized I had been manipulated by eloquence. It was a very valuable realization for me: I had fallen for the author's arguments just because he was so good at spinning and verbalizing them.

It is hard to "create" such an experience for your kid. But sometimes you might get a (hopefully save) opportunity. Where your kid can read or listen to something very convincing and eloquent, but where you can clearly show how it was deceiving.

Along those lines it is also important to talk about falsehoods that are not lies. In our time, for example, there is a lot of talk about true and false information in media. Talk about how articles can influenced by a lack of (research-)time, a need to catch the readers attention, a need to please the reader and the need for advertizers money. Show some different newspapers, internet click-bait and similar things. Discuss and compare together which seems to be more trustworthy in that regard. (Edit: this paragraph sounds a bit negative. You certainly should also mention which ideals help to make media more trustworthy.) Talk about people who believe (and tell) things because it would be too hard to accept the truth. Talk about functional psychopaths or watch a good youtube-video about them.

Also do talk about times when you have been fooled. We tend to avoid those topics out of shame, but admitting we have been fooled (and discussing why) can help the kid a lot! It also takes the stigma from admitting (to oneself in the first place) that one has been fooled.

To answer your original question: You do not need to teach lying. It might just make the kid think every liar will use their own techniques, making them more easy to be fooled. Telling your kids how you lied can be a helpful part of teaching them to spot falsehoods. But it is only a part, and it is not a skill that needs to be trained.

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