When do children learn to tell lies?

Is it a bad thing if children tell lies? Scientists don't think so. This short video explains why.

Do the preparation task first. Then watch the video and do the exercises. Remember you can read the transcript at any time.



Narrator: Who can resist an unmanned chocolate cake?

Boy 1: Shall we lick the top?

Boy 2: Yummy scrummy!

Boy 3: (laughs)

Narrator: But how best to cover your tracks?

Boy 1: Someone mysterious sneaked in when we were …

Male adult: Someone mysterious sneaked in?

Boy 4: Yeah!

Female psychologist: (laughs) Lying is a really important developmental skill. It tells us that the children can work out what's in someone else's mind in order to try and deceive them.

Boy 1: A thief came in and took that.

Boy 2: They flew down, ate it and then flew back!

Male adult: So, an elephant and a giant bird came and smudged the cake?

Boy 3: Yeah!

Narrator: To test the children's lying skills at different ages, we left them alone with a rigged gumball machine and told them not to touch it. First, we see how the four-year-olds handle the situation.

Elie: I want a sweet now.

Girl 1: Are you going to turn it?

Zoe: No!

Elie: Do you want to turn it? Turn it!

(Zoe turns the wheel)

Male psychologist: Whoa! And it's gone!

Female psychologist: Oh no! They made Zoe turn it.

Girl 1: Do not turn it any more! Nobody turn it any more, OK?

Girl 2: I just keep doing it by accident!

Female psychologist: Lying is a very subtle skill. They frequently get uncovered at this age. They haven't got the ability to problem-solve their way out of it.

Male psychologist: They're not developmentally advanced enough to lie so they tell the truth.

Female adult: What happened?!

Girl 1: It was Zoe!

Zoe: He told me to turn this thing.

Female adult: Elie, did you tell Zoe to turn it?

Elie: Well, she didn't … she … yeah, but … she listened.

Male psychologist: She listened! It was her fault for listening!

Narrator: Now it's the turn of the six-year-olds.

Children: Smarties! Sweets!

Narrator: They still turn the handle. They still gorge on sweets.

Boy 1: Yeah!

Narrator: They still panic about getting caught.

Boy 2: You guys, why did you touch that?

Narrator: But then they get rather more resourceful.

Boy 3: I've got a really, really good plan. We've got to say one lie, we've got to say one lie.

Male psychologist: This guy's worked it out that you can lie, and as long as you've got the rest of the group complicit with you (Female psychologist: OK), you get away with it.

Female adult: (surprised gasp)

Boy 4: The Smarties all came out!

Female adult: I'm getting lots of apologies but I kind of want to know what happened.

Boy 3: I was running … like this, yeah? So then we fell and banged it. So it was my fault.

Female psychologist: How ironic for parents that at the point at which their children learn to lie, they need to celebrate that as a huge developmental stage.

Male psychologist: It shows how smart the kid is, even though it also shows that you're going to be in a lot of trouble as a parent from now on.

© Channel 4

Task 1

Task 2


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Average: 5 (2 votes)

Submitted by Miguelitorico1996 on Fri, 04/02/2022 - 19:43


When I was four years old I hit a boy who was playing with me and two of his teeth fell out, once my grandfather came to the garden I told him that my classmate had fallen, the teacher told my grandfather that it was a lie and then my grandfather hit me when we got back home. I believe that everything must be in balance, always telling the truth is not good, but becoming a liar can bring many problems when the child grows up and becomes an adult.

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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Mon, 04/05/2020 - 23:43

Yes. I did. Yes, they should if it's possible within their means.
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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Wed, 10/07/2019 - 06:04

When I was a kid, I often lied when I needed to excuse for having eaten up my siblings’ snacks before they noticed...(!) Humpty Dumpty! I knew I was awkward when I was lying for excuse. As I grew up, I came to be fed up with such a miserable “me”, and now I can control myself and am happy to be square.

Submitted by Nalleli on Wed, 17/10/2018 - 16:01

When I was a child I didn’t use to lie, but I clearly remember one day I ridicously lied to my mom. It was a typical day’s school and my mom make me a lunch. But I didn’t eat it, and when I came back home, I decided to put it down the sofa. But at the end of the day, when my mom was vacunning the floor, she found it! And, maybe because I had done it before (lol), she asked me why I put it in there, so, I told her that I was victim of an spell, because in the morning I was looking for my sandwich but it wasn’t in my backpack, but now, it appears here, “Mom, don’t you think it’s magic?” I asked. She was very surprised for my answer! As in the audio the man said, parents are emocionated by their kids lying, but also, they are worried. And, of course my mom scolded me but it was the right desition, parents should not allow the lies, the must teach them to afront consecuences.
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Submitted by Dee on Sat, 04/08/2018 - 10:22

I think children start lie when they are afraid of any situation,might they feel tempted to lie, from birth to 3, kids are in a highly confusing and children from ages 3 to 7 are still figuring out the difference between fantasy and reality.They create imaginary worlds in their play.Children often lie an attempt to hide something they know they have done wrong and someone will angry. We need to think, Is screaming at your child healthy? Never call your child a liar because negative labels can erode self esteem.If you catch your child telling a blatant lie, tell them you know they are not being honest.I know that isn't true.Lets see what we can do solve the problem.
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Submitted by Thomas GUES on Tue, 31/07/2018 - 16:15

I won't be able to remember any lies I told when I was a child, because there are plenty! I also think that the more siblings you have, the more lies you tell, and the more you get skilled to hide the truth.
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Submitted by Julianjaror on Fri, 06/07/2018 - 04:41

Parents must teach their children not to lie. The lie is not good, but any moment is necessary.
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Submitted by Ahmed Shawky on Thu, 05/07/2018 - 18:15

Yes, i remember when i was a child, i was trying to hang on a metal bar and i injured my hand.I was afraid to be punished so i told my father that while i was walking , a car came quickly and hit my hand and ran away. But he didn't believe me and finally i told him the truth.:))) I think parents shouldn't prevent them from lying but they should encourage them to tell the truth to gain self-confidence.
I agree. The most positive attitude is to encourage children to say the truth, better than chasing the lies.