Kids Who Are Good Liars Have Better Memories, New Study Indicates

Child development specialists explain kids who fib have better verbal memory.

June 24, 2015, 10:06 AM

— -- If you ask any parent, they’ll probably tell you every child lies. But it turns out there may actually be an upside to that, with a new study reporting kids who are good liars may be smarter than you think.

New research from the “Journal of Experimental Child Psychology” reports that children who chose to lie while taking place in an experiment were more skilled in memory tests and verbal creativity. The theory is that children who are good liars become better thinkers and develop better memories because the ability to cover up a lie successfully with their words requires a great amount of skill and verbal dexterity.

“Research shows that one in five interactions that adults have are lies, so it’s 20 percent,” Yahoo parenting expert, Lindsay Powers, said on “Good Morning America” today. “It’s kind of no surprise that kids are picking it up.”

But experts also realize that kids are lying for all different reasons.

“Some do it to get out of trouble, others do it because other people might feel bad and they feel bad, and still others might do it just because they think it’s fun to pull the wool over somebody’s eyes,” said Dr. Robyn Silverman, a child development specialist. “There’s different lies. Some are socially acceptable and we say, Thank goodness you’re lying about that sweater that Grandma got you’, and others, we wish they would tell the truth.”

Powers and Silverman offered advice for parents on how to better understand why children lie, what they can do to prevent lying from happening and how parents can foster positive traits like creativity and good memory minus the lying. How to handle lying in kids:

Underscore honesty as a family value.

“First, you really want your child to establish the fact that honesty is a powerful word that we want to have as a family value,” said Silverman.

Set a positive example as a truthful adult.

“Next, we want our adults in our lives to show that they are a great example of truth-telling,” Silverman said.

“Your actions really speak louder than words so if they see their parents really being honest, maybe return a wallet they’ve found, kids are really going to pick up on that,” Powers added.

Show telling the truth is beneficial.

“Make sure that you do not scold a child for telling the truth,” said Silverman. “If you keep scolding them, then they’re not going to come to you.”

Teach children to check in with themselves.

“Teach them to do a little bit of a gut check,” Silverman explained. “If the words that are coming out of your mouth make you feel dizzy in the head, hot in the face and a pit in your stomach, then you’re probably going down the wrong path.”

How to foster good behaviors in kids:

Get excited about what excites them.

“You want to have a little bit of positive reinforcement as well,” said Powers. “Talk to your kids, get excited about what they’re excited about. Make sure they don’t feel like their self-worth is tied to a certain thing. Then if you say, ‘Oh, you’re so smart,’ they’ll continue to lie because they think their parents really just value that.”

Don’t reinforce bad character traits.

Make sure they don’t feel like their self-worth is tied to a certain thing. Then if you say, ‘Oh, you’re so smart,’ they’ll continue to lie because they think their parents really just value that.

Engage them in creative storytelling.

“It’s really important to that and to foster their own creativity with playing different games and help show kids a different way than lying,” Powers said.

“We can do storytelling. Let’s give them a context to do that. Make up stories and let your imagination go wild,” added Silverman.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events