Parents and teachers say it to kids all the time, especially if it's an important conversation. If a child looks away when you're talking, you might think they're being rude, or simply not paying attention. But according to researchers at Stirling University in Scotland, kids turn away because it helps them think. And they probably learned it from you.
Still skeptical? Next time you ask an adult a tough question, watch them closely. They'll probably unfocus their eyes and look off into space while they figure out the answer. It's a way of blocking out visual distractions, so they can concentrate on the thought process. But kids find it harder to block visual things out, so they tend to turn their head away instead of just their eyes.
Ask an 8-year-old a question and they're likely to turn away, especially if the question is difficult to answer, or embarrassing. Staring into someone's eyes can be intimidating, especially when they're waiting for an answer. You're in the spotlight, it's time to perform, and the clock is ticking. And with someone staring at you, it's impossible to think.
As a matter of fact, when a child is a witness in a courtroom, they're often encouraged to close their eyes during testimony. It allows them to describe what they saw, without being distracted by a scary courtroom full of adults waiting for answers.
So, next time your kid looks away when you ask them a serious question, you'll know they're not being rude. They're actually thinking long and hard about it.