Sometimes it’s just easier to lie. For parents, lies are sometimes crucial to get your kids to stop some of their bad habits. Other times, a false explanation is simpler than the nitty-gritty truth. And then there are times when parents just want to have some fun at the expense of their children. Things get complicated, however, when the kid believes the lie, and, in some cases, does so for many years afterward! Here are some memorable childhood lies that people once actually believed.
1. Make No Bones About It—This is a Terrifying Lie
Mom and I moved in with my (now) dad when I was around four years old. Christmas rolls around, he had this light-up skeleton tree topper in lieu of an angel. He took it out of the box and I asked why it was a skeleton. He got this horrified, shocked look on his face: “Oh no! We must have forgot to poke holes in the box last year!”
I thought my angel suffocated and we were putting her dead body on the Christmas tree. I cried for hours.
2. Well, That’s One Way to Potty-Train Your Kid
So when I was whatever age you become “potty trained,” we were going on vacation to somewhere outside of the United States. My mom told me that diapers were illegal there and that if I didn’t go to the bathroom in a toilet like grownups my parents would be arrested and go to jail for a long time. It worked and no one went to prison, at least as far as I know.
3. Quitting Your Candy Habit
If you eat too many M&M’s your tongue will permanently change color. I think my mom told me this to deter me from eating a lot of chocolate, but honestly, I would have loved a blue tongue.
4. Don’t Try This at Home
My dad had me convinced that if I were to ever look at my own butt, I would explode.
5. The Real-Life Inspiration for Junior?
My old man has had a beer belly for years and used to tell me and my brothers that he…birthed us. Did we believe him though? Absolutely.
6. Navel Gazing
As a kid, I used to play with my belly button a lot. My mom told me that the knot in my belly button held my skin together and if I keep playing with it, I’ll untie the knot and fall apart. It totally terrified me, but it did stop me from playing with my belly button.
7. Don’t Toy With My Heart
I lived with my family in Japan for a year towards the end of the 80s. Time comes to go back to the home country, and the number of toys I amassed as a kid in Japan was not small. They were also very cool toys, them being from Japan and all. My parents promise we will take them all with us home, all the while putting them in strange big black bags (for garbage?).
But, since air freight is so expensive, they said, we will simply put them on a ship in order to save some money. There will be home before I know it, they said, but only after we arrive, since ships are much slower than planes. Got home, and could not stop asking them: “When will the toys arrive? I want to share them with my new classmates, they were very cool!”
After a few months of constant nagging, they sit me down and say they have to tell me something. Proceed to explain that, unfortunately, the ship sank on the way, along with all my toys on it. I was so miserable and retold the story to all friends for a couple of years. Many years later, during a family dinner, I asked, “Do you remember when all my toys from Japan sank? It was so sad and unfortunate!”
They explained it was a lie all along, and that, yes, those were indeed garbage bags.
8. How Do Windshield Wipers Work?
My dad told me that the windshield wipers would count the raindrops on the windshield and when it reached one million then they would wipe the rain away. If it was raining harder they went faster because it reached one million faster.
9. A Very Macabre Childhood Chore
I grew up in an area where slugs destroyed many a yard. As a child, I found them to be utterly adorable and didn’t understand why everyone didn’t like them. My mom told me that slugs LOVED salt and that it was their favorite food. She said when I fed them salt, they sometimes wiggled a happy dance because they loved it so much.
I happily went around the garden with a salt shaker, killing who knows how many slugs. I was maybe four or five when this happened.
10. I’m Lovin’ This Lie
My mother had a few McDonald’s bags lying around since I was obsessed with them. Every day, before my father would be back from work, she would put what she cooked into the sacks and would place it outside the door for my father to pick up. I was fooled every time, man. How would I know McDonald’s didn’t have soup?
11. The Great, Mythical Furry Turtle
When I was about six years old, my dad convinced me that turtles grow fur under their shells. Fast forward to the eighth grade, I’m in my US history class and the topic of turtles comes up, and I explain to my teacher that turtles have fur, he then proceeds to turn on the projector and Google “do turtles have fur” in front of the whole class.
They don’t. I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life. I told my dad this story a couple months ago (I’m 17 now), and he still laughs uncontrollably about it whenever I mention it.
12. When the Dad Joke Crosses the Line
My dad once told me and my brother that the guy who worked at our corner store liked to kidnap kids and eat them like the witch from Hansel and Gretel and that some people had to eat people to survive so the government gave certain places a pass on that. So as long as he took them from the store, by law he could eat them.
He told us a similar story with a church about an hour drive away. He said they did human sacrifices and would just pick someone who walked in once a day and kill them and it counted as religious freedom. I believed both of these lies way longer than I’d like to admit. Turns out he just thought it was funny to force us to go into those places, and apparently worked as a quick punishment.
I wish I was kidding.
13. Going to the Dentist as a Kid is Bad Enough
My childhood dentist told me I wasn’t getting numbing shots when in fact I was. He would rub the numbing agent on my gums then say he needed to pinch my gums to make sure the medicine was working. I later learned from my adult dentist those pinches were shots.
14. Some Things Are Better Left as Lies
My family always went on Sunday drives, and we’d all bum around whatever stores we passed along the way. Every once in a while, we’d pull up to this weird store. My parents referred to it as “The Daddy Store.” My mom would sit out in the car with my sister and I while we bounced off the walls inquiring as to why we couldn’t go in and what daddy was getting.
I even tried to escape the car and make a break for it once because I was so curious as to what my dad was doing. They refused to ever go into detail about it, and we were never allowed to look inside of the opaque black bag my dad would come out with. Fast-forward 15 years to when I found the giant cardboard box in the back of my parents closet.
Suddenly, memories of trips to “The Daddy Store” flooded my mind. THEY WERE BUYING PORN! MY PARENTS HAD AN ENTIRE BOX FILLED WITH 80S PORN. I never mentioned it until I got a job at a porn shop in college. My parents tried to express their distaste for my choice in employment…up until I asked them what was so wrong about working for “The Daddy Store.”
15. Brilliant or Evil, Either Way Pretty Effective
In order to get me to stop sucking my thumb when I was really young, my mom told me that if I kept on doing that it would turn red, then purple, and then fall off. I ignored her warning and kept on doing it. One night when I was sleeping, my mom dyed my thumbs red. I woke up freaking out but quickly resumed sucking my thumb.
The next night she dyed it purple. I freaked out so bad I never sucked on it again.
16. Never Fault Kid-Logic
I was told that the mannequins in clothing stores were kids who didn’t behave and were taken to the “dungeon” in the store where they would promptly be made into a mannequin.
17. Pretty Woman, She Lied to Me
I used to eat chalk when I was about three or four. My mother always had it lying around because she was an elementary teacher. One day, I was sneaking a stick of the stuff when I heard the background noise of the nightly news saying that Roy Orbison had died. He was my favorite, and when I asked mom how he died (with a mouth full of foamy, frothy chalk), she said he ate too much chalk.
Never touched the stuff again.
18. A Well-Intentioned Lie
My parents told me that the TV only worked on rainy Saturdays. I believed it until I was six or seven.
19. Cashiers Sure are Forgetful!
The cashier forgot to put your candy in the bag! Time after time…ugh.
20. When the Lie is More Digestible Than the Truth
I think I speak for all Scottish children on this one. I thought haggis was a real animal that ran in circles at the top of mountains (the legs on one side shorter than the other to facilitate this, obviously). I was skeptical, but everyone’s commitment to the lie made me believe.
21. A Clever Lie, That May Take a While to Get
That a backflip is called a winter pepper.
22. The Answer, My Friend, is Blowin’ in the Wind
My father used to fart a lot more back in the day. I was a little guy then, about nine I think. It would annoy the hell out of my mom. Then I realized that I’ve never heard my mom squeeze one out. So I asked her then on the spot. For some reason unclear to me she told me that girls can’t fart. I completely believed her and I didn’t even give it a second thought. Mom is always right.
Fast-forward to four years later. Mom was sitting in the living room watching TV alone. I came home early from school, so I ran like a maniac to the TV to watch cartoons. As I enter the room, my mom—thinking that she was alone I guess—decided to push out the biggest, loudest fart that I have ever heard in my life. She noticed me standing there totally confused.
She starts laughing. I turned around and walked to my room and laid on my bed for the rest of the afternoon trying to make sense of it all. So yeah…I was 13 when I realized that girls had the ability to fart.
23. A Sweet Gesture That’s False at the Core
I planted some seeds from an apple one time when I was four or five. By the next spring, I had forgotten about it, but lo and behold, there was a small tree growing there. I was obsessed with it, watering it, taking care of it for a while. I moved away from that house and that city when I was 13 and my parents divorced.
My dad was very nostalgic (and bitter) about the divorce, and any time I was back in that area we’d drive around and talk about our old life, the house, etc. When I was 25 or so we were doing just that and as we passed the house I was like, “Whoa! My apple tree is getting so big! I can’t believe that worked.” My dad laughed and said they transplanted a small tree there.
He thought I knew already. I love that guy.
24. The Popular Urban Legend With (Eight) Legs
I was told that when the “beehive” hairstyle was popular, some women ended up dying because black widow spiders nested inside of them. And then my parents always wondered why I hated spiders for the rest of my life.
25. A Hurtful Lie
My birthday and Christmas were only a month apart so I would tend to get some money instead of presents from family and relatives around that time of year. My parents would always tell me I had to learn how to save my money, so I was never really allowed to use it, just save it for something “special.” Usually, my money would go missing and I couldn’t find where it was, only to find out my father, who smoked a pack a day, took it to buy cigarettes, or use it for drinking money.
Frustrated by this, my brother and I asked our parents if we could get a bank account, so instead of leaving our money laying around, we would deposit it somewhere where it would be safe and would be able to be saved for a long period of time. After saving after a year or two, we wanted to get either a new game console or game, and adding up what we knew we had, we determined that together we had enough. We go to the bank.
I had a balance of $0, my brother had a balance of $-10 (yes negative). Appears since parents signed us up for the account, and cause we were children, they had full access to our account. When we confronted our parents about it we got the whole, “You’re the child, we’re the adult” speech or, “You take money from us every day just by raising you.”
The only lesson we learned was if you save your money you will never get to use it. So we pretty much stopped saving our gift money and tried to spend it ASAP.
26. Can’t Spell Believe Without “Lie”
My parents went to the fullest extent possible to convince my brother and I that Santa was real during one Christmas when we were young. They had our grandfather dress as him and told us we could stay awake to spy on him if we pretended to be asleep in their bed. They threw tennis balls on the roof to represent reindeer landing and prepared a red light bulb in the chimney for Rudolph’s nose.
We got to look down our hallway to see our mother’s father, dressed as Santa, literally pulling presents from a sack and placing them beneath our tree. We believed until we were, like, fourteen.
27. This Would Drive Me Away From Twinkies Too
My dad’s all-time favorite snack is Twinkies and he used to tell me that little elves lived in the Twinkies and the three holes were so they could get outside air and breathe. I never ate another Twinkie in my life and my dad didn’t have to worry about me stealing his favorite snack ever again.
28. A Truly Hazardous Button
My parents told me that if I touched the button with the big orange triangle in the car (next to all the other buttons), the car would explode.
29. Denying Kids Play Time Seems Really Cruel
My parents told me that it cost more money to go inside to use the playground at McDonald’s. So when we would go to McDonald’s for food, it was always the drive-thru since it was “cheaper.”
30. Ah Yes, The Prehistoric Origins of Turkey Day
When I was a kid, I was super into those Land Before Time movies. In one of the films, the characters come together at the end of the movie for “the time of great giving” or something like that. Anyway, I was watching this movie with my dad and when the ending came, he told me that this “time of great giving” is now known as Thanksgiving.
I completely fell for it. I was so convinced that the dinosaurs were responsible for Thanksgiving that when my kindergarten teacher tried to teach us about the pilgrims later that year, I berated her and called her an idiot. I was 100% convinced that everything my dad said was right. I was pretty bummed when I found out the truth.
Dinosaurs are so much cooler than pilgrims.
31. When Dad Gets Egg on Your Face
My father once told me “I bet you $20 that I can throw this egg at the wall over there and it won’t crack.” Excited at the prospect of making such a humongous amount of money, you accept the bet. My father then gets to the fridge, grabs an egg, makes a show of aiming and practicing his throw and then hurls it at the wall with all of his mighty “dad strength.”
Obviously, the egg explodes on the wall and you start laughing like a maniac cause you think you’ve won and, let’s face it, seeing eggs get smashed against a wall is pretty fun when you’re six. My father would then turn to you with a smirk asking for his $20. He explains to your confused face that he threw the egg at the wall and “it”, the wall, didn’t crack. So pay up.
$20 is an expensive way to learn that betting is stupid.
32. And a New Euphemism is Born
My parents would go upstairs to “measure the walls for new wallpaper.” We never got new wallpaper. I never figured it out until my mom admitted recently—that they, in fact, were not measuring the walls.
33. Crikey! Way To Get My Hopes Up, Dad
We moved to Queensland, Australia when I was seven and my dad told me we were going to live next door to Steve Irwin and I would get to babysit Bindi. I genuinely believed this and was extremely disappointed when it turned out our house was not actually next door to the Crocodile Hunter.
34. A Lie! Why Did It Have to be a Lie?
My father is a Classics/Archaeology teacher and he told me that Indiana Jones was based on some diaries he had lent to his friend George Lucas. I knew my dad had traveled quite a lot before marrying my mum and he was pretty handy with weaponry. Until I was 10, I proudly told anyone who would listen that my dad was Indiana Jones.
When I went with friends to watch The Last Crusade, someone pointed out Nazis and my dad weren’t on the same timeline. I was devastated, but my father still laughs about this.
35. The Lengths Parents Go to Potty-Train Their Kids
When I was a little boy, I couldn’t quite manage to pee in the toilet. I didn’t care about making it all dirty, because I thought it was water and that it would evaporate. My parents told me that they use a special invisible liquid at school to catch people like me and put them in jail. They spread it all around the floor, and it turns blue when someone pees on it. They told me that at school they have my DNA, and that each student’s pee had a different color so that it was easy to tell which one was the criminal. They also told me it remains invisible to children, so I couldn’t tell if I was going to be caught or not.
I spent five daily hours, for five years, without ever thinking about going to the bathroom. I used to warn everyone about the invisible liquid, like those weirdoes in apocalypse movies who go around screaming and telling everyone the system wants to kill them all.
36. Some Lies Thankfully Don’t Stick
While we were eating Chinese take-out, my stepdad told me that if you didn’t use chopsticks in China, they would chop off your hands. I proceeded to learn how to use chopsticks just in case I ever needed to go to China. A few years later I realized he was just being a jerk and probably a racist.
37. Tricking Your Kid to Eat Veggies
My favorite color as a kid was purple. One day we were in the supermarket and I pointed to a head of red cabbage and asked: “Ma, why is that lettuce purple?” She replied, “I wrote to the vegetable factory and told them that purple was your favorite color. They made those purple lettuces just for you, so you’d better eat them.” She promptly put one in the cart. I ate them even though I didn’t like the taste much because I felt bad for the people at the vegetable factory going to so much trouble for me.
Well played, ma!
38. A Protein By Any Other Name Would Taste as Sweet
As a kid, I HATED eating ham, and my grandparents would typically serve that for dinner when we came to visit for the holidays. I was okay with eating chicken though. So they convinced me that tonight’s holiday dinner was going to be Pink Chicken, which I then ate and found extremely delicious. They still give me grief about it.
I actually love ham now.
39. Kid Logic Strikes Again
When I was really young, my parents would always joke that my mom was “cold-blooded” because she was so sensitive to the cold. Well right around the time that I was learning ALL humans are warm-blooded in school, I overheard my parents talking about how my mom was an alien (she’s a Canadian citizen, we live in the US).
Consequently, I spent a good year of my childhood firmly believing my mother was an extraterrestrial.
40. A Devious Ploy
When I was younger, my family would spend New Year’s up in northern Michigan at our property in the woods. It was awesome because we could stay up until midnight. All of us kids would be outside playing flashlight tag in the woods, and then ten minutes to midnight we were called inside and given sparkling grape juice and got to partake in the countdown and festivities.
After midnight we went to bed, thankful for being able to act like adults and stay up. Years later, I found out my mom changed the clocks by four hours and we were in bed and asleep by eight!
41. Just Get the Poor Kid an Ice Cream
My parents told me that the ice cream truck was actually the “bread van.” Every time I went to the window when the tune played, my mom would always just say “That’s the bread van, you don’t want a dinner roll and butter. Do you?” I fell for that…every, single, time!
42. Scapegoating Poor Rudolph
My dad is terrible at wrapping gifts. Every time he wrapped something to give to us kids, regardless of the time of year, it was wrapped by “Rudolph” and the wrapping was terrible because reindeer don’t have thumbs.