Little white lies

FOR generations, parents have made up fantastical fibs to get their children to behave - or sometimes simply for their own amusement. As a survey reveals nine out of ten Brits are lied to when young, TRACEY SPARLING looks at some of the well-meaning whoppers we tell our children.

By Tracey Sparling

FOR generations, parents have made up fantastical fibs to get their children to behave - or sometimes simply for their own amusement. As a survey reveals nine out of ten Brits are lied to when young, TRACEY SPARLING looks at some of the well-meaning whoppers we tell our children.

FUNNY, creative, mischievous and, let's face it, downright hypocritical, it seems little white lies are a part of almost every childhood.

Whether you want to get your terrible two to eat his greens, entice an older child to be good all year round for that special visit at Christmas or simply inject a bit of magic into their everyday lives parents are undeniably guilty of fabricating stories. And they are stories that last through generations.

A nationwide poll for Reader's Digest magazine shows that 89pc of British adults were told minor mistruths by their parents when they were young.

Furthermore, 83pc of these have tried all or some of the same fibs on their offspring.

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From “When the man in the ice cream van plays his music, he's run out of ice cream” to “Daddy is related to all policemen, so you have to be good wherever you go” these are just some of the hundreds of imaginative whoppers uncovered by the survey of more than 1,000 adults.

Curiously, Britain's girls are told 50pc more lies than boys. Brian King, author of The Lying Ape: An Honest Guide to a World of Deception, says this may be because “parents might feel girls are more vulnerable and need more protection from reality”.

As you might expect, the first and second most-told fibs were about Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy.

What was surprising, however, was the inventiveness with which many parents embellished these myths. One Reader's Digest survey respondent was led to believe that the Tooth Fairy crushed her teeth and sprinkled the dust over her wings so she could fly, while others were told that Santa entered their chimney-free house with a magic key, while one man remembers being informed that pigeons were watching him and reporting good or bad behaviour back to 'Saint Nick'.

Such flights of fancy that mums and dads use to make the world seem more magical were the most common type of white lies told overall.

Yet while we might curse our parents for fooling us, the deceptions can be beneficial.

East Anglian child psychologist Richard Bulkeley said: “Sharing fantasies may well stimulate children's brains and help develop language skills. It could also make them more creative and sensitive later in life.”

One female reporter said: “I went to school with someone who was told that haggises were small round furry creatures, with one leg shorter than the other so that they could run round hills and were actually hunted by Scotsmen in kilts.

“She believed this until she was 17 and told me in the pub. I almost cried laughing and she just kept looking at me and going... 'but they are!' She took some convincing that her dad, who was obviously having too much fun with his increasingly elaborate story, had made it all up.”

Another was devastated to find out years after the event, that his rabbit had died in its hutch and not, as his father had claimed, escaped and was playing joyfully with the wild rabbits on nearby hills.

One chap was convinced for years that there was a Norwich beach, and a treacle mine at Caister. “It was where all the treacle in the country came from and one day I would be taken there. I honestly believed treacle could be harvested from the walls of caves,” he said.

One girl was fascinated by the bright green gunge in her dad's precious tin of Swarfega.

But when she dipped her fingers in, he told her off saying it was only for boys and would hurt girls' skin.

Years later her teacher gave Swarfega out to the whole class to clean their hands after a lesson - and she shouted at him to stop. She said: “It was possibly the most embarassing moment of my school career!”

“My parents used to make sure we were all one day behind at Christmas, so we didn't get over excited.

When it was Christmas morning they'd act all surprised and say they must have got muddled up. On the real Boxing Day, they'd say that tomorrow was Boxing Day. Now you know why I'm always so confused!”

“My mum told me Santa would send his fairies round to collect my Christmas list so every year we would write them and put them under the doormat - then the next morning it would be gone. One year I didn't tell my mum I'd left a list and then I cried the next day because the fairies hadn't been. She said it was because they were busy that night and, funnily enough, the next morning it was gone!

She also said if I didn't wash behind my ears cauliflowers would grow there!”

“My dad used to tell me I had to flap my arms and blow every time we caught an aeroplane to make it take off. He used to get people sitting near us to do it too so I'd believe him.”

“Whenever I used to pester my parents about Christmas presents they always used to tell me I would only get them from Father Christmas if I was good.

Apparently this would be decided by Wee Willie Winkie who would keep tabs on me and write a list of anything bad I did. The list would then be passed on to Father Christmas who would decide whether I had been good enough to deserve presents.

“One evening I was being put to bed by my mum who, to illustrate the point, drew my attention to the bedroom window. Look - it's wee willie winkie outside!," she said.

I think it was just my dad on a ladder holding up a mask to the window but to this day I can't be sure.”

“There was a field near where I used to live, which had a couple of cows in it - one we named Daisy and the other Buttercup.

“Every day when we had our breakfast cereal my mum would tell me which one of the cows that day's milk had come from. I used to thank them personally for all their generous donations.”

“My parents said that if you pass your a-levels and go to university the world is your oyster.”


What well meaning lies did your parents tell you? Write to Star Letters at Evening Star, 30 Lower brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email

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