The Big Little Lies I Tell My Kid, According to 14 Parents

"I tell my kids that if they don't wash their ears, potatoes will grow in there. Which is fine if you like potatoes."

Lying to kids is not great. But, c’mon, sometimes it’s necessary. Kids are clever, wily creatures and the battle over teeth-brushing teeth or making sure your kids take care of their own pets or trying to ensure they won’t run out into the street while playing necessitates a few, on-the-fly big little lies. Here, 14 parents tell the lies they’ve told their kid in order to make sure they behave — for better and sometimes for worse.

The Ferret Repossession

My daughter loves animals and has had a variety of small pets throughout the years. Unfortunately it’s mom that always gets stuck feeding and cleaning them. One year my daughter asked for a ferret for Christmas; inevitability she got it and didn’t take care of it. For years I would hide her toys if she didn’t clean them up and I would tell her Santa repossessed them and was going to give them to another child if she didn’t clean; if she did he would bring them back — because he’s always watching. The year of the ferret “Santa” repossessed him because she wasn’t taking care of him; she was so upset and cried and cried but did clean the cage. When she was sleeping I went to get the ferret from my room and he had gotten out. It took me hours to find him sleeping in one of my shoes. I was panicked, and did not repossess another animal. — Heather, 41, Maryland

Dishwasher Rules

If you don’t load and run the dishwasher everyday it will stop working and you’ll have to wash the dishes by hand. It wasn’t until my son hit age 12 and had a chance conversation with a really friendly handyman did he realize he’d been duped and let his siblings in on my treachery. — Mark, 42, California

Flu Shot

When it was time for the annual Flu shot, I used to tell my six kids it was an “obedience shot.” The clinic was conveniently located right next door to the grocery store. Before we did our shopping, I’d park in front of the clinic and ask if they needed another one. They are ages 8 years to 22 years now and we laugh about it all the time, or at least once a year. — Susan, 50, Florida

The Frog Transformation

To keep my children at ages four and seven from dashing into the street when playing on the front lawn, I told them they would turn into frogs if they went past the line of the driveway and that I didn’t know how to turn them back into children. It worked! — Melissa, 62, Florida

Sleepy Sneakaway

After spending an hour trying to get my kids to bed, my favorite white lie to whisper is, “I’ll be right back.” It sounds cruel, but I use it only when I’m exhausted from the day and just need some alone time before going to bed. Amazingly, it helps the kids fall into a deep sleep knowing that I’m coming back. — Kari, 31, Illinois

The Silent Game

Our daughter, Aurora, is now grown, but when she was 5 years old, my husband, Craig, told her that if she kept talking so much, she’d run out of words. He explained that you were only allotted a certain amount of words in a lifetime and she was going to use them all up. She kept quiet for a long time! — Jennifer, 54, Pennsylvania

Freezer Frost

When my daughter was 4 years old, she had an intense appetite for freezer frost. When no one was watching, she would climb onto the countertop, sneak open the mini freezer, and consume all the frost in sight. These adventures were the cause of many trips to the doctor, but she couldn’t stop. One December morning, after another trip to the doctor, I got really fed up. After tucking her in to nap, I went out to build the ugliest snowman the world had ever seen. Complete with carrots and everything. By evening she was feeling better. I sat her down and narrated the story of a very pretty girl who ate so much frost she turned into a frost monster that now ate other girls. This frost monster was right on our lawn. I held her hand and led her to where I had built the terrifying snowman. She was so scared that she couldn’t move or even call my name. — Joe, 43, Colorado

The Camera Incentive

We have three kids. When the kids were younger, around 5, 6, and 9, we told them that we had hidden cameras around the house and could see what they were doing. In reality, we installed a security camera at the front door only. After it was installed we showed them the live feed and said there were more around the house so they better be good. If they ever got into fights or made a mess, we always would ask for the truth otherwise we’d “check the cameras.” This little lie worked for maybe a year until the oldest asked to see the other rooms or would say “pull up the video, you’ll see I’m telling the truth!” — Nadia, 42, Florida

Potato Growth

I tell my kids that if they don’t wash their ears, potatoes will grow in there. Which is fine if you like potatoes. — Paul, 45, California

Nail Cuts

My kids don’t like to get their nails trimmed, so I tell them that if they don’t get their nails cut, they will grow too long, curl and grow back into their skin and they’ll need surgery to get it fixed. This is a lie my mother used to tell me, and it was very believable for me because she was a doctor, so she used to tell me that they had just had a patient who needed the surgery. — Vladimir, 45, Michigan

The Police Will Come

I have three children who are still in car seats and I definitely tell them that I will get arrested by the police if they unbuckle their seats while we are moving. One of my children always wanted to be unbuckling her top buckle when I was driving, so I told her that unless she wanted mommy to go to jail, she had to stay buckled and it worked! — Surya, 37, Tennessee

The Dessert Distance

I told my daughter that she couldn’t eat dessert 30 minutes before bed or she would get nightmares. — Patricia, 35, California

The Nap Law

I told my son that it was a law that all kids under the age of six had to take a nap everyday. — Lynn, 50, California

The Teeth Minters

I have told my children that if they don’t brush their teeth before bed the Toothiters will come mining their teeth creating holes and even take a whole tooth. Also, that eating carrots will help them see in the dark. — Lucy, 33, Michigan