Aesop's Fable, popularly: The Boy Who Cried Wolf
Other ways of saying it:
The Shepherd's Boy and the Wolf
A Shepherd-boy, who watched over a flock of sheep near a village, amused himself three or four times by crying out, “Help! Wolf!”
When his neighbors came to help him, he laughed at them for being so gullible.
However, one day the wolf did come.
The Shepherd-boy, now terrified, shouted: “Please come and help! The Wolf is killing the sheep.” But no one came to help or even paid attention to his cries.
The Wolf, having nothing to fear, took his time destroying the whole flock.
The Shepherd's Boy and the Wolf summary: One of Aesop's more timeless fables, this one has come to be known more by its title than its moral (and not even Aesop's original title at that).
"Crying wolf" has come to mean saying something that isn't true - in particular, saying something isn't true in order to enlist attention or assistance.
For instance, a child who claims to be too scared to go to bed alone - when in fact he just doesn't want to go to bed - is crying wolf.
This is also the rare Aesop's Fable that is often rendered more harsh in popular tellings. Often it's the boy himself who is hurt or killed by the wolf, rather than his sheep. The lesson seems clearer to a modern audience that doesn't realize dead sheep will likely result in the boy's starvation.
A timeless lesson, The Boy Who Cried Wolf can be told many different ways. In fact, elsewhere on this site you'll find a telling by me that can be printed out and read to your child - AND which your child can illustrate. (This helps reinforce the Lying is Wrong message.)
How to use Aesop's Fables.
More stories with morals.
Storytelling to improve behavior.
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.