Michael Jackson was one of the most eccentric figures ever to grace the pop music scene. So it’s little surprise to learn that his parenting skills weren’t exactly orthodox either. From covering their faces with masks to dangling them off balconies, here’s a look at 20 bizarre ways in which he brought up his three children.
20. He gave one of his kids a ridiculous nickname
Paris and Prince might not be the most conventional first names. But Jackson’s first two kids can consider themselves lucky compared to their younger sibling. Although born Prince Michael Jackson II, the star’s third child was known as Blanket for most of his early life. However, he eventually adopted the name Bigi after being reportedly bullied for the nickname.
19. His children didn’t have contact with their mothers
Prince and Paris were born to dermatology nurse Debbie Rowe, Jackson’s wife of three years. However, his two eldest kids didn’t have contact with their biological mother, who surrendered her parental rights to the kids in 2001. According to The Mirror, Blanket’s mom is a Mexican nurse called Helena, who gave birth to him in February 2002 and also signed over all legal rights to Jackson.
18. He referred to his kids as “presents”
As a result of their unusual conception, Jackson often referred to his three kids as “presents.” Wendy Murphy, an attorney specializing in family law, once told ABC News that she found this troubling. Referring to the infamous Martin Bashir documentary about the star, she said, “He didn’t seem to be talking about his children from their perspective, even needing a mother in their lives.”
17. He rushed Paris home immediately after she was born
Jackson’s behavior following the birth of daughter Paris in 1998 also raised concerns. The star once revealed that he was so keen to get her home that he rushed her out of the hospital almost immediately after she was born. In fact, baby Paris was still covered in blood at the time.
16. He gave the kids unusual godparents
Jackson’s friendship with child star Macaulay Culkin attracted attention for all the wrong reasons due to the Home Alone actor’s young age. But that didn’t stop him from choosing the actor to be godparent to both Prince and Paris. On the opposite end of the age spectrum, Elizabeth Taylor was also given the same honor.
15. His children rarely left Neverland
Jackson raised his three kids on Neverland, a 2,700-acre amusement park in Santa Barbara County. And Paris, Prince and Blanket very rarely got to move beyond its perimeters. Apart from the odd trip to his Bel-Air house, Jackson’s kids spent the majority of their early years shut out from the outside world completely.
14. Many of Neverland’s attractions were only for special occasions
Neverland’s attractions included a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, carousel and bumper cars. However, Jackson’s children weren’t allowed to use these rides whenever they wanted. According to his friend Shmuel Boteach, they only could only fully enjoy the amusement park when it was their birthday or as a special reward.
13. He rationed their toys
Jackson was just as strict with his children when it came to toys. The star limited Prince, Paris and Blanket to just four particular toys each and sent any they were gifted by others to various orphanages across the globe. When Prince was a baby, Jackson reportedly threw away of all his toys each night in an attempt to prevent germs, replacing them the following morning.
12. He rented out entire movie theaters for the kids
However, Jackson wasn’t averse to spoiling his three kids. According to longtime friend Uri Geller, the star went to great efforts to ensure the youngsters could watch a new movie on the big screen in peace. Indeed, he often hired an entire cinema theater to avoid them being hassled by members of the public.
11. He read to his children as punishment
Having suffered physical abuse at the hands of his father during his own childhood, Jackson was determined to ensure his kids never experienced anything similar. The star never laid a finger on his three children or raised his voice in anger during their entire upbringing, according to his friend Randy Taraborrelli. Whenever they did misbehave, Jackson reportedly chose the punishment of a time-out, which involved him reading a book aloud to them.
10. He covered their faces with masks when in public
Of course, whenever Jackson’s children left Neverland, their faces were hidden by colorful scarves and masks. One-time family confidant Stacy Brown claimed that this was a tactic to prevent his three kids from being kidnapped. But friend Shmuel Boteach once alleged that the masks were a way of preventing media speculation about whether he truly was his children’s biological father.
9. His home security was off the wall
Jackson was just as paranoid about the safety of his children at his own home. He had panic buttons installed across his Neverland ranch in case intruders managed to break in. Jackson’s bodyguard once recalled an incident in which the security team sprang into action after hearing a panic button alarm, only to discover that a young Blanket had been responsible for pushing it.
8. Nannies were kept under constant surveillance
Jackson didn’t leave anything to chance when it came to those who looked after Prince, Paris and Blanket in his absence. The star had a team of nurses and nannies who cared for the kids in shifts. But each employee was kept under constant surveillance via video technology monitored by a separate security team.
7. His children didn’t go to regular school
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a star of Jackson’s magnitude, his three kids didn’t attend a normal school. Instead, Prince, Paris and Blanket received their education at home. The singer believed that the trio would be constantly harassed by paparazzi if they were ever taught outside of Neverland.
6. His kids couldn’t make make friends their own age
As a result of their constant seclusion, Prince, Blanket and Paris never got the chance to make any friends their own age. While speaking to Rolling Stone, the latter admitted that they simply had to be content with the relationship they had with their father. She also revealed that the Disney Channel became a substitute friend for the trio while growing up.
5. He kept his Christmas decorations up all-year round
Jackson waited until the age of 35 to celebrate his first Christmas. And he sure made up for lost time. Indeed, the star reportedly kept up the festive decorations around both inside and outside his Holmby Hills and Neverland homes throughout the year.
4. He didn’t like the children using mirrors
“I look great,” a young Prince once reportedly told his father while combing his hair in the mirror. “No, you look okay,” Jackson replied. Perhaps concerned about his kids developing the same obsession with their appearance as him, the star went to great lengths to prevent any sense of vanity. In fact, he didn’t even like them looking into mirrors for too long while they were getting ready.
3. He kept snails around the house
After helping Paris collect some snails from the Neverland gardens, chef Kai Chase expected to lose his job when Jackson caught the pair bringing them into the house. However, the star instead decided to make them a permanent feature of his home. Indeed, Jackson placed the snails in kitchen counter jars filled with moss and, bizarrely, cocktail umbrellas.
2. He didn’t hide his emotions
Jackson had no problem crying in front of his kids. During the allegations of child abuse which derailed his career, the star repeatedly wept in front of Prince, Paris and Blanket before they went to bed. Jackson reportedly believed it was important not to conceal his anxieties from his children, however painful they may be.
1. He once dangled Blanket from a balcony
Of course, Jackson’s most notorious moment as a parent came when he dangled then-nine-month-old Blanket over a hotel balcony in Berlin, Germany. The star was chastized across the globe for the incident, which was captured by a crowd of stunned photographers and cameramen. Jackson later apologized for the stunt, claiming he had been “caught up in the moment.”