Keeping Secrets with children

Should you keep secrets?

“Shhh, don’t tell your Mother”  or “We’ll buy this, but don’t tell Daddy”.  I can say with a fair amount of certainty that 99% of the people that have been born within the last 50 years, have heard this at one time or another.  Depending on the ‘Secret’ maker, it seems harmless enough.  It could be your Dad, saying that, as he hands you a cookie that he too is sneaking, an hour before dinner.  Possibly Grandpa at the store, buying you a candy bar.  Where is the harm?

Some secrets are totally harmless, if you as a child, happen to be with a parent buying a gift for a family member.  Your parent certainly doesn’t want you to let the receiver of the gift to know what has been purchased.  Where is the surprise in that?  Christmas and Birthday’s would be ruined if all the gifts were known.  How does a child differentiate a good secret from a bad secret? 

If you as a parent were to encourage secrets to be kept, what are you teaching your child?  Are secrets a form of lying?  Have you opened the door for someone more harmful to enter their lives?  Are you creating a victim?  There are several different scenarios that could possibly happen to those entrusted with secrets, here is one. 

What COULD happen

1.) Lying - Telling a child to keep a secret, is that lying?  Well, if the child is asked a direct question that he/she knows the answer to, and deliberately says the opposite of the correct answer, then that is lying.  Why would a child lie?  If the child gives the correct answer to the direct question then he/she is breaking a confidence.  What type of punishment is served to the secret breaker?  Will the secret maker refuse to give cookies in the future?  If Dad blows a gasket because Mom spent money that she shouldn’t have, where is the child in all of this? 

The child ends up feeling guilty from breaking a secret, and can go 1 of 2 ways.  Either they learn to lie better, or refuse to keep secrets.  It depends on the age of the child, I think the older they are when secrets are started the less likely they are to keep them.  If a child is taught very young to keep secrets from it’s mother, the more likely they are to become liars in the future.

2.) Opening doors - If your child has become an adept secret keeper, then it will be more likely the doors of harm will have been opened.  For instance you may have a ’strange’ neighbor, someone you know of, but don’t associate with on a daily basis.  For the sake of argument we will assume that he is a pedophile.  If your child has become used to keeping secrets, he/she will be curious about the whispers that go on regarding your neighbor.  He/she will be drawn to this neighbor, after all, secrets have been fun so far. 

A pedophile is a predator, they seek out the child that is prone to lying. Why?  Because they know the child can keep a secret.  Predators are not always someone who will kill your child, but they will harm them in such a way that the child’s mind will become destroyed.   The predator will listen to the child and determine what the child wants, and give it, in exchange for what he wants.  If the child wants candy, candy will be given.  But of course it is a ’secret’, you can’t tell your Mother, because she has told you that you can’t have candy.  From candy there goes on to other things, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs.  You get the picture, the pedophile has gotten you hooked on the things he will provide in exchange for the things he wants.  Your child has now become a sex toy for an adult.  The child can’t tell their Mother, because the ’secret’ of the gifts will come out.  Mom will find out that candy, cigarettes, alcohol were accepted. 

The secret goes on.  Possibly on to other pedophiles who can provide even bigger and better things.  Has your child come home with a new bike?  An expensive toy?  Money? You ask where this came from, the child will tell you part of the truth on this.  “Oh, so and so gave it to me, they bought it and didn’t want it” might be the answer. 

You might be asking “How could my child do this?”  To them, they are being rewarded for keeping a secret.  All they have to do is provide what the pedophile wants, it might be disgusting, but it doesn’t last very long and they get something cool in return.  Something that Mom won’t buy or give them, or let them have.

3.) Victim - A victim is a person that bad things happen to.   After a time this child becomes helpless to do anything about it.  They can’t tell the secret for fear of being found out.  After all “What would Mom say?” becomes the question they ask themselves.  As they get older they find that people are continually taking advantage of them, giving them something small, in exchange for something big.  They seem to find themselves continually gravitating towards the predators. Their self worth becomes destroyed. 


Prevention

Can anything be done to prevent this?  Absolutely!  Secrets become a part of a child growing up.  Some secrets are learned as a child enters school, friends telling friends secrets.  If you as a parent explain different kinds of secrets, this will help them differentiate a good secret from a bad secret.  If they are ‘in on the secret’, such as a Christmas gift for someone, and are allowed to participate in the giving, this can be considered a good secret. 

You as a parent, can control your reactions to finding out secrets.  If it’s the cookie before dinner, yelling and screaming at the child or the father is not something that should be done.  The grandpa buying the candy bar, can be handled much differently as well.  Speaking privately with them, asking that they don’t use such words as ‘secret’ and ‘Don’t tell your Mother’ can help combat any future lying or secret keeping.  Children are not born liars, they are made through circumstance.  When the child comes to you with a secret, Thank them for telling you the truth.  You will be doing them and the world a great service!

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Comments 6 comments

JillKostow profile image

JillKostow 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

You made an excellent point on secrets. My kids were taught about good and bad secrets by us. They also know if they tell us a secret about something they did that they weren't suppose to do we won't scream at them. I feel that is also important to help keep the lines of communication open as they grow towards adulthood.


Sweetsusieg profile image

Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan Author

Thank you Jill - Yes, there are good secrets and bad secrets and as a parent it's important to make sure our kids understand the difference. And if they happen to share one we need to react positively to reinforce the open lines of communication.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

Another brilliant article.


Sweetsusieg profile image

Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan Author

Thank you. There are so many things we have to watch out for when dealing with children!! It makes the head spin, just trying to keep them safe from all the predators of the world. One minute I feel like the timid Bunny trying to hide them, the next the ferocious Bear protecting them.


mummy 4 years ago

my children have been getting taken from their bus stop every day by my ex husband and go to his house instead of to school, this happening for 2 months and he made them keep it a secret, until i went passed the bus stop and couldn't find them and it was a big police investigation, and guess what... hes a policeman fighting for custody


Sweetsusieg profile image

Sweetsusieg 4 years ago from Michigan Author

That is so sad. Why didn't the school inform you that they weren't in school? That would concern me greatly that a man of the law would go to those great lengths to keep a secret. What else might he be capable of doing?

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