The Truth About Secrets: 4 Reasons Our Kids Don’t Keep Secrets

Can you keep a secret? We can’t! Find out why our kids don’t keep secrets and how a strict “no secret” policy will help your kids too.

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There’s something fun about being in on a secret. They’re exciting, enticing, and offer a fun way to bond…

But in our house, we stay away from them. In fact, we have a strict “no secret” policy. And as cute as it is to have little hands cupped around an ear whispering a giggled message, we’ve worked hard to teach our children to never keep or tell secrets.

Why? Aren’t childish secrets harmless?

Well, yes…and no. While many secrets are innocent, there are some compelling reasons why they’re not as harmless as we might think.

But because they can be fun, avoiding them can be a hard lesson to teach. However, lessons are always easier to learn (and teach) when we understand the “why” behind them.

So to help you get started, here are 4 important reasons kids shouldn’t keep secrets along with what they can do instead.

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SHOULD KIDS KEEP SECRETS? NO. HERE’S WHY:

At first glance, secrets may seem harmless and fun. But with a little more information, it’s understandable why we shouldn’t teach our kids to keep them. Here are 4 things to consider:

1. SECRETS AREN’T SAFE

If you only need one reason to keep kids away from secrets, let this be it. I listed it first on purpose.

Secrets are the KEY ingredient to abuse. You see, when kids are taught to keep secrets, they’re much more likely to keep even the dangerous ones. Here are 4 scenarios in which secrets can be dangerous for children:

  1. Abuse from peers. When it comes to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse – or even showing inappropriate things, kids will hear things like “don’t tell anyone or…”
  2. Abuse from adults. Abuse thrives on secrecy. Predators will often groom kids by starting with small, seemingly innocent secrets like “let’s keep this treat our little secret…”
  3. Friends in danger. If a child discovers another child in danger, they may be pressured to keep it a secret. But doing so only allows the harm to continue.
  4. Other dangerous situations. Children can get caught in dangerous situations due to peer pressure or their own bad choices. But keeping it secret can make the situation worse, especially if they need help.

2. SECRETS AREN’T KIND

Imagine sitting at a table with two friends who keep whispering secrets to each other. Not only would you feel uncomfortable, but you’d probably also worry that their secrets were either about you or meant to directly exclude you, right?

One of the greatest things we can teach our children is to be kind. And this includes being inclusive and welcoming.

We’ve had to teach our kids (more than once) that if they have something to say, they need to be able to say it in front of everyone they’re with at the moment. Otherwise, it will have to wait.

Unless it’s something mean. Then it shouldn’t be said at all – that’s just gossip.

So what’s the best way to teach this lesson? Through our own example. Our children will see when we work to be warm and inviting rather than participating in gossip, exclusive behavior, and actions we know will make others uncomfortable.

We’ll still need to actively teach our kids to be kind, but our good example will make our teaching more sincere.

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3. SECRETS AREN’T HONEST

Keeping secrets can seem like a fun way to bond. But when we teach our kids to do this, they actually just learn to keep secrets – even from us.

As kids get better at keeping quiet, they get better at hiding things from others. It might start off with something simple like sneaking candy. But it can lead to lying as well as hiding bigger and more important things in their teen years.

Work to establish an “open communication” policy with your children. Teach them that they can come to you for anything and that you’ll listen without judgment. And then practice being the safe parent they can come to.

Also, remind them that being honest takes courage – even when they know there will still be logical and related consequences for certain actions.

This applies to keeping secrets with friends as well.

My son used to have a friend who was very pushy at getting him to be sneaky and dishonest with him. They’d break things – then hide them. They’d sneak treats. They’d watch things they weren’t supposed to watch…

Needless to say, it gave us a great opportunity to talk to our son about the importance of honesty and staying away from secrets. It also helped us illustrate the importance of choosing good, honest friends.

(Head here for more tips about dealing with lying.)

4. SECRETS DON’T MAKE US TRUSTWORTHY

Nobody wants to be called a snitch. This is why people work so hard to keep secrets. They want their friends to know they can be trusted.

But keeping secrets doesn’t make a person trustworthy. In fact, the more secretive a person is, the harder it is to trust them.

This is DIFFERENT than being someone friends can confide in. How can our kids tell the difference? They can ask themselves these questions:

  • Is a rule being broken?
  • Are we trying to cover something up?
  • Is this secret mean?
  • Is someone being harmed?
  • Does it make me feel uncomfortable?

In short, our kids don’t have to keep secrets to be trustworthy. There are other ways they can show their integrity such as being dependable, reliable, kind, helpful, and inclusive.

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THERE’S ONE EXCEPTION: SECRETS VS. SURPRISES

I’ve mentioned that our family doesn’t do secrets. But we love doing surprises.

This is the only time that it’s fun and ok to keep something quiet. Here’s the main way to tell the difference between a secret and a surprise:

  • A surprise is something we keep quiet TEMPORARILY and makes people happy or excited when we share it.

This adorable video from Defend Innocence explains it perfectly.

WHAT ABOUT PRIVACY?

Secrecy is intentional and isolating. Privacy, however, is something everyone deserves.

Our bodies are our own and are private. Children don’t always recognize this, so we have to teach them.

We also need to teach them social norms and expectations about different behaviors as well. Things like how to behave in public restrooms, how to change in public places like pools and schools, what information to keep to ourselves, etc.

TO RECAP, HERE ARE THE FOUR REASONS KIDS SHOULDN’T KEEP SECRETS

  1. Secrets aren’t safe.
  2. Secrets aren’t kind.
  3. Secrets aren’t honest.
  4. Secrets don’t make us trustworthy.

Rather than keeping secrets, we can teach our kids to do surprises. Then they can still have the fun, anticipation and bonding – without the pitfalls secrets can create.

If you’d like even more help on creating a safe and loving home, be sure to check out The Peaceful Parent Starter Guide. This free guide will show you how to get started in just 3 simple steps!

Before you go, just remember that arming our children with knowledge is crucial for prevention, and one of the best ways to keep our children safe.

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