I was very proud of William recently.
(O.K, I am proud of both the boys in lots of ways but this one instant made me smile massively)
A little context:
There we are on a lovely Sunday morning eating cake and drinking Coffee, or at least squash for the boys, after our Church service ended.
Once they had finished they were off doing their normal thing.
(Running around like lunatics with the other children; usually the girls (the boys are such flirts and no, I have no idea where they get that from!))
When one of the playful teenagers went “William, come here I’ve got a secret”
Now, there was no harm or malicious intent here; this was literally a teenager telling a younger child to go do something funny. We’ve all been in that situation; we all say at some point “come here, I’ve got a secret” and usually with some kind of funny twist on it.
Yet William, in a very loud voice, went “No, we don’t do secrets!”
I was so proud of him here; my ears twitched at his little voice saying this and a big smile beamed across my face.
I have, from a young age, taught my boys that we don’t keep secrets.
I have always done this with their well-being in mind; yet, I believe that it’s such an important thing to do.
In the world of child abuse prevention, talking about secrets is very important. We can look at secrets in two types of ways; we can see ‘good’ secrets and we can see ‘bad’ ones.
We can try to explain that good secrets are ones where we have bought something nice for another person and we need to keep it secret so they don’t find out. Then we have bad secrets where there is hurtful intent.
In this scenario we are doing one clear thing; we are asking a child to keep a secret. This then relies on asking them to make the decision of if it is good or bad.
The harsh reality of this world is that some secrets can be dangerous or hurtful to others. I believe that helping children differentiate between ‘ok’ and ‘not ok’ secrets is useful, but others suggest not doing secrets at all; I take the latter stance.
My two boys are exactly that, boys.
They make bad decisions every day; is it a good idea to pour talcum powder all over Daddy’s carpet so we can make footprints in the snow? “Yeah, let’s do it.” This, however amusing, is a bad decision.
Then don’t we, as adults, still make bad decisions? So how are we expecting children to do this?
Then look at the harsh reality:
Now this may sound cliché or that you might think that I am over reacting, but the phrase, “This is our little secret” and those similar are manipulative tactics often used by people who have intent to abuse children.
It was suggested in one training course, as a teacher, that a child who has experienced keeping secrets (especially from trusted people),and then subsequently placing value on keeping that secret, then, potentially, are more easily convinced to keep a ‘not ok’ one.
This, at the time, really struck a nerve with me and has been something as a parent that has stayed with me.
Whatever happens in my children’s lives I always want them to feel that they are comfortable telling me what is going on; I don’t, at any point, want them to not feel that they can approach me.
So I have made a big distinction between Secrets and Surprises:
Surprises, on the whole, are generally positive but the crucial part is that the surprise will be revealed eventually. It’s ok for children to keep surprises about parties and presents because those will make someone happy and won’t be a secret forever.
Secrets on the other hand usually have something behind them. We have all been in that situation where someone has told us something in confidence and we have been told not to say anything because potentially through the secret being told something negative would happen.
Now some might see the idea of a surprise as potentially being a negative thing, especially if a stranger would say “Come here I have a surprise for you”. In that regard I agree, some surprises can have a negative impact. In that sense though, I believe, that a good grounding on Stranger Danger should help a child make that decision.
William is only 6 and he already has a good grasp that secrets can harm others in some way. He also has a good grasp on surprises; although he is terrible with them. (He has a terrible lying face, of which he definitely gets from me!)
Finally something taken from the NSPCC:
“Help your child to feel clear and confident about what to share and when. Secrets shouldn’t be kept in exchange for something, and should never make your child feel uneasy. A secret should always be shared in the end.”
So what do you think?
Do you think it’s easy to distinguish good secrets from bad secrets?
How would you do it?