'Let's not normalise keeping secrets' parenting coach shares the 'important' reason parents need to teach their children the difference between secret and surprise

Making the difference clear could even be lifesaving

A little girl whispering into her mother's ear
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A parenting expert has shared why teaching kids the difference between secrets and surprises is so vital.

We all want to teach our children to grow up to be honest and feel like they can tell their parents anything (despite research showing that lying could be a sign of intelligence in young children). But sometimes we might ask them to keep some information to themselves, such as the birthday present they've picked out for Grandma, or the homemade card they've made for Mother's Day.

But one parenting expert has shared why making the distinction between a 'secret' and a 'surprise' is so important. Devon Kuntzman - aka 'Transforming Toddlerhood' - is an ICF-certified coach with a degree in psychology, who uses her professional knowledge and experience as a mother to share parenting solutions. She recently shared in an Instagram video why "you should never tell a child to keep secrets."

In the post, she explained that although parents often ask toddlers to keep secrets with good intentions, it's important to reframe these as surprises, "because telling kids to keep secrets can accidentally normalise this behaviour and make them more vulnerable to a predator."

Devon adds that by avoiding any encouragement to keep secrets - even if it's a harmless joke or in a well-intentioned manner - parents can help their children feel like they can tell them anything. She adds, "Remember, things like 'Let's keep this our little secret' are what a predator relies on a child doing."

A post shared by Devon Kuntzman PCC | TODDLER EXPERT | Ages 1-5

A photo posted by transformingtoddlerhood on

Devon's followers approved of the tip, with some sharing how they use this approach with their own children. One user helpfully shared, "I tell the children 'surprises = planning something that will make the person feel good, like a birthday present, so that’s ok not to tell until the birthday. Secrets are things that can make a person feel bad, and you need to tell Mummy/ Daddy/ a trusted adult'. They know to look for intent."

Another said, "I remember once reading a comment of a mom saying that she was okay with secrets but instead of defining them as not being shared with anyone, she defined them as being shared with mom every time."

In other news, a child psychologist has shared three responses for when your child says 'I hate reading' and expert Dr Becky has revealed the best way to give shy children more confidence. And here's a clever strategy to use when you want your kids to tidy up (and studies show its success).

Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.