The Secretive Child
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
BY the Secretive Child I ant it distinctly understood that I do no mean the Shy Child. There is a world-wide difference. The Shy Child simply has a larger amount than customary of childhood's reserve, and is usually of a delicate nature. The Secretive Child, on the contrary, may not be shy at all, but apparently frank and open.
A lover of children recognizes large tracts of every child's hedged about with an impenetr serve. This hedge has a gate, can discover it. Woe be to an tries to scale it, for he finds h though by magic. The term people who have a rare understanding of these, although they know t tate to go in often, lest they we come and some day find it barred.
To keep this door of communication unlocked is the great task that saves the Shy Child from becoming the Secretive Child. We will respect the desire for privacy but fear sly secercy. Maud Lindsay has written a parable on this subject in her Mother Stories., called "The Closing Door."
The Secretive Child who is not shy is more of a problem. The first step is to seek the cause, for, though it may be an inherited tendency, it may also be the result of environment. Can it be that the Secretive Child has been harshly treated and is building a defence against severe punishment? If this is so, we will greet confession of a fault with praise, and plan together how to overcome it. No matter how grave it is, deceit is worse. It may be that ridicule has led to secrecy. Childhood is more sensitive to a laugh than a blow. A little boy who stolidly refused to take home his kindergarten work finally gave as his reason, "My mother laughed at my mat; then she put it in the fire." If we have shown amusement instead of appreciation at a little child's efforts we will hasten to make what amends we can, by taking them seriously. It may be simply indifference and neglect that have driven the Secretive Child in upon herself. If we find it hard to cultivate an interest in her small affairs, let us paint a picture of ourselves at the other end of life, when interests have again dwindled, and the child is at her prime. Shall we not prize an unbroken intimacy then?
If, however, we cannot discover real cause for secretiveness, ours is the more difficult task of building up an ideal of openness. Stories will help — a story of the foolish magpie, who steals and hides, and so is not beloved, or "The Neck-lace of Truth," in Macé's Home Fairy Tales. Made-up stories of every single thing that one did in a day, told first by the mother and then by the Secretive Child, give pleasant practise in sharing interests. Secrets between two, the mother and the Secretive Child, and plans made together for delightful surprises, will help satisfy the craving for secrecy.
The future of the Secretive Child is a menace to herself and to others, but, happily, the Secretive Child need not become the Secretive Woman.