My child is highly curious and has become a bit of a Mrs. Kravitz around our house. Since her Dad and I know this and she is our daughter, we are generally careful if we need to be to just not be "interesting" unless we know she is sound asleep - or know that what we are talking about should either involve her or it doesn't matter if she hears it all.

However, I'm wondering about how to go about teaching her how rude this is without giving her the impression we are hiding anything (we aren't) or that there are things her grandparents, aunts and uncles, or others we spend time with might be hiding things.

She is seven and not yet really in a place in life where she cares deeply about privacy for her own self so the idea of others wanting privacy from her is foreign. She is definitely a heart-on-her-sleeve/tell-it-like-it-is kind of girl.

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    Who is Mrs Cravitz? Lenny's mum? Feb 2, 2014 at 9:23
  • Oh sorry, she was a character in an old black and white TV show (bewitched, I think) who was always sticking her nose in the business of others, listening over fences and peeping through windows . . . Feb 2, 2014 at 15:35
  • @balanced mama: you are much more expert respect me but I write because this is an interesting question. Maybe, only to start, it can be helpful to tell a story with a secret. Then relate the story with real life events. More in general I think is better to say something like "I want to speak with your dad" instead of "We don't want that you hear us while we are speaking". I know this is a simplistic and partially answer to you question, and also that what you had asked is a little bit different. Feb 4, 2014 at 11:45
  • @amorvincomni I appreciate whatever suggestions might come my way - that address the question, which yours do. Thanks. Feb 4, 2014 at 15:23
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    I would not know who Keith Alexander is either...
    – Rory Alsop
    Jun 11, 2017 at 21:27

2 Answers 2


I want to make clear that teaching, or educating, a child that something is bad / rude, is different from making the child stop that bad behaviour. And your question is specifically about how to educate the child:

how to make her understand eavesdropping is rude without getting the impression that you, or other dear people, hide things from her and each other.

I repeated your question, with some minor changes, in order to be sure I understand it.

First thing that comes up to my mind is why not? Let her get that impression. Is it bad? You said you've got nothing to hide from her. On the other hand you also said that you're careful not to be "interesting" unless she's sound asleep. So there are things for which we wish neither her intervention nor her knowing. What's wrong with that? it's totally legitimate to have secrets. We all have secrets and it's fine. Secrets aren't necessarily bad ones, they are not necessarily against the others or against someone at all. On the contrary. There are matters that are better not be shared with children of too early an age, things that they still cannot digest, things that might harm them. So it's not only legitimate, it's a necessity.

In fact, with time, there will probably be some "secrets" that are shared between you and your child and you'd ask her to hide it from someone, say a neighbour. Since you aim to be a well-behaving person (according to whatever morals you follow), you'd have a good / legitimate reason for hiding it. That's actually great, since this way your child will learn how to use the power of secrets for the right purposes. It's the natural way children, and we all, learn (guess you know that).

What I would fear of, is that she might be insulted. She'll understand you want her not to listen, but she won't understand why. And then she might interpret it as "my parents don't love me" and the such (not ultimately don't love, just this-very-moment-don't-love).

So my suggestion is to be natural about it. If you want privacy that your child doesn't yet naturally give - explicitly and kindly ask for it. Try to avoid this situation, though, as much as possible, in order not to insult her. She'll mature, regarding this aspect, and grow to understand this important social skill.

  • Your points about secrets are all well taken - it is more a concern of the not wanting to insult her but also the fact that if she thinks we are specifically hiding something, I think she will be that much more curious and work harder to hear more. Then when we do have a secret (like when her birthday is nearer) it will be that much harder to actually hide it from her. Plus it encourages the rude behavior rather than discouraging it. That's my kid for you :-) btw I'm chuckling over this one at the moment. Feb 5, 2014 at 23:37
  • I should have thought that a balanced mama would know better :). Anyway, sounds like a healthy child with healthy reactions. You don't want to change that, right? :). My answer describes "the way to go about it" as you put it. It doesn't promise making life, education, or planning surprise parties, any easier. It just helps handling it with the right state of mind, especially by increasing awareness to the natural and healthy course of things.
    – yair
    Feb 6, 2014 at 0:19
  • And you should actually be happy that your child reacts this way (I'd hate it if someone told me I should be happy with my problems, no tact :P). It proves she's healthy. And the harder job... You know what they say: little children little problems; big children - big problems. But we know it and consciously approach the problems with the most love and care we can gather.
    – yair
    Feb 6, 2014 at 0:24
  • What you can't make throwing a surprise party easier over the internet? ugh!! lol Feb 6, 2014 at 1:10

Even if your child has huge curiosities, behavioral norms remain best. It is rude to eavesdrop. Period. Children should be told in a kind way that such infringement on the PRIVACY of others is a no-no. Yes, there is such a things as yes, no, good, bad, right, and wrong. Children need and crave structure. It is kind to educate your children with a "please stop" and or "No" followed by an explanation as to why.

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