They have taken the word “naughty.” They have taken it and made it about ridiculous Halloween costumes. It’s gone so far that it feels off somehow for upstanding citizens to even say the word. It did for me, anyway.

It seems like “bad” is the word most commonly substituted for “naughty.” But BAD is a much bigger word. “Bad” seems like something you ARE down deep. Bad is the opposite of good. I don’t want to tell my children that they are “bad.” I don’t think they are.

What they ARE is naughty.

Naughty means unthinking. Naughty means unable to
control one’s impulses of the moment. Naughty means giving in to one’s
less noble inclinations. And being careless with your mittens, and so forfeiting your pie.

Our vintage Little Golden Books are full of children and anthropomorphic animals being naughty and being labeled as such. The Three Little Kittens, and Peter Rabbit, and the Poky Little Puppy aren’t BAD, but they ARE sometimes forgetful, and disobedient, and tardy. Just like my kids are. (Just like I am.)

My kids love reading about naughty. They gasp, wide-eyed, as Peter Rabbit goes down to Mr. McGregor’s farm. Again. Even though his mom specifically said not to. They cringe as he suffers all the natural consequences of his naughtiness. And they understand it in a way *I* never did.

Naughtiness has its inevitable consequences. Sometimes it’s no chocolate custard, sometimes it’s a tummy ache. But my kids understand that, as easy as it is to be naughty, it’s just as easy to be forgiven. If you wash up your mittens or patch that hole in the fence, you just might get to have dessert anyway.

Naughty is my child’s choice, or reaction, or impulse. It isn’t who he is. So I don’t say, “You’re a bad boy, go sit in the corner.” I say, “That was very naughty, go sit in the corner.”

It’s a small difference in words, but I think it makes an important difference in perception. There is enough naughtiness to go around in our house, and there is corner sitting and desserts are lost. But I want my kids — even Cranky Frankie, who does the most corner-sitting of all — to understand that they are made in the image and likeness of God, that they are redeemed, that they are GOOD. I want them to believe that they can strive to do better each day. And that no amount of naughtiness can change the fact that they are loved.

So, it took some getting used to for me, but “naughty” is a part of my everyday vocabulary. Halloween can have the word “sexy” for its Big Bird and hamburger and corn costumes. But Santa and I are going to need the word “naughty” back.