Three Taverns Church

The Myth Of The Naughty List

1 Comment

Listening to Christmas music last night it occurred to me that the Naughty List is a myth.

Maybe kids used to get coal in their stockings, but not anymore. Kids today are rewarded with Christmas presents regardless of whether they’ve been ‘good’ or ‘bad’, so why be good, for goodness sake?

The naughty list, if it’s mentioned at all outside of our favorite 1950’s Christmas classics, is used as a threat against bad behavior like the bogey man. But like the bogey man, the naughty list doesn’t exist. What adult today would actually give their child coal in their stockings? They’d be ostracized and castigated as…<gasp>…a bad parent! What adult is going to accept that responsibility and risk ridicule?

Maybe we think we’d scar our kids for life if they didn’t get presents at Christmas. We think we’d shame them by forcing them to answer “nothing” when asked by friends, “So what’d you get for Christmas?!?”

Threats without consequences are the worst reinforcement for positive behavior on the planet; it’s sure to get the exact opposite response. You’ve all seen the mom or dad in the grocery store yelling at their kids over and over, “If you don’t knock it off right now, we’re leaving!” Or how about the parent who buys their kid something from the impulse item racks just to keep them quiet? What does the child learn? In the same way I believe our children (and our adults for that matter) are living entitled lives; they are believe they deserve Christmas presents.

I believe there are two options: 1) Stop all mention of naughty and nice lists; 2) Take responsibility and enforce the naughty list.

Ironically, parents willing to choose #2 wouldn’t have to; they probably live responsibly and have responsible children. It’s the parents who don’t want to take responsibility who need to do it the most.

One thought on “The Myth Of The Naughty List

  1. We do #2 year-round. If you’re having to coerce with the “Naughty List” threat at Christmas, you’re doing it wrong. Being “good” isn’t a 30-day purging of naughtiness; it’s a learned response to actions and resulting consequences enforced consistently.

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