To the Mother of the “Bad Kid” at Sunday School,

Your son hadn’t been in the room more than sixty seconds when I knew the report you would get after the service. You must have known it too. Your son charged into the room, excited about a new environment, new playmates, and (most importantly) new toys. He made a beeline for the pink ball my daughter was holding and was met with a chorus of sharp “NO!”s. One of them yours. None of them mine, as I watched closely to see whether Babygirl minded. She didn’t. She was happy to part with the ball and seemed curious about the tornado in the tiny pea coat that had just blown into the room. Perhaps she thought they might play together. Perhaps she had been ready to move on to a new toy anyway. Perhaps, having a two-year old brother, the exchange was simply too familiar to be bothered by. Whatever it was, she didn’t mind. But, still, everyone else seemed to.

Before you left for the service, one of the teachers mentioned that, at 21-months, your son could always try the two-year old class, “if it didn’t work out.” She had already decided.

But what I want you to know about your “bad kid” is that, quite simply, he isn’t.

When your son swooped in and drove off with a car that my daughter had been playing with, I’m not sure the teachers heard her delighted laugh at the chugging sound the wheels made over their own reprimands of, “That’s not yours!” and “Be nice!”

When he struggled with another boy over a lawnmower, he was met, again, with reminders like, “That’s not yours!” and “Share!” As the tug-of-war started to escalate, I walked over, knelt down, and simply said, “You both want that lawnmower.” They paused, then both pulled hard again. I said, “I know! You both REALLY want it!” They paused again and I asked, “Now what?” They looked at each other for a moment, and then the other boy stepped back to let your son play and happily went looking for a wheelbarrow.

When another child was picked up early, your son suddenly started crying and ran to the door. One of the teachers asked, “Now what’s wrong?” and held out a graham cracker. What was wrong seemed pretty clear to me and I wasn’t sure that a snack was the answer, so I walked over, sat on the floor and said, “You’re remembering that your Mommy left. I can tell that you’re missing her.” He cried harder and I said, “I’m sure she misses you too. She’s coming back. Mommies and Daddies always come back.” He stopped crying, not instantly, but after a moment and I asked if he would like me to hold him. He seemed to say, “yes,” so I did until he was ready, and then he happily went back to playing until the end of the service.

As hard as it is, I hope you can quiet the voices of those who are anxious to label your son rather than come alongside him. Your son is not “bad.” He is not “aggressive.” He is a person who wants to be listened to and understood. Thank you for letting me be the one who heard him today.


  1. This is a beautiful story. I wish more people could see the good in children and understand them for who they are, rather than holding them up to expectations that are simply inappropriate for their stages of development.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s