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No child is naughty.

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I posted this article a few of years ago. I’m delighted to see the naughty or nice quiz discussed below has been eliminated from the site mentioned, although there are still ‘checklists calendars.”  And there’s still other naughty or nice quizzes on the internet. Ugh.  I think it’s valuable for people to give some thought to this concept.. so here’s the article reposted.


On the radio today the announcer mentioned and the naughty or nice quiz.  When he listed the questions, the ‘advocate for children’ in me  fumed.  I went straight to the site and fumed some more. It’s not that the site isn’t well-intended.  It’s just that the naughty or nice quiz is 1.  sure to make all children feel guilty, especially those who already beat themselves up for not living up to adult’s expectations.. for reasons that are completely out of their control.  2. missed an opportunity to honour each child and actually build their self-esteem.

Below is the list of questions that came up when I did the naughty or nice quiz.  Beside each of the multiple choice answers I give scenarios from the ‘naughty’ child’s eyes.  And below that, I’ve added a few questions that I think are MUCH more valuable for kids!

Santa’s Naughty or Nice Quiz

Please answer the following questions to see how good you’ve been!

Do you listen to your teacher?

Always, you can learn a lot from your teacher (Does my teacher get to do this quiz? I wish my teacher would listen to me. I don’t think I fit into what the education system expects of me. I would like the teacher to help me cultivate my strengths.  I’ve  learned to devalue the activities I love and am good at. Like being creative, building, physical play, imaginative play, music.  I wish my teacher could hear what I have trouble saying. Maybe my teacher could learn a lot from me!)

•Most of the time, unless I get distracted   (I’m more of a  “right brain” thinker.  Even though the school system is set up by “left brain”, logical linear thinkers, I’m one of those who’s mind doesn’t process the same way. I get “aha’s” and excitable when a thought comes to me out of the blue, even while the teacher is talking. Then I get in trouble. So I try not to use my dominant side of the brain. But then I don’t understand what my teacher is saying anyway so I do get distracted.  I try to fit in, but I never feel like I do)

Sometimes, unless my friend is asking me something.  (That’s always tough, because we are taught to be kind to friends and to listen to teachers, and oh, it’s all so confusing the messages we receive)

Only when the teacher mentions my name  (Well, that is a good way to get my attention when I’ve been off in another world dreaming up a new invention that could solve many of the world’s problems.. if only I believed in myself enough to even tell someone about it)

How much time do you spend on your homework?

•At least an hour each night and sometimes more (I wish I could, but my mom works so hard, and I try to help her with the little ones and they mess up my homework, then I can’t sleep all night because I know I didn’t get my homework done and I have to think of an excuse, and then I’m grumpy all day because I’m tired, but I don’t tell my mom, because I don’t think she needs to worry about me too, and nobody has taught me yet how to know what I need to be happy and well, or how to ask for it if I do know. Because I’m only a kid and apparently the adults know best.)

 •As much as necessary to complete all my assignments.  (It takes me a long time to understand each assignment because it isn’t being taught to me in the best way that my mind can understand. I’m exhausted by doing only what is necessary.)

I do just enough to get by (I need play time, creative time, physical activity time, and time to do nothing at all.  So I do just enough homework to get by.  Then I feel bad and can’t sleep all night.)

Let’s just say I’m not the teacher’s pet  (Would you be teacher’s pet if you are grumpy all day and couldn’t sleep and are worried about being naughty and that Santa Claus is going to bring you a lump of coal?)

Do you do all your chores on time?

•Yes, every day I do my chores ( There are some things that I think I would be really good at.. like organizing the cupboards. I’d like my chore to be cleaning the cupboards or folding the towels.  But maybe I don’t do it the way my parents want, because the chores I’m given are just the boring things.  Sometimes I have really cool ideas about other ways to clean the kitchen, but I think people think they are stupid and they don’t help me cultivate my own ideas. Maybe they are stupid ideas.)

•Most of the time, I only forget on rare occasions.  (The part of my mind that knows what’s really best for me sometimes forces me to forget so that I will pay attention to creative time, play time, active time.  But those things seems to have little value in the world, and I’m starting to forget how to do those things, so I watch TV)

•Sometimes, unless I can pay my little brother/sister to do them.  (I’m learning to delegate and build a team and will one day be a great entrepreneur.  I sure hope this one doesn’t put me in the naughty category, because I worry that I might be given a lump of coal.  But then, there are probably some pretty creative things I can do with a lump of coal…I wonder if I could barter with it.)

Do you share your toys?

•Sure – if we share, then we all have more to play with. (I am so confused by this. I’m taught to look after things.  Then I’m taught to let others wreck them.  No matter what I decide, I’m naughty. And when I try to discuss this with an adult, they say I’m talking back.  So I feel bad about being too stupid to understand what I’m supposed to do)

Most of the time, but I’m very partial to some and won’t,( as above)

Sometimes, but only if they have one I want.(One day I will be a really great negotiator and entrepreneur.  Win Win for all.  Unless of course, I get a lump of coal for this, then I know I am naughty and the things I am good at are of no value.)

Only if they pay me 5 cents per toy. (Child’s response 1: I got my toys from a nice family who donated them to us for Christmas.  I don’t want them wrecked. So if other kids are going to play with them, then maybe I can get enough money to help us buy food and not go to the food bank all the time, because I think my mom is embarrassed by this.  Child’s response 2: I probably have the gift of being a financial genius, but I won’t learn about financial matters until I’m out of school and on my own.)

Do you remember to always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’?

•Yes, I make it a point to be polite (I’m so confused by this too. How come I get ordered around by adults but when I try to imitate their behaviour because that’s one way I learn, I get in trouble. Then I feel bad for being too stupid to understand my best ways of behaving in this world)

Most of the time, but I sometimes forget  (Me again.  My mind is off in the world of imagination, ideas, and creative thoughts and it doesn’t always remember to say please and thank you)

Sure, if my mom or dad just remind me (as above)

Why bother?  (I’m too tired. Nobody seems to appreciate me, anyway. I don’t seem to fit in this world. I can’t sleep at night.  I’m a grumpy mean stupid kid and I get in trouble whether I say please and thank you or not.)

Certainly there is value in being helpful, caring, sharing and to listening to adults. But seriously, given the possibilities of why a child might not get to pick the ‘good’ option – perhaps the whole concept can change so that each child will discover that they are good.  I’m not going to do a whole rewrite here, but here’s some thoughts that could be included:

What if the questions alone instilled a sense of self worth and gave value to a child’s personal well being, gifts and their individual best way of learning? What if we honoured that a child’s play is their work?

Here’s some ideas:

Dear Child, 
You’re on the Nice list.  If you answer No to any of the following questions, that’s okay. There’s no such thing as a naughty child in my eyes.  I, Santa Claus, grant you magic to find ways for your answers to be Yes in the future! 

Do you give yourself plenty of time to be creative? (imagining, painting, singing, dancing, role playing, banging on drums, creating drums, writing stories, drawing, that sort of thing?)

Do you often spend time being physically active doing things you love?  (favourite sports, hiking, climbing trees, running, swimming, exploring?)

•Have you had fun building or repairing anything this year?  (forts, cardboard castles, helping build shelves, helping to work on a vehicle?)

Have you ever thought about making things work better, or helping people get along better?  (Have you come up with some ideas about this, even if right now it might not seem possible?  That’s cool if you have.. have you ever told a trusted friend or relative about it to simply enjoy the process of discovering new possibilities?)

Have you played lots and lots and lots?

I, Santa, would love for you to list 5 things you are good at!  And then 5 more!  and even more!!  If this is hard for you, you can ask a good friend or family member or teacher to help you!


mmm… I’m liking where this is heading – let’s find ways to acknowledge the wonder of each child, and help them acknowledge that for themselves.  So much more fun than threats of coal for not keeping your room clean all the time.

Thank goodness the movie “Fred Claus” acknowledges that kids aren’t naughty.



About Janet

Author and artist with a tall ship and mystical twist, Certified Professional Life Coach (ICA), Master Creativity Coach (KMCC), Curator/owner of Writerly Kits, workshop leader and creativity group facilitator trainer. Author: 'Beyond All Imaginings'- a magical memoir. (on Amazon, if you are keen, or contact me for a signed copy) Outdoor enthusiast and Tall Ship sailor. Been through breast cancer and found her own tools of play, lightness, creativity, nature, thinking differently and visualization assisted healing through and after treatments. Ever ever so grateful for all the wondrous people she is surrounded by.

2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Art of Questioning « Krazy Memoirs

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