The Bad Boy (Love Calls Us By Name)

Every day they give some report of what he did or didn’t do.

"The bad boy was there today."

“When he lays down while the teacher reads, they say, ‘Don’t do that.’”

“He got a red face today.”

Preschool is their first foray into the wide world beyond our doors.  I imagine “the bad boy” is both fascinating and frightening in some way – he’s clearly caught their attention.  

I’ve noticed the “bad boy” too, on field trips and at pick-up and drop-off.  He sometimes breaks down and won’t listen to his weary mother, he seems to have some behavioral issues, probably a diagnosis. 

This morning, tugging rain boots and coats on, they tell me again about “the bad boy.”

“Does the “bad boy” have a name?” I ask.

“Me don’t know it,” Levi says, crinkling his nose in thoughtful concentration.

“Is he always bad?” I ask.

“Usually he nice to me, but one time he take-ed my toy,” Levi replies.

“Isn’t his name . . . .? Let’s call him . . . . , let’s not call him the “bad boy,” I suggest, remembering the boy’s name.  “You wouldn’t want to be called “bad boy,” would you?”

The moment passes in the rush to get out the door on time, but I continue to think about “the bad boy.” 

He’s no more than four years old and already my boys have labeled him based on his behavior.  I wonder how the teachers’ responses may have influenced the way my boys perceive him, and I’m aware of the almost imperceptible sense of comfort they seem to get from knowing that they are not bad like him, they are good.

My heart breaks for this boy, for the burden of being “bad.”

And my heart breaks also for my own children who bear the burden of needing to be “good.”

I want them to be known by name, not by deed.  

I want them to remember to see themselves and others in light of wholeness rather than brokenness, to understand in some way that they are loved and that love casts away all labels – love calls us, always and only, by name.  

Linking with #TellHisStory.


  1. Kelly, this is so powerful in so many ways. The sad thing about the labels for children is that their teachers carry them, too, with the expectations growing each year for the child to live into their name. It takes a lot of undoing and re teaching to set the grownups free as well.
    I'll bet God will use you and your boys in some small way to speak into this family's life.

    1. Thanks Jody, I'm sure you see this often working in schools - you're right, it can take a lifetime to overcome such false perceptions. May we all know and share Love.

  2. My heart breaks reading this. I remember one of my boys in Kindergarten was in class with a little boy that really just needed a mom who made him go to bed. Then another son in the 7th grade was in class with a boy whose mom didn't make him go to school. He pulled a knife on my son, wanted to hurt him. When really, all both boys needed was a mom to set boundaries - healthy boundaries set around our children are really love hugs - desperately needed love hugs!

  3. I felt an ache in my heart as I read this, and the weight of its sacredness. Your awareness of the power of naming, of its ability to burden or give freedom and grace, is profound, Kelly. That you are showing your little ones, in the ways you're able, a more wholistic way of being known and named, is beautiful. That they may know it, live in it and recognize it in others as Love. That we all may...