My Child Hates Her Name!
You spent months choosing the perfect name for your child. Then, you realise your child doesn’t like it! There may even be valid reasons for seeking a name change. Here's what you can do about it.
By Team ParentCircle • 12 min read
"I don’t like my name!" declares ten-year-old Annapoorni.
“Others at school call me 'Anna' or 'poori'! I’m not able to take it,” she says bursting into tears.
Her mother Soumya explains to her that she was named after the Goddess of food and that it is a very special name to have. She refuses to listen.
“Amma, it is such an old-fashioned name! You could have named me anything! Maybe Divya. My friends would have called me Div,” she says.
Soumya does not have a clue on how to deal with the situation. She is not alone. There are many modern-day parents who are grappling with this problem. Very interestingly, a study conducted in 2014 by Eryn Newman of Victoria University, New Zealand, concluded that people with easier names to pronounce are ‘considered’ more trustworthy and accepted, than those with long and complicated names. Now, such conclusions are complicating an already complex problem!
Is it just a passing phase?
A child will feel bad about being teased, belittled or ridiculed when his name is distorted maliciously or for fun. These unpleasant situations are mostly an unavoidable part of life experiences that form a child’s personality. But, till the child reaches a stage where he is able to logically reason, it can prove difficult for him as well as his parents. At this stage, he needs solid emotional support to deflect any negative association that peers attribute to his name. As your child grows older, maturity redeems him from the claws of a disliked name as the trends and fads of the teen years fade, altering his perceptions. The child may grow proud of his name and lineage as he appreciates its uniqueness. If he still doesn’t like it, he ends up changing it.
What’s in a name?
A name assumes significance and status when it belongs to a famous person. But, if it belongs to an infamous person, it causes embarrassment and can become fodder for heated public debate, as seen in the comedy movie What’s In A Name. The father-to-be in the movie tells his family and friends that he has decided to name his son, Adolf.
Alas! What happens next is a hilarious sequence of events (read emotions), largely aided by the ever-judgmental adults.
How parents choose names
There are several interesting factors and considerations:
- Lineage, culture and traditional family practices
- Religion, horoscope and numerology
- Significant events and life experiences
- Favourite actors, role models and mythological characters
- Gender of the child – strong names for boys and softer names for girls
Behind every name lies a unique story to be told; a story that captures the core of the person’s social and emotional identity. Research shows that while parents hope their child will ‘live up to the ideals of the name’ so carefully chosen, the name they choose reveals more about their own personality than that of their child.
Reasons why a child may not like the given name:
- She may get teased or bullied because of her name
- When the name sounds strange to others outside her community
- When the name has a different meaning in another language
- When there are nonsensical words or slang that rhyme with her name
- When the name is gender-neutral
- His name is very common. This disappoints the child since he feels he has no identity of his own.
- Her name is associated with a religion.
- The name, derived by combining syllables from the parents’ names, turns out to be unusual and appears bizarre to others
- The name is either traditional, rare or hard to pronounce
- The name has a complicated family name.
- She does not like the shortened version derived from her name.
Child’s name and self-esteem
A name has many unconscious associations in people’s minds, made instinctively and involuntarily. Images, opinions and impressions are instantly formed based on a person’s appearance whereas qualities are based on the name. If you give your child a distinct name, you can see a growing sense of self in him. People’s curiosity about an unusual or rare name is a great conversation starter, and the child feels good about the interest shown in him.
Researchers say that names have a huge effect on self-concept – what a child learns to believe about herself. It is built upon the messages children receive, first from their parents, and as they grow, from teachers and peers. Every culture has names that are desirable and known to evoke positive feelings. Conversely, names can also become the butt of jokes and ridicule, either subtle or blatant. A child sometimes becomes self-conscious about his name and thus avoids peer interaction to keep teasing at bay. In extreme cases, the child can have severe adjustment problems.
What you should do
Despite all the care you take before naming your child, there are no guarantees how things will turn out. Do remember that a name does not automatically invest a child with the qualities it reflects. Therefore, take a realistic approach devoid of such unjustified expectations. There are a few things you can do:
- Give your child a wholesome upbringing. It will help your growing child bounce back quickly from a nasty or traumatising experience.
- Choose your priority criteria and avoid complicating the name-selection process with too many elements to be fulfilled.
- To build self-esteem in your child, take the time to share the story around your name and hers — who selected it, how it was chosen and what it means, etc. Make her feel proud of her name.
- Consider changing the name if your choice has backfired and is causing prolonged distress to your child. The second time around, involve her in choosing the new name.
What parents and children say:
I don’t like my name because there are three Anands in my class. Why can’t my name be something different? I find it difficult when my teacher calls out Anand without the initials. We don’t know who she’s calling.
– Anand V, 13 years old
My daughter Anamika loves Barbie and Disney movies. Every time she watches a Disney movie or plays with her Barbie doll, she asks me why I didn’t name her Cinderella, Moana or Barbie! She doesn’t exactly dislike her name but prefers Cinderella over Anamika!
– Swapna, mother of seven-year-old Anamika
My name is Deepika. My cousin started calling me Deepu and before I knew it, everyone from friends and family started calling me Deepu. While I love my name, I dislike the shortened version of it. I now request people not to call me by the shortened name, but it is very difficult to explain it to elders. I guess I’m stuck with it now!
– Deepika, 30 years old
My daughter Raksha dislikes her name so much that she keeps asking me if she can change it. Her classmates call her ‘Rickshaw’ and she feels terrible. We’ve spoken to her teacher about it and children in class have understood that she feels bad, but she still hates her name because of the bad experience. She says there are children who still make fun of her. I love her name and had named her Raksha after a lot of thought. Now I feel bad about it.
– Krupa, mother of 10-year-old Raksha
My name is Sreenivasulu. I dislike my name because people identify it with the state I come from and associate my name with a particular community.
- Sreenivasulu, 22 years old
6 common reasons people change their name
‘You know my name. But you do not know the story behind my name!’
Here are top six reasons why people change their name:
Numerology: The belief between a series of coinciding events that are happening and a number, is called Numerology. Your numerologist suggests a name change so that the letters in the name according to numerology add up to your lucky number. Ajay Devgan, the Bollywood actor, dropped an ‘a’ from his surname for numerological reasons.
You don't like your birth/current name: Two things you don’t have a say in are who your parents should be and your birth name. In a Tamil movie, Ethir Neechal, released in 2013, the protagonist’s name is Kunjithapadham. His parents name him after their family deity. He changes his name to Harish because he doesn’t like his birth name. What follows the name change is interesting though.
You don't like the way your name is spelt: Aamit is changed to Amit, Neesha to Nisha – spellings and pronunciation matter although it is more of a personal choice.
To fit in: When you travel abroad for work or to settle in another country and your current name which represents your lineage and nativity does not fit in. “My real name is Kamakshi Meena Sundaram. When I moved to the US, I found that it was very difficult for people to pronounce my name. When I used to tell people my name, they either gave me a blank stare or pronounced it with such great difficulty that I got embarrassed. I retained my middle name Meena with ‘S’ as the initial. When they pronounce my name as Mina, it doesn’t bother me as much as pronouncing my previous name as Kha-match-ee,” says Meena.
When you’re in the entertainment industry: Destiny Hope Cyrus changed her name to Miley Ray Cyrus when she was 15 years old. The Hannah Montana star is now officially known by her nickname which is well-known among the public.
For legal reasons: Name spelt wrong in legal documents prompts a name change. It is believed that actress Rani Mukherjee changed her name to Rani Mukerji because of how it was spelt in her passport.
To quote Shakespeare, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." So, do not despair if your child wants to change her name. At the end of the day, she remains your much-loved precious child, no matter what her name.
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