The Golden Rules of Naming Your Child

Your child’s name becomes his/her lifetime identity. All of us want to keep this name as unique and special as possible. But how far can we go to make sure it remains unique and special forever? Rashmi Ullas comes to your rescue with tips on choosing the most suitable name.

“Her name is ‘so and so’. I wonder what her parents were thinking when they chose this name. Poor girl, she must be so embarrassed.” A strange name often calls for such reaction. And each time we come across these names, we silently thank our stars and parents for choosing a ‘decent name’.

Indeed! One of the most challenging task as a parent would be to choose your baby’s name. After all, this is one of the first things people will know about your child and this is also something that will impact his/her life into adulthood.

All in a name

When you choose a name for your child, you should always remember that it would profoundly impact your child in the future. This name will influence how your child thinks about himself and also what people think of him.

Some names are unique and may call for undue attention. Some other names are unisex and may be the reason for jeering. All this may influence your child’s behaviour later in life. One scientific study has shown that each individual’s like or dislike of his name will influence his self-esteem. I’m not surprised when I read this, because our name is after all so closely wrapped up with our identity.

How names were traditionally chosen

Each region has its own set of cultural practices that people follow while choosing the name. Some cultures (like in India), select the names based on the time of birth. Some cultures (like America) choose names based on places or environment. Others name their children based on their birthstones while some names date back to cultural heritage.

Religions also have a bearing on the names; for example, the Catholics used to name their children after a patron saint (a saint whose auspicious day falls on the child’s birthday), the Hindus named their children after one of their deities and the Muslims in honour of their prophets.

However, in today’s era where there is a lot of cross-cultural influence and exposure to media, baby names are uniquely chosen. Some parents want their children to have a crosscultural name that sounds unique in their region (for example, many Indians are choosing names of Persian, Arabic or Spanish origin). Other parents name their children after celebrities they idolise.

The Golden Rules

Whatever the tradition, you simply can’t choose a name based on how trendy it is or how nice it sounds. Choosing a name for your baby should be given deeper thought. Imagine the childhood of mortification your child would have to endure if you choose a very odd name.

Whether you go with a traditional, trendy or a totally unique name, the name you choose should follow some golden rules. Here we list some to help you choose the best name for your child… with no regrets –

Make sure the name actually exists

Being creative is good, but inventing a name for your child may not be as cool as it sounds. Sometimes, what we think sounds nice, may actually sound peculiar to the rest of the world. It’s good to choose from the list of names that are already available. You could turn to the Internet or the published books on baby names for reference. 

Have you ever heard of this name before?

Sometimes you may stumble across a very unique name, but nobody in your social circles would have heard of it. Choosing such an unheard of name would be as good as inventing one. On another note, some names may be too historical to be used in the present era. Referring to the database of baby names and checking their relevance in the present era is a wise thing to do.

Can your child pronounce his/her name when he reaches schooling age?

The other important aspect in the name is to ensure your child can start using (reading and writing) the name at the earliest possible time of his life. A complex name would make it hard for the child to spell or pronounce at school. You definitely wouldn’t want your child to fumble while pronouncing his name or get frustrated trying to spell it out.

Be creative, but not at the cost of your child’s embarrassment

Yes, you can get creative by combining the couple’s names or grandparents names. Although many of these combination names sound good, they could turn out to sound rather funny when combined. Make many combinations of the two names you want to join, try and find one combination that also carries an actual meaning. This way, you would be adding relevance to the unique name you want to choose.

A different spelling can sometimes become frustrating

Some parents like to go with a conventional name, but with a twist in the spelling. While it may sound cool to have your child spell his/her name uniquely, you may want to watch the choice of alphabets. Unique spellings might sometimes spell a lifetime of corrections.

Separate the girls’ names from boys

Imagine the plight of your boy if he carries a girly name. Or your girl if she was in the same class as another boy with her name! The trauma and self-consciousness is not something you want your child to face in his/her life.

Studies have shown that children who are ridiculed for their unisex names tend to develop behavioural problems, especially as they hit their teens. All the pent-up shame and frustration from the ridicule is bound to explode in a negative manner.

Be mindful of initials and nicknames

A shorter version of your child’s name also holds significance. If it sounds hilarious, it may become the reason for your child’s bullying. For example, when the name Dickenson is shortened, it becomes a word that is used to describe a certain body part. Being scorned for such a nickname is not something your child will thank you for in the future.

There is another reason why the initials hold importance. As your child grows, he will need to fill out initials in many instances. And as he begins his career, his official email ID may be a combination of his initial and surname. You wouldn’t want your child to fill out a form with his initials that read out something like A-S-S or hold an email ID that goes something like fatkins@abcd.com!

Downplay the popularity

A very unique name would actually spell trouble, but a very common name is also not something your child will really appreciate. So you’d want to research a bit to find out how common your choice of name has become. Often parents-to-be like to name their children after celebrity kids, but you should remember that many would idolise the same celebrity and adapt their baby names.

Choose the name with deliberation

The consequences of choosing an odd name for your child could be grave. So here’s what you can do to make a sane decision:

Research

It is important to do a little research before you settle on a name. If you are one who appreciates your roots, then you may want to incorporate it into your child’s name as well. Pay attention to how the name sounds, what it means, how easily it is spelt and pronounced.

Discuss

Your child’s name should be a mutual decision from both you and your partner. You can chalk down your favourite names and then sit together and discuss on what sounds the best. Keep your minds and options open.

Consult

It’s also good to try out these names with friends and relatives (whose judgement you trust). If they say it sounds weird, then it’s likely to sound weird to the rest of the world as well. But having said that, don’t feel obligated by family ties etc. to saddle your child with a name you don’t like in the first place.

If necessary, come up with a plan to gently defuse tensions or ‘friendly’ suggestions from others. This is also the time to present a united front as a couple and stand your ground.

Decide

Finally, when you’ve deliberated enough on your choices, shortlist the best ones and choose one that makes you (the couple) feel special. After all, your child is the most special part of your life. You may also want to keep the name a secret until your precious bundle is born. No one can resist giving their opinions on what that name means for them and almost everyone has an unfortunate experience with a person of that same name.

Last but not least, don’t get too stressed over choosing a name for your child before he or she is born. Sometimes you have to meet the baby first and you will realise that gentle sounding name that is your first choice may not be so suitable after all.