Naming your baby is one of the rites of passage of becoming new parents. Choosing a name is a special gift that will travel with your child through life. Many parents choose to name their babies after beloved people in their families, favorite characters from books and movies, or based on some other reminder that is unique and memorable. Other parents want to name their baby something that is meaningful to their family’s ethnic heritage or a name that conveys feelings of strength, generosity or reflects personal traits that they want to impart to their son or daughter.
Naming your baby is fun and precious, but it is also a big responsibility – most parents want to give their child a name that lasts, that does not seem faddish or strange, and that will serve their child well throughout life at all ages. Here are a few of most common baby naming pitfalls to keep in mind when you are deciding what to name your child:
Beware of Names that are Too Popular
Many parents make a list of their top 5 or 10 choices for the baby’s name, only to realize that their favourite names are also everyone else’s favourite names! For example, Canadian Living magazine recently published a list of Canada’s favourite baby names. The most popular baby girl names are currently Emma, Hailey, Isabella, Jada, Matilda, Maya, Olivia, and Scarlett; and the most popular baby boy names are Carter, Christopher, Hunter, Joseph, Joshua, Matthew, Michael, and William. Even if you love the sound of those names, you should ask yourself if you want to give your child a name that will be so ever-present in life while they are growing up. Every time you are at the park or playground, your child will hear “Emma!” or “Michael!” and mistakenly think you are calling to them. Would you rather give your child a name that is unique?
Don’t Be Too Obscure
Of course, it’s also possible to go too far in the opposite direction, and give your baby a name that is so unique no one has ever heard of and can’t even pronounce it. This is a sensitive subject for many families. There is nothing wrong with giving your baby an individual name that is meaningful to you, especially if you have some family history or cultural/ethnic connection related to that name. However, keep in mind that if you give your baby a name that is hard to pronounce or hard to spell, that might be a source of misunderstandings with other people as the child grows up. Whenever your child has to correct someone who keeps mispronouncing her name, or has to request a new driver’s license or credit card because the original had her name misspelled, she might regret being given such a unique name – even if you meant well in giving it to her.
Watch Out for Gender Dynamics
Most parents in Canada today probably pride themselves on being open-minded and forward thinking when it comes to gender roles for our children. Many parents want their sons and daughters to pursue whatever activities or careers are of interest to them, regardless of what is considered traditionally “appropriate” for girls or boys. For example, most mothers would want their daughters to be able to pursue a career in science, and most fathers probably want their sons to have the option to grow up to work in a traditionally “female” career field.
However, one interesting aspect of naming your baby is that gender-related names seem to have an impact on the way children behave when they are growing up. A study featured in Live Science found that sixth grade boys who have more feminine sounding names are more likely to misbehave in school than boys who have more traditionally masculine names. This could be because their “girly” names make the boys more vulnerable to teasing or bullying, causing them to act out in disruptive ways.
Girls, on the other hand, who have names that are more “masculine”, also see an effect. A 2005 study of high-achieving girls found that girls with more masculine names were more likely to study math and science, while girls with traditionally feminine names were more likely to study humanities. Your child’s name does not determine their destiny. However, having a “girly” or “boyish” name can have an impact on children’s identity and affect the way they relate to the world. Something to consider.
Google it First
Before you decide on a name, do a simple test – enter the child’s name (first, middle and last) into Google and see what search results come up. You might discover that your favourite baby name is also the name of an infamous criminal, or the name of a scandal-prone celebrity, or the name of a disgraced politician. Sometimes there is more in a name than parents might realize at first! Make sure you’re not unintentionally hindering your child’s reputation before they even have a chance to be born.
If there are some names that you like the sound of, be sure to do some research to find out more about what the name really means. Some names that sound pretty in English might have meanings in their country of origin that are less appealing, or that do not quite feel like a fit for what you want to give to your child. You might find out your chosen name means something unflattering, or that the name has an overly specific and narrow meaning that is not quite what you want to attach to your child’s self-image.
It’s not easy to choose exactly the “right” baby name, so trust your intuition. Do some research, play around with some possible combinations of first and middle names. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that although the choice of a name can have powerful effects in your child’s life, ultimately the truth is that your love and care for your child will be much more important in shaping his/her future than any name.
What are some baby names that you are considering – or are you keeping it a secret? Are there any baby names that you’ve ruled out for various reasons discussed above? Leave a comment and let us know, or join the conversation at the Medela Malaysia Facebook page.