When Children Don’t Like the Names on Their Birth Certificates

You will appreciate the convenience of having a solid middle name as a reasonable back-up the day your child decides he or she doesn’t like the name you’ve chosen.

Sources of dissatisfaction are many and varied. Maybe the name:

  • is too often misspelled or mispronounced;
  • is too uncommon and comes across as strange or weird;
  • is so popular, several other children in your child’s class answer to the same name;
  • is too boring;
  • makes a strange or negative first impression;
  • has a literal meaning that is either negative or misleading (for example, a child named Raven with blond hair and a fair complexion);
  • doesn’t have enough formal and informal options that would enable the name to “change” as the child grows up;
  • is a constant source of teasing;
  • or simply doesn’t fit the child.

While choosing a unique, uncommon name can result in many of the problems listed above, choosing a “safe” traditional name can produce a different set of problems. That’s why choosing an attractive middle name that goes well with your last name is a smart move. (Picking a “political” middle name that doesn’t work well as a safety option can be a huge mistake.)

Recently, Uma Thurman named her daughter Rosalind and added four “middle names.” Six months later, she calls her daughter Luna, which was not one of the middle names she gave her. Her daughter is too young to have complained. Thurman must have figured out that none of the names on her daughter’s birth certificate worked quite as well as Luna. (If you’ve read my article on that topic, you may remember I described the four middle names as “alphabet soup.”)

If you or your child has an “aha” moment and decides that the first and middle names don’t work, you need to take action to prevent your child from taking even more radical action (like changing his name to Rocketman). Here are some strategies to try:

  • Come up with different forms of the chosen name; for example, Liam is a short, Irish form of William. Luna is actually a short form of one of the “alphabet soup” middle names Thurman originally came up with (Altalune). In comparison with the original four “middle names” she picked, Luna, though highly unusual, is a major improvement!
  • Try a name-book neighbor, a name that may sound or look similar to the name you’ve chosen but which has a different “vibe.” A young woman with a very popular name, Sara, told me she was tired of it. I came up with Syrah and she’s been a happy camper ever since. In a recent article, I mentioned that a money manager thought his given name, George, was too dull and stodgy. He happily switched to Geo.
  • Many parents pick beautiful names like Alexander or Alexandra and then forbid the child (or the child’s friends) from calling him or her a different version of that name. Big mistake. The beauty of a versatile name is that there are many versions of the name that can be used as the child grows up. Enjoy the fact that your child (or your child’s friends) have come up with a version of the name that they like using.

Guide the process of selecting an alternative name, so it doesn’t go too far astray. Better Alex or Alec than Tralala or Zoot.

© 2013 Bruce Lansky
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without proper notice of copyright.

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