Choosing Names

Olivia. April brought us the news of the most popular girl’s name during the first quarter of the year and Olivia it is. So Goodhousekeeping, the Today Show and others keep us informed on what parents are choosing to name their children this year. But some are not choosing at all. They are allowing their children to grow up a while before assigning a name to them—a name of the child’s own choosing.

In the author’s own voice…

You’ve probably heard that names aren’t the only choice parents are advocating for their children. Parents have long claimed to allow their children to choose their own religion. Others are allowing their children to choose their own gender and identity as well. In a world of political correctness and extreme judgmentalism of the past, these choices seem predictable. But is it wise to bring a child into the world without a name?

Guess what? Child psychologists differ with parents on this one. Tiffany Towers is a child psychologist in Beverly Hills. She believes that children might grow to mistrust parents with other decisions about their lives if they don’t name them. She wonders whether this decision is meant to empower the child or avoid the pressure of choosing a weird name or one that gets the child bullied later.

I’ve known several friends who changed which of their names to go by during their school years. Circumstances caused my best friend to choose his father’s name while being stationed overseas. It happened to be his first name even though we called him by his middle name all the time we were growing up. It would seem that choice remains even for parents who decide to choose their child’s name for them.

My concern has more to do with this overemphasis on removing all the structure from the world around them in the name of allowing children freedom. We take the most important decisions with the greatest impact on a child’s future and abdicate responsibility to a two-year old or a six-year old, expecting them to make better decisions than a grown adult.

Balance please. Children need freedom. They also need guidance and structure. In a world where reality seems pliable enough to bend to our will, it has some very unforgivable brick walls we can encounter as well. Playing in the street is fun. It can still get you killed. The same goes for playing in the driveway. Maybe the choice shouldn’t be where to play but how to be safe wherever you play? My best friend and I were allowed to roam the neighborhood for hours at a time with only a dinner bell to bring us home. We wouldn’t think of doing that in today’s world of snatch and grab—yet some parents allow their children to roam around the World Wide Web with no restrictions at all. I would argue that Internet freedom can be much more dangerous.

Putting a football in your baby boy’s crib may be a little much. Letting your child choose which sport (or no sport), which instrument to play (or no music) seems harmless enough. Watching their interests develop is part of the joy of parenting. Asking your own dreams to take a back seat to the wishes of a growing child is good parenting. Leaving them without any guidance at all seems cruel. Keeping information from children in the name of letting them decide later is really only deciding for them in a very different way. Is there nothing in your life worthy of sharing?

Be a guiding parent. Not a helicopter or a lawnmower or a tiger parent. Guide. Don’t force but make some decisions, will you?

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