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Do I Have to Give Up My Daughter's Cute Nickname?

As a mom, do I ever have to stop calling my child by her nickname? I don't do it in public, as that would embarrass her, but I call her by her nickname at home. - Mom

When do you have to stop calling calling your Vanessa "Nessie" or your Sofia "Fifi"? When she asks you to, that's when.

Most parenting decisions don't work that way. We don't stop enforcing bedtime or raise the candy limit to infinity just because our kids ask us to. Names, though, are a different story. You may have chosen your daughter's name, but it no longer belongs to you. Once she started taking it out into the world it became entirely hers, a core part of her identity. Exploring that identity is one of the basic rights and responsibilities of growing up.

At some point in childhood, Maddies suddenly become Madelines and vice versa. A Lizzy may make you dizzy cycling through her many Elizabeth options. The kids rightly sense that parts of the little-kid selves they've always known just don't fit any more. A nickname change is a powerful symbol of that, and a natural and healthy way to try on different identities.

For their parents, though, it's a headache. You're probably attached to the nickname you've been saying lovingly all these years. At the very least, you're accustomed to it. We grownups don't change as easily as the young'uns do. Chances are you'll find yourself slipping into "Nessie" even as your sophisticated Vanessa accepts her college diploma.

Give it your best try, though. Taking kids' nickname wishes seriously shows respect for their growing-up selves. That's good for their confidence, good for your relationship, and lays a good foundation if you ever have to put your foot down against less healthy ways of pushing the boundaries of childhood.

Comments

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March 30, 2010 12:00 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It DOES go the other way too!

I know more people, from elementary age to my own middle age, who have to fight their parents calling them by their entire given name when they would prefer to be called by their nickname!

March 30, 2010 12:10 PM
By MJ (not verified)

Please stop as soon as your child asks! Please. As someone who has been there, you just don't know how awful it is to constantly hear a name you feel you have grown out of, especially by middle school age. My grandparents gave me a nickname as a baby that I grew to HATE as I got into my preteen years. They even knew at that point that I didn't like it, but they and all of their friends and my cousins and everyone on that side of the family called me that. When I finally was about 17, I had to tell them I wasn't going to answer to it anymore. Their feelings were hurt, but I had been begging for years for them to stop calling me by my baby name. I know they still call me that behind my back and I am in my 30s!

I finally had to stop them bc it was traumatizing when a cousin or someone would call me the nn in front of a friend from school. It inevitably became a joke and everyone had to call me that. And it wasn't me anymore. I didn't identify with that name and none of my peers knew me as that nn. Now my grandparents are old, and I let them call me that on occassion, but if a cousin tries to annoy me and uses it - they get the death stare. I know parents are sad but be kind to your child. Let them grow up and not be a baby anymore.

March 30, 2010 12:36 PM
By M2 (not verified)

My parents nn me Pookie-Bear...cute on a baby/toddler terrible on a pre-teen. Almost died when my Uncle called me that in front of a cute boy when I was 17! Please stop when your child asks!!!!

March 30, 2010 12:49 PM
By Elizabeth (not verified)

Aw, come on. It's a parent's God-given right to embarrass their child. Something like Fifi or Pumpkin would be too much, but if Mommy still wants to call her baby Lizzy when she prefers Elizabeth, in my opinion, she should just learn to deal.

But then, I'm an Elizabeth who still (fairly cheerfully) answers to Baba.

March 30, 2010 2:12 PM
By Annee (not verified)

One of the few perks of parenthood is embarrassing your children -- so, you never have to stop calling her by her nickname! I mean, come on -- I'm 50 years old and my dad still calls me Bananie (short for Annie-bananie). Do you think I ever considered asking him to stop? I mean, really!

March 30, 2010 6:43 PM
By B who used to be Baby N (not verified)

I can understand what some of you are saying for sure. I used to be nicknamed "Baby N.." As I grew older it was no longer ok so it was changed to an alternate form of the same and eventually shortened to just "B." Though it has nothing to do with my name, it fits and I find myself being called B and signing informal stuff with B all the time.
I also had a cousin who as a small child was called "Boobs." As you can imagine as she hit puberty, the name that was cute for a crying baby and toddler was no longer acceptable.
So, keeping some nicknames is ok while keeping others may not be.

March 30, 2010 9:10 PM
By Jessica (not verified)

I'm 23 years old, and those in my family still use my nickname, which was derived from the time when my little brother had trouble pronouncing my name: Jukka. It was slightly up to him whether or not the name would stick. It never bothered me, and my family will even use the name in public, which is useful, since the name "Jessica" was far too popular when I was born.

I'm sorry if this doesn't help, but my nickname never bothered me. I rather like it, actually.

March 30, 2010 10:20 PM
By Erin (not verified)

Beware asking someone to stop, because you may regret it. My little brother had a very hard time saying my name when he was little, so he just called me Sissy. He called me Sissy until I was in middle school and I asked him to stop. Afterward, I often regretted it.

March 30, 2010 10:39 PM
By Becky (not verified)

I understand where this is coming from but I can't say I completely agree. While when naming a child you are giving them entitlement to their name you are also doing your first bit of parenting by giving them a name that you think will suit them and your family. My parents named me Rebekah, but called me by my hebrew nickname Rivky (short for Rivka) throughout my childhood. As I got older and became more independent I started using Rebekah and eventually Becky. To my friends, co-workers and DH I am Becky but to my parents, siblings and other close family members I am still Rivky. I actually like that they still call me Rivky, it makes me feel at home.

I have two sons and though their names are not easily nickname-able their grandparents have special Yiddish names for them that we use amongst close family (Yudi for Judah and Lev for Levi). I hope that they will learn to love these names and keep them close to their hearts rather than shirking them off.

March 30, 2010 11:41 PM
By Mo (not verified)

I love nicknames, I think they can create such fun family connections. I still have a few family members who call me by mine (even my husband does sometimes). I even sign "Mo" when I'm is a hurry.
However, I 100% agree with the name lady. Once your name leaves your list and lands on your child, it's theirs to do what they want with it. After all, isn't it our dream that they will make it their own?
If your child never disputes the nickname, keep it up as long as you like. However, if they decide to be done with it, let them be. After all it is THEIR name. Sary, Missy, Sissy, Maddie, Lizzy, Katie, Bobby, Danny, Benny, or Pookie Pants may be endearing to you but it's not your identity. Don't take it personally. There are other things you gave them that they like.

March 31, 2010 9:36 AM
By Caitlyn (not verified)

seems to me there's a bit of perspective here - things that are truly mortifying as a teen (and lets face it, most teens are insecure enough that *everything* is mortifying) aren't so big a deal as a more confident adult. A reasonable compromise may be to let the nickname recede for a while while the teen sorts himself or herself out.

March 31, 2010 6:12 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

When my niece, named Marie, was 3, she decided she hated Marie and wanted to be Mimi. Luckily, my brother & his wife like the name Mimi, and now 3 years later, only her family knows that she is really Marie. We all call her Mimi now. What to do when a child decided to completely change his or her name and the parents aren't on board?

March 31, 2010 9:36 PM
By Jenna (not verified)

My name is Jenna, which is very short, but when you have a Jennifer on each side of the family it gets very confusing. If we are at a birthday party or family event and they say "Jen!" we all come running or turn our heads. I really don't like the nn Jen, because I have so many family members that are called Jen also. I always tell them to please call me "Jenna" as that is my given name and I like it a lot better. I've never really liked Jen or any form of nickname for my name. My best friend calls me "Jennuh" or says Jenna in a Forrest Gump accent. I don't mind because it's my full name and I prefer that. I only let family call me Jen, but I have told them I prefer Jenna especially because of the many mix-ups we have with our names. I would always say it is the child's choice because it's their life and they are going to grow up and have their own life someday. It just means you have to keep the nn to yourself, because there is always a chance that they won't like that name.

March 31, 2010 9:36 PM
By Jenna (not verified)

My name is Jenna, which is very short, but when you have a Jennifer on each side of the family it gets very confusing. If we are at a birthday party or family event and they say "Jen!" we all come running or turn our heads. I really don't like the nn Jen, because I have so many family members that are called Jen also. I always tell them to please call me "Jenna" as that is my given name and I like it a lot better. I've never really liked Jen or any form of nickname for my name. My best friend calls me "Jennuh" or says Jenna in a Forrest Gump accent. I don't mind because it's my full name and I prefer that. I only let family call me Jen, but I have told them I prefer Jenna especially because of the many mix-ups we have with our names. I would always say it is the child's choice because it's their life and they are going to grow up and have their own life someday. It just means you have to keep the nn to yourself, because there is always a chance that they won't like that name.

April 1, 2010 7:39 AM
By NAMES (not verified)

My name is Jill and my parents and sisters will still call me Jiller from when I was a toddler. I detested it as a teenager and asked them to stop, they did. In my 20s however, my sister did it by accident out of habit and apologized and I told her it was fine, and not a big deal. Now, it is kind of nostalgic and kind of those happy, carefree days of being an adorable little girl! They don't call me Jiller in public!

April 2, 2010 6:05 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have to say that I'm disturbed by the comments that parents somehow have a divine right to publicly embarrass their children. Parents are supposed to support their children as they become adults and while they sort out who they are, and that involves respecting the person the child deems herself to be. That is the child's decision, not the parent's. Teasing is fine and good, within reason, but there's teasing and then there's teasing. If the child doesn't mind, no problem; if they roll their eyes at it, but aren't terribly bothered, fine; but deliberately torturing your child by calling them a name they don't feel connected with, or that deeply embarrasses them? That shows a real lack of respect for the child as a person, and frankly I think it's sick.

Names have power, and they're one of the single most personal aspects of a person. Therefore, like the Name Lady says, once you've bestowed it, your role is done. It's the child's name, not yours. If they want to use their middle name, or their full name, or a nickname, or change it all entirely, that is their decision, they have a right to it, and your job is to support them. Period.

There are some cultures where everyone gets a new name to mark important transitional stages in life. I have always thought there was a lot of wisdom in traditions like that.

April 4, 2010 8:35 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My kids gave each other the nicknames....Sissa, Melissa, is 37, Fris, Christopher is 29 & Bubby, Kevin is 21....and they don't mind at all.....never have & I suppose never will.

April 5, 2010 12:33 AM
By Serena Griffin (not verified)

My sister is eleven years younger than I am. Her name is Taler, at 19 I still call her Tayda. In turn, I can count on my hands how many times she has called me Serena. I am known as Sister. She started this when she was little and it has stuck. She has even been guilty of calling me at work in the last few years and not thinking asks "Is Sister available?" I love it ! It is our own little thing.

April 6, 2010 1:11 PM
By Mariclare (not verified)

I've had the nickname Meg since I was about 12 years old when I misheard my aunt calling me "Babe." She called all of us babe but recently I had been having problems with people getting my name wrong and I was simply outraged that of all people my aunt should screw it up!
Everyone laughed about it when we found out I had misheard, but ever since my aunt calls me Meg, whether in speech or writing, it's always Meg. It makes me feel happy and special because I know she is thinking of a fond memory when she uses it: Me!

I know some people don't like their nicknames because it's not who they are, but if that isn't the case then don't ever be embarrassed by your family using it.(Even if it's Pookie-bear) Because If a little old nn can scare a significant other or friend away then they are not worth the goodbye that would follow them.

April 6, 2010 1:11 PM
By Mariclare (not verified)

I've had the nickname Meg since I was about 12 years old when I misheard my aunt calling me "Babe." She called all of us babe but recently I had been having problems with people getting my name wrong and I was simply outraged that of all people my aunt should screw it up!
Everyone laughed about it when we found out I had misheard, but ever since my aunt calls me Meg, whether in speech or writing, it's always Meg. It makes me feel happy and special because I know she is thinking of a fond memory when she uses it: Me!

I know some people don't like their nicknames because it's not who they are, but if that isn't the case then don't ever be embarrassed by your family using it.(Even if it's Pookie-bear) Because If a little old nn can scare a significant other or friend away then they are not worth the goodbye that would follow them.

April 7, 2010 8:27 PM
By Merryme (not verified)

In private my family still calls me Nanny, which is the name my little sister called me when she couldn't say Natalie. My husband even calls me that- at home only of course.

It's sweet to have a NN that only a select few get to call me.

April 10, 2010 3:22 PM
By Nicole (not verified)

I totally agree. My name is Nicole, but I go by Nikki with my family, and all my friends from my old preschool/daycare (we all still talk, even though we're all in middle school and high school now - and some have graduated!). But now that I'm only, I generally only want the people who have called me Nikki forever to keep calling me that. I remember when I was in 7th grade, my Dad told the office he was dismissing "Nikki M---". It took me five minutes to explain it to my teacher, and he called me Nikki for the rest of the year! I liked that teacher, so it wasn't totally awful, but still kind of embarrassing. But at the same time, everyone who calls me Nikki, I don't want calling me Nicole, since it sounds too formal when you're that familiar, plus, even my extended family (like, my great grand uncle and even my 3rd cousins) still call me Nikki, so it'd be annoying to have to explain to them all that I want to go by Nicole.
So, in short, quite a few people get to call me Nikki, as long as I let them, but not at school (or work, when I start that!) And sorry this was so long ^^.'

April 20, 2010 1:53 PM
By Victoria (not verified)

I think your family can always call you by your nickname in private - we all have nicknames in my family, some of us many, that make no sense to anyone but us - and we delight in using them. It's like an inside joke. Plus, you can give as good as you get :)

April 26, 2010 12:06 AM
By Katy (not verified)

My full name is Katherine, but I've been Katy my whole 28 years. I almost never go by Katherine ... I love the name, but it doesn't feel like mine. Sure, I went through a phase of 'call me Kate, Katherine, Kitty, Kat, etc.' but I've always come back to Katy because that's the name I fully feel is mine.

My siblings, however, are quite varied. One brother insists on going by just his first initial (J) as opposed to Jason. My sister will never shake being called Chelly as opposed to Chelsea.

Honestly, I think it just varies from person to person. Just ride it out and see what your child chooses. :D

May 8, 2010 12:02 AM
By Kristina (not verified)

My mother's side of the family calls me "Kris" and I always found it endearing that they felt close enough to me to call me that, knowing I prefered Kristina. In elementary school I called myself Krisi- I was just looking for something to make my name my own, and I still have a friend who calls me that, seven years later. I don't mind at all- but no one else can. My boyfriend calls me Kiby and I love it. It's unique, you know? I grew into Kristina but when I was younger it just didn't feel right.

I also have two brothers. David, who was in high school when I was about ten and I called him Davy, and he always got so mad.
My younger brother's name is Jonathan- or Jon. But in his middle school they called him J.D. because there were several Jons'. I called him Bonatin, because it bothered him. I still do it sometimes, accidently.
I had a friend named Aly whom I called Monkey till someone over heard and made fun of her.
A girl named Jordan I called Dordy who might hit me if I tried that now.
Hell, before I called myself Krisi people called me Puppy. I'm mortified when people bring that up now.

The only thing I swear I'll never go by is Tina. It's just not me. I'm Kristina. Or Stina if you're in a hurry, I suppose.

May 10, 2010 7:49 AM
By Elissa (not verified)

My name is Elissa (pronounced uh-lees-uh) Louise. I've had all kinds of nicknames over the years, from Mitten Buttons to Grandma (my mom started calling me this around age 8 for some reason!) and I don't mind because they are colorful and have a history behind them (Mitten Buttons because I used to suck my wrist, where a mitten's buttons might be, Grandma because I like to read and sew). But, last night, my mom asked me if I remembered when she used to call me Wissie Weezie... I gave her the most withering look of course, to let her know that nn was definitely NOT going to be resurrected! It sounds too babyish even for a baby! Very timely article!

July 9, 2010 12:09 PM
By Liz (not verified)

I'm an Elizabeth who has been called Liz or Lizzy since I was fairly young...Now I've been nicknamed "Lizzeth" by my best friend, and am known by those who don't know me very well as Liz, and my closest friends call me Lizzy/Lizzie. I'm not very particular about people calling me my many names, I just can't stand when a stranger/acquaintance calls me Lizzy...thats reserved for my family and best friends! Among my other nicknames are Lola, Zil, and Liesel. I love nicknames and love how when somebody calls my name, I know who they are because they each have their own name for me.
But definitely stop calling an older child by an embarrassing nickname! (Especially because an acquaintance may hear it and think thats the child's name - I know my brother has been called anything from Chirp to Twirp to Katie, poor guy).

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