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The Names We Call Our Children
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The Names We Call Our Children

Judging by the title of this article you would think I would be talking about the names we give our children when they are born, and I apologise if you think that this is what this article is all about, but it's not.

The names we give our children are the ones I am referring to that while they are growing up parents, teachers, relative and others place on them. For example, "oh he's like that because he is the middle child" or "he's not the artistic one"; or even and the more commonly one, "he's not as smart as his brother/sister." They are names that even though we don't think they define a child, they do.

And I can guarantee that everyone reading this has had a name put on them by someone, somewhere. Now can you all truthfully tell me that what they called you hurt you a little bit, emotionally? And I am sure that there are those who have been called such a name that has hurt and scarred them emotionally in such a way that they never feel that as if what they do matters to those who called them that name. That they always have to prove themselves not only to others but to themselves.

I was in that type of family situation and I can see what effect it has had not only on myself but on my siblings. I was considered not the "clever one" when my sister got a scholarship to a private school, but I am the only one who has finished high school and went on to do not only a degree but a post-graduate degree. Or that one of brother was told he was too timid and shy to achieve anything substantial, and unfortunately it happened, he didn't achieve what he probably could have if given the right name.

You could also say well I do the same thing, give my children names that distinguish one from the other with regard to the their abilities, personality etc. But there you are wrong. I don't. I calmly told off a relative of mine who labelled my second son, the Middle child and that justified his behaviour. What a load of utter rubbish.

It is true that the order a child is born can define them, but we as parents, teachers etc, don't have adhere to that definition. Just because a child is the eldest does not mean that they have to be an example to their siblings. What a responsibility this places on a child growing up. Why should they have the task of being the responsible one just because they are eldest, what kind of pressure is that to ensure that they always have to behave responsibly just because they are the eldest? What happens when they don't act "responsibly" and they feel that they have let not only themselves but their family down. They feel angry and bitter that a name given to them by others is not one they wanted.

A family member told my first child that same thing and I very sternly told them, that the only person they need to feel responsible for is the person they see when they look in the mirror. Themselves. If they are respsonsible for themselves acting in a responsible way then the name you have given your child as they are growing up will be self respect. This self respect will naturally flow onto to their siblings because they too will feel the need to act in a responsible way which in turn allows them to not only respect themselves, but to respect others and more importantly their siblings.

Just because the youngest child is the youngest does not mean they have to be called the "baby" of the family and act as such. They are the youngest. That is it. By perpetuating the name "the baby" of the family you are reinforcing behaviour that carries on to adulthood and allows them to act in a baby-like fashion. That is always having someone doing things for you. Not taking responsiblity for their actions. Just being a baby.

Then there is the names we give our children based on their talents. "Oh he/she is the artistic/smart/sporty etc one." So that means that because we have given a child this name, that others are not? Now it is true that some have more of an ability than others but should we call them anything less just because they have less than another in their ability? And what if their ability is thwarted by our calling a child a certain name and suddenly they shock us when they show us that they too have this ability but we never saw it. Simple answer, we never looked because we were too blinkered by what we perceived from one child.

I don't say to others about my kids"oh he's the artistic one." I do have one that displays some artistic ability more than the other two, but I don't say it like that, I will say it in a way that refers only to him and not even suggest that the other two are not artistic. How? Well simply, "oh he loves to draw". If they ask what about the other two, I simply say, "sometimes they draw." I haven't called them "non-artistic" I haven't called them anything.

All three of my sons are smart, in their own and very different way. Should I call one son more smarter because his ability is better than the others? No. Each is smart in their own way and in different areas. Because of this attitude, they have so much respect for each other's abilities and they recognise not only their siblings abilities, but also their own and how each one has an ability and skill that they might not.

An aquaintance of mine made a comment to me about my sons and when I asked some friends about that comment, they agreed with her. The comment was that she said she had never seen siblings show so much admiration and respect for each other. She went on to say that she loved watching them interact because no matter what each one says or does, they still treat each other with the same admiration and respect.

Each child has its own uniqueness. They each have their own special abilities and talents and just because one has more of an ability than the other doesn't mean that we should name them as such. But that does not mean that we need to lie to our kids and tell them that they are good at something when we know they are not. An example is when someone who loves to sing is encouraged to enter a singing competition. We know they are not great, but in order not to hurt their feelings we tell them how good they are. We are giving them a name that is also wrong.

When a relative told one of my sons who loves music that he should sing professionally as he has a beautiful voice, both he and I looked at each other in disbelief. Oh sure he writes his own music and can sing, but not professionally. So I blatantly told her that he can sing, but he doesn't have a great voice. She was stunned that I would put him down like that. I told her but that is the truth and he agreed. He didn't feel slighted or upset, he knew that he could write songs, but he couldn't sing them.

I didn't give him the name of being talentless, I just gave him the name of being someone who could write songs, but his voice was not good enough to have a professional career.

It is sometimes very hard not to be so proud of your child's achievements that you can't help but spout out how great they are. I say, go ahead and be proud of your children and their achievements, but do it in a way that shows that this particular achievement and this one only for this time and day is what you are proud of. Don't go around telling everyone that it is because they are the artistic/sporty/smart etc one. Go around telling everyone that this achievement is remarkable.

Don't give your child a name that forces them to be seen as being that. They are so much more, we just have to ensure that they can see that. Make sure that the name you give them is the one that you call them by when they are born. Don't give them another name that could define them and make them not achieve all that they could.


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