What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

"A rose by any other name..." doesn't actually work for children. Names matter.

If you were ever called a name you didn't like, you know what I mean. Kimberly Maeder shared this CAN DO moment that helped her daughter, age 5, stand up for herself.

When my daughter said, "I don't like being called cute, and my friend at school calls me cute," I said what I saw, "You don't like being called cute, and you wish she didn't call you that." She replied, "Yes." Then she brought it up the next day again, and for two more days, so I knew it was a big deal.


Finally I said, "Maybe there is something else she could call you that you'd like to be called. Perhaps you could ask her to call you something else instead." Then my daughter said, "Like Special or Pretty... she can call me those things, but not cute." So I suggested that she make that request to her friend to call her those things instead.


The next day my daughter told me she talked to her friend and was so happy. She told her that she didn't like being called cute, but she'd rather be called "Special." Then her friend asked, "Can I call you Special Cupcake?" and my daughter replied, "Sure!"


It may seem like a small thing, but it's so huge that I recognized it as a big thing to my daughter, and that she came up with her own CAN DO and made a request to her friend to call her something else!


I wasn't connected to that power or awareness when I was a kid. I hated kids calling me "Short" or other names and never knew what to do about it, except maybe try to avoid playing with them, etc. No fun!!!

This is the kind of power that a CAN DO can bring to a child and the kind of support we can provide when we remember that many things that seem small to us are actually very important to our children.

Are there times when you have realized something was important to your child? What difference did it make when you noticed?

Related posts:

Teasing & Name-Calling

How do I get my child to stop name-calling? (siblings)


  1. angel |

    This is really helpful but what do you do when kids call out names that are not nice, and they know that the other kid do not like to be called that, and they do it to tease?

    • Angel,

      Thank you for your question. You are right. With a friend the dynamic is different than with an adversary. In this case the focus was on letting the child know that what she wanted mattered and that saying what she wanted could make a difference.

      The separate topic of adversarial name-calling is so important that I thought it warranted it’s own blog post which I just wrote for you here: https://www.languageoflistening.com/teasing-and-name-calling

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