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

Filed under: Baby Names

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 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.

Have you switched nicknames? Share your experiences here. And if you have your own question to Ask the Name Lady, drop her a line!

Related: Will a Namesake Bring Back Bad Memories?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.