Why Not Let Children Choose Their Own Names?

Why Not Let Children Choose Their Own Names?

“I had expressed to my mother my entire life that I hated that no one was able to pronounce it,” Ms. Guadagno said. She gave herself the name Embe in high school, and legally changed it when she was 19 or 20.

Today, she has let her 3-year-old daughter, Laila, know that if there’s a name she likes better than her own, she can change it immediately. So far, she has considered her middle name, Jude, along with Daisy.

George Vuckovic, 43, a preschool administrator in River Forest, Ill., also doesn’t see the harm in letting children choose their names. He and his partner, Esther Hunt, a massage therapist, 34, nearly named their daughter Athena but switched to Isabelle in the hospital. A month later, they changed their minds again and renamed her Elena.

Now Elena, who is 8, has tinkered with changing her name back to Athena or to Iris.

“It’s her life, and if she finds meaning in a different name, why not?” Mr. Vuckovic said. “Other than the potential hassles of multiple identity profiles and red flags that could raise.”

Tiffany Towers, a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Beverly Hills, said she understands why parents may be agreeable to allowing their children to choose or change their names so readily.

It can be either an attempt to empower their children or to avoid the pressure of assigning a name to their offspring, Dr. Towers said. Perhaps the parents don’t want to feel responsible for their child being bullied for having a weird or old-fashioned name. Or maybe they believe that their child’s future will be shaped by this initial identity of a name (a name that the child didn’t request), and they fear that their child will resent them or feel oppressed by their name.

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