When You Hate a Grandchild's Name

Grandparents Have Limited Options

A woman holding a baby
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When a family is expecting a baby, two questions usually capture most of the attention: What gender is the baby, and what will the baby be named?

Grandparents are usually fine with either gender, although they may have a preference. On the question of names, however, they often have definite opinions. Their task is to make sure that their opinions don't cause a rift in the family.

When You First Hear the Name

When you are first told what the baby's name will be, you must remain calm. Don't panic about a name before it is officially bestowed. Some parents change their minds once they see their babies. There's also the possibility, slim but present that the parents may be teasing you by pretending to choose an unusual name, especially if you have been pressuring them into choosing a name. 

Still, there's no need to pretend enthusiasm about a name that you hate, as that may backfire. The best strategy is to be non-committal about the name but enthusiastic about the impending arrival. If pushed, try this response: "I'm sure I'll come to love the name as much as I love my grandbaby."

If the Name Sticks

A chosen name may grow on you. If it doesn't, consider this your first exercise in respecting boundaries, a skill that all grandparents need. Choosing a name for their child is the parents' prerogative, and you must make the best of it.

If the name sticks, you may be tempted to give the baby a nickname. Proceed with extreme caution. Many families have a well-established tradition of nicknames handed out by grandparents, but nicknaming a grandchild can also put you on shaky ground. Many times parents are adamant that the child's real name be used. Once again, their wishes must be respected, at least at first. They may loosen up a bit as time goes on.

Other Naming Issues

Grandparents may dislike a selected name because of some personal experience that has tainted the name. The older, more unpleasant association usually fades away as you build that wonderful relationship with your newborn grandchild. 

Other reasons why grandparents dislike names may include the following:

  • The name is too unusual.
  • The name is too common.
  • The parents have chosen an unusual spelling.
  • The name is hard to pronounce.
  • The name is not gender-specific (a common complaint due to the current style of giving girls boys' names).

The grandparents still do not have standing to question the parents' decision, although they may be forgiven for gently suggesting that certain names or spellings may create a hardship for the child.

Grandparents can take solace in the fact that research is mixed about the effect of a name on a child's future. Some studies have concluded that having an unusual name is an asset, while others found that it is a liability. And no study can predict how the name will fare in the future. A name that was edgy and unusual when the parents picked it out may become the hot name of the next year. A name that had nothing but positive connotations can pick up negative connections when a celebrity with the name does something unsavory. The bottom line is that our behavior, not our name, ultimately determines our fate.

Naming a Grandchild After Someone Else

Naming a child "after" someone is another practice that can cause conflict or hurt feelings. Often a grandparent secretly wishes that the baby would be named after himself or herself. Naming children after grandparents is an ancient tradition that is still followed by some. Of course, that could mean that your grandchild could be named after one of the "other" grandparents!

Most modern families have rejected traditional naming patterns in favor of giving their children unique names. As always, the parents have the right to make the call.

Many times rejection of a grandparent's name does not amount to a rejection of the grandparent. The parents may not like the way that your name looks or sounds and may have rejected it for that reason. Conversely, if they choose to honor someone else by choosing his or her name, it may well be that they simply like the name. 

Perhaps grandparents spend entirely too much time worrying about names, During those months of prenatal anticipation, we don't have that much to occupy our minds. Once the baby has safely arrived, most grandparents will realize that a grandchild by any other name is just as sweet.