Nicknames: Good or Bad?

Nicknames Can Be Hurtful

Did you grow up with a nickname? Do you still go by that nickname? Some children have several nicknames; some have none at all. I didn’t acquire a nickname until I became a teenager. People started calling me “Legs” because I was pretty tall for a thirteen-year-old. Growing up, though, my children both had nicknames that were lovingly given to them by family members. My son Guy’s nickname was “Guyzer,” and my daughter Lena’s nickname was “Beena.”

Some nicknames stem from a physical or a character trait, like “Spitfire” for an over-active child. Others pay tribute to the child’s given name. That was the case with my son’s nickname, but as another example, someone named Lorenzo might be called “Enzo.” My children gave our housekeeper, Rosario, the nickname “Chio” simply because they could not pronounce her real name. She has been with our family for twenty-six years, and we still lovingly call her “Chio.” In some Chinese families, parents assign nicknames because they believe this will protect their children from evil spirits. Thank the Lord that as believers we know that we have a loving Father we can rely on for protection instead!

The word nickname means “an also name.” Nicknames can be fun, cute, and endearing, but they can also be hurtful and embarrassing. It all depends on how the moniker developed. If a boy is nicknamed “Strongman,” this could speak to his wonderful ability in a particular sport. However, giving a boy the nickname “Sissy” could have devastating effects and inflict years of emotional pain.

What do you do when your child comes home from school upset because they have been assigned a nickname that is malicious and hurtful? Try to find out what happened that brought about the name-calling. Depending on the age of your child, their emotional maturity, and the situation, you may recommend they simply ignore the name or use humor to defuse the situation. In other cases, you may need to speak with someone at school about the incident or approach the parent of the child who first used the nickname.

Name-calling and insults can scar a child. We need to do our best to set a godly example for our children by not doling out insults against those who have gotten on our nerves or caused our anger to raise its ugly head. Proverbs 18:21 states, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Remember that when children are called something over and over, they might start to believe it. Don’t ignore the problem if it becomes a source of emotional pain for your child.

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