Hurtful Nicknames

Agonizing over names

Parents who were given hurtful nicknames as children are likely to find themselves worried as they choose names for their babies. They remember the great pain they suffered. They will examine a name inside and out to make sure that there is no way to turn that name into a pain-causing moniker before they dare to use it for their infant. As the mother of 12 children, I am no exception to the rule, agonizing over the names I give my children.

I was bookish and awkward

As a young girl, I was bookish and awkward. I got along better with adults than with my peers. As a result, I was grist for the nickname mill. It wasn't long before kids realized my first and last initials were BM. What could be more hurtful than being called BM all through elementary school? In an attempt to defend my honor, I realized that the most popular TV show at that time, had, as its major character, Batman, whose initials, with a bit of creative machination could be thought of as BM. I told the children at school, "You better watch out! BM also stands for Batman. You don't want to be messing with him!"

This didn't much help my predicament. I continued to be tagged as a bowel movement until the 6th grade. It wasn't just the nickname; there was also some schoolyard violence. My mother tried to help; she arranged a meeting with the teacher, but nothing seemed to help.

At last, unable to bear my situation any longer, I begged my mother to allow me the chance to register at a private school in my city and I was very lucky that she acquiesced. That school saved me in terms of my ability to gain social standing and self-esteem. For the first time I could remember, I was, not just accepted mind you, but actually popular. There was a different atmosphere to this school, a feeling that all were family, all part of one unified spirit.

In a study at Cardiff University, 20% of children were found to have experienced being called by a demeaning nickname on a daily basis. 220 adults completed questionnaires about their experiences with nicknames at school. The study determined that being called by such nicknames has a long term and profound effect on adults. It was found that most often nicknames describe physical attributes in negative terms and that such names cause the most lasting negative impact.

Protect your child

It is important to realize that name calling is a type of bullying and must be addressed to protect your child's self-esteem. Anything that a child does for the specific purpose of causing discomfort to another child falls under the category of bullying behavior, no matter how covert or overt. If your child is being victimized, please contact your child's teachers and school administrators and insist that something be done!

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