It happens all the time; even to the best of us. We come up with all sorts of excuses and reasons why we do what we do; “I was exhausted, I didn’t know when I told my son he was stupid”, you say. “I didn’t mean it” is another very popular excuse we get to hear.

You got pregnant; had a baby, named that baby; announced that your baby had been named. So, why have you decided to rename your baby? Replacing the lovely Andrew, Anthony, Shannon, Bethany and Florence with ‘Stupid’, ‘Naughty’, ‘Oaf’, ‘Foolish’ or ‘Silly’.

You may not see it at first, but it hurts. Every single time you replace your precious baby’s name with a negative one in anger, it hurts your child. Maybe more than they can even express; maybe more than they are willing to show.

So what if you are a single mum struggling to raise four boys? Is that a licence to change all their names to negative titles that they eventually end up acting out?

As difficult as it is to raise kids on your own, it is more difficult, more painful to watch your kids grow into the names you so often lash out at them in anger.

Quite recently my daughter was given a project to grow bean seeds in three different types of soil; loamy soil, sandy soil and clay soil. Loamy soil is the best type of soil for planting; sandy is manageable; clay soil is a no-no. Each child is born a ‘loamy’. They are miraculously untouched, untainted by the harshness and corruption of this world. They are also high-risk, in the sense that a ‘loamy’ will grow whatever seed is planted in it.

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Knowing this, we need to take with all seriousness what names we bestow on our precious ones. Our ‘loamies’ will thrive when we learn how to control our tongues. We must first master those skills we are so bent on seeing replicated in them.

We need to first instil discipline in ourselves before we raise our hands, voices or tongues to claim such discipline from our children or wards.

If we are to be sincere here, then we’ll all agree that name calling is verbal abuse. How many times have we sat among friends saying how much we abhor abuse of any sort? Remember how you advised a friend or relative not to be a victim of abuse in their home. If we look inward we may find that we too are perpetrators of the same acts in our very own homes and to children.

As they grow older, we get upset that they have no self-esteem, no confidence, no passion for life. Rather than look for more productive ways to help, we end up abusing them more, calling them names that no child should have to hear or be labelled.

Insults, name-calling, put-downs, comparisons, negative criticism, unnecessary blame, showing disgust are things a child must never experience at the hands of parents or guardians. Even if they are to be faced with such in the world, it should never come from those whose life purpose should be to love and protect them from the corruption of this world.

Imagine if you were in deep trouble, you looked up and saw superman heading your way. Naturally, you’d be excited, relieved, happy – your hero has come. He reaches down to you and starts tongue-lashing you, blaming you, calling you names. Over time, you’d even start hoping, praying he never shows up. Is that really the kind of relationship we want with our children?

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When the question, “What’s in a name” comes to mind, I can only think of one answer.

…Everything.