When Every Name Seems Wrong: The Cure

Do any of these stories sound familiar?

Scenario 1: We Don’t Like Any Names!

You and your other half are expecting, and you have poured over baby name books, looking for a name that jumps out at you and screams, This is your baby! but after looking at thousands of names, none of them seem right.

Scenario 2: Good Names are Ruined by Bad Kids!

You or your partner work with a lot of kids, maybe one or both of you are teachers or day care workers, and you hear the same names or a group of similar names every year among your students. Or you find a name you like and it gets ruined because of a problem child.

Scenario 3: We Can’t Agree!

You and your other half have very different tastes in names, and you each despise the other’s favorites. Finding a name that both of you can merely live with seems like too much compromise. You want to find that name both of you love, but with your different tastes that task seems impossible. What to do?

The Game Plan

While I’m not claiming that naming a baby is a completely logical process, having a process can help you conquer overwhelm. Here’s the process we’ve developed to help deal with these all too common scenarios. The steps are:

  1. Take a Break
  2. Manage Your Expectations
  3. Determine Your Priorities
  4. Focus on What You Can Control (Let Go of What You Can’t)

Take a Break

Assuming you are not days away from birth, sometimes taking a break is the best thing to do. For one week, do not discuss, read or even think about names.

This might be hard. As a distraction, focus on other activities to plan for your arrival. After birth, you will be too tired to do anything but feed, clean and dress your baby. Before birth is a good time to decorate the nursery take up scrap booking, etc.

If you happen to come across an interesting name during your week-long naming hiatus, by all means, put it on your list, but other than that, avoid actively searching for names. After not thinking about names, your mind will be clear of clutter and you can continue to the next steps.

Manage Your Expectations

Perhaps taking a break is not possible if the birth of your child is fast approaching, but no matter where you are in your pregnancy, you can manage your expectations. How do you do that?

Realize you will not find the perfect name, but you will find the right name. The right name may not grab you but could gradually grow on you over time. Instead of looking for a name that will give you an exhilarating rush, think about names you like on real people.

Determine Your Priorities

Think about what you want in a name. If unsure of where to start, these guide lines can help. Some examples of name priorities are:

1. How the name coordinates with the last name
2. Style – How the name coordinates with sibling or future sibling names. Do you generally like modern or vintage names?
3. Uniqueness – Is fitting in important or do you place a higher value on individuality?
4. Family tradition – Do you wish to continue family name traditions or do you wish to create a new family name tradition?

The order of these examples is in no way the suggested priority. Order of priority will vary for each family.

Determining your priorities will help narrow down choices. The growing name pool has overwhelmed parents with so many choices, explains Laura Wattenberg on The Baby Name Wizard Blog.  This phenomenon has been coined The Paradox of Choiceby psychologist Barry Schwartz who argues that consumers given too many choices will feel overwhelmed.

Cut down choices and manage overwhelm by using your priorities as a framework.

Focus On What You Can Control

Remember The Serenity Prayer?

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

the courage to change the things I can;

and the wisdom to know the difference.

I often replace “change” in the serenity prayer with “control” in my head, and the message is essentially the same. First focus on what you can control and then accept what you can’t control.

You can control:

  1. Your baby’s name

You can’t control:

  1. A formerly unique name becoming popular seemingly overnight and ending up on five friends’ babies over the course of two years.
  2. An otherwise wonderful name becoming the name of the a child who could have been the devil’s spawn.
  3. Your favorite name getting used for a friend or acquaintance’s baby
  4. How your child will feel about her name as she grows up.

We have just gone over the basic framework for this series. Over the next couple of weeks, we will go over examples of how to apply each step in real-life, based on the scenarios described.

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  1. Good advice, especially about being sensible with expectations and not trying to control everything.

    As far as managing choice, I don’t think you should have more than 3-5 names on your “final list”. I’ve found most people who are still undecided up until the birth usually zero in on that one name on their list once they meet their new baby.

    I also think parents shouldn’t mistake “name wistfulness” for “name regret”.

    • That’s a good point re: “name wistfulness” vs. “name regret.” I have plenty of “name wistfulness.” Being a name person, “name wistfulness” comes with the territory : ) But I don’t have name regret.

  2. I always loved the name Jack. For years you never saw a little boy named Jack. Then when I finally started having kids there were Jacks everywhere! I still love the name but we didn’t use it. And you know what? It turned out okay. The names we chose fit our boys perfectly.


  1. […] week we discussed some tips on what to do when every name seems wrong. How do you apply these steps in real-life? Read […]

  2. […] third part in a series discussing what to do when every name seemed wrong. The first post addressed guidelines for tackling the general problem, and the second post addressed how to apply these guidelines in real-life when you don’t like […]

  3. […] installment of When Every Name Seems Wrong. If you missed the first parts of this series, they are Part 1: When Every Name Seems Wrong: The Cure, Part 2: We Don’t Like Any Names, and Part 3: Good Names Are Ruined by Other […]

  4. […] is a classic case of when every name seems wrong. With Carrie’s permission, I have posted her request with minor editing. The baby’s last name […]

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