Devotion, Growing Up

The Power of Calling Your Kids Good Names

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October was recently dubbed Anti-Bullying Awareness Month (or something like that) and the topic has been in the news quite a lot lately.  Everywhere you go you see someone with something to say about the current situation facing kids in schools today.  Our kids are pre-school age and so we thankfully have not had to face any of these things.  Sure our little ones have friends who take away their toys and struggle with sharing, but those things are just the early part of the process of learning how to treat one another.

But the current events regarding bullies and their victims got me thinking about the power of words on people of all ages.  Our words can be used as a healing salve or they can be daggers to the heart and spirit of man.  And I am constantly reminded when talking with my little ones how careful I need to be in choosing my words.

One of the almost unconscious things we started with our young ones from a very young age was to start encouraging the character traits we would like to see in them, the things that will make them acceptable members of society.  And we have done this primarily with name-calling.

No.  Not that name-calling.  The kind of names we would like to be called.  The names that connote quality character attributes, speak of the good parts of a person.

Six Names We Call our Kids


Our girls demonstrated interest in what mom and dad were doing early on.  So around 12 months we started calling them helpers.  We invited them to join in on the activities they could safely participate in and asked for their help.  We found them very eager helpers.  They were engaged in activities with us and joyfully did their part.  We did not require much of them – we aren’t slave-drivers – but as their abilities to help increased the opportunities to be helpers increased.  We found ample opportunities for even our youngest ones to help and feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with a job well done.


Since our children are girls we call them ladies (if we had a boy, we would call him a gentleman).  Introducing our 18 month-old to the concept of a lady was not as difficult as you might imagine.  One day I just asked her if she was “Mama’s little lady.”  And she said, “Yes!”  From then on she delighted to call herself a lady (with a small detour for a short time to calling herself a banshee – where do they get this stuff?).  Moreover we had a touchstone for introducing attributes to her; attributes like patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, etc.


Yes this one is mostly for play purposes, but our little one LOVES to be a hunter.  And what is more, she loves to be a good hunter.  We play lots of games with her where she needs to locate particular items or toys and she loves the challenge.  Calling her a hunter as she searches for things engages her in the activity we are doing.  I can see she wants to live up to her reputation as a big-game hunter!


To be honest I really struggle with the line between puffing up our children and instilling confidence in them.  One of the areas I really struggle with deciding what is appropriate is giving compliments.  But I love when we are doing an activity or playing and they come up with a great idea or do something successfully for the first time, celebrating by calling them clever!  Talking about great ideas and smart solutions with them is what I hope makes them confident when they get to the classroom later.


It is interesting the concepts we seem to almost be programmed to get without much explanation.  Friendship is one of them.  From such an early age, our little ones can understand who their friends are and can make friends as easily as walking up to someone at the park and playing.  But, as we know, later in life, the concept of friends can be a difficult one to navigate.  We try to take all the opportunities we can to talk about what it means to be a good friend to others.  We talk about sharing, being patient, and praying for those we love.


Our latest name we are working on is promise-keeper.  And though I have some reservations about how this is going considering our eldest’s age and her broken-heartedness over the times she breaks her promises; she wants so badly to be a promise-keeper like Jesus.  We have gone over a few times what being a promise-keeper involves (“doing what you say you are going to do”) and that Jesus is a promise-keeper.  She is fully aware of what her promises are and when she breaks them, she says, “I broke my promise, I am not like Jesus anymore.” So I see the early seeds of an understanding of our brokenness that encourages me to keep asking her if she is a promise-keeper.  So far this is less a name we call her than a name she may be able to earn one day.

Have you thought about the names you call your kids?  What do you call your kids and how do they react to it?  I would love to hear from you!


This post was shared on Pinterest   Titus 2 Tuesday


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  • Reply katepickle November 13, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    Love this!!
    So often we tease our kids (in a friendly way) or call them silly names, and we are sometimes quick to point out what they are doing wrong, but how often do we make an effort to label the good things, the things we want to encourage? This is such a fabulous reminder!

    • Reply ussleah November 15, 2013 at 10:16 PM

      Thanks, Kate! I often have to be reminded of the impact words can make on my little ones!

  • Reply evonne November 13, 2013 at 7:41 PM

    Great post! Definitely something we all need to be more aware of.

  • Reply Theresa-Capri + 3 November 13, 2013 at 10:07 PM

    I use some of those names as well with our little ones. That was a great post about instilling traits you would like to see in your children by using positive ‘name calling.’ Love it!

  • Reply Trish November 14, 2013 at 4:01 AM

    What a great idea, I love the positive name calling.

  • Reply Laura November 14, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    I love all of these except one. I completely agree we need to point out what we love about our children…often when we focus on desired behavior we see it more. When we focus on undesired behavior we will see more of it. I don’t like the last one. While I understand it’s rooted in religious beliefs, it concerns me. Maybe it’s because of my professional background (social worker and family therapist in the child welfare field), but I think it opens up the potential for children to keep dangerous secrets. Offenders often groom children to promise to keep their secrets. I know that is not your intention AT ALL. Just thought I’d point out a different perspective.

    • Reply ussleah November 15, 2013 at 10:09 PM

      Thanks, Laura for commenting. As I said in the post, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the last one, too; but for a different reason. Coming to it from a perspective of “just a mom,” I would have never thought (or honestly known) about the possibility of offenders using the same name. I tend to be concerned about it because I worry it can be a standard too high and disappointing when not met. I just don’t want her heart to hurt when she falls short of the name. But I am so happy for your warning words…much to think about when we speak to our little ones.

  • Reply Tracie November 16, 2013 at 4:09 AM

    I love the intentional “good name calling” you are doing with your family. It is so good for kids to hear encouraging words spoken to and about them every day.

  • Reply Barbara Coleman November 16, 2013 at 4:53 AM

    I love this philosophy! I was listening to a motivational speaker this week and he said if you want to be successful, if you want to be happy you have to stop listening to yourself and start talking to yourself. You are using the power if positive intentions on your kids and I San see where that’s going to make you AND them happy and successful! Strong work!

  • Reply Jennice November 16, 2013 at 5:17 AM

    I call my daughter lots of fabulous names and every now&then I call her a jerk but only when she’s acts like one. #SITSsharefest

  • Reply Allison Hendrix November 17, 2013 at 5:02 AM

    Love this. Love your perspective. You are adorable. Pinned!

  • Reply Susan November 19, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    What a great way to view this truth. It’s true. Our kids live up to the labels we give them – both good and bad. Intentionally naming the character traits we desire for our children is a powerful thing!

  • Reply Jelli November 19, 2013 at 6:58 PM

    Leah, this is something my husband and I talk about all the time. I’m so happy to have found a post about it. We believe that names really do have an impact on who we become and how we think of ourselves, much like in the Bible where parents named their kiddos things that were essentially declaring something about their child. Pinning this post to my purposeful parenting board. Love! Oh yeah, I’m visiting from Mom’s Library.

    • Reply ussleah November 23, 2013 at 6:11 PM

      So glad to find another like-minded couple of parents. It is so important what we call our young ones and the Bible is a great example of that!

  • Reply Natalie F November 20, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    This is a very thought provoking post. We call our daughter Smarty, but sometimes we also call her Ms Messy, because she is not exactly the most careful child in the world. She often refers to herself as a Girl who loves books 🙂 Thanks for sharing with Afterschool!

  • Reply The Monko November 20, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    I love the term hunter, my son would like that one. I’m featuring your post on the Sunday Parenting Party this weekend.

    • Reply ussleah November 23, 2013 at 6:10 PM

      Thanks, so much Monko! Our little one LOVES to be a hunter. We have been doing some fly hunting in the last couple of days and she loves to “sneak up on her prey.” Thanks for the honor!

  • Reply Eva @ The Multitasking Mummy November 21, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    Although my son is still very young, I am very conscious about the names I use. Thanks for sharing this, it’ll give me something to this about.

  • Reply Conni November 21, 2013 at 8:55 PM

    While I view my grandchildren as beautiful and on occasion tell them they are so pretty, my focus is to look for the character traits of God developing in them for which to praise them.
    Making a list of God’s attributes helps bring to mind on the things in which to focus. It take thought and is well worth the effort.
    Because they are taught by their parents that God loves them, this helps them learn who He is and to see Him as the good and loving Father He is. Never is He used to scare or intimidate them.
    Thanks for the reminder, Leah.

  • Reply andie jaye November 23, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    I love love love love this post! it was one of my top 3 from last week’s Sunday Parenting Party. I’ll be featuring it at tomorrow’s party!

    • Reply ussleah November 23, 2013 at 6:09 PM

      Thank you so much, Andie! What a special honor!

  • Reply Katelyn November 24, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    Great post! I love it! What we call our children is so important! I love the names you use. Makes me want to start calling my girls young ladies and my baby boy a little gentleman. I found this on the Sunday Parenting Party. 🙂

  • Reply Mytwicebakedpotato December 15, 2013 at 6:09 PM

    I fully believe that we get more of what we focus on so I love the name calling!

  • Reply Jen December 17, 2013 at 6:42 AM

    Hi Leah- I love this post! I think I might have a solution for you regarding the “promise keepers” name. Just as calling your daughters a “lady” represents much more than just being a girl, so does your last name. When I was growing up my mom would say/ “Of course you can do it …you are a Winchester!” or ” You should be kind to that little boy, after all we are Winchesters!” “Winchesters help each-other ect. or Winchester’s keep their promises. This was just an idea and of course all of this depends on the age of your children- God Bless You!

    • Reply ussleah December 17, 2013 at 6:49 AM

      Oh, I like that, Jen! It is a great suggestion to keep her encouraged! Thanks for stopping by and leaving your kind words!

  • Reply Shelly December 19, 2013 at 3:55 PM

    I also think a good name to call our children is “hard worker”. If children are called clever or smart, they will think things are supposed to come naturally to them. And if they don’t, they tend to give up. If we tell them that they are “hard workers”, they’ll know to work on something even if they aren’t good at it right away.

    • Reply ussleah December 20, 2013 at 5:56 AM

      I like that name too, Shelly! We are doing that one, too, lately. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Reply Becky June 3, 2014 at 12:47 PM

    I love this! We too, work at calling our children good names. In fact, my four year old daughter has embraced the nickname “Helpful Girl” and even says, “I’m HG, Helpful Girl…right, Mom?”

    • Reply ussleah June 3, 2014 at 1:23 PM

      How cute! Good name calling makes such a difference, doesn’t it? Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  • Reply Lauren June 4, 2014 at 7:33 PM

    Found you on Pinterest. This is so lovely…and encouraging! I can’t wait to call my son helper, hunter, promise-keeper, friend, and clever!

    • Reply ussleah June 4, 2014 at 9:31 PM

      Thanks, Lauren! Glad you found us and glad you liked the ideas! Thank you for leaving a comment (they are encouraging to me!)!

  • Reply angela@spinachtiger June 6, 2014 at 7:35 PM

    Such a great post. The twins I’m helping raise are 6 1/2. I call the one a “finder.” He always finds what is lost. I call the other one an artist; he is so talented. They are both called helpers, cooks, singers. Now I am sure to be more aware of this. I want to start calling them hunters, promise keepers. On the hand, it is heart breaking that I have a family member who calls her beautiful children curse names. So hard to understand this.

    • Reply ussleah June 6, 2014 at 11:17 PM

      I love those names for the kids you know! It makes more difference than we will likely know to encourage and build up with positive names. I do wish every kid had some one in his life to build him up, not tear him down – that makes me sad, too! Thanks for stopping by and leaving an encouraging comment!

  • Reply conni August 17, 2014 at 10:03 PM

    Concerning the name, ‘promise keeper and her sadness when she fails, a good reminder is to tell her Jesus is not mad when we don’t get things right. He’s for us and so very happy when we do. And He is our Helper to teach us how to become great promise keepers.

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