By Kristen Ivy
I wanted to give my kids really great names.
We have smart friends who named their son Asher because it means “happy” or Emri because it means “honorable.” I think that’s great. I love those names. But since our friends already stole those, I was stuck looking through meaningful names that sounded like a 1920’s glee club or a really bizarre biblical prophet.
So we named our first son Sawyer. Why?
Well if you want my church answer, it’s because it means “wood-worker” . . . just like Jesus. If you want my literary answer, it’s because I love the adventurous spirit of a kid named Tom. But if you were to hang out with my son, most days you might say he’s really closer to the con artist on a formerly popular TV drama.
In any case, we completely bombed in the meaningful names arena. My kids have names that I just liked because I liked them. But even if I missed the super-meaningful name boat, I actually have the opportunity as a mom to name my kids in a meaningful way every week.
In psychology there’s a principle sometimes called “self-fulfilling prophesy” that’s gained widespread cultural acceptance. It’s simply the idea that our expectations about people have the power to shape their outcomes.
Every day, we communicate our expectations about our children with words.
The same kid can be:
“Chatty” or “bubbly”
“Disruptive” or “energetic”
“shy” or “thoughtful”
“slow” or “thorough”
The words that we use to describe our kids also have prescriptive power. They don’t just explain what is already true about our kids, our words can ultimately affect how our kids view themselves and can determine who they become.
I love this idea that I heard pastor and author Mark Batterson talk about a couple of weeks ago.
Early on in his parenting, someone challenged Mark and his wife to come up with five words they wanted to be true about their kids. So they did. They thought of five specific words for each child. Then, they designed a print of each child’s name with the five words below it (think pinterest design, not cheesy acronym). They prayed for these words to be true for their kids. They used these words when they talked about their kids. And they had them hanging in the kid’s bedroom where they could see it as they grew up.
The five words they came up with weren’t always descriptive. There were days when “compassionate” wasn’t really the particular characteristic they were demonstrating most. But over time they became prescriptive. They began to define how each child viewed themself. In fact, his daughter Summer is now sixteen and has said that sometimes at night when she couldn’t sleep, she would look up and read those words about herself.
What an incredible way to name a child.
This week, I’m going to create a list of words for my kids. They might not always be true. I’m absolutely certain there will be days when they won’t be. But over time, I hope that it will help me, as a mom, become more intentional about the way that I call my kids by name.
* This story is also found in Mark Batterson’s best selling book: Circle Maker.
Kristen is the Executive Director of Messaging at Orange and co-author of Playing For Keeps.She combines her degree in secondary education with a Master of Divinity and lives out the full Orange spectrum as the wife of XP3 Students Orange Specialist Matt Ivy, and the mother of two First-Look (preschool) children, Sawyer and Hensley