Name calling happens. Sometimes it is playful and fun…. and sometimes it is an attempt of verbal power/control. As an observer, sometimes it is difficult to tell. The only person who can really decide if they are okay with the nickname is the person who is being called by that name.
“You’re a crazy chicken nugget!”
When children opt to call others by different names, like other things, we try to allow them to work it out. The best way to do that is to carefully observe. When a child seems uncomfortable with a name they have been called it is appropriate to ask, “Do you want to be called…..?” Sometimes they will say yes and I encourage them to let the other children know that “you can call me …. if you want to.”
“Hey Butt cheek!” (Giggles)
“You can call me butt cheek if you want to!” (More Giggles)
When a child is truly uncomfortable with a name they are being called, I help them to talk to the person who is using a name or nickname they do not like. I try to be there as a silent support/witness to the conversation. I encourage them to tell the child that they do not want to be called by that name and I often suggest that they remind the other child what their name is.
“I don’t like it when you call me ‘Sweetie!’ My name is Sue. Please call me Sue.”
If a child has a hard time remembering not to call a child a specific name, sometimes they need to be reminded. “I heard Sue tell you that she does not want to be called ‘Sweetie.’ Did you forget? Her name is Sue.”
I have to tell you the examples I used in this post are real (I did change names to protect identity) and the same child was called “butt cheek” and “sweetie.” I found it amusing that this little girl was okay with being called a “butt cheek,” but was definitely not okay with being called “sweetie.”
Personally, I would rather be called “sweetie,” but who am I to judge?