Crazy Baby Names and Five Other U.S. Parenting Trends That’ll Drive You Nuts

(Flickr)

Those are some nice new shoes … maybe try ‘em out. (Flickr)

Not only are American moms and dads landing their offspring with bizarre monikers, they’re pushing kids in strollers until they’re school age and letting them decide what’s for dinner.

Unacceptable baby names:

In principle, I’m all for allowing parents to choose what to call their children. This is with the proviso that they go for something sensible and solid like Steven or Claire. I’m even sort of on board with this cute, olden days name revival where you choose something last seen in an 18th century spy novel. (Overheard at a Brooklyn baby meet up the other day: “These are the twins, Percival and Agatha!”). At least those parents aren’t making stuff up. Veering off message and inflicting tiny, vulnerable humans with invented names is just not on. Of course, U.S. celebrities are the pioneers of this heinous movement, but normal Americans are doing it too, naming their kids after Prisons (Stand up “Ryker”!) and dog breeds (Hello “Sharpay”!). Perhaps those countries that have seen fit to impose a baby-naming rulebook have got the right idea.

The kids make the rules:

More than once I’ve been held up in a U.S, supermarket aisle by a frustrated parent asking their three-year-old what he’d like for dinner and getting nonsensical replies. The child isn’t interested in this conversation, or equipped to answer. He’s just hoping you won’t notice the box of Lucky Charms he dropped in the trolley. This is a new(ish) breed of “empowering” American parent who, either consciously or without realizing, lets their children make the rules for the family.  When this is enacted on purpose, I’m assuming the parents think this is a good way to turn their offspring into responsible, decisive adults. (It’s not. Please stop it so I can get to the frozen peas.)

Incessant snacking:

Parents in the U.S. are weighed down, and not just by the emotional burden or financial stress of raising a couple of kids. Nope, it’s their children’s snacks. In playgrounds and parks all over the U.S., moms’ purses are heaving with tiny edible offerings housed in miniature Tupperware. You could be forgiven for thinking your average American parent leaving the house at any given time is loaded up for a picnic or pilgrimage to worship a very hungry deity. Of course, kids outside the U.S. eat between meals. But snacking in America is embraced with an almost religious fervor. Is the idea of kids getting a bit hungry and building an appetite for a big dinner so abhorrent? Sure, chuck a child an apple if they’re grumbling but what’s with the elaborate preparation and multiple snack choices?

Huge kids in strollers:

I’ve droned on before about the abomination that is American dog strollers. But what of the children virtually old enough to go to festivals on their own who get chauffeured along the sidewalks, knees forcibly drawn up to the chins because they’ve outgrown their Bugaboo? Of course, little legs get tired. But walking, last time I checked, is good for you. For whatever reason, big kids in buggies is something you don’t see nearly as much outside the States.

Over-complimenting kids:

I’m pretty sure it’s a good thing to be nice to your children, and this can involve handing out compliments and loving feedback. It’s when that feedback morphs into an all out ego-inflating, positivity assault that we need to worry. But the most “attentive” American parents know no limits on this. Purring “Good job!” into your tot’s ear is fine when she gets a good mark in French class or keeps her cool at the dentist. But cheerleading every time she goes to the toilet or chews a toy? No. And children know this better than anyone. Tell a kid you’re proud of them after they commit a benign act like putting on their coat and they will, rightly, look at you like you’re deranged.

Too much emphasis on sport:

There’s no such thing as soccer mom in the U.K. Competitive, sport obsessed child rearing is the reserve of American parents. They’d have had to ship me back to Blighty if I’d grown up here, such was (and still is) my inability to throw a ball and have it arrive at the intended destination. I’m more than slightly worried that my own daughter has A) inherited my utter lack of motor skills and B) will be made to feel like a freak because she can only hit a baseball if it’s stationary.

Do you have any trends to add to the list? 

  • Tricia Liverpool

    Good observations…I am constantly resisting the pressure to become a soccer ‘mom’. Where I live everyone’s doing sports – friends, neighbors…you need a calendar and a mediator just to schedule a play date because everyone’s in a million after school activities! I also hate the obsession with sleepovers and over-the-top birthday parties – I mean why a 3-year-old need a full petting zoo in their back yard I’ll never know?

  • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

    Have seen so many of these in my time as a parent. Not sure it’s just an American thing but the parents who would ask their child “Can we go now?” when trying to leave our local park were just asking for trouble. What’s wrong with saying “it’s dinner time, let’s pack up and go home.”
    I also had to lend my stroller to someone who needed it – for her 5 year old! Seriously?
    And finally – we used to live next door to a family who were slightly Anglophile – and had named their kids Trevor and Muriel! I was horrified when I first heard that!

    • Eliza

      Trevor sems like an ordinary name and Muriel seems old-fashioned but both names seem perfectly acceptable. Do the two names have other meanings in the UK?

      • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

        Hmmm, hard to explain. Trevor is a name that you don’t really hear on males under about 30 and my (American) husband jokes that all British guys are called Trevor, Malcolm, Ian or Andy. Muriel is very old-fashioned but not quite the same as some other old names are that are now in fashion – Eleanor, Ruby etc. No one is calling their girl Muriel – although of course now it will become a fashion.

        • Jane

          My son, now late-teens, had girls named Hazel, Edith, Ruth, Eunice, and Beulah in his grade…all born in the early ’90s…1990s that is!

          • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

            High time Muriel was back on that list then!

        • Brandy Richmond

          LOL I laugh because my 17 year old son is named Trevor Ian. :D

          • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

            OMG bloody brilliant! A true Brit!
            When my 18 year old was born, my (American) husband thought it would be cool to call him “Ronnie” after my late father. Apart from the fact that “Ronnie” in the mid-west, would be “Ranny”, it was just too old a name. I’m now hearing of little boys called Ronnie. Pah!

  • Angela

    I have a neighbour who pushes her 8 year old, 5 year old and 3 year old in one of those giant bike strollers (minus the bike) to the bus stop every morning for the school bus, I kid you not !!!

    • dw

      It’s probably easier than trying to control them if they’re walking — you only have two hands.

      • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

        The younger two perhaps, but surely an 8 year old can be trusted or taught to walk safely and sensibly alongside his parent. Probably a prime example of the kid whining to get in the stroller with his siblings and it was just easier to give in.

  • Ellie

    I’m American….and I agree. Unfortunately, society has told parents they can’t tell children no – it hurts their feelings and we just can’t have that. If a child plays a sport…there’s no winning or losing, everyone gets a trophy for participating. Nuts! So, they grow up with an entitlement outlook and believe that they get what they want, when they want it and how they want it. Heaven forbid they actually have to work for anything. I’m not saying it’s everyone, of course, but the percentage is pretty high in my experience. Names, I could give you some really stupid names…I’ve been told a lot of the parents are taking part of the fathers name, part of the mothers, some of the grandparents and jumbling it together to make a name. From the way they sound, I don’t doubt it. One guy I’ve had dealings with is named Zero. What parent names their child, Zero? I hope I never understand it.

    • NewYorker

      I totally agree. Everyone is a winner. If the child can’t be on the soccer team because there are too many children and only the best will be picked, them parents have to run to the coach and demand that their child be added to the team. Lets not even start with names, some names sound like Yazzie tiles were thrown on the table and that’s the name the child is stuck with. Everyone has to be unique. I could go on and on…….

    • TrickyDick

      I’m also an American, and I grew up in the 80s, so maybe I’m not up to date with parenting trends today, but I did get trophies for every season of basketball or little league I completed, but I knew, without a doubt, that just getting a plastic trophy didn’t mean I’d “won” anything or was the best at the sport, or had done anything special. And we still knew darn well if we’d won or lost–and it didn’t change how we felt about winning or loosing. I think over-inflating anyone’s ego is a bad idea, but whenever American parenting comes up it always seems that people moan about how “everyone gets a trophy for participating.” The trophy-giving was just not that big a deal to us when I was growing up 25 years ago. Thinking it is requires thinking that kids can’t tell that they’re all getting the same thing, regardless of who’s better at the sport, and thinking that requires believing all kids are dumb. I’m sure other messages and parenting actions give kids a false perspective (when I was a TA instructing college students I ran into “it’s all about me” plenty of times), but people should get over the trophies already.

  • Fiona Wilson

    American children’s name are as diverse as people on the planet. I think it comes from background, a hankering after their home country, after their original customs and a positiveness which comes from looking forward. To me the use of surnames as Christian names is amusing if not confusing,and the use of place name makes me wonder if they used the same naming method as the Beckham’s. In my son’s class the following are used: Sydney, Denver and Hughston(sic), and Bentley(female), Harrison and Riley. In the same school the latter is used for both sexes. They are memorable nevertheless.

    As for the first few points about parenting trends made by the writer, I have seen as much in the US to think entirely the opposite. Americans do put a lot of time into their children, but is that so wrong? When it comes down to it, basic human instincts need to reproduce the healthiest, and strongest offspring to validate ourselves. Maybe they see more what is important?

    As proven by this blog the British carry a lot of negativity around with them. I can laugh at the anecdotes with the best, but if positive strokes can build a better self image then I would go with it. Too many Brits grow up feeling put down, or put in their place, and are willing to accept this.

    The final point about sport is only valid when it comes to how much money is put into collegiate sport which could actually be spent on learning and research by students. Schools can almost be chosen by which has the best football team, rather than the best course towards a career. A soccer mom is not really a mom who participates in the actual sport, but one who turns up come rain or shine to support their child. Given American families are larger than those in the U.K. one has to wonder how they can manage to be in say four places at the same time; no doubt grandparents help and at the same time are there at their grandchildren’s ‘triumphs and disasters’ ‘to treat them both the same’

    If I have reinforced any of my beliefs while living in America it is that the world is diverse and we should be more tolerant. If we tried harder to see the best in people rather than assume the worst it would be a direction worth going.

    • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

      I agree with your thoughts on the Brits and child-rearing; sometimes they could show a little more love! However, professionals who have to deal with young kids these days (employers, professors etc) are all commenting on how ill-equipped the kids are to deal with life’s knocks. We shouldn’t be protecting them from disappointment because they’ll get the shock of their lives when they enter the real world. We are actually doing them a huge disservice by fighting every fight for them (as some parents do). When they get to college, for example, many professors aren’t interested in why the paper was late, the student goes down a grade. End of.

    • MontanaRed

      Regarding the surnames (or places) as first names trend in the U.S.: The explanation I’ve heard from more than one parent is that they want a “gender-neutral” name for their daughter. Apparently, they don’t worry about this with sons. But surnames as first names also acknowledge family ties, especially on the distaff side, since those surnames don’t automatically follow the descendants. This has been common particularly in the the southern U.S. for decades, often resulting in children being called by a middle name to avoid confusion with another family member who may have the same names.

      Not for that reason, but for others, I was called by my middle name. When we moved from the South to the Midwest, children my age would say (a lot), “No. I mean what’s your REAL name?” — referring to my first (Christian name).

      Sorry if I’ve droned on here, but regional differences always fascinate me…

  • dw

    Names — you have a point. Believe it or not, “Jayden” is now the seventh most popular boy’s name in the USA. Wikipedia has a fascinating discussion of where this name came from — the story includes Will Smith and a “Star Trek” episode that aired on Valentine’s Day 1994.

  • Pingback: The crazy parenting checklist | Worst Dad Ever

  • Dana

    hi

    You can find more crazy baby names here :

    https://sites.google.com/site/allbabynames1

    Dana

  • June Smith

    My biggest peeve is parents who allow their 5, 6, sometimes older children to suck a pacifier.

    • carynmcdanielbroomby

      Mine too…my guy dumped his pacifier at 7 months and I never let him suck his thumb…we never had problems with him putting random things in his mouth and his teeth face downward instead of poking out like most kids….Hopefully I will have avoided the need for braces!!

  • Laura Thompson

    Sometimes, not all the time, parents need to cater to their children. My son has a feeding tube and I am trying to wean him. I am the mom that asks my 3 year old what he wants for dinner. I also bring several choices of snack. If he chooses what he eats, he eats better. For me, that works. Sometimes, things aren’t what they seem.

  • Rosanne

    1. Everything must come to a screeching halt if your child demands your attention. I’m not talking about shooing your child away for 3 hours on Facebook, but waiting a couple minutes until a mom finishes something is not child abuse!

    2. Parents sole purpose is to entertain their children. Um, that’s why I had 2 kids – so they could play with each other! I’m all for spending time with your kids, but I am not a 24/7 entertainment center. What drives me absolutely bonkers is when kids come over here and say they are boorrreeedddd as my kid suggests numerous activities. Um, we have a big side yard, a basketball hoop, tons of outside games and sporting equipment, board games, a Wii, movies. I’m sorry – I put away my top hat and cane and can’t entertain you at the moment. I once told a child, if you are that bored, I’ll take you home. Amazingly, he found something to do.

    • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

      Ha ha. I’ve done that too and the child said YES! #Momfail!

      • Rosanne

        Now that IS funny!

    • Jenn

      Once, a visiting playmate, said she was bored and both my daughters immediately hushed her. The exclaimed in horrified voices,” Sh, don’t let my mom hear you or we’ll all have to sweep the floors!” In my home, bored children are given chores! Let me tell you, I had the least bored children ever!

  • Lelene

    How about four year olds with pacifiers in their mouths and still wearing diapers, because when mom asks if they want to go potty they say ” no!” Instead of taking the time at two to say “it’s time to go potty.” parents today want to be friends to their kids instead of parents. Way too much time in planned activities instead of letting them be creative. My grandfather would put a bunch of wood scraps, nails, hammers and string in a bushel basket and let us create.

    • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

      I have a friend whose father is a pediatric orthodontic surgeon (phew) and he says the number one cause of the problems he sees is the thumb in the mouth, and second is the pacifier for more than one year.

  • Elizabeth TylerDawn Rosenquist

    Whoa, nothing wrong with Ryker, that kid isn’t named after a prison, but after a star trek character, which is always the sign of an enlightened mind ;)

  • Red Hen

    I don’t see this so much in rural Oregon. Kids have chores and there’s not much pavement. I don’t believe in old-fashioned spanking or any of that nonsense, but my children learned at the breast that if you bite you will get a sharp snap on the noggin with momma’s index finger. Authority was established, we worked from that base. But, alas…..I was a hippie parent of the 90s and my kids have those kinds of names :)

  • Nicole S.

    I see parents using those dreadful child harnesses with a leash on it. I feel like that is so trashy! Its a child, not a damn dog.

    • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

      Ha, interesting. Brought up in the UK, these were the norm. It avoided the constant bending over to hold a toddler’s hand, plus the inevitable opposition from the child. It also allowed the child a sense of freedom as well as both hands free to explore, carry stuff an generally be a toddler. Rather than thinking of them as a dog-type harness, it was considered just a practical way to get kids around safely. Given that British parents generally have their kids walk earlier than Americans (as we are discussing here), and the parent was probably carrying shopping bags, (therefore in need of an extra hand) it’s a cultural thing and a necessity if you have more than a few small children.
      When my oldest two were little (in the 90′s) I brought “reins” as they’re called, back from England. I can’t tell you the number of Americans who stopped to ask me where I got them.
      The biggest problem I ever had with them was that one of my kids used to relax his legs and swing on them.

  • Sandra L Mort

    I let my kids choose sling, stroller or leash until they reliably didn’t run away. I don’t care which they want as long as they’re safe.

  • amber

    This whole article is rather rude and judgemental. You diss both old and new names. (Leaving us with what exactly?…)Who should set the standards of what names are acceptable and which should be retired or added to the roster? Children in strollers may be large for their age or have a disability that isn’t easily detected just by looking at them. And the last part about sports is just untruthful. There are many countries where children are pushed and pushed to perform competively. It is not confined just to the US.

  • E.B.

    Wait one minute! I don’t disagree that Americans have gone looney tunes with the baby names, but what about Victoria and Becks? They have consistently gone awry with naming their offspring.

  • Pingback: What the U.S. Can Learn From British-Style Parenting | Mind The Gap | BBC America

  • Badw0lf

    I agree! My kids have sensible names, Tristan and Julian. And, when it comes to food at our house, the sign in my kitchen says it all. “This is a kitchen, not a restaurant. I don’t take orders.”
    When it comes to strollers and larger children, if they’re disabled that’s one thing, otherwise by 5 years old, they’re walking

  • momof2

    I totally agree and I am American. I have always said this country has gone crazy with the whole politically correct thing and with how we are raising our children with a sense of entitlement. I also hate how we have over-sexualized everything. We have turned the human body from something beautiful and functional into a strange combo of being taboo and overly sexy at the same time. No wonder so many girls grow up with distorted views of beauty and body image.

  • Crystal D

    I agree. While I am not a parent, I’ve seen people pick up these awful habits. When I was young, my mother MADE me walk when I outgrew my Bugaboo and I am very thankful for that. As an American, I think we should follow other nations when it comes to raising children.

  • John Joseph O’Brien

    I am an American male, 60yo. I am not interested in, nor have a ever been interested in sports, well maybe soccer. Please to not talk to me about or ask me about football or baseball OR basketball. Thank you.

  • Nikita

    im english , yeah and there isnt such thing as soccer moms . but there are soooo many jo’s and ellies. my name isnt crazy , its Nikita, but my brother’a name is Xander ( pronounced zan-der) thats different but its beautiful and NOT crazy!

  • Pingback: One Year On: A British Mum’s Update on Raising an American Baby | Mind The Gap | BBC America

  • Pingback: Parenting, Chinese style | This flooded sky