Bully Prevention- teaching kids to learn and respect different names

How did you choose your child’s name? Did you spend countless hours evaluating each possible choice, then eliminate some due to the “bullying” factor? Maybe the initials were terrible (F.A.T.) or maybe rhyming words made it too easy for possible taunting (“Smelly Nelly”). Kids can be merciless and I know we didn’t want our kids stuck with names that made them easy targets for bullies! Here’s the thing though, none of us really know if our kids are going to be the bullies or the ones being picked on. We can hope neither, but if we are spending so much effort avoiding them being a victim, we can also spend some time making sure they aren’t the bully, either.

Let me back up. I know some of you will be offended at the thought that your precious child would ever be considered  bully. After all, you’re going to raise them right. They will know how to show others kindness and respect in any situation. The thing is, as a former teacher, I know I’ve seen many great parents shocked that their well raised children would be bullying a peer. It happens. Be it peer pressure or just “playful taunting,” many kids who are bullies may not even realize what they are doing is hurtful. A little explicit instruction now can save a lot of heartache later. 

Here’s some simple tips to teach your child how to respect their peer’s names and prevent bullying:

Start with their name

Before I get into respecting others’ names, I’d like to stop and discuss how our kids can first introduce themselves to people by giving their own names. Learning that their names hold value and importance will help them begin to understand that other’s names are important as well.

Teaching our kids how to simply introduce themselves is all it takes to start practicing how to respect names. Set up a role playing situation for your child to practice saying something like “Hello, my name is John. You can call me Johnny if you want.” or “Hi! I’m Nelly! What’s your name? Can we play together?”

Respecting different names

Some of our children’s friends will have unique names- they may be cultural or difficult to pronounce due to language differences. I want my kids to learn to respect each of their friend’s names and use them properly, so one of our rules is we shouldn’t shorten a name (or give a nick names) to someone without their permission. Doing so can cause unintended hurt feelings (see the book My Name is Elizabeth by Annika Dunklee). Here are some books you may want to read with your preschoolers to begin the discussion of respecting our friends’ names:

Chrysanthemum and other tips and books about respecting our friend's names. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

the Name Jar and other tips and books about respecting our friend's names. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

My Name is Yoon and other tips and books about respecting our friend's names. My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits

Andy, That's my Name and other tips and books about respecting our friend's names. Andy, That’s my Name by Tomie De Paola

My Name is Elizabeth and other tips and books about respecting our friend's names. My Name is Elizabeth by Annika Dunklee

See more Books about Names in this post from Growing Book by Book

Learn and remember names

Once preschoolers are introduced to new friends, it may take time to really learn their names and be able to use them. Here are some tips to help your preschooler remember their new friend’s names:

  • Make friendship bracelets together. Use alphabet beads and yarn to make a bracelet with their new friend’s name on it.
  • When asking about your preschooler’s day, ask about their specific friends by using their names.Or when they talk their day, encourage them to tell you which “friend” they are referring to in their stories.
  • Make a simple photo gallery on your phone that features your preschooler and his/her friends (always get permission before taking pictures of any child that is not your own!) Let your children look through the album regularly to practice learning their names.
  • Teachers can make simple Name Recognition Crafts like these Paint stick ones. Let kids go to them regularly and practice spelling and recognizing their friend’s and classmate’s names.

Correcting People

Lastly, I want my kids to know it is OK to correct someone who does not say their name correctly (or offends them by giving an unwanted nick name). This means we have to practice what to do in these situations by role playing at home. By practicing, we can give our kids peaceful strategies on how to clear up misunderstanding or quickly correct a friend who may not have realized they hurt their feelings with an unwanted nick name. This is part of learning to respect others as well as ourselves.

Here’s a simple way to get started:

Parent: “Hey Billy, has anyone ever called you a name that you didn’t like?”

Billy responds and talks about which names he may have been called.

Parent: “That sounds like it hurt your feelings. I don’t think your friend meant to make you sad. Let’s practice how to tell them you don’t like that so it doesn’t happen again next time…”

How do you feel about this topic? Do you have any more tips we can add in?

Making Friends: Teaching Kids to Learn and Respect Different Names

Check out these other resources on making friends from the Early Childhood Education Team!

Role Playing How to Be a Good Friend by Mom Inspired Life
Songs About Friendship for Kinder and Pre-K by Capri +3
Teaching Kids About Friendship and Being a Good Friend by Raising Lifelong Learners
How to Play with Friends a Preschoolers Visual Guide and Game by Powerful Mothering
Helping Your Homeschooler Socialize by Still Playing School
Making Friends Even When You Are Homeschooled by Learning 2 Walk
Making Friends: Qualities We Look For in Friends by Tiny Tots Adventures
Book Friends by Growing Book by Book
Tips for Helping Preschoolers BE a Good Friend! #TeachECE by The Preschool Toolbox BlogFree Friends Play Dough Printable by Life Over C’s
Working Together to Create a Classroom Community by Fun-A-Day!
Teaching Kids How to Make Friends by The Educators’ Spin On It 

23 thoughts on “Making Friends: Teaching Kids to Learn And Respect Different Names”

  1. Pingback: Book Friends
  2. Names are so important for kids of all ages. What a fabulous book collection. We are going to start working on learning how to spell last names this month.

  3. I love that you teach to respect others names! My oldest daughter’s name is Aiyanna and people will often shorten it or she’s had her name made fun of due to people not really knowing how to pronounce it. We have had many talks and many times me calming her from other kids not being mean but not knowing any better. This is a very important thing to teach.
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  4. I teach preschoolers just one day a week in a school that serves homeschooling families. As a result, it is very difficult to get them acquainted with each others names. They don’t see each other enough. This post is going to help me, along with your book suggestions, to conquer that barrier this year! Thanks so much 🙂
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    1. I get the struggle! We do home preschool and are part of a mommy group. My boys see those friends maybe once a week and are slowly learning all their friend’s names as well. However, it is well worth the effort as it is a valuable lesson to teach them to begin to value a person by simply learning his/her name <3

  5. Found this article because of google. My daughter recently went through this at daycare and she was really down that her new friends made fun of her name. Her name is Esperanza which means Hope. Thank you for the books, I will head to the library and check them out. We have encouraged her to always speak for herself and she did, but it doesn’t take away from feeling being made fun of due to her name.

    1. Esperanza is such a beautiful name! As a matter of fact, one of my favorite chapter books when I was teaching fourth grade was “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan. I’m glad you found this post and I hope the books bring her some confidence in her beautiful name <3

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