Would You Let Someone Pay to Name Your Baby?

Some grandparents-to-be are ensuring that a family name is passed on by paying their children to give their newborns a certain baby name. Would you consider it?

Would You Let Someone Pay to Name Your Baby? bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock

If your jaw dropped when you heard that some grandparents-to-be are paying expectant mothers and fathers to choose a certain name for their baby, you aren't alone. When I watched a segment about it on Today, I had one thought: Who does that?

Laura Wattenberg, founder of Baby Name Wizard, hears regularly from expectant parents who are under pressure to keep a name in the family. She hasn't encountered grandparents who paid their children to give an infant a particular name, and said this is not a trend.

"Most parents would not give up control of their child's name choice for anything," she says. "One of the beautiful things about baby names is that they're supposed to be free."

Why all the baby name drama?

The pressure to carry on a family name is nothing new, especially in certain cultures. Just a few decades ago, it was a given that a child would bear a grandparent's name either as their first or middle name, explains Maryanna Korwitts, a nameologist at the The Baby Naming Experience. Though times have changed, some grandparents are intent on keeping their legacy alive.

Korwitts contends that paying for baby names is popular. "It's very common in the families that I work with, more common than people would think," she says.

In most cases, Korwitts finds that grandparents offer to buy the couple a house, pay for the grandchild's education or hand over a family business to the child if the couple passes on their moniker.

The art of name persuasion

Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert at The Protocol School of Texas, believes the choice of a child's name should stay between the mother and father. Asking to give the child a specific name is "stepping over a line."

If the grandparents approach the expectant couple, they should word the conversation carefully. Instead of asking, "Would you consider using this family name?" Gottsman says to ask, "Are you going to continue with this family name?"

Otherwise, trying to compensate someone to give their child a specific name is a "desperate attempt" for control, Gottsman says.

"It's a not-so-indirect form of bribery" she adds.

Related: How to Avoid the Most Common Conflicts Over Baby Names