Is Your Child Normal?

by denny hagel on March 27, 2011

A majority of the questions I receive from parents begin with these three words... “Is it normal…?”
Whether it is an over-emotional teenager or a toddler who refuses to eat, parents want to know if what is happening with their child is typical of other children. In other words, should I be concerned or is this “normal” behavior which translates to “Do I need to be concerned or can I breathe easy?”

This is one of the most common pitfalls parents fall into.
Determining your level of concern based on the actions or behavior of another leads to a practice that can become extremely negative in a child’s life.

When parents adhere to a mindset that compares children in any way to others, they are robbing their child of a very important part of the critical and necessary foundation of developing a healthy self-esteem. If a parent thinks in terms of comparing, it will eventually seep out through their attitude and eventually their words they speak to their children.

Children who grow up being compared to others, even when the comparison is intended to positive, begin to see themselves less as a unique individual and more of an extension of the choices of those he/she is being compared to.

Society has committed a disservice to parents by misleading them into believing that a child’s potential is linked to those he/she is connected to, such as older siblings, parents and sometimes even those somewhat removed from everyday life such as grandparents, uncles/aunts or cousins.

For example, have you ever said to your child or heard in another family any of the following statements?
  • You are stubborn just like your father.
  • You are extremely sensitive like your mother.
  • You are just like you sister, she hated math to.
  • Our family doesn’t believe in….
  • Why can’t you behave like your sister does?
  • You run slow like your brother.
  • What a beautiful drawing. You’re an artist just like your Uncle Bill!
  • All of my children are talented athletes.
The list could go on and on but I think you get the idea.

The message children receive from hearing these kinds of statements undermines their ability to value themselves for “who they are.”

If it is a negative comparison they feel as if they have no control over themselves. They interpret this as a pre-determined fact about themselves that is a direct result of the family they were born into rather than seeing the situation as something that is in response to their choices or preferences.

When the comparison is positive in nature they lose the pride and sense of accomplishment that is rightfully theirs as a result of their choices and see it as a given as a result of who they are connected to.

I remember when my younger brother was born (the first son) and my father wanted to name him after him. My mother was not in favor of this. She was quite adamant about her feelings that this would not be fair to my brother.

She said, “How can we expect him to develop his own identity and self-worth if he goes through life without his own name?” My father won and my brother became a junior.
Years later when my mother and I spoke in length about the importance of parents nurturing and guiding children to be their own person we revisited this topic again.

She shared how she believed that she and my father needed to put a bit more effort into guiding my brother to develop a sense of individuality because she felt he was at a disadvantage by not having a unique name of his own.

Mother said, “Biology dictates what physical characteristics children will have that will publicly connect them to the family they are born to and that is plenty. Children need every opportunity to explore all they desire in order to find what makes them 'tick'.”

She added, “Comparing children to anyone, especially their siblings, is like drawing a line in the sand and labeling them 'good' or 'bad'. It is never a good idea and will risk hurting the relationship between the children because it will instill feelings of resentment. Besides, it interferes with their understanding of their responsibility they have over their lives.”

As parents, our first duty to our children is to empower them with an understanding of their value as an individual.

Whether your child becomes overly-emotional as a teenager or whether they dislike certain foods, it is always a result of what they feel, what they think and what they choose. The choices of others should not have any bearing on what is seen as good, bad, appropriate, inappropriate or NORMAL.

See your child as an individual with his/her own power of choice and guide them to make decisions based on what fits for them and then address each situation as unique to your child…

To provide you with a full and complete understanding of the devastating ramifications of comparing children to those he/she is connected to in life AND to learn the skills to avoid falling into this parenting pitfall, I have written Mini-Me Syndrome.

This is a book you will wish you had read years ago!
Don’t let another minute go by without this powerful
information that will have an enormous life-changing impact
your child’s life, now and in the future!

Denny Hagel is a child advocate and parenting coach, devoting over 25 years to the success and well being of all children. She is the published author of over 50 articles on parenting, several of which have attracted international attention, and is a contributor to the parenting section of "The Infinite Field Magazine".

Denny was blessed with forward thinking parents who raised her with an understanding of her value as an individual, her innate power to choose by way of her thoughts, ideas, opinions and beliefs, thus, instilling in her a strong sense of personal responsibility for what happens in our lives

She is the founder of Awakened Parenting LLC, a company dedicated to helping parents release parenting paradigms of the past and consciously choose to raise their children to approach life with a positive mindset and strong sense of self. It is Denny’s passion to combine what she learned through her formal education in early childhood education and psychology and what her parents instilled in her and pass this on to all parents.

Denny has created the discussion group "Awakened Parenting Discussion Forum" on Face Book which now has over 700 members.  She does on line coaching with parents and teachers who consult her on a regular basis. Denny collaborates with counselors, authors, coaches and others working in the parent coaching field. Denny Hagel is the author of "Mini-Me Syndrome" and two free e-booklets “Parenting Using the Law of Attraction” and Becoming an Awakened Parent".

  • Carol Rosenberg Giambri

    Denny, super post. Seeing kids as individuals is so important. They can never live up to be someone else even “inheriting” another person’s name. What amazes me is how some kids not even knowing their distant relative but can take on the characteristics of that person they never knew or spoke to. After reading this I am not in favor of passing on the same name like John Jr., John I, John 2. As parents we always hope we allow our kids their power of choice to learn and grow through.

  • Denny Hagel

    Thanks Carol! I agree, it is so unfair to set our expectations of one based on the actions and choices of another. Thanks for commenting!

  • Dlangley66

    I am always amazed at the people who make the choice to name their children, jr, the II, or III. This is a misguided idea that they are giving their children a name when in fact they are living vicariously through their children.

    There are many problems that come from this, the childs ego is either damaged or over inflated because of having to work so hard to be noticed. Then later on in life when they need to have their own identity they don’t have it.

    I feel no one should ever be named a Junior, II or the III…I think it is in a sense robbing the indiviudual of who they are to become.

  • Carla J Gardiner

    I wish I had read this years ago when raising my two kids. Although we never compared the two, somehow they compared themselves. With this information maybe we could have helped them through those formative years.

    As a grandma of four I highly recommend any parent or grandparent get Denny’s book. Packed full of good solid guidance for raising up kids with self esteem instead of numerous issues.

  • Elvie Look

    I wish I could call you mom! We had one strange aunty in our family, and I HATED it when mom would say “you are just like Anne!” I was nothing like her and to this day that still bothers me. I resent those comparisons too. You have excellent reasoning, love your article! Thanks “mom!” 😀 I am adopting you.

  • Naomi

    All very true and I am very tempted to buy mini me. I look at my kids and think where do they get that from often – oh yes me!

  • Denny Hagel

    Consider it done…you are now officially adopted! (so now get over here and organize my kitchen Ha!) Thank you so much for your comments and sweet words, being called Mom has always been the highest compliment…Blessings~

  • Denny Hagel

    Naomi, I know exactly what you mean…that moment of “aha”…it’s a natural thing for kids to pick up from what we model…I sometimes catch my grandkids doing or saying something that I know comes from me or their grandfather and I have to stop them and remind them that is my choice or opinion or whatever the case may be and encourage them to give it thought to be sure it is what they think or want and not just “following” in our footsteps…high five to you for being so observant with your kids! Thanks for sharing!

  • Denny Hagel

    I really appreciate your words of support Carla! Thanks! HUGS! :)

  • Denny Hagel

    Well said Donna! You make a great point of the damage it does to their ability to gain a sense of their own identity. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Anonymous

    Denny, as you know, I work with women who want to get control over their finances. This article added a new tool to my arsenal: I had not considered how childhood comparison with others could be hindering their natural tendency to control an aspect of their life that is so fundamental: their money. Thank you!

  • Dlangley66

    Hi Sharon,
    I work with people and their financials issues as well.

    It is amazing how many have not been taught to reason through their financial troubles. For many years I have observed, listened and assisted by teaching them what to do. It is also amazing to me how closely tide money troubles and emotional troubles are tied together. Bless you Sharon for helping these women become strong, and helping them with a most fundemental part of life.

    Thank you also, for helping me to realize I am on exactly the right path.Blessings love and light.

  • Anonymous

    Just like Elvie’s comment below, I hated it when my mother would always compare me to others in the family in a negative way too! I think so far I’ve successfully managed not to do the same to my child, and I cringe when I hear other parents doing so to their kids. (I’m sure I’m probably messing up in some other way, but I think I’m on top of this one.) Thanks so much Denny!

  • Denny Hagel

    Lily, Thanks for commenting…parenting is an on going learning process even for ole’ grandma’s like me!Ha!:)

  • Susan McKenzie

    It’s amazing how long-lasting and far-reaching those comparisons have… I remember, as if it were yesterday, my mother comparing my hair to my sister’s… and from that day forward, I always believed I was ugly and worthless. I try very hard not to continue this pattern in my own family! Denny, what you are doing for today’s and tomorrow’s families is invaluable… thanks so much for adopting all of us into your family, through your writing!

  • Denny Hagel

    Susan, your comment nearly brought me to tears…It is amazing how one instance like your mother’s comment about your sister’s hair can affect a child. I see this so often which is why I wrote Mini-Me Syndrome. I truly believe parents are completely unaware of the impact an innocent statement has…and if they knew they would never ever repeat it. It is the awareness that makes the difference…thank you for sharing your personal experience, it will be a real eye-opener for so many. Blessings~

  • Olga Hermans

    Yeah, it is very important to let our children know that they are unique in themselves. Every fingerprint and every voice is uniquely made and so is our character; we all have a destiny given by God. Especially our kids need to know that, that they were planned and that they should compare themselves with others. I think I have said things like that to my own children though, but not to my grandchildren..I’ve learned!! :)

  • Denny Hagel

    Thanks for sharing your insights Olga…I love your analogy of our uniqueness beginning with our fingerprints!

  • Claudia Looi

    A great article. My mom was just here recently and we were talking about how she always compare me with my neighbor’s daughter. How deep the wound was to be compared with another. When I became a mother, I compare my daughter with my neighbor’s daughter. We agreed it was unhealthy. Thank God I see the need to change and be free. Denny you are doing a great job.

  • Denny Hagel

    Thank you Claudia, as parents we often don’t realize that what we do or say has the potential to negatively impact our children on such a powerful level. Our self-esteem is so fragile…congratulations for recognizing this, your daughter is blessed to have you for a mom!

  • Jacqueline Nunan

    I have a child who will never been normal – she has a different set of gifts to most, and school is making her very aware of that as children begin to compare themselves more. Our school, however, is Montessori, and relieved of the need to be taught as a group, children are encouraged to pursue their own interests and their own talents in a way that makes it easy for children to embrace their own individualism. When everyone is special, no one is “normal”, and that’s the way it should be. Turning to the idea of comparisons, this worries me quite a lot as I have one child who is intellectually gifted, and one who is a brilliant, sunny, perfectly normal child. I try not to compare them, but there will be times when I want one to be more calm and relaxed like her sister, and times when I will wish the other was more focused and directed. I guess the lesson is to help them learn from each other, without suggesting either is in any way lacking, or wrong in being who they are.

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