How to Curb Your Child's Victim Mentality

Concerned father putting his arm around his young son
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It's important for your child to know that failing a science test or striking out in the game doesn't make her a victim. Failure, rejection, and disappointment are part of life. Help your child learn to take personal responsibility for the way she thinks, feels, and behaves so she doesn’t go through life insisting she’s a victim of mean people and unfortunate circumstances. Even when she faces hardship, empower your child to see herself as a mentally strong person who can endure adversity.

Tips for Preventing a Victim Mentality

Whether you’re already seeing warning signs of a victim mentality, or you’re hoping to prevent the ‘poor me’ attitude before it starts, here are seven steps you can take to empower your child:

Create Gratitude Rituals

Gratitude keeps self-pity at bay. Spend time talking about what you’re grateful for every day. Even when you encounter difficult circumstances, role model a grateful attitude.

Create daily rituals that will help your child recognize all the reasons they have to be grateful. Here are a few ideas:

  • At dinner, ask your child about the best part of her day.
  • At bedtime, ask them to name three good things that happened.
  • Create a gratitude bulletin board and pin notes to it describing what you’re grateful for each day.

Silence Negative Thinking

Some kids tend to have a more pessimistic outlook than others. But with a little help, they can recognize their negative thinking may not be accurate. Help your child silence their negative thinking by looking for exceptions to the rule. If they insist, “I don’t ever get to do anything fun,” remind them of the fun activities they've recently participated in. If they say, “No one ever likes me,” point out people who do.

Face Uncomfortable Emotions

Teach your child how to deal with uncomfortable emotions, like fear, anxiety, anger, and sadness. Kids who have healthy coping skills are less likely to insist that minor events are catastrophic. Discipline your child’s behavior, not the emotion. Let them know that emotions are OK but that it’s important to handle those emotions in a socially appropriate manner. Teach them healthy ways to express their feelings and prevent them from hosting their own pity party every time they get upset.

A child who has confidence in their ability to handle disappointment won’t lament that life isn’t fair when it’s time to leave the playground, for example.

Teach Problem-Solving Skills

Kids who lack problem-solving skills are likely to take a passive approach to life. A child who doesn’t know how to do their math homework may resign themself to a failing grade without even trying to find a solution. Or, a child who doesn’t make the soccer team may conclude they're a terrible athlete.

Teach your child how to problem-solve. A child who takes action when they face hardship is much less likely to see themself as a helpless victim. Kids with good problem-solving skills can prevent small stumbling blocks from turning into major obstacles.

Help Other People

It’s easy for kids to think they have the biggest problems in the world. Showing them that there are plenty of other people with bigger problems can help them see that everyone faces hardships. Helping other people can show your child that no matter how young they are, or no matter what problems they've experienced, they have the ability to help someone else.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen, help an elderly neighbor with yard work or participate in a fundraising project. Get your child involved in community service activities on a regular basis so they can recognize opportunities to make the world a better place.

Teach Assertiveness Skills

Teach your child that he doesn’t have to be a passive victim. If another child grabs a toy from their hand, help them ask for it back. Or, if they're being picked on by other kids at school, talk about how to ask a teacher for help. Kids with assertiveness skills can speak up and say, “Don’t do that,” or “I don’t like it when you do that.” Empower your child to use their words and you’ll reduce the likelihood that they’ll become a victim.

Role Play Tough Situations

Role-playing serves as a wonderful teaching tool because kids learn best when they have an opportunity to practice their skills first-hand. Help your child learn to avoid a victim mentality by showing them how to proactively deal with tough situations. If they say no one plays with them at recess, help them practice asking if they can play with you. When they realize their choices in responding to tough situations, they'll be more likely to take positive action. 

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  1. Vries MFKD. Are you a victim of the victim syndromeOrganizational Dynamics. 2014;43(2):130-137. doi:10.1016/j.orgdyn.2014.03.007.


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