6 Signs Your Child Has a Victim Mentality

Sulking young girl in beach chair
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A victim mentality is an unhealthy, self-destructive attitude that can develop for a variety of reasons. A child who is bullied by his peers may start to see himself as completely helpless, or a child with a sense of entitlement may demand he deserves better when he doesn’t get his way. 

A victim mentality isn’t an attractive quality and it won’t serve your child well in life. It’s important to be on the lookout for the signs that your child is developing a ‘poor me’ attitude. Here are six warning signs that could indicate your child has a victim mentality:

Acting Helpless

A child who sees himself as a victim will allow bad things to happen to him. He’ll assume there’s nothing he can do about the obstacles he encounters. He might believe his efforts to create change won’t be effective.

He may refuse to ask for help when he doesn’t know how to do his homework or when he’s confused about a teacher’s instructions. He may also remain passive when his peers treat him unkindly. This helpless attitude increases the chances that a child will become victimized by others.

Hosting Pity Parties

Self-pity and a victim mentality go hand-in-hand. While one child may say things like, “I never get to do anything fun,” another child may say, “No one likes me.”

Rather than look for solutions to real problems, a child who feels like a victim may invest her energy into trying to gain sympathy. She may sulk, mope, and complain, rather than take steps to boost her mood or improve her situation.

Focusing on the Negative

If nine good things happen, and one bad thing, a child with a victim mentality will focus on the negative. Even when something positive happens, he may dismiss his good fortune by saying something like, “Well that won’t ever happen again,” or “He was just being nice because you were there.”

A victim mentality causes kids to overlook the good things in life. And the more they focus on the negative, the worse they feel. It's a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle.

Predicting Doom and Gloom

A child with a victim mentality is likely to make catastrophic predictions. She may say things like, “I’m going to fail that test tomorrow,” or “Everyone is going to laugh at me in the spelling bee.”

Your child may be afraid to get her hopes up. Even when told that she’s going to do something fun, she might predict that it’s not going to work out. Her negative thinking will create unnecessary stress and make it more difficult for her to do her best or enjoy her time.

Blaming Everyone Else

A child with a ‘poor me’ attitude blames everyone else for his unfortunate circumstances. He’ll insist that everyone is out to get him. He may even provoke others on purpose, so he can evoke a negative reaction that will reinforce his notion that everyone is mean to him.

He may also struggle to accept personal responsibility for his behavior. Rather than acknowledge the role he played in a squabble, for example, he’ll likely blame everyone else and insist there was nothing he could do about it.

Exaggerating Misfortune

A child who sees himself as a victim will likely use words like ‘always’ and ‘never’ when describing his circumstances. You’ll likely hear things like, “I never get to do anything fun,” or, “The other kids are always mean to me.”

This type of all-or-nothing thinking means that a child will struggle to recognize exceptions to the rule. Even when someone points out evidence to the contrary, a child with a victim mentality is likely to insist his perception is accurate.

Helping a Child With a Victim Mentality

While all kids likely think they're a victim of a cruel world sometimes, for some kids a victim mentality becomes pervasive. And without help from an adult, she may carry her "poor me" attitude into adulthood.  

A few small changes to the way you respond to your child may successfully curb your child's victim mentality. Respond in a supportive manner, but make it clear that striking out in the baseball game or failing a math test doesn't mean she's a victim. 

If your child’s negative view of the world interferes with her daily life—school, friendships, and other activities—seek professional help. A victim mentality may be a sign of a mental health problem, like depression or anxiety.


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Article Sources
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  1. Goens GA. It's Not My Fault: Victim Mentality and Becoming Response-able. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 2017.

  2. Cole DA, Maxwell MA, Dukewich TL, Yosick R. Targeted peer victimization and the construction of positive and negative self-cognitions: connections to depressive symptoms in children. J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2010;(39)3:421-35.  doi:10.1080/15374411003691776

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