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 peers may start to see themselves as completely helpless. A child with a sense of entitlement may insist they deserve better when they don’t get their 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 themselves as a victim will allow bad things to happen to them. They’ll assume there’s nothing they can do about the obstacles they encounter. They might believe their efforts to create change won’t be effective.

The child may refuse to ask for help when they don't know how to do their homework or when they're confused about a teacher’s instructions. They may also remain passive when their peers treat them 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 their energy into trying to gain sympathy. They may sulk, mope, and complain, rather than take steps to boost their mood or improve their 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, they 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. They 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 their hopes up. Even when told that they're going to do something fun, they might predict that it’s not going to work out. Their negative thinking will create unnecessary stress and make it more difficult for them to do their best or enjoy their time.

Blaming Everyone Else

A child with a "poor me" attitude blames everyone else for their unfortunate circumstances. They’ll insist that everyone is out to get them. they may even provoke others on purpose, so they can evoke a negative reaction that will reinforce their notion that everyone is mean to them.

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

Exaggerating Misfortune

A child who sees themselves as a victim will likely use words like "always" and "never" when describing their 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 that their 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, they may carry their "poor me" attitude into adulthood.  

A few small changes to the way you respond 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 they're a victim. 

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

 

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2 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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