Victim Mentality in Children: Nip it in the Bud!

victim mentality in children

I can’t. It’s too hard. Nobody likes me. I need you to do it because I’ll do it wrong. I’d really like a pencil like that but I’ll never be able to have one. I can’t do anything right. I have a stomachache, that’s why I didn’t clean my room. My teacher’s dumb, that’s why I got a C. It’s not fair; you don’t love me.  Whine, mope, and complain.
STOP!!! I can’t stand it!

Pretty soon we feel like the victims of our children’s victim mentality, and it’s too easy to react from our irritation (which only reinforces victim mentality) instead of our duty to help our kids take responsibility.

So let me give you some tips on how to nip this behavior in the bud.

First of all…

Why would my kid want to be a victim??

Good question!

There are a lot of reasons, but for the most part it’s all about control.

…How can being victim make people feel like they’re in control?

1. Because they get attention…

2. Because it’s easier to blame then take responsibility!

3. Believing if they’re victims, the rules don’t apply to them.

4. Victims get their feelings validated.

5. Because if they’re not responsible, they don’t have to change!

6. If expectations are low, they won’t get hurt over and over again…

7. People won’t have expectations of them.

8. They won’t have to take any risks.

9. They mistakenly believe pity equals love, and willingness to listen is intimacy.

Control through victimhood unfortunately works, otherwise it wouldn’t continue.

But… it comes with a heavy price tag;

A much bigger price than the discomfort of just taking responsibility!


However, victim mentality has it’s costs!

These are the costs of a victim mentality: 

1. Low self-esteem;

2. Entitlement;

3. Distrust;

4. A belief that life is hard;

5. Social problems;

6. Lack of resilience;

7. Feelings of powerlessness;

8. Vulnerability to predators;

9. A victim mentality is undesirable and unattractive;

10. The inability to identify their strengths;

11. Stunted life skill development;

12. The constant burden of anger and resentment;


“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non pharmaceutical narcotics; it’s addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality”  ~ John W. Gardner

 How can I turn this victim mentality around for my child?

First take an honest look at yourself to see if you’re contributing to this debilitating behavior.

Ask yourself…

  1. Do I think I’m a victim…and if so, how am I modeling victim mentality behavior?
  2. Do I cover for my children so they don’t have to suffer natural consequences?
  3. Do I make excuses for my children?
  4. Do I cave and give into my child’s neediness when their whining becomes relentless?
  5. Am I afraid to allow my children to feel negative emotion?
  6. Do I belittle them or make them scapegoats?
  7. Am I so strict they can’t win?
  8. Am I so lenient they don’t have to win?


Demand a family culture of accountability.

  1. Take control (That means you, the parent).
  2. Give your kids opportunities to see they can do hard things.
  3. Be clear about your values and make sure your children adhere to them, i.e., we keep our word, we finish things, we don’t blame, we are responsible.
  4. Help them set and accomplish goals
  5. Help them understand that in everything, there are choices.

Easier said then done, right?

 Practical tips for creating a family culture of accountability:

 1. Don’t lecture your children about the dangers of victimhood. They will feel victimized by your lecture and also receive attention for their dysfunctional behavior. Instead look for opportunities to discuss it naturally. It’s easier to talk about others when dealing with difficult topics. Find examples on TV and make comments.

2. Don’t respond to their direct criticism, don’t get sucked into their emotion, and don’t give advice. Usually, they don’t want to change and are only looking for validation and permission to be a victim.  Instead, validate their emotion and the predicament they’re in, and then reassure them that you know they will figure it out.

3. Some kids don’t have the skills to solve a problem. If that’s the case then teach them, but be careful not to do the work for them.

4. Give plenty of affection and praise when your children make a choice, complete an expectation, or express a personal opinion about a general topic.

5. For young children, talk about super heroes and the different powers they possess. Explain that victim behavior is like super heroes giving away their super powers.  We all know what happened to Spiderman when he did that and what happens to Superman when he is given kryptonite. Thank you Heather for that great idea)

6. Teach your children to be grateful and see the good in their lives. My daughter Cara shared an example of what she did in her family when her four year-old Sammy was feeling down in the dumps.

“So, tonight at dinner we started talking about one of my favorite songs “Count Your Blessings” – it is a happy song that has helped me through some rough moments. We sang the song and decided to count our blessings- we got the camera and started taking pictures of the good in our world. Beds, toys, our family, then he said “church”- so to his surprise, we hopped in the van and went to our church and took a picture – we took a picture of the American flag and parks. We took pictures of shoes and ice cream. – Once he got started “counting his blessings” he couldn’t stop – he has a whole list of things he wants to take pictures of tomorrow. We decided to make a “count our blessings” wall. I’m going to develop the pictures and hang them on a wall so when we struggle, we can go the wall that will be covered; I’m sure, in pure goodness from God. I have never taken that song so literally before, and tonight for the first time in weeks, MY SAMMY was back. Mike and I sat on a bench with Ben watching Sam and Claire play at a park tonight as the sun set and honestly – amid life’s billows and raging tempests- all was right in the world. It was a moment of perfection…. all starting from a conversation around the dinner table about counting our blessings.”

7. Teach your children that we all make mistakes, and they are not to be feared but are opportunities to learn and grow. That means, don’t be reactive when you are correcting them.

8. Hold your children accountable for their behavior and choices. Talk with them about others taking responsibility for their behavior and choices when the opportunity presents itself.


Victim mentality is not only annoying (like fingernails scratching a chalkboard), but also a serious detriment to a child’s personal development:

If it is allowed to continue, the consequences range from developing a dependent personality disorder to living a crisis ridden life, to carrying around resentment and pessimism that can lead to depression.


Chronic victim mentality keeps children from learning how to depend on themselves and be trustworthy to others. Sadly, it keeps their capacity for greatness hidden.


Let’s help our kids see what super powers they possess and throw the kryptonite far into the galaxy by creating a family culture of accountability where accepting responsibility is as valuable as spinach is for Popeye :)

Disclaimer: I understand there are legitimate victims who deserve all of the support and love that can be offered.

This post is not about them.

Quotes about victim mentality:

Conscious parenting inspiration >>

  • Joy

    Hi Barb-great article on helping your child not live a victim lifestyle. I have a 12 year old that is definitely in the danger zone. Really will be working on that. What I really wanted to comment on is your disclaimer. Yes there are legitimate victims who are deserving of love and support. As a legitimate victim myself of years of sexual abuse as a child, I appreciate all the support I received over the years, but I refuse to be a victim. I think we have to be just as careful not to teach people, especially children, how to be victims, even in the face of terrible things that have happened to them.