6 Signs Your Child has a Victim Mentality

A child with a victim mentality will sulk when she doesn't get her way.
David Hollingworth / Moment / Getty Images

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:

1. 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 may also 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 can increase the chances that a child will become victimized by others.

2. 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 insist his life is horrible and there’s nothing he- nor anyone else- can do about it.

He may prefer to sulk, mope, and complain, rather than take steps to boost his mood.

3. 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.”

4. Predicting Doom and Gloom

A child with a victim mentality is likely to offer negative predictions about the future. He 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 his hopes up. Even when told that he’s going to do something fun, he may predict that it’s not going to work out. His negative thinking will likely drag him down and put a damper on the fun.

5. 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.

6. 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

If your child always views himself as a victim, intervene quickly to prevent him from carrying this attitude into adulthood. Take steps to address your child’s victim mentality before it gets worse.

If your child’s negative view of the world interferes with his daily life – school, friendships, and other activities, seek professional help.

Sometimes, a victim mentality can be a sign of a mental health issue, like depression or anxiety.

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