As parents, we want to learn how to raise kids without a victim mentality, but we also want to do it in a loving way.
We don’t want our kids to hurt. There is a drive to stop the pain, get angry for the injustice they experience and fix their problems. It’s natural because we want the best for them.
What if the best for them isn’t fixing their problems but helping to teach them to overcome them? It is!
How to Raise Kids Without a Victim Mentality
I want to present some simple steps to overcoming a victim mentality. While this is a resource for parenting, it can also empower us to take ownership over our lives and not become the victims ourselves.
Important Note: This article is not addressing issues when kids are really a victim of abuse . If there is bullying, physical abuse, or sexual abuse, greater intervention is required. Yes, there is still hope that they will overcome these awful life situations and find real hope. However, as adults and parents we must stand up and fight for children when they are subject to abuse of any kind.
It may be counter intuitive to start with showing empathy to our kids if we are trying to stop victim mentality. However, brain research shows that developing empathy is one of the top two predictors of social competency. Read about that here.
Showing empathy acknowledges their feelings. While we want to mold and shape what they do with their feelings, it is important and healthy for kids to be able to express anger, frustration, sadness and hurt. Those feelings are very real to them. The pain must be recognized before finding a solution.
It’s sometimes natural to want to say things like, “Buck up,” or “Life’s not fair.” Although often true, those phrases feel trite and encourage kids to suppress their feelings, which is not helpful in their development.
Help Them Take Ownership
Help kids learn to take ownership over situations. In a marriage ministry I took part in, a common phrase in the program was, “Draw a circle around yourself and fix everything inside of that circle.”
We cannot change the way other people act. Sure we can an influence others by modeling desirable behavior, but we really only have the power to change ourselves.
Help kids reflect on better ways to handle a situation.
My daughter recently went to winter camp. She came home saddened by the experience. Most of the kids had a cell phone. She did not. At free time, many of the kids would sneak back to their room to engage with their phones rather than with the other kids.
I’m not going to lie. I was angry at the situation. The kids were asked not to bring phones, but no one enforced the rule. I was saddened. Our kids were more interested in phones than one another. They were head down rather than looking for opportunities to engage, play, and experience life.
After empathizing and feeling those emotions of anger and sadness myself, I had to ask the question, “What did you do?”
The response was telling. “I curled up on my bed and rested.”
There were other kids at camp without phones. Other children chose to play in the snow, engage in games or watch the group movie. My daughter had a choice. She could stick close to the friends with whom she was most comfortable but who were on their phones OR make new friends. My daughter could have chosen to interact with others, talk to a leader or go out sledding.
She had a choice. Curl up in your bed or take ownership over the situation and make the best of it.
I’m convinced that her weekend away could have been spectacular if SHE made a different choice.
With each hurdle, we have different ways to respond. We can blame the hurdle. There’s the option to not jump over but sit down and moan about it. The other choice is to find a way around the hurdle. Some of us will leap and others will walk around it, but there is a way to respond without a victim mentality.
Help Them to See the Positive
How to raise kids without a victim mentality? Help them see the positive.
I have been of the mindset that you are either born a pessimist or an optimist. We are seeing a counselor who is a clinical psychologist with a PhD. With 40 years of research and experience, he has a passion for how the brain works.
He said to me in our first session that he does not believe most people are born either optimistic or pessimistic. It’s all about the pathways we create in our brain.
These pathways in our brains are like sledding hills. The well-groomed sledding hills are easier and faster. If you took your sled to a new area of snow, it would take time and effort to create a great sledding situation in powder that had not yet been compacted.
In the same way, our brain have been taught, through our environment, our personality and our own choices, to go down the most developed path. For some the most groomed pathway is optimism, while for others it is pessimism.
Like Pollyanna, we can learn to play the “Glad Game” and choose optimism. We can develop different pathways in our brains by stopping negative thoughts and finding the good. The more we do this, the more those optimistic pathways are groomed. We can teach our kids to do the same.
After learning this, I have been working on developing more optimistic thoughts, and it is working. This verse is the one I’m claiming this year, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” – Romans 12:2
Philippians 4:8 is another life verse, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
Some situations make it more challenging to see the positive, but we can always have hope that God can use all of our life circumstances…the ones Satan intended for evil…for good. Our horrible situation can create in us empathy, perseverance, strength, and a reliance on God.
I know women who were sexually abused that now use their experience to help others who have also been through a similar situation. They support and work at organizations that fight sex trafficking or help in counseling. They were empowered to find purpose through their pain.
These women could have taken on a victim mentality, but they found hope in using their bad for good.
Teach Problem-Solving Skills
We don’t like to watch our kids suffer or struggle. What if we could change our own mentality about the conflict? What if we saw it as an opportunity to teach them to problem solve through their troubles?
I am the kind of parent that too often jumps in with a solution. We are older and have more experience. The answer may be clear to us.
However, it is important when considering how to raise kids without a victim mentality to teach THEM to problem solve.
Part of this process, as parents, is learning to ask good questions rather than provide the solutions. Let’s take the situation where a child comes home and says, “I don’t have any friends?”
I address this issue in this article, but let’s hash it out here too. Asking questions not only helps us understand the situation deeper, but it also allows kids to reach their own conclusions about how to improve the situation.
Questions for this problem might include:
- Who have you asked to play with you? How did they respond?
- Have you found anyone with similar interests?
- How can I support you in trying to make new friends? Would you like me to reach out to parents to invite someone over?
- Have you taken an interest in others and what they are doing?
- What are some of your behaviors that might be off-putting to people?
- Is there a way we can improve how we respond to or interact with others?
- Who is one person you’d like to become closer to? How could you interact with them in a positive way?
- Who do you think might need a friend?
- What are some things you could ask others to show a genuine interest in them? Can you think of any good conversation starters?
Sometimes by just brainstorming together and having them make a plan and take ownership over that plan can greatly improve their situation.
Teach Kids How to Think of Others
All sin seems to be wrapped up in these two problems: selfishness and pride. Selfishness is at the root of all kinds of issues in marriage and other family and friend relationships. It is natural and something with which we all struggle.
Selflessness or thinking of others first, is a solution to the issue of having a victim mentality.
A victim mentality keeps us in a spot of thinking about ourselves constantly. Poor me. Why me? It’s not fair for me.
The fix is to develop the skills of considering others. Rather than dwelling on self-pity. Let’s help kids look up. Where can we serve? Who needs me to help them? Who needs a friend? How can I be part of the solution?
Stop Victim Mentality Speaking
It’s time to tackle the words we choose. There are things our kids might say that clue us in to a victim mentality mindset.
Looks for the following phrases:
- “It’s not my fault.”
- “It’s not fair.”
- “She/he made me do it.”
- “I couldn’t help it.”
Point out when you see this kind of victim talk and help end it.
Teach Cause and Effect
Many parents want to come to their child’s aid to help ease the pain and solve the problem. It’s important to teach them their weight of their own choices. This involves letting them experience natural consequences rather than coming to the rescue.
Here are some examples:
- If you forget your lunch, you will be hungry.
- If you don’t study, you will get a bad grade.
- If you don’t take your jacket, you will be cold.
- If you don’t turn in the permission slip, you will not go on the field trip.
- If you do not follow the rules, you will get detention.
- If you do not finish your chores, you will not get to go to your friend’s house.
The following list shows them they have the power to achieve a certain outcome. They can’t rely on us or others to ease the pain of consequences. It’s sometimes hard to let them experience the impact of their own choices, but we must.
Talk About How the World Is
The world is unjust. People can be jerks.
If your kid has a “mean” teacher, it can be frustrating. It might just mean they are more strict or not as warm and fuzzy as teachers in the past. Acknowledge it is hard, but also let them know they they might have a mean boss someday. Life is full of mean people. When they are young and in your care, you have the opportunity to teach them how to respond to different personality types.
When kids go in with the mentality – my teacher is too strict, my coach isn’t fair, my situation is too hard – it transfers to adulthood – It’s my husband’s fault, my boss is mean, it’s the government’s fault.
While I have encouraged you to not immediately respond with, “Life’s not fair,” the truth is, life’s not fair. While under your roof, you have the opportunity to recognize injustice. How do we work against and around that injustice?
The world can be tough. How are we going to respond? Do we lay down and moan or do we stand up and fight? Can we be part of the situation that makes it better?
Each one of our life experiences, the good and the bad, gives us the opportunity to be shaped into a better person. I love the quote, “It’s the rocks in the bed that give the stream its song.”
If you haven’t seen Will Smith’s lesson about responsibility, I encourage you to watch it here (language warning if kids are around…damn is used):
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As selfish people, it can be easy and natural to take on victim mentality. As parents, we must be intentional about fighting that mentality.