Tips to Avoid Raising a Teen with a Victim Mentality
“It’s not MY fault!”
“That’s not fair!”
If you have a child, you have likely heard these statements yelled in your home at some point. These are common reactions to difficulties for children.
The problem is that we can unintentionally encourage this type of thinking, which can lead our kids to adapt a victim mentality – when a person tends to believe they are a victim of the negative actions of others even when evidence does not support that belief. Children with this mindset tend to feel sorry for themselves, exaggerate their misfortune, whine, and complain. If left unchecked, these whiny kids develop into whiny adults who don’t know how to take responsibility for themselves and feel like they are always treated unfairly.
Unfortunately, rejection, failure, disappointment, and unfairness are all just a part of life. They happen to everyone. How we handle these disappointments will ultimately determine our happiness and success in life. Parents need to encourage their teens to turn their struggles into strength. When your teen faces hardship, empower them to see themselves as a mentally strong person who can endure adversity. Here’s how:
Your teen needs to believe they are capable of handling difficulties. Their belief largely depends on YOUR belief in them. So, tell your teen, “I believe in you!” or “I know you can overcome this challenge!” If they feel empowered to improve their own situation, they will not feel like a victim. Point out times in the past when they have handled problems well or mention specific skills or talents your teen has that you think will help them overcome their struggle.
Show the Bright Side
Let your teen know that challenges develop positive character traits. We become patient when we are forced to wait, courageous when we have to face fear, resourceful when we have to find new solutions, persistent when we have to keep trying, and strong when we have to overcome a challenge. Our difficulties mold us into better versions of human beings.
Empathize without Encouraging the Mindset
You can listen to your child’s frustration without agreeing with what they are saying. You can tell your teen that you are sorry they are facing this challenge. You can agree that sometimes life isn’t fair. Do not argue with your child that their feelings are wrong, but also do not reinforce their feelings by adding more reasons they should feel victimized. It’s ok to allow your teen the opportunity to vent for a small window of time. But then you need to remind them that disappointments and struggles are a part of life, and how we handle them is what’s most important.
Develop Problem Solving Skills
Move your teen from complaining about the situation to positive action! Spending time whining or repeatedly wishing something didn’t happen is a waste of time and energy. Instead, ask your teen how they are planning to deal with the injustice they perceive. Encourage them to brainstorm how they could improve the situation or overcome the challenge. If you’re not sure how to help your teen with this step, please read our previous blog Teaching Problem Solving Skills.
Teach Positive Coping Skills
Everyone needs a positive way to deal with stress. Help your teen identify theirs! Activities like exercising, listening to music, dancing, drawing, writing in a journal, yoga, playing a musical instrument, taking a long bath, reading a good book, taking a walk, or spending time with a pet can all reduce stress.
Here are some previous blogs we have written that explain several positive skills you can use to help your teen cope with stress or feel empowered to handle challenges:
Getting cut from the soccer team or failing a class doesn’t make your child a victim. Instead, treat these ‘setbacks’ as a ‘setup for a comeback.’ Help your teen identify ways that they can take positive action, despite their circumstances. Sometimes we will want to “rescue” our teens from their difficulties, but try to keep the bigger perspective in mind. Difficulties are what develop character.