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The Victim Mentality: Help Your Children Avoid It

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Parents, you want your child to grow up to be an independent, considerate and confident member of society, right? Of course, trials and tribulations are a part of life, and you can’t prevent your kids from going through those circumstances. But how do you keep them from adopting a victim mentality or mindset?

Think about it. If you watch the news, you probably hear the word “victim” every day. Dr. Dean Beckloff of Beckloff Pediatric Behavioral Center says that when you hear about someone being victimized—on the news, in conversations, anywhere—it can seep into our hearts and minds.

With that in mind you have to consider this question: Where does a victim mentality come from? “There’s an old song, ‘Somebody Done Somebody Wrong,’” Beckloff says, “and it seems to be the lament of our society. Just listen carefully, it’s all around us. I believe it comes from ourselves, from humankind.”

Going back to the trials and tribulations that are part of daily life, it’s not hard to imagine that this mindset can become ingrained fairly easily. Beckloff agrees. “Life has challenges; look at our pandemic and we can see that life is challenging, and for many, it is beyond difficult,” he says.

But how to do you attempt to overcome those difficulties? Beckloff defines victimhood as when someone has been harmed by others or by circumstances and they settle and live there. “They reside in the harm done to them,” he adds. “They stay where they have been harmed, ever-thinking about it, ever-talking about it, and ever-shaking their heads at the losses that have piled up.”

But there are always those resilient ones—those who rise from the ashes. (Cue the haunting, yet exhilarating chant from The Dark Knight Rises. You know the one, the roar that emerges from the crowd as Bruce Wayne finally allows his fear to help him out of the pit.)

“Those folks—in spite of great challenge—rise above and…thrive,” Beckloff notes. “They shake off victimhood and move forward, stepping over the loss or defeat…and continue to succeed in living well.

So if you or your child is going through a particularly trying time, how can you help them avoid that mindset? How can you prevent them from falling into victimhood?

Beckloff, who has worked with many people living in the victim mindset, notes that it’s important to acknowledge what happened to those individuals. “Their losses are real; their hurt is deep; the harm they experienced really happened to them,” he says. “Words of ‘It’ll be alright,’ or ‘don’t worry about it’ fall very hollow. But we also know, staying [there] doesn’t help either.”

After acknowledging their pain and their loss, Beckloff says parents should model how to live a full life instead of sitting in their hurt. “We don’t want our kids to see us living life unwell; what they see, they will follow,” he explains. “When they see us talking about the harms done to us, they may follow suit. Model how to get up, dust yourself off and get moving again.”

Second, grieve with them—whether what hurt them is big or small. “Let them know that the hurt is real,” Beckloff adds. “’Don’t cry’ doesn’t help. Help them to truly grieve their hurts and losses.”

Third and finally, don’t be the helicopter parent. Allow them to fall, to fail, to lose. “They must have these things happen to them now, while we’re still with them, so that we can get the bandage, kiss the hurt away, and help [them] learn how to dust themselves off and keep going,” he says. When the time comes to wipe away those tears, they can then get off your lap and return to running, playing, living.

“Perhaps we can learn from our children,” Beckloff concludes. “When the losses and hurts inevitably come, we cry, we grieve—but slowly, with great intentionality, we run again.”

Image courtesy of iStock.