“It’s not fair! You’re always yelling at me, even when it’s not my fault!”
Sound familiar? The minute you say no, or set limits, or try to enforce the rules, your child immediately says that you’re not being fair and that you always pick on him. He overreacts constantly to routine requests and takes no responsibility for his behavior. No matter the circumstances, he is always the one who has been wronged or unfairly put-upon—in other words, the victim.
If this is a pattern—your child’s typical response—she is displaying a victim mentality. And she does so because it gives her an excuse for her bad behavior that works for her.
When children take on a victim mentality, it becomes a form of defiance, used to avoid taking appropriate responsibility and being held accountable. And when it plays on our emotions as parents—getting us to question whether, maybe, we have been too tough or unfair, or making us feel guilty about any limit we try to set—rules are forgotten, limits ignored, and we lower our expectations.
If left unchanged, the victim mentality can eventually impact your child’s ability to have healthy relationships and to adequately function as an adult. It is vital that your child learns new skills in order to manage responsibility in the real world. To start that process, it’s helpful to look at the behaviors that lead to the victim mentality.
Thinking Errors That Support a Victim Mentality
Thinking errors, simply put, are patterns of thinking that are inaccurate or irrational; they influence our feelings and behavior, often in negative ways. In other words, when your child thinks like a victim, he will begin to feel and act like a victim. Below are some of the common thinking errors that fuel your child’s victim mentality and its related behaviors.
Over time, parents hear these excuses, see these behaviors and get pulled into believing that it must be true. Then you start responding to your child’s unhealthy behavior in unhealthy ways. You tiptoe around your child because you can anticipate the response you’re going to get. You know your daughter is going to start yelling the minute you remind her she needs to babysit. You wonder if you should just stay home; it might even be easier than having the big fight and the risk that she’ll take out her anger on her little brother.
These thinking errors can also lead to a sense of fatalism on your child’s part: he actually begins to believe he can’t change, that your expectations are beyond him, and that he is unable to take responsibility for his actions. He then becomes unable to see his role in making things better. It’s important to avoid this fatalistic trap by reminding yourself that change can happen at any time.
4 Steps You Can Take to Help Your Child Change
Be calm and matter-of-fact in your delivery, as your child is so used to overreacting to any expectations or limits. Think of what you’re doing as all business. The limit setting parent role works best when you are non-emotional. Don’t expect that your child will take kindly to this, though. In fact, they may be quite resistant, but stay calm and focused through the initial challenges.
Remember: change doesn’t happen overnight. Once your child realizes that there is really going to be a change in expectations, they will slowly begin to meet those expectations. And once the change begins, additional behaviors can be addressed and expectations added.
Keep in mind the goal of all this work: to raise our kids to be responsible adults, able to function in life and to solve the problems that come up along the way. Feeling and acting like a victim will not lead to the kind of adult life we want for our kids. But once your child has learned to take responsibility for their behavior, they will feel better about themselves, be better able to solve problems and make the most of their life.
How to Create a Culture of Accountability in Your Home
Parenting Truth: You Are Not to Blame for Your Child’s Behavior
Janet Lehman, MSW, has worked with troubled children and teens for over 30 years. A veteran social worker, she specializes in child behavior issues — ranging from anger management and oppositional defiance to more serious criminal behavior in teens. She is co-creator of The Total Transformation® Program, The Complete Guide To Consequences™, Getting Through To Your Child™, and Two Parents One Plan™.
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Hi, Kari. I can understand your concern. It can be alarming as a parent to discover your teen child has these types of negative thoughts. Your situation does create a dilemma however. Unless your daughter has shared her private journal with you, you really can;t bring up what you've read as this could cause a serious breach of trust. I would keep an eye on her behavior and if you notice any red flags, contact her doctor for an appointment. Her doctor would be able to help you determine whether or not further evaluation would be necessary. You may find these articles helpful as well: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article-categories/conditions-diagnoses/anxiety-depression/.
We appreciate you reaching out. Take care.
We speak with many parents who are concerned about their
child’s apparent lack of direction and progress toward adulthood, so you are
not alone. It can be helpful to separate what is, and is not, your
responsibility. You are responsible for clearly stating your expectations
for your son’s behavior, and for holding him accountable if he is not following
your house rules. Your son is ultimately in charge of his behavior, as
well as his attitude and feelings. It is your son’s choice whether he
will accept his life as it is, and if he will be happy or negative about
that. While some people are naturally http://www.empoweringparents.com/how-to-handle-your-negative-complaining-child-or-teen.php, we do recommend that you take any talk of suicide
or ending his life seriously. It may be useful to contact your http://www.suicide.org/hotlines/international/belgium-suicide-hotlines.html to help you develop a plan for how you can respond effectively
if your son is making these kinds of statements. I also encourage you to
develop a plan with his sister for how she can keep herself safe if her brother
is trying to bully her. I recognize that this is a tough situation to be
in, and I hope that you will write back and let us know how things are
going. Take care.
Good morning! I purchased your TOTAL TRANSFORMATION, I love everything about it! Unfortunately, things are getting worse. My son is now on medication, which, I'm not sure does much. He is O.D.D. and 13. We need help! And I don't know what to do. We have tried everything. Your posts and blogs help tremendously but I'm afraid he's going to leave home before he's 16 because we don't have a handle on this. We no longer yell, that was our initial reactions but now we just talk quietly but with force when needed. He is not able to "talk", he yells as a normal conversation about anything. He is defiant and blames everyone for everything. He takes no responsibility for his own actions. He is very dramatic, stomps his feet and slams everything in his site, usually breaking something or throwing something. He hates us and thinks we all hate him. Sibling rivalry is strong because my other son is organized , does his homework and things he doesn't need to be asked to do , like put his plate away. He is not treated differently, he simply does what he's asked and therefor no consequence is needed. I could go on for days and bore you with my problems, but I don't know what else to do? I want to ship him away to a behaviour camp to help him feel better about himself and to help his self esteem but I know that is just an easy way out and will not actually help him.
Please help me help him!
I’m pleased that you have found our resources offered here helpful
for you and your family. We speak with many families who feel overwhelmed
with their child’s behavior, and concerned that the behavior seems to be
getting worse. Keep in mind that it is normal for most kids to resist the
changes parents are trying to implement because the way things have been going
has been working for the child. When that child has ODD, it’s even more
common that he will resist any perceived effort to take away the power and
control he currently has. Something we frequently advise parents to do is
to http://www.empoweringparents.com/how-to-improve-your-childs-behavior-and-regain-control-as-a-parent.php at a time. Based on what you have described, it might
be useful to look at how he can manage his anger and frustration without http://www.empoweringparents.com/is-your-defiant-child-destroying-or-damaging-property.php. In addition, as a customer of the Total
Transformation program, you have access to our 1-on-1 Coaching service.
Our professional parenting coaches can help you to develop a personalized plan
to effectively implement the tools of the program to address your son’s
behavior. If you do not currently have access to the service, I am happy
to extend a one-time courtesy call so you can try the service out. You
can find the contact information in your program materials. Thank you so
much for writing in; please be sure to check back to let us know how things are
going. Take care.
Parenting adolescents certainly can be a difficult journey.
It’s not unusual for them to take a victim stance when being asked to do
something or being held accountable for their behavior. As Janet points out,
the behavior is normal for this age. So, too, is the black and white, http://www.empoweringparents.com/How-to-Stop-Victim-Mentality-Thinking-Kids.php
thinking you describe. In the moment when the behavior is happening, it’s
probably going to be best to set the limit and walk away. You can say something
like “Talking that way isn’t going to solve your problem” and then take some
space to calm down. It’s also important not to personalize the behavior, as
Carole Banks suggests in her article http://www.empoweringparents.com/do-you-personalize-your-childs-behavior-when-he-disobeys-you.php. The behavior you are seeing
really is more about your daughter’s lack of coping skills and the
developmental stage she is in. Some parents do find it helpful to have a
written chart of expectations that outlines chores as well as the daily schedule.
Keep in mind, your daughter most likely knows what you expect from her. She
simply doesn’t want to do it. So, she tries to deal with that problem by
putting herself in the victim role and making it about everyone else but her.
The most effective way to help her with that is by having a http://www.empoweringparents.com/the-surprising-reason-for-bad-child-behavior.php with her, as Janet explains in the above article. I
hope this helps to answer your question. Please let us know if we can be of
further assistance. Take care.
It can be tough to know what to do when a
child’s victim mentality carries over into her adult life. From what you have
written, it sounds like both you and your daughter have suffered through some
difficult situations. Finding ways of dealing with the aftermath of trauma can
be hard for anyone. It may be helpful to find out what types of local supports
are available for you and your daughter. Many areas have community resources to
help people move past traumatic experiences and also develop skills to be
successful and productive. The 211 Helpline can give you information on support
groups, counselors, and other community programs in your area. You can reach
the Helpline 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-6222. You can also visit them
online at http://www.211.org/. We appreciate you writing
in and wish you and your daughter the best of luck moving forward. Take care
Tell me please, how to deal with two very sullen, selfish and disrespectful step daughters. They are aged 14 turning 15 and 12 turning 13.
Examples of their behavior include:
Not greeting me and other adults. They will walk into a room and not greet or say good morning or good night. They recently walked into the sunroom where, my mom, my sister, their father and I were sitting have coffee. They walked in sat down and that was that. No greeting of elders, no greeting their father and of course they never greet me. Their father does not check their behavior.
They spend every second weekend at OUR house and from the minute they arrive, till they leave it's just a horrible weekend. They make no effort to make conversation, I USED to be the one to always ask questions, to create conversation, and there was little or no response, maybe a monosyllabic answer. Now I do not engage. They are super sullen and extremely selfish children. My daughter of 8 is always making gifts for them, drawing pictures for them, giving them her sweets or sharing anything of hers. They have not ever returned the gesture. For instance they came to visit their father on Easter Saturday , and I say visit their father because they arrived with Easter chocolates only for him, not for my daughter or their half sister or me. I am not so worried about myself but it hurt my 8 year old so much. They did not wish me, my daughter or their half sister happy Easter.
Asking them to clean the bathroom after they have used it is a no no. They leave the sponges and face cloths in the bath with the old bubbles and dirt and grit. They throw their hair from their brushes on the floors.
If I try to talk to my partner about any of this he says they are just children and have been through so much. I disagree, four years down the line and four years of therapy and all is more than enough time to be responsible and polite. And start pulling themselves to themselves.
It can be difficult to address stepchildren’s behavior in
your home when they are not there full-time. In addition, it sounds like
your partner not only disagrees with you about how to address their behavior,
but whether to address it at all. This certainly sounds like a
frustrating situation. One step to take is to talk with your partner, and
http://www.empoweringparents.com/My-Blended-Family-Wont-Blend-Help-Part1-How-to-get-on-the-same-page-with-your-spouse.php about basic house rules for everyone to follow. Once
you are able to develop these, we recommend that your partner communicate those
rules to his daughters before their next visit so they know what to
expect. While it is normal to feel frustrated and annoyed when kids
ignore you, we find that it is most effective if you do not give an emotional
response to their lack of acknowledgement. Instead, focus on taking care
of yourself during those moments so that you are not inadvertently reinforcing
their behavior by letting them know that they are pushing your buttons.
You can also talk with your children about a plan for themselves when your
stepdaughters ignore them during their visits. James Lehman outlines more
tips in his article http://www.empoweringparents.com/How-to-Respond-When-Your-Child-Ignores-You.php.
I understand how challenging this can be, and I appreciate your reaching out
for help. Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are
going for you and your family. Take care.
We talk with other parents who describe similar situations
with their child after they have been absent from their child’s life for an
extended time, so you are not alone. Something to keep in mind is that it
is normal for you to feel guilty for your actions, and your resulting absence
from your son’s life; it’s also normal for him to feel hurt and angry.
While these emotions are common and acceptable, that does not excuse his
behavior, nor is it effective to parent from this highly emotional place.
The fact is, your son is responsible for his choices, no matter what his life
experiences might have been to this point. To start, we would recommend
developing a http://www.empoweringparents.com/How-to-Create-a-Culture-of-Accountability-in-Your-Home.php with your son, and to only focus on 1-2 troublesome
behaviors. It could also be useful to work with local resources, such as
a counselor or a support group, to help you to develop your parenting skills,
and also to assist you and your son to work through your emotions in an
appropriate, effective way. If you are not currently working with anyone,
try contacting the http://www.211.org/ at
1-800-273-6222. 211 is an information and referral service which can help
you locate available resources in your community. I understand how difficult this situation can be,
and I appreciate your writing in to share your experiences. Please be
sure to write back and let us know how you and your son are doing; I wish all
the best as you both continue to move forward.
We hear very similar comments from parents we work with as
Empowering Parents coaches, so, you’re not alone. It can be easy to look back
and see all the ways we could have parented differently. http://www.empoweringparents.com/perfect-parents-dont-exist-forgive-yourself-for-these-6-parenting-mistakes.php?utm_medium=email&utm_source=email11122013NX and we all make mistakes when raising our children. I
think it’s helpful to remember that different doesn’t always mean better, and,
even if you had responded more effectively to your son’s behavior in the past,
it doesn’t necessarily mean he wouldn’t still be seeing himself as a victim
today. As a parent, your part in guiding and directing your child as he grows
is pretty substantial, yet, you’re not the only person who has influence on him
and the direction of his life. Quite frankly, your son continues to take
the victim stance because it continues to work for him. You’re not going to be
able to control that behavior. You do have control over how you respond to it
though. You might consider developing some ways of responding that don’t
reinforce his current view, whether by setting a limit on how much complaining
about others you’re willing to listen to or by redirecting the conversation to
ways he could start taking accountability for his own life. We appreciate
you writing in and hope you will continue to check back if you have any other
questions. Take care.
You bring up a great question. Whether or not you respond to the
comment is probably going to depend on your child and the situation. There are
times when responding only serves to prolong the argument. Other
times, a response helps to set the limit before you walk away. For example, you
might say something to your child like “Yelling at me isn’t going to solve your
problem. You still have to mow the lawn” before walking away from the
situation. The most important thing to keep in mind is that when responding to
the victim stance, you want to be sure you’re setting a limit and http://www.empoweringparents.com/How-to-Avoid-Power-Struggles-with-Defiant-Children.php. You know your child better than
anyone, so, you would be in the best position to determine whether or not
making a statement will serve to set the limit or only escalate him/her
further. I hope this helps to answer your question. Be sure to check back if we
can be of further assistance. Take care.