We all want to raise children who turn into responsible and capable adults, but sometimes we inadvertently make the insecure. And here is another thing we can do (against our own better judgement but rooted in compassion) that can give them a victim mentality.
We sat on the bed side by side after a harrowing morning. And that after a harrowing week. My newly minted 5-year-old girl and myself, having a frank talk. It was a quiet, calm, and kind conversation. I wasn’t Flipping My Lid or being an angry mama.
We were having this talk because I needed to know why she’d started acting like an Angry Alien Child. My normally obedient, helpful, and positive bright spark had started acting aggressive, angry, and bossy. But not the “Cute… she’s gonna be a leader” bossy. The “Do what I say or I’ll hit you” type of bossy.
It was not good and it had to stop.
I said, “Honey, why have you been acting so disobedient and wild lately?” She looked at me seriously and in an earnest voice said…
“I know… I sometimes do things I shouldn’t do and don’t do the things I want to do. Then I don’t know how to stop.”
I was struck by her 5-year-old maturity. She didn’t deny her behavior… She didn’t pretend she had been acting like an angel. She just gave me an honest answer. In fact, she’d basically quoted me Scripture.
I told her, “I understand, baby. I don’t always act how I should either. But there are some things we just can’t do.”
“I know, mom,” my baby girl said, “I’m going to make better choices and remember to ask God to help me do what I should do.”
My heart was so proud of her I could have burst. She was real. I was real. We were honest. And through it all, neither of us condoned bad behavior nor blamed another. It was never more clear to me in that moment that my daughter takes responsibility for her actions.
She does not play the victim.
A Victim Mentality Says:
- They made me feel this way
- She should have take care of that
- He needs to fix it, not me
- I couldn’t help it
- It’s not my fault
(Note: I’m not talking about children who are actual victims of abuse, neglect, or harm but about the mentality and mindset of a victim in the sense that life in general (not in one particular situation) is out of their control.)
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How we Unintentionally Raise Kids with “Victim Mentalities”
Again, this would not be the result of one or two occasions, but a consistent style of parenting.
We interrupt the law of sowing and reaping
A victim thinks they aren’t in control of the direction of their life.
This is a basic law of nature. You reap what you sow. Oh, yes, fine, there are other factors like whether it rained or whether the soil was fertile, but you get the point. If you don’t work you have no money. If you don’t buy food, there’s nothing in the cupboard.
If your child bites, hits, and slaps other kids they won’t get to be with others. If they refuse to do their chores, they don’t get to play. If they refuse to eat dinner, they go hungry. If we interrupt this process or attempt to minimize the effects of their behavior they do not learn that one reaps what one sows. And if they don’t learn this lesson, they’ll never learn to sow what is good, right, and responsible.
We interrupt cause and effect
A victim doesn’t connect action A with reaction B.
This is a learning curve for our kids. They are not born knowing that touching an oven can burn their tiny fingers or that walking onto a road can cause them harm. This is our job to teach them and we take it seriously. But, as they age, we often minimize the effects of their actions to prevent frustration or disappointment. Because really, who wants to see their kids upset and act like they don’t like us?
If they won’t do their homework… it’s their grade not yours. If they won’t do their chores, they don’t get their allowance or a family privilege. If they continually lie, they lose your trust. With kindness and love, we must allow them to experience both the positive and negative effects of their actions. It’s the only way they learn their actions really matter.
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We abstain from discipline and call it grace
A victim feels life should be great or they’re being treated unfairly.
What a blessing that we receive grace both from God and others. Without it, we’d be lost. However, along with grace comes discipline. The Bible says God disciplines those He loves and as parents we are no different. If we continually move the boundaries around, step in to prevent our children from being angry, and don’t let them learn from their mistakes, we’ll raise kids who expect others to clean up their messes.
Read: Grace-Based Parenting
We create a false world in our homes and try to enforce it elsewhere
A victim expects others to treat them as they are accustomed.
If we bend over backwards to give our children their every whim, switch the cups to the right color, cut every sandwich into perfectly equal squares, or do the things for them they can do for themselves, they’ll have a Rude Awakening in life. Teachers don’t have time. Friends won’t care. Employers (and everyone else) will think they’re high maintenance.
They just won’t know how to cope in a world that doesn’t bend to their will and, inevitably, they’ll feel they’re being treated unfairly. Unjustly. We can spoil our children with love, time, and attention without raising entitled kids who think everyone else must adjust to their wishes.
It isn’t easy to see our kids uncomfortable.
It isn’t always fun to “be the bad guy” and keep boundaries.
But it is fun to see our kids make good decisions because they know it matters.
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- your child will stop throwing tantrums for attention
- you’ll know how to validate and affirm your child’s emotions
- you’ll feel more in control of the atmosphere of your home and will be able to operate out of a place of love, not frustration
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