How To Parent: Avoid Arguements With Your Kids

How to Walk Away from a Fight with Your Child: Why It’s Harder Than You Think

You’ve probably heard these words of advice before: “Just walk away when your child is trying to pull you into a fight.” And in fact, turning around and walking away is one of the most important things you can do as a parent to end power struggles with your kids. But what should you do when your child won’t let you walk away?

Consider these two scenarios:

You tell your 10-year-old daughter that she can’t have her friend over this Saturday and she is not happy. She begs and pleads, but you stand your ground. When she starts to escalate, you tell her you aren’t going to argue about it and you attempt to walk away. But then she comes unglued and starts crying hysterically. She tells you she hates you, then she grabs onto your arm, still pleading with you to change your mind. You know you need to get away, and you manage to make it to your bedroom and lock yourself inside. That’s when the screaming and banging on the door begin. You try to ignore it but eventually can’t take it anymore. You break down, open the door, completely lose your cool and scream at her.

When you walk away you “win”—and your child doesn’t want that to happen, so he will try almost anything to keep it going, whether it’s calling you names, throwing things, punching a hole in the wall, or slamming a door.

You pick your teen son up from school and inform him that his cell phone has been shut off for 24 hours because he was on the phone past his bedtime the night before. He unleashes a verbal assault on you and you tell him to stop. He demands that you turn his phone back on immediately, and when you stay silent, he blows up. He leans over and yells in your face while you’re holding onto the steering wheel of the car with white knuckles, trying to focus on getting home safely. When you continue to ignore him, he takes his cell phone and throws it as hard as he can into the back seat of the car. You can’t control yourself any longer so you yell at him and tell him he’s lost the phone for a month now. You pull into the driveway feeling horrible.

Related: Does your child act out to get his way?

Why Your Child Wants to Pull You Back in

Disengaging is one of the best ways to stop power struggles from happening or arguments from continuing. But many kids—particularly defiant, oppositional ones—will follow their parents around, prolonging the argument. Why do they do this? When you walk away or stop participating in an argument, you send your child the message that you’re in control. Though they aren’t consciously aware of all of this, they feel the power shift from them to you, so if they can pull you back into the argument they can regain that control they lost. When you walk away you “win”—and they don’t want that to happen, so they will try almost anything to keep it going, whether it’s calling you names, throwing things, punching a hole in the wall, or slamming a door. If they can do something that gets you to react, they feel a whole lot better. And in many cases, they know that if they push all the right buttons, you just might give in to get relief from the torment.

Related: Trapped in daily screaming matches with your child?

There are several common scenarios we hear about on the Parental Support Line. Let’s take a look at each and talk about what to do.

1. You go to your room and your child follows you: Here’s the trick: Once you walk away, say no more. Lock the door and ride out the storm. If your child is screaming outside your door or pounding on it with all their might, ignore them. Do whatever you can to cope until they’ve calmed down. The second you turn that door knob to tell them to stop, you’ve given them what they wanted. Put on some headphones, turn up the TV, read a book, knit. Do whatever you have to do to focus your attention away from your child’s behavior. If they damage something or call you foul names while they’re pounding on your door, give them consequences afterward, when they’ve calmed down—and stick to them. In other words, ignore their attempts to pull you in when you’re disengaging from them, but hold them accountable for anything they damage (or rules they break) later.

Related: How to give consequences to your child that really work.

2. Your child trashes her own room: If your child goes to her own room and starts to throw things around or screams at the top of her lungs about what a jerk you are or how much she hates you, let her. If she breaks something of her own, that’s a natural consequence. She will have to buy her own replacement or do some chores to earn the money to buy a new one. If she makes a mess of the room, she will have to clean it up later when things calm down. It’s more effective to focus on controlling yourself and your emotions rather than your child’s behavior.

3. An over-the-phone argument: If the argument is over the phone or via text message, tell your child that you’re done with the discussion and you will not reply anymore. Then, follow through. Turn the phone off, or unplug it if it’s a landline and get involved with something else. You can finish talking later when things are calm again.

Related: Does your child curse, call you names and become verbally abusive during fights?

4. When you’re in the car: This is one of the most difficult places to get into an argument with your child. The first rule is, pull over. You may not be able to walk away, but you might be able to step outside the car to get some fresh air if it’s safe to do so. Or, you can tell your child you’re not going to continue on until they calm down, because it’s not safe for you to drive while they’re verbally abusing you or acting disruptive. Then, find something to do that will help you cope. This might take some planning ahead, such as packing a book or magazine (or keeping something like that in your glove compartment) that you can pull out and use in these cases.

5. You can’t walk away because you’re busy: Let’s say, for example, that you‘re cooking dinner. Set one limit with your child and then do what you can to focus your attention on the task at hand, not your child. Avoid eye contact and ignore comments he makes under his breath. Find some sort of mental task to occupy your mind, such as counting or singing a song to yourself in your head. If you have a relatively compliant child who will go to his room when asked, you can tell him to do so, but if your child is like most, he will refuse. Since you can’t make him go, the best thing to do is not pay attention to him. The key is to avoid giving his behavior any power. Control what you can—yourself.

6. Your child blocks you or clings to you: This is perhaps the most difficult situation to find yourself in when you try to walk away. It’s very important that you stay calm, use a normal tone of voice, and tell your child this behavior is not okay, while redirecting them to go do something to calm down. They’re probably going to stick around, though—at least at first. Continue to remain calm and wait it out. Yes, this might mean that you literally stand there and wait. You could also let your child know that they need to stop or there will be a consequence later. If your child is not blocking your path, try your best to go about your business—do the dishes, read a book, or surf the internet. The goal is to find some sort of task to focus on so your attention is not on your child’s behavior.

When Your Child Threatens You or Becomes Abusive

If you feel threatened by your child and have access to a phone, you might decide to call the police. A word of caution: do not get into a physical power struggle to escape from your child. Pushing against them or trying to get free may cause some kids to escalate. Also, to be clear, we do not recommend calling the police simply because your child is being defiant. There is a difference between frustrating, blocking behavior and threatening, unsafe behavior.

Related: How to teach your child that “there’s no excuse for abuse.”

A Special Note about Children Age 4 and Younger:

For children who are pre-school age or younger, or who have developmental delays or disabilities that cause them to function at 4 years of age or younger, walking away as described in this article may not be effective. Disengaging and moving too far away from a child at this developmental level may cause anxiety. If this is the case with your child, it might be better to try to stay close by within your child’s sight. It can be really helpful to say something like this: “You’re so upset. I wish I could help you calm down. Why don’t you…” and then suggest a calming activity for them to do. This might be looking at a book, playing some music they like, or playing with a favorite toy. You can model how to stay calm and you can disengage without leaving the room altogether.

Other Techniques to Help You Walk Away

Before you walk away, it’s always helpful to set a limit with your child and attempt to redirect them. For example, “I’m going to go take a break. You should go listen to some music or do something to calm down.” Another example is, “Yelling at me isn’t going to get you what you want. When you calm down, we can talk more. I’ll check on you in 15 minutes and see if you’re ready.” Also, if your child has younger siblings in the home, take them with you when you walk away so they don’t become a target or a pawn that your child can use to pull you back into the argument. If your child has older siblings, you might tell them to go to their rooms until your child calms down. The smaller the audience is, (or the number of potential targets) the better.

Related: Does your spouse undermine your parenting style?

Once you’ve walked away, be aware of any potential safety issues or needs for local supports. If it sounds like your child is being incredibly destructive to your home, it might be a good idea to call the police instead of trying to stop him yourself. Oftentimes, we suggest that parents call the non-emergency number for their local police department ahead of time to discuss how they would handle these kinds of situations if you should call them for assistance. This way, you have an idea of what you’d be getting into and you can make an informed decision.

If your child threatens to hurt themselves or someone else, that’s another situation in which you will need to utilize some local supports, such as the police or a local crisis helpline. When the safety of your child, or another family member, is at risk, you absolutely want to step back in there in some way and make sure everyone is safe.

Will My Child Ever Stop Banging on My Door?

It has been shown that over time, when a behavior is no longer reinforced or rewarded, it will eventually fade away—also referred to as “extinction.” To put it another way, if the behavior doesn’t get what it needs to survive—your attention—it will eventually cease to exist. The key is to be consistent. If you continue to feed the behavior, even just once in a while, the behavior will continue to rear its ugly head. It takes a lot of time, energy, and practice and it will be very exhausting, but do your best to consistently ignore your child’s attempts to pull you back into the argument after you’ve disengaged. Over time your kids will see that you mean it when you walk away—and they will learn they can’t pull you back in. This change in your response will lead your child to adapt or to find new (and hopefully more appropriate) ways of coping.

How to Walk Away from a Fight with Your Child: Why It’s Harder Than You Think reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

Sara A. Bean, M.Ed. holds a Masters Degree in Education with a concentration in School Counseling from Florida Atlantic University. She is a Certified School Counselor and a proud aunt to a 5 year-old girl. She has been with Legacy Publishing since 2009 working on the Parental Support Line. Sara has over 5 years of experience working with youth and families in private homes, residential group homes, and schools.

Total Transformation Review James Lehman Help For Parents

Here are some of of the topics covered in the Total Transformation Program:

16 Characteristics and Practices of Children with Disrespectful Behavior – Rather than seeing their child’s behavior as unmanageable emotion, parents can learn to “read” and understand it. A close up look at The Victim Stance, Uniqueness, One-Way Boundaries, False Apologies, The Turnaround and more.

7 Ineffective Parenting Styles – Bottomless Pockets, The Over-Negotiator, The Ticket Puncher, The Screamer, The Martyr, The Savior, The Perfectionist. An eye-opening yet non-judgmental approach that helps parents identify styles that are ine ective–and learn new roles that are effective in communicating with children and teens.

There’s No Excuse for Abuse – How to put a stop to a child’s physical and verbal abuse.

Find out the reasons that so many parents have found The Total Transfomation Program to be such a valuable resource for raising children.

How To Parent: Adult Child Won’t Move Out

Failure to Launch, Part 3: Six Steps to Help Your Adult Child Move Out

Many parents today are faced with a dilemma: How do I support my adult child in becoming independent? Do I let my adult child live in my home while he or she struggles to find a job? These parents think, “The economy is bad…maybe there really are no jobs out there. Should I continue paying for things like my child’s vehicle, insurance, clothes and cell phone? Maybe I should move him into an apartment just to get him out and pay the first few months’ rent, but after that it’s up to him. Or do I just kick him out of the nest and hope he learns to fly?” Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner understand and have helped countless families in this situation. In their popular series on adult children in Empowering Parents, readers have learned why so many adult kids still live at home, and how adult children work “the parent system.” In Part 3, you’ll hear six specific steps that will help your adult child leave the nest.

The important thing to remember: your adult child is not entitled to live in your home past the age of eighteen. It’s a privilege and you have every right to set the parameters. That’s always been your right – and always will be.

Related: How to set limits with your child, teen or adult child.

First of all, we understand that many families in today’s economy do share a household for financial or other reasons. If you’re in a situation where your adult child is living with you and it’s mutually beneficial – or at the very least mutually respectful – that’s fine. This article is intended to help parents whose adult child is dependent or lives at home in a situation that’s become uncomfortable or even intolerable. In recent articles, we’ve looked at how over time our society has moved from caring for our children to caretaking for our children, sometimes long into their adulthood. Many parents are held hostage by emotions: anger, frustration, disappointment, guilt and fear of what will happen if they do throw their adult birdie out of the nest without a net. Today, we’re going to give you some concrete steps to help that birdie finally fly!

Step One: Know Where You Are
The first task in moving your adult child toward independence is to assess where you are right now. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you in a place where your boundaries are being crossed and you need to establish some limits?
  2. Are you willing to allow your adult child to live in your home, within those limits, as he or she moves toward being more independent?
  3. Do you see your adult child as wanting to become independent, or as simply being more comfortable allowing you to take care of all their responsibilities?
  4. Has the situation become so intolerable – perhaps even volatile – that your main concern is getting your adult child out of your house, as quickly and safely as possible?

Where you are with regard to your adult child will determine—in part —what steps you need to take next.

Step Two: Change Your View
Instead of picturing of your adult child as a little bird whose wings may not hold him up when he leaves the nest, think of him as fully capable of flying. Our emotions can cause us to be so afraid of what will happen to our kids that we think of them as children, rather than adults. In reality, your adult child is an adult—equal to you and equally capable of making it in this world. Thinking of him as incapable is actually a disservice to him and keeps you in parental caretaking mode. Your adult child may be uncomfortable with some of the steps you’re taking that encourage more responsibility but that’s okay. It’s what he needs to experience in order to make changes within himself. Changing your viewpoint will help you strengthen those “guilt” and “fear” emotional buttons.

Step Three: Identify and Strengthen Your Emotional Buttons
Identify ahead of time what your limits and boundaries are, what you’re willing to follow through with and which emotional buttons will most likely get you to give in. One parent told us, “I’m okay with my adult child not having extras (cell phone, video games, internet, haircuts) but I can’t let him be on the street. I know myself. I’ll never stick to it.” That parent knew they would allow their child to live in their home without the benefit of extras or entitlements, so that’s the boundary that was established. Turns out, that adult child decided those “extras” were important to him, so once his parent shut down the Parent ATM, he was motivated to get a job and pay for things—including an apartment—himself.

Related: Does your adult child have a substance abuse problem?

Step Four: Make Your Boundaries Clear
Once you’ve strengthened your emotional buttons, it’s time to share what the new reality will be with your adult child. If your adult daughter lives in a separate residence but still depends on you as a source of income, make your boundaries clear: state what you will and will not pay for. If you need to start out small and work your way up, that’s okay. If you just can’t stop buying groceries yet because you know you won’t follow through with allowing your daughter to eat at soup kitchens or wherever she can find food (friends, etc.), then start with things like cell phones, haircuts, money for gas, cigarettes, internet and other non-necessities. It’s her responsibility to locate resources: friends, churches, government assistance. Your adult child can always apply for assistance through government programs such as food stamps and rental assistance if she is truly unable to locate work and support herself.

If your adult child lives in your home, draw up a contract that specifies the terms of her living there. This is an agreement between two adults. Don’t think of her as your child; picture her as a tenant. Then you’ll be less likely to have your emotional buttons set off. (If your neighbor gave you a sob story about how much she needed a cell phone, would you buy it? And pay the monthly bill?) An adult child may decide he or she doesn’t like the contract and will decide to live elsewhere. More power to them! The important thing to remember: your adult child is not entitled to live in your home past the age of eighteen. It’s a privilege and you have every right to set the parameters. That’s always been your right – and always will be.

Step Five: Shut Down the Parent ATM (PATM)!
The key to launching your adult birdie is to make it more uncomfortable to depend on you than to launch. A huge part of making your adult child uncomfortable is to stop paying for all the “extras”: things he or she views as necessities that really aren’t. In this world, he can live without cell phones, internet, computers, haircuts, make-up, clothes from the mall, video games and any other leisure activity you can name. If he’s struggling, he can get clothes from Salvation Army or Goodwill. He can take the bus. He can eat cheap. (Think boxed macaroni & cheese and Ramen noodles. You know…what many of us ate when we didn’t have any money.) If he doesn’t have the money for cigarettes or alcohol– he doesn’t get them. Many adult children make a career out of working their parents to provide things for them that they can’t afford themselves.

Most people aren’t going to provide these things to your adult child. There is no Neighbor ATM, Friend ATM (well, maybe a few times, but they’ll shut that down real quick) or Third-Cousin-Twice-Removed ATM. But there is a Parent ATM. Why? Because we’re typically the only ones with emotional PINs that work to spit that money out! (Read the previous article on emotional buttons and continue to strengthen them, so you can stop paying for things that keep your adult child comfortable. Disconnecting those buttons—and turning off the Parent ATM—is probably the biggest step you will take toward launching your adult son or daughter.)

Look at it this way. Your adult son’s hair can get really, really long; he doesn’t need a haircut. He doesn’t have to text; he can write letters. Stamps are less than a dollar vs. a $50/month data package. He can live without these things. Truly. He just doesn’t want to. It’s okay for your adult child to be uncomfortable; we’ve all been uncomfortable and survived. It’s actually a good thing and necessary for change.

This is the key: change occurs when things feel uncomfortable, out of balance or unsteady for a person. It’s what motivates them to find their equilibrium again, through employment, returning to college, offering their services through odd jobs or whatever it takes to get the things in life that they want.

Related: How to give consequences that work.

Step Six: Enough is Enough
Some parents have adult children at home who are abusing them verbally or even physically. You have the right to live in your own home, free from abuse, intimidation or disrespect. Anytime someone treats you in this way, they are violating a boundary and sometimes violating the law. It’s your right to establish personal boundaries that keep you physically and emotionally safe. In other situations, some adult children are not quite abusive, but they have literally worn out their welcome by taking and taking (financially and emotionally) without giving in return. The bottom line is you do not have to feel guilty about moving your adult child into independence so you can have your own life back. You have the right to spend your money on things for yourself. You have the right to enjoy peaceful evenings in your own home. You have the right to have the environment you want in your home. You’ve raised your child. He’s an adult now. You are not expected to provide for him any more than your parents are expected to provide for you as an adult.

If you are in a situation that is intolerable with your adult child and have decided he needs to move out of your home, the following steps will help:

Remember to strengthen those emotional buttons. If your adult child typically pushes the “guilt” and “sympathy” buttons in order to stay dependent and comfortable, prepare yourself for what’s coming and come up with a plan on how you’ll handle it. You might even try making some note cards or adopt a slogan to remind yourself that you have the right to have your own home, free from negativity or meeting another adult’s needs.

Next, contact your local court to gather information about what legal steps you can take to move your adult child out. Many states require you to serve a “Notice to Quit” to any adult living in your home. If your adult child still refuses to leave, you may need to follow up with an Eviction Notice that gives a deadline for him to move out, typically thirty days. If your adult child still refuses to leave, your local police department can enforce the eviction and will often notify the person that they will be escorted out of the home anywhere from 24 to 48 hours later. (Note: We aren’t able to address all legalities fully in this article due to the fact that each state differs in its laws regarding eviction.)

Related: Is your child verbally abusive?

Eviction steps may sound harsh but remember to think of your adult as a tenant. If you’re to the point of evicting your adult son or daughter out of your home, things have probably reached a point that is simply intolerable for you. Your adult child may resist moving out at first, but again, the more uncomfortable he is, the more likely he is to leave on his own accord. If you fear violence or other repercussions from your child because of these steps, it’s beneficial to seek out local resources on domestic violence and/or contact the court regarding your right to a restraining order. Safety always comes first and if you’re in a domestic violence situation with your adult child, you’ll want to talk with someone knowledgeable about a safety plan.

A Side Note…
If you’re living with a spouse or long-term partner who is not on the same page as you, it can make putting these steps into effect extremely difficult. You can only control yourself. If it’s causing serious conflict, you may want to seek counseling regarding how you can come to a mutual agreement.

The Bottom Line
Many, many young adults are struggling to become independent in today’s generation. Yes, the economy is bad and our country is experiencing hard times. But that’s nothing new. We’ve gone through recessions and depressions in the past. Families used to have “leftover parties,” where they got together and turned their leftovers into a meal. They used to wait until the weekend to talk on the phone to long-distance relatives so the rates were lower. Sometimes there wasn’t a yearly vacation and kids brown-bagged it instead of buying hot lunches. There’s nothing wrong with a family pulling together to make it in today’s world. The difference with many of the young adults in today’s generation seems to be in the sense of entitlement and the aversion to sacrificing in order to make it. Gone are the days of “If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.” Today, society is all about technology and instant gratification. But it’s not too late to teach our adult children the values of delayed gratification and working for things they desire. It’s okay for them to be uncomfortable and realize they have the ability to survive hard times through self reliance. If your guilt or fear buttons start reacting, remember: we give our kids these lessons out of love.

Failure to Launch, Part 3: Six Steps to Help Your Adult Child Move Out reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

Kimberly Abraham, LMSW, has worked with children and families for more than 25 years. She specializes in working with teens with behavioral disorders, and has also raised a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Marney Studaker-Cordner, LMSW, is the mother of four and has been a therapist for 15 years. She works with children and families and has in-depth training in the area of substance abuse. Kim and Marney are the co-creators of Life Over the Influence, a new program to help families struggling with substance abuse issues.

How To Parent: Parenting Tips Dealing With Kids’ Attitudes

“It’s Not Fair!” How to Stop Victim Mentality and Thinking in Kids

“It’s not my fault. That’s not fair!” How many times has your child shouted this when she’s upset? Although it’s often difficult to know how to respond to this as a parent, understand that it’s normal for children and teens to feel this way from time to time. Kids have keener “fairness detectors” than we do because their perspective is still quite unrealistic. The danger comes in when your child holds onto this feeling of injustice all the time, and begins to feel like a victim chronically. When this happens, you will see her begin to use this stance to manipulate people and get what she wants.

Related: Does your child manipulate you with bad behavior?

When your child feels like a victim, he will begin to act like a victim. He’ll start thinking, “When something isn’t fair, the rules don’t apply to me.” That’s when you’ll see your child punch a hole in your kitchen wall and then blame his little brother for making him mad. Or you’ll hear your teen say, “I didn’t have the money for this make-up, so I stole it.” This cycle of Unfairness-Victim Stance-Manipulation often starts at home; parents unwittingly play into it. Sadly, the behavior can transfer to other areas of your child’s life. If your ten-year-old thinks you aren’t being fair, it frequently later becomes, “My teacher isn’t fair; school isn’t fair, my coach isn’t fair.” If unchecked, this mindset can continue into the teen years and eventually into your child’s adult life, and will turn into a chronic state of mind. You’ll hear, “My boss isn’t fair,” or “It’s my spouse’s fault.” Remember, fairness detectors become keener as we play into them. We teach kids to be victims and to whine—and to become complaining, whining adults.

What complicates matters is that sometimes there are situations that really are unfair. I’ll give you an example from my own life. When my son moved up from junior high to high school, he joined a sports team. Unbeknownst to us, this team had an initiation that was physically very aggressive. Our son came home after the hazing very upset, and rightly so—it was unfair that he was taken advantage of by the larger group of boys. While alarmed, my husband James and I knew that we needed to empower him; we didn’t think it was wise to be pulled into how badly our son felt about being hurt by the other kids. We shared the information with the school, but we supported our child in his desire to resolve the problem. As difficult as it was for us, we knew we had to respect his decision to handle as much of it as he could. In the end, the lesson he learned was that he wasn’t a victim; he was someone who could move forward out of a painful situation and get through it, proud of the way he handled it.

Related: How to communicate effectively with your teen.

I think it’s extremely important for you to give your child the message that you will support him in finding a solution to his problems—and that being a victim doesn’t define who he is as a person. If kids are allowed to stay in that victim stance, it doesn’t help them move through it. This perspective will slowly take over how they view the world: as an unjust and unfair place. In my thirty years as a therapist, I have seen this negative mindset affect kids’ relationships and ultimately, their ability to succeed in life.

So what should you do if you think your child has adopted the victim stance? How can you respond?

1. Be clear. Be very clear about injustice and fairness. We used to say to our son, “You’re right, sometimes life isn’t fair. But you still have to do your homework.” I think you have to say these words with some caring. Kids pick up on it if you’re sarcastic or harsh. And remember, this is a hard lesson to learn—and for most kids, these are pretty genuine feelings.

Show some genuine empathy toward your child, even as you explain that there are things that aren’t fair in our lives. The most important piece to teach your kids is how to deal with that unfairness, and how to move beyond that.

It’s okay for kids to feel distressed about things being unjust or unfair, but it’s not okay for them to manipulate others to get their way.

2. Problem solve. Ask your child how she is planning to deal with the injustice she perceives. Say she is on a sports team, but feels like she’s not being played enough. There are always people who are going to be star athletes, and that’s hard for someone who’s been there, done all the training and practice, but is still sitting on the bench. As parents, we need to help our kids understand this life lesson. Encourage her to keep trying her best, and give her examples of how similar things have happened to you in the past. The message here is, “It’s just part of life—and how we handle it is what’s most important.”

Related: Want better behavior? Teach your child problem-solving skills.

3. Don’t let guilt dictate your response. When you have the sense that your child is being treated unfairly, it’s easy to try to make up for this by indulging him: you might take care of his responsibilities or give him material goods like clothing, electronics, and money. Look back to see where that pattern of indulging your child’s view of himself as a victim might have begun. Maybe he was bullied when he was younger, or perhaps you and your spouse got divorced, and you felt guilty over it. But understand that this just makes things worse in the long run, because your child learns that someone is going to make up for it when he thinks things are unjust. The bottom line is that when we start from a guilty place, we’re more likely to support that sense of victimhood in our kids.

4. Don’t feed into injustice or deny it. You’re not going to make something that’s unfair to your child better as a parent if you feed into her sense of victimhood or injustice. If the teacher hasn’t been fair in your child’s eyes, it’s not going to help if you say, “That teacher always treats you badly. I don’t think he likes you.” This will do nothing to help the situation because it just feeds into your child’s view of herself as a victim.

On the other hand, I don’t recommend that you argue with your child about it, either. I don’t think any of us are going to be dissuaded from a sense of unfairness when we feel it. Remember, this is an emotion, not a true or false question. If your child feels something is unfair, someone else telling her it is fair won’t really change how she feels. So don’t argue with your child about it; just be clear and empathetic.

5. You can always change your response. Even if you’ve been supporting your child’s views of the unfairness of the world—and himself as a victim—for a long time, you can always change as a parent. It’s never too late. Sometimes it just takes you saying, “I’m not going to feed into my child’s attitudes about injustice anymore; instead, I’m going to start helping him problem solve how he can deal with things from now on.”

“It’s Not Fair!” How to Stop Victim Mentality and Thinking in Kids reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

Janet Lehman, MSW has worked with troubled children and teens for over 30 years and is the co-creator of The Total Transformation Program. She is a social worker who has held a variety of positions during her career, including juvenile probation officer, case manager, therapist and program director for 22 years in traditional residential care and in group homes for difficult children.