If you think you may have some spoiled and ungrateful children, then you should dive in and see how this happened and what you can do to fix this issue.
Sometimes children who seem to have everything they ever dream of can show off an ungrateful attitude.
As parents, we really do want to give our kids the very best of what we can afford and it can be a huge kick in the stomach when our children do not show their gratitude for it all.
No amount of beach days, the best video games or trips to exotic destinations seem to make kids happy these days.
This entitled attitude makes parenting seem like an impossible feat.
So how do we instill gratitude in our kids these days?
Not to worry, there are things you can do!
First, let’s go over some reasons why our children may seem ungrateful and then I’ll go through some discipline strategies to help you get through this difficult phase.
What Do I Mean By Ungrateful Anyway
Ungratefulness, or the lack of gratitude, refers to when someone fails to express thanks or appreciation for assistance or favors received. It involves showing disrespect by neglecting to acknowledge acts of kindness.
Labeling someone as “ungrateful” is a critique aimed at those who do not demonstrate appreciation or kindness towards those who have helped them or shown them favor.
Encountering an ungrateful person often prompts us to lecture them, emphasizing the fortunate circumstances they currently enjoy.
In the case of children displaying ungrateful behavior, we frequently compare them to less privileged children or mention countries with fewer privileges. This is a common knee-jerk reaction.
However, is this approach effective, and does it truly matter if our children display gratitude?
Absolutely, it matters!
Teaching children gratitude fosters good manners and encourages a connected mindset.
A connected mindset involves children genuinely appreciating gifts and expressing gratitude meaningfully.
Practicing gratitude enhances happiness, focus, and determination. It provides an energy and enthusiasm boost.
Gratitude is of significant importance.
It is not about comparing one’s situation to those less fortunate but rather about being thankful for everything in one’s own life.
Cultivating grateful thinking has positive effects on emotional and physical health. It uplifts spirits and instills appreciation for all aspects of life.
Losing sight of the essential things can lead to entitlement and ingratitude, not just in children but in all of us, even as adults.
Examining the reasons behind our children’s ungrateful behavior is crucial. It’s essential to encourage and prompt children to develop gratitude regularly.
Instilling gratitude in children is the first step to raising well-behaved, appreciative kids.
As parents, it’s vital to set the right example by demonstrating gratitude ourselves.
Constant reminders and gentle nudges towards gratitude can go a long way in nurturing a grateful heart.
Incorporating gratitude into family discussions, such as at the dinner table, is an effective way to instill this virtue in young children.
Teaching children about the concept of gratitude from an early age lays the foundation for their emotional and social development.
Gratitude journals, where children write down what they are thankful for, are excellent tools for encouraging this mindset.
Acknowledging and celebrating acts of kindness and good behavior can reinforce the importance of gratitude in a child’s life.
How parents may accidentally raise ungrateful children
Overindulgence by parents can unintentionally raise ungrateful kids.
Giving children everything they want without setting limits or saying no can make them feel entitled and not appreciate hard work.
They may struggle with disappointment as they’re used to getting their way, becoming ungrateful for what they have and the efforts of others.
Lack of boundaries
Without understanding consequences, they may become demanding and disrespectful, failing to appreciate what they have or the efforts of others.
Absence of consequences
The absence of consequences in parenting can foster ungrateful behavior in children.
When parents don’t enforce repercussions for actions, kids may not learn responsibility or empathy, leading to a lack of gratitude for others’ efforts and sacrifices.
They may take things for granted and lack appreciation for kindness and support.
Constant comparisons in parenting can lead to ungrateful children. When parents consistently compare their kids to others, it can create feelings of inadequacy and resentment.
This may hinder genuine gratitude, as children may focus on what they lack rather than appreciating their own strengths and blessings.
Lack of gratitude modeling
Lack of gratitude modeling in parents can contribute to ungrateful children.
When parents themselves fail to practice and express gratitude, kids may not learn the importance of being thankful for what they have and the efforts of others, leading to a lack of appreciation in their own behavior.
Overlooking small gestures
Overlooking small gestures can inadvertently raise ungrateful children.
When parents fail to acknowledge or downplay acts of kindness or appreciation shown by their kids, it may discourage them from expressing gratitude in the future.
This can hinder the development of a thankful and appreciative attitude.
Overemphasis on achievements
Overemphasis on achievements can accidentally lead to ungrateful children.
When parents focus solely on success and constantly push their kids to achieve more, it may create a sense of entitlement and undermine gratitude for what they have accomplished or received along the way.
How To Spot If My Child Is Ungrateful And Entitled
Recognizing whether your child displays signs of ungratefulness and entitlement can be crucial for effective parenting. Here are some key indicators:
- Lack of Appreciation: If you find yourself constantly reminding your children to perform simple tasks like picking up their shoes or putting their dishes in the sink without any acknowledgment or gratitude, it may be a sign of ungratefulness.
- Dependency: While it’s natural for parents to care for their children, if your kids consistently expect you to do everything for them, including tasks they can handle themselves, it could indicate a sense of entitlement.
- Homework Rescue: If your children often refuse to tackle their homework independently and rely on you to rescue them from challenging assignments, this might be a sign of entitlement.
- Task Rewards: Requiring rewards or incentives for completing everyday tasks, such as putting away dishes, is another potential sign of entitlement.
- Expecting Help: If your children routinely expect you to assist them with tasks they are capable of managing, it may indicate a lack of responsibility.
Positive parenting methods, like those taught in Amy McCready’s “Positive Parenting Solutions,” can be invaluable in addressing these issues. McCready’s book, “The Me, Me, Me Epidemic,” discusses the challenges of entitlement and ungratefulness and offers effective solutions.
It’s important to strike a balance between allowing your children to enjoy their childhood and teaching them responsibility as active family members. Encourage gratitude by implementing gentle reminders and fostering an attitude of appreciation for the little things in life.
In the long run, addressing entitlement and ungratefulness in your child is essential for their development. It promotes good behavior, responsibility, and empathy for the feelings of others.
By taking steps to recognize these signs early and applying appropriate parenting measures, you can guide your child on the right track towards becoming a responsible and appreciative individual, equipped with the essential social and emotional skills for life.
If you are experiencing these problems at home, I highly suggest you pick up this brilliant book by Amy. It’s a life saver.
It is possible to instill gratefulness into your child, even if you believe you may be too late. If you can get into the “root” of how your child became so entitled in the first place, you can reverse the issue with a little work.
When kids are young, they are ready to help you with the dishwasher, the laundry, the sweeping… ( I miss those moments, too cute and sweet)
But parents, usually out of hurry, end up just doing these things for the child and letting the child play instead of actively participate in the things you do on a daily basis to make everyone’s life in the family easier.
We basically squash their independence when we do things for them and don’t encourage them to do their own tidying such as picking up toys and putting them into a bin, which is an activity a two year old can accomplish easily.
Doing these things for our kids sends them the message that they don’t need to help out and you’ll still be happy with them, they aren’t trusted to accomplish things on their own, they aren’t equal members of the household and they are just not capable of being independent.
If we take care of our children’s needs and make them feel like they cannot be independent and still get everything they want, they naturally become ungrateful, entitled and sometimes lazy.
5 Ways To Discipline Ungrateful Children
There are things you can do help your child understand when they are showing ungratefulness.
Point It Out
The first thing you can do to discipline your child who is showing signs of ungratefulness is to simply point it out. When I say point it out though, I don’t mean be insulting and short about it.
Instead of saying something like “You’re acting like a little brat right now” which is definitely not the positive parenting way, you can say something like “We should show thankfulness for all the gifts we received today, even though some of them weren’t what you were expecting, it was very nice for your aunt and uncle to bring these over. they certainly didn’t have to give you anything.”
If you are going to a place where gifts are being given such as a birthday party or a Christmas gathering, you should explain to your child before hand what the expectations are. You should explain to your child that it takes a lot of time and money to purchase a gift, and it can really hurt feelings if that gift is not appreciated.
You can also explain that friendships can be lost if gratitude is not shown when so much effort is placed into gift giving.
Show How Their Attitude Is Affecting Others
Kids do not always understand how their behaviour is affecting other people.
You can teach your child empathy by talking to them about how their behaviour can affect others.
You can point out empathy when watching TV shows and movies together to help your child understand how their attitude can affect others.
By helping your child identify and label their feelings words, you can help them understand how showing gratefulness can make others feel.
Be A Good Role Model
When you show gratefullness, your children will see it and show it more often too.
children are like little sponges and they absorb all sorts of information, whether you talk to them about it, or they see it coming from you. You can talk and talk about being thankful all you want, but if you’re not displaying the actions you want your children to show, then there is a good chance they will not go through with these actions either.
So be a good role model, show your own gratefulness and you’ll be raising grateful children in no time.
When you give your child everything they want, they can become spoiled and ungrateful. Kids cannot be grateful for their things if they aren’t given the opportunity of delayed gratification.
You can say “No” to your child when they ask for a new toy and tell them they can wait for the next holiday such as birthday or Christmas. You can also encourage your children to save their allowance to get the things they want.
When my older child was 5 years old, he saved all of his tooth fairy money ($5 a tooth) and all of his “extra work” allowance (not chores, we don’t do allowance there, so just extra work on top of chores) until he had $250 for a brand new Nintendo Switch System. He saved all that money and we pitched in to help him purchase some accessories and games when the time came to redeem his cash.
Delayed gratification is not bribing, although it can be very confusing as to what the difference is.
Bribing is saying things such as “here is a sucker, now please be quiet” where as a reward is phrased like “you had an excellent day, why don’t we go for ice cream after dinner.”
Helping others can help with the empathy aspect of teaching your child gratitude.
Volunteering with your children can help them see that they are never too young to start helping others and how helping others can make your child feel overall.
Volunteering often brings out gratitude in many adults, so there is no reason that children cannot be a part of this process too.
Stand Your Ground
When your child is having trouble listening to your rules that you’ve set for them, stand your ground. It is ok for your to repeat yourself because sometimes children need to hear the rules more than once or twice. While it’s a great idea to listen to what they have to say about the matter as well, make sure you are firm (but kind) with your child when they are giving you an attitude. They will be grateful you did, maybe just not right away, but eventually, they will understand why you were so hard on them about being grateful for the things they have.
Allow Privileges When Earned
As an adult, do you ever get anything for doing nothing? I didn’t think so.. so why should kids get something for nothing? Children need to learn that hard work and determination are what helps them earn the items or activities they desire. Let your child earn their privileges and new toys because if you don’t, they will expect them without following rules or helping out around the house.
If you can start teaching your child about rewards and hard work early in life (like in toddlerhood) they will have mastered it nice and early, making your whole journey in parenthood a lot easier in the teenage years.
Reasons Our Children May Seem Ungrateful
Before we can instill a thankful mindset within our kids, it is important to understand why they may seem ungrateful in the first place.
It is important to understand that children may not understand gratitude until the age of 4, so if your child is still young, it may not quite be time to teach gratefulness to them yet.
We Give In To All Their Demands
When we give our children everything they want, we give them a sense of entitlement. They aren’t working towards goals and aren’t actually earning anything through hard work and determination.
When things are handed to you on a silver platter, what is the incentive to work hard?
There is a parenting book out there called The Me, Me, Me Epidemic where this parenting expert Any McCrady from Positive Parenting Solutions goes over how over parenting and over pampering is hurting our children making our parenting lives more difficult.
Extra Reading: How To Avoid Power Struggles With your Child
We all want to make our kids happy, and sometimes that leads to accidentally taking down all their obstacles just to make sure they never fail.
Failure is a good thing for kids though, so they need to experience it. We learn from making mistakes, and if we never fail, we don’t make the mistakes.
The lesson here is, don’t give in to all the demands and guide your children through difficult situations instead of taking it away from them and not letting them experience that failure.
We Don’t Provide Enough Exposure To Less Fortunate Situations
If our children do not have anything to compare their lives to, they may never know what it could be like for someone who is less fortunate then them.
I know this is sort of like saying you should be grateful for what you have because there are less fortunate people out there and then spew out some examples.
But if you can show your child that there are in fact others who do not have as much as they do, then they will start to understand, because they can physically see the less fortunate.
We must also always tell our children that those who have less than them are not any less of a person than anyone else out there. We are all equal and possessions do not make us who we are.
These are lessons I’ve been teaching my kids since age 4, and while the youngest, who is still 4, doesn’t quite understand, my oldest is very well aware of this fact.
A great way to teach children about less fortunate situations is to take them to volunteer. Show them that they can make a difference to someone with just a little bit of devoted time.
They can see first hand how some people live and then they can really be grateful for all that they have in their lives.
There was a time when my 6 year old was complaining that our house wasn’t new and shiny like some of the mansions he saw on TV, and he was asking why we (the parents) did not make enough money to afford a mansion like those.
After a few discussions, it became very clear to him that it doesn’t matter if we live in a mansion or an old home like ours if it is filled with love and family than that matters so much more than glamour and extraordinary living.
Sometimes Gifts Are Expected So The Reaction Isn’t As Big As We Hope For
When it comes to holidays and birthdays, children expect gifts and therefore do not show the appreciation they would if there was a surprise gift on a random day.
When the gift is expected, the child may feel that the gratitude is also a given. Of course they are super grateful to have a new collection of water guns, but because it was a gift on a special holiday where they were going to receive a gift anyway, the reaction and thankfulness is just not there.
It does not mean that the child is ungrateful, though it may seem that way. It just means that the exchange relationship was defined.
This just means that the emotional impact when receiving a gift that is expected is much smaller than the emotional impact of receiving a gift on a random day for a random reason.
This isn’t just how kids react, adults react this way too!
We can show our children the way by explaining that the reaction for thankfulness should be just as large if the gift is given on a holiday or as a surprise.
Children Want To Feel In Control
At times, children may not readily express gratitude because they desire to maintain control over their emotions. This inclination is particularly noticeable during the tween and teen stages, which is entirely normal.
It’s essential to understand that in such cases, your children may not necessarily be ungrateful. Instead, they may be grappling with underlying behavioral issues that require attention.
To address this, it’s crucial to establish open lines of communication with your child. Avoid over-disciplining them, as this can help foster a closer connection between you and your child. By maintaining a supportive and understanding environment, you can encourage your child to share their emotions and experiences more openly.
While you may encounter challenges in navigating your child’s desire for autonomy, it’s essential to continue promoting gratitude in your parenting approach. Encourage them to not only show gratitude but also genuinely feel it.
By recognizing that your child’s quest for control is a normal part of their development, you can focus on fostering a sense of gratitude, openness, and emotional connection with them.
Extra reading: Positive Discipline Examples To Help You Effortlessly Navigate Difficult Behaviour who are grateful and thankful which is why we should try our very best to raise our kids to show gratitude and feel it too.
Activities And Ideas To Teach Gratitude And Kindness To Kids
- Model kind behaviour
- 12 Kindness Acts for Kids from The Educator’s Spin on It
- Teach your kids about the joy of helping others
- Thankfulness & Gratitude Activities for Kids from True Aim Education
- Teach the art of the thank-you note
- Montessori Inspired Gratitude Activities from Living Montessori Now
- Paper Bag Gratitude Tree from No Time for Flash Cards
- Clean up around your school’s neighbourhood
- Gratitude Yoga from Kids Yoga Stories
- Bear Says Thanks Sensory Bin from Little Bins for Little Hands
- Donate books to your library
- The Gratitude Game with Pick Up Sticks from Teach Beside Me
- Gratitude Conversation Starters from Creative Family Fun
- Hold a coat, hat and mitten drive
- Gratitude Stones from Fireflies and Mudpies
- DIY Personalized Gratitude Journals from The Chaos and the Clutter
In the early years of a child’s life, the best way to instill gratitude is through random acts of kindness and teaching them about the good things in life. Children at a young age often focus on material things, so it’s important to show them the importance of gratitude beyond material possessions.
One of the common reasons for a child’s ungrateful attitude can be their exposure to an entitlement epidemic, where they come to expect material gifts without understanding the value of them. As parents, it’s crucial to counteract this by emphasizing the silver lining and teaching them the natural consequences of their actions.
A gratitude journal can be a good tool to encourage a child’s development of gratitude. Encourage them to write about the good news and good things that happen to them regularly. This helps them become a good kid and appreciate the important things in life.
It’s important for parents to be good role models and show gratitude in their own lives. Being a good parent means practicing what you preach and demonstrating an attitude of gratitude. Sometimes, it’s hard to maintain this attitude, especially during moments of frustration, but it should remain a high priority.
One common strategy is to involve your child in acts of kindness, such as volunteering at a homeless shelter or helping an elderly neighbor. This not only exposes them to different perspectives but also teaches them the value of giving back.
As children enter their teen years, they might face peer pressure to act entitled or disrespectfully. It’s important to have open discussions with them about the consequences of their behavior and the importance of earning their own money and taking good care of themselves.
Child development experts recommend nurturing a variety of complex social-emotional skills in your own children. These skills, including gratitude, lead to higher levels of positive emotions and good behavior.
In the end, the only thing that truly matters is raising good kids who grow up to be good adults with an attitude of gratitude. It’s not about being a perfect parent, but rather doing your best and teaching your children the best measures for living a fulfilling and grateful life through good intentions and love.
Remember, children’s behavior is influenced by the environment they are raised in, so as older parents, make sure to provide the best environment and guidance for your own kids. Be their best friend and gift giver in terms of life lessons and values, as those are the things that truly matter in the long run, far beyond material possessions or how much money you have.
- Gratitude as a Moral Emotion: Gratitude is identified as a moral emotion, crucial for building high-quality relationships and promoting prosocial behavior. It is negatively associated with envy and materialistic attitudes, and fostering gratitude in children can lead to greater well-being and stronger social relationships (McCullough et al., 2001).
- Parenting Strategies for Gratitude Development: A mechanism of parental moral education based on love, induction, and discipline can develop gratitude in children. This approach aligns with psychological and sociological theories, such as Piaget’s theory of moral development and Baumrind’s parenting styles theory (Shi Li, 2016).
- The Role of Parents in Children’s Gratitude: Children exhibit higher gratitude when parents model gratitude and use supportive, autonomy-granting, and warm parenting. This finding aligns with attachment theory, social learning, and emotion socialization theories (Obeldobel & Kerns, 2021).
- Education and Gratitude Interventions: Educational interventions teaching children about the appraisal of benefit exchanges can significantly increase grateful thinking, thereby enhancing their well-being and gratitude expression (Froh et al., 2014).
- Gratitude in Parenting Outcomes: Expressing gratitude improves parents’ emotions, feelings of connectedness, well-being, and parenting outcomes. Specific types of gratitude, like ‘safe haven gratitude,’ are particularly beneficial for parents with high levels of attachment insecurity (Nelson-Coffey et al., 2021).