How You May Accidentally Be Raising Ungrateful Children (And how To Fix That)
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 thenI’ll go through some discipline strategies to help you get through this difficult phase.
*This post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosure here.
*This information is for educational purposes only, if you need medical attention, please consult a physician.
What Do I Mean By Ungrateful Anyway
When we use the term ungrateful, we are referring to the fact that someone is showing us disrespect in the way of not saying thank you or showing that they are thankful.
If you describe someone as ungrateful, you are criticizing them for not showing thanks or for being unkind to someone who has helped them or done them a favour
When we come across someone who seems ungrateful, it is often a trigger for us to lecture them and tell them just how good they have things right now.
When our children seem ungrateful, we often refer to other children who have less than they do and sometimes even refer to countries that have less privileges than we do. It’s a trigger reaction and response.
But is this an effective method, and does it REALLY matter if our children show gratitude or not?
YES it does!
Raising grateful kids helps us raise kids who have good manners and create a connective attitude.
A connective attitude is one where children can show full appreciation when given a gift and are able to show this gratitude in a meaningful and thankful way.
Being thankful increases happiness and even focus and determination! It can give us a boost in energy and enthusiasm too.
Gratitude matters, a lot.
Gratitude is not about comparing situations to others who don’t have it as good as ourselves, it is all about being thankful for everything in your own life.
Grateful thinking can be beneficial to our emotion and physical health. It can lift our spirits and put us into a perspective of being so lucky to have all that we have which gives us a certain appreciation for everything in our lives.
When we lose sight of the important things, we can become spoiled and rotten, even as adults. Ungratefulness doesn’t just run in children, it can run through all of us.
It’s important to look at all the reasons why our children may be showing signs of ungratefulness so that we may take the time to instill gratitude within then and improve their overall well being.
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How To Spot If My Child Is Ungrateful And Entitled
If you are constantly “nagging” at your children to pick up their shoes, put their plates in the sink after dinner, or simply throw their clothes on the floor instead of the laundry hamper each evening, then you may have an ungrateful or entitled child.
I mean, as a parent it is kind of our job to pick up after our kids isn’t it?
Well, yes and no. Yes because our children are just children and we should let them be kids as long as possible and enjoy childhood. But no, because our children need to learn the responsibility of being an active member of the family too.
I love the positive parenting course, positive parenting solutions by Amy McCready, and I follow her methods in my own home, successfully. In her new book the “The Me, Me, Me Epidemic” she states that these problems may be signs that there is an entitlement or ungratefulness problem in your home.
- Your kids don’t show appreciation for your help and expect it
- You feel like you have to rescue your children from their homework when they become overwhelmed and don’t want to do it themselves
- Your kids don’t help when you ask them to help you, or they require a reward for completing everyday tasks (such as putting dishes in the sink)
- Your kids expect you to do things for them, even though they can do it themselves.
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.
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
Sometimes a child may not show gratefulness simply because they want to be in control of their emotions and they simply don’t want you to know that they are happy.
This happens a lot when children reach the tween/teen stages, and it’s very normal.
The thing is though, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it other than try to create open lines of communication with your child and not over discipline them so they feel a close connection to you.
In this case, you may not be raising ungrateful children, but there may be some other underlying behaviour issues that need to be addressed.
The Benefits of Being Grateful
There are many benefits to being grateful and we want our children to experience all these benefits and more when possible!
- Thinking about things we are grateful for can help children feel more connected to warm feelings of happiness rather than those toxic feelings of anger and bitterness.
- Oftentimes, children who are grateful for all they have grown up to be socially, physically and emotionally successful.
- When children show appreciation they are often more generous towards others also.
- Children can feel love and connection when they feel and show appreciation for everything in their lives.
- Oxytocin is released when happiness and gratitude are expressed which helps promote relaxation, calmness and trust.
- Children who are thankful for what they have are less depressed overall and show less envy over their friend’s possessions.
- Showing gratitude can help strengthen relationships with friends and family members.
There are so many benefits to raising children 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
If You Are Dealing With An Ungrateful Child
It’s a phase! It won’t last forever.
When you were a new parents and you were battling night feedings all by yourself and you were so stressed out, did you hear your friends and family tell you it’s just a phase? Did it make you feel better? No. It probably didn’t. But was it just a phase? Yes, yes it was.
You will battle many phases while you watch your children grow and ungratefulness is just one of those things. The total bummer is that this phase may last a little longer than the newborn night feeds and the toddler sneakiness. Sometimes this phase can last until early adulthood.
When children finally begin to realize just how much their parents do for them and begin to feel thankful for everything, then they have grown out of this phase.
Concentrating on the small wins such as encouraging thank you and please phrases in daily conversation can help get through the ungrateful phase faster. When you model gratefulness, your children can pick that up and begin to practice it themselves, without even thinking.
Standing your ground is also a great thing you can do. Kids can keep any conversation going forever, including arguments. When you give up on an argument, they win. Unfortunately, arguing with children is pointless and you really have to pick your battles, so sometimes you don’t have a choice but to back out and “let them win”.
If the matter is important, then you should not back out, no matter what. Play it cool and keep your calm, even in front of a very emotional child.
Most importantly we need to model gratitude and gratefulness day in and day out. We need to say thank you and we need to let them know that we notice they overcame a struggle.
It’s a hard journey and not every parent is going to get it right every single time. I don’t. And that’s ok. But trying to model gratefulness is good for you and for your child so you should do it.