Bringing up a kid is a full-time job that most parents take very seriously. They read books, watch videos, read guides, and even commit to parenting seminars and schools. Yet again, that little angel you’ve been feeding since day one can join the ungrateful children crowd at some point or another.
Don’t worry, ungrateful children are pretty common, and parents around the world have at least once experienced having to deal with ungrateful children.
Anyhow, it must make you wonder, “Did I make any mistakes?” “What did I do wrong?” “Am I stuck with ungrateful children?” “Is there something I can do to fix this behavior?” If some of these questions are familiar to you, you’ve stumbled upon just the right kind of resource.
Welcome to our Ungrateful Children: The Ultimate Guide. Here you will discover what makes children become ungrateful, the psychological mechanisms behind it, and, most importantly, how to deal with it. Let’s start.
Reasons That Might Lead To Ungrateful Children
Children don’t become ungrateful overnight. This type of behavior, or if you prefer, point of children’s view, can appear even with 3-year-olds. But before you can act on it, you have to understand how the problem develops. Here are the main culprits that can potentially lead to an ungrateful kid.
In your efforts to give your kids the best life possible, you can fall into a common pitfall. Don’t worry, many parents do. This goes to both needy and not-so-needy kids. If you always give them whatever they want and Whenever they want it, they will start expecting nothing less. This can potentially lead to developing a feeling of entitleme in kids.
The definition of entitlement by the Cambridge dictionary is straightforward and easy to understand: “The feeling that you have the right to do or have what you want without having to work for it or deserve it, just because of who you are.”
Unfortunately, entitlement and gratefulness don’t go hand in hand. If your kid starts feeling entitled, the chances are that you will have to deal with an ungrateful kid.
In your efforts to protect your child from the real world, you can create a sort of a bubble for them to live in. This is a callous decision. However, the world is not only a good and happy place but also an unfortunate and sad place. Depriving your kid of this valuable lesson is also a prevalent factor that leads to ungratefulness. How come? Children learn from experience as adults do.
If you keep your kids in a bubble, you will restrict them from all the experience outside of the bubble. Your kid won’t be able to see life in all its forms, including poverty and hunger. Protecting your child from hurtful imagery is one thing, but over protecting is another.
Have you ever heard about the term “modeling”? It is one of the primary mechanisms that help kids learn behavior. It is very simple. A kid observes you and your partner or siblings, sees how you behave, and then, they imitate that behavior. More common terms include social learning and observational learning.
If you are not overly thrilled about receiving gifts or exhibiting any gratefulness to anyone, the chances are that your kid will model it and adopt it as a regular behavioral model. At this point, it is important to stay focused on the reasons and restrain from pointing fingers as it can make the situation worse. We will come back to this in the “Ways To Deal With It” section.
Since parents play a vital role in educating and socializing, it is quite reasonable to find another culprit disguised in your parenting style. A parenting style based on constant criticism, nagging, and lecturing can potentially make children feel indifferent and ungrateful.
When you paint the picture for them that they are incompetent and that they have to work very hard to get rewards and presents, there is no room for feeling grateful. Kids will think that they did their part by working and spending time doing things they don’t like to get rewards.
In this type of social interaction, it is merely impossible to experience the feelings of gratefulness. This is a complicated feeling composed of feelings of appreciation and thankfulness. When parents continuously nag and criticize, there is no space for these feelings to develop. Instead, children often suffer a heavy blow to their self-esteem.
Psychology Of Ungrateful Children
We’ve already stated that a kid doesn’t become ungrateful overnight. It takes time for this type of behavior to develop. And to be able to understand it, we have to take a closer look at the subtle psychological mechanisms that work in the background.
Positive reinforcement is one of the basic concepts in behavioral psychology discovered and defined by Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov: “The process of encouraging or establishing a pattern of behavior by offering a reward when the behavior is exhibited.”
In parenting, it is usually used to leverage the power of reward to shape children’s behavior. There is one problem, though; this type of learning can occur spontaneously without you even knowing that you are reinforcing the particular type of behavior in your kids.
The most common one is when parents buy more expensive gifts or present more significant rewards after a kid is unsatisfied with the first reward. This behavior creates a vicious circle that enables children to be unable to exhibit thankfulness in any other form but stop making demands for a little while.
The Delicate Emotional Life of Kids
Adults don’t give enough credit to kids, and they often underestimate their emotional life. Kids are capable of experiencing all basic emotions by the age of 3. These emotions play a vital role in forming interpersonal relationships. And, it is in these relationships that kids express gratitude or ungratefulness.
Scientists at Yale have examined parent-child relations and found out that a phenomenon they named “exchange relationship” occurs. The explanation lies in expectations. More precisely, over time, children learn about gifting patterns. They know that they will receive presents for their birthday and Christmas. The sense of gratitude is left out because the gift is expected. Fortunately, this is something that can be easily rectified.
Natural Response in Teenagers
Ungratefulness often kicks in teenhood. Many parents are often caught by surprise. Their kid was so lovely and grateful yesterday, and he or she suddenly turned into an ungrateful teenager. What do you do? What just happened?
There is nothing to worry about if your grateful kid turns into an ungrateful teenager overnight. This process is natural because teenhood is a transition into adulthood. During this period, children test boundaries and tend to pick up behavior from other teenagers to fit into their social group.
Ways To Deal With It
At some point, you can feel like all your ships have sunk, and you have to accept your child as they are, ungrateful and beyond help. This is simply not true.
There are plenty of things you can do to rectify their behavior and help your kid become grateful for all that life has to offer, including presents and acts of kindness.
Let Your Kid Fail
Before you start helping your kid, you have to be honest with yourself. Ask yourself these questions, “Am I over-protecting my child?” and “When was the last time I let my kid fail?” It is common for parents to do everything in their power to help their kids avoid failing and having to deal with frustration.
This behavior deprives them of experiencing all those “bad” emotions that come with failing. Someone who doesn’t fail tends to have very high expectations of the world and others. High expectations mean ungratefulness and entitlement. Stop mowing down everything in your kid’s path and let them fail. Be there as support and help them deal with new emotions.
Address Ungrateful Attitude
It is very easy to identify those moments when your child is expressing an ungrateful attitude. It is crucial to address it as soon as it happens.
There is one common mistake here. Parents often call their kids names and criticize them for being ungrateful. This method is called shaming, and it’s counterproductive.
Instead, explain what it means to be ungrateful and point out exactly how your child expressed it. Continue by painting a picture of the effort it took to be a giving parent.
You can also be proactive in addressing an ungrateful attitude to prevent it from occurring and showing that there is a better way.
Be a Good Role Model
If you want to see your children behaving in a certain way, you should start doing the same. You are the role model for your kids. They look up to you, and since they spend most of their day with you, there are plenty of opportunities to foster gratitude in them.
There are several convenient ways to do it. You can start regularly talking about the things you feel grateful for. You can also create a habit out of it. For instance, every night before going to bed, everyone in your family should say at least one thing they feel grateful for that day.
Use Cartoons and Movies To Your Advantage
Ungrateful children are not aware of the emotional impact they have on others because they often lack empathy. They simply don’t have mechanisms to understand that their lack of gratitude can hurt someone else’s feelings.
You can leverage cartoons and movies and turn them into valuable teaching moments. Ask them what they think about how the characters feel after being exposed to stressful situations. Help them understand that actions and inactions have consequences. They will quickly pick up and start developing empathy, which is crucial for becoming grateful.
Encourage Your Kid to Volunteer
While we are talking about empathy, there is another thing that you can do. Let your kids volunteer. It can also help you burst that bubble you created for your children.
Volunteering helps build a sense of compassion and empathy.
It will create an opportunity for your kids to see how other people and their children live and become aware of the value of family. On a side note, it will also help your kids learn the importance of teamwork, collaboration, and make them feel happy for helping others.
Give Presents Out of Pure Generosity
Do you remember the “exchange relationship” phenomenon examined by the professionals at Yale? The chances are that your children learned when to expect presents from you. You can try to diversify your gift-giving practices to see whether your children are truly ungrateful or just used to getting presents for big days.
Start rewarding your kids out of pure generosity. They won’t know what hit them. You can expect to see a substantial emotional impact. This action will help them develop a sense of gratitude and even motivate them to share what they have with you and their friends.
Verbalize Your Concerns With Respect
Finally, if your kid has just entered teenhood, you can have a meaningful conversation. In the event of ungrateful behavior, feel free to verbalize your concerns, but don’t do it with a condescending tone. Show respect for their new boundaries, but also express how it makes you feel. Try to connect with your teenager on an emotional level.
It will open new doors in your relationship. You will also be sending a strong message that you will always be there as a supportive and caring parent.
We hope you enjoyed our Ungrateful Children: The Ultimate Guide. Children are complex. They have their inner lives filled with their own thoughts, emotions, and impressions. Now that you understand what stands behind feelings of ungratefulness and how to help your kids become grateful, you can try the tips we’ve shared with you.