Are All Kids Ungrateful?
For many families, Thanksgiving is a time of year where we emphasize the importance of being grateful and thankful for the people and opportunities in our lives. However, as a parent, there are plenty of times where we feel unappreciated by our family members, specifically our children. It is very easy for us to acknowledge and know all that we do for our children, and the sacrifices we make. However, it feels as if it is not as obvious to our kids! This can leave parents feeling unappreciated, ignored, and disrespected. We feel as if we get no recognition for our efforts and hard work, which can lead to anger and resentment. I am here to remind you how magnificent you are, and to help you cope with feeling unappreciated.
Being a parent is a difficult job. One that, despite all the self-help books, doesn’t come with a manual that has all the right answers. Everyone needs validation to feel better about themselves, and have motivation to continue on with their efforts and hard work. As parents, we can forget that our children are just that, children! At times we feel our children should be more grateful for what we, and others, do for them. Below are some tips on how to cope with ungratefulness from our children, and help us teach them how to be more in tune with others and grateful.
Use positive self-talk
Remind yourself that you are doing your best! Focus on the positive things you do- even if that is not yelling when your child is throwing a tantrum. Remind yourself that you will never be the perfect parent, because simply that doesn’t exist. Speak to yourself with kindness. Acknowledge your mistakes, and focus on the lessons learned rather than the mistake itself. We cannot control our children being grateful towards us, but we can control us being grateful and appreciative towards ourselves. Give yourself recognition, even when others do not.
Focus on what you can control- you!
When we focus on attempting to make our child more grateful, we tend to end up feeling angrier and disappointed because we cannot control them. When your child is being ungrateful for a meal that you cooked, is telling them “You’re lucky I cooked anything at all!” helpful? The answer is simply, no. Trying to force our children to be grateful in these moments isn’t effective, but teaching them how to be grateful is. Use these moments as teaching and learning experiences. This way, when you do not get what you want (a thank you), you will not feel disappointed. Rather, when you teach your child that this is a moment where they could work on being grateful, you will feel accomplished, successful, and increase your chances of them being grateful towards you in the future.
Teach by example
When you have moments where you can be grateful, use them! A lot of the time we do not thank our children for things they “should” do. For example, if you asked your child to pick up his/her toys, and they do it, thank them afterwards. You are teaching your children to be grateful for others doing things for them, even if they feel others should be doing these things (like cooking dinner). Treating your children with the respect and gratefulness that you would like to receive will help them reciprocate that back to you. Treating others in this manner in front of your children will help them connect that this is an appropriate way to act towards others.
Remember that they are children
It is helpful to remind ourselves that our kids do not see the world the same way we do; their brains are not as developed as ours. Depending on their age, kids tend to be more egocentric and self-involved. They need to be taught empathy and how to consider others, and what better way to learn than from you! It is helpful to reminds ourselves they are not intentionally being ungrateful, rather they might not know how. Your child isn’t going to understand that you left work early to make their play, or that you skipped your self-care or alone time to take them to practice. We do not want children to walk around worrying about adult things, but we do want to teach them to acknowledge others and their efforts. Try to put yourself in their shoes.
Remind yourself that you most likely weren’t considering how your life was affecting your parents’ when you were younger either. Allow them to be children that do not have to worry about adult responsibilities, but teach them how to be considerate of others. Teach them through reminders, i.e. “It is still important to say thank you and acknowledgement someone if they give you a gift, even if you didn’t like the gift”.
Seek validation from your support systems
It is important to seek validation from your support systems- your partner, friends, or family members. Let them ensure that you are doing a good job. Let them remind you that you are appreciated, and that they care deeply about you. Relate to other parents who feel unappreciated to help you feel as if you are not alone, and it is only your child who is ungrateful. Our children cannot always vocalize and give us the desired responses and appreciation we would like, but adults can. Allow them to help you feel appreciated.
Lastly, remind yourself that you are very important to your children. They love and adore you, even if their actions and words do not match that all the time. Focus on the positive moments as well- the “I love you” that you receive at bedtime, or the “thank you” you receive after getting their toy for them. The more you teach your child how to be grateful, the better you will feel! Go be the amazing parent you are, and spread & feel gratitude this holiday season.