How To Never Suffer From Ungrateful Children Ever Again!

By Paula McLaren •  Updated: 12/21/21 •  10 min read  •  Preschool » Preschooler Parenting Advice

We have all witnessed at least one young child acting very unimpressed with the gift that Grandma bought them, or asking ‘Is that all there is?’ after they have opened twenty presents on Christmas morning…

In fact, I’m willing to bet that you already have a list of kids names already running through your head already, right?

Well, you’re not alone. 

Sadly, ungrateful children are becoming more and more common in our world…

But it doesn’t have to be this way!

You can avoid falling into the traps that may encourage ungrateful behaviour in children and learn the best ways to raise kind, compassionate, honest and grateful children WITHOUT compromising on your love for them!

And here’s how…

Are Children Naturally Ungrateful?

Left to their own devices, most children will be ungrateful as their brains want to have more and be the best!

Young children have not yet learnt the complexity of human emotions and how to regulate their thoughts and so it is up to us as parents to teach them how to appreciate others and what they have to be grateful for!

When Do I Need To Worry About Ungrateful Children?

Children are usually around 3 years old when ungrateful behaviour starts to emerge and it isn’t until they are 4 years old that they can start to understand more complex emotions in others. 

It is important to remember that children under the age of 3 are not able to understand the concept of being ungrateful or how their behaviour can have an impact on others. 

Some children may be naturally empathetic and thoughtful but most young children are naturally self-centred… 

They will all interrupt, throw tantrums, while and say ‘No’ a lot but this is all perfectly normal!

However, it is how we as parents deal with these emerging emotions and teach our children how to manage them, that will determine whether our very young child evolves into an ungrateful older child or not.

What Are The 6 Signs Of An Ungrateful Child?

So, what are the early signs that your child is on the road to becoming an ungrateful child?

Whilst these behaviours are expected every now and then in young children, they should not dominate their thoughts and behaviours on a daily basis.

5 Surprising Reasons Parents May Have Ungrateful Children

Parents are often surprised to discover that their reactions to their child’s behaviour are encouraging them to continue with the ungrateful behaviour…

Normal behaviour in toddlers and preschoolers, if left unchecked and unguided, can easily end up with children not appreciating others, lacking empathy and being ungrateful.

Sadly, if parents are not handling selfish behaviour age-appropriately, then they run the risk of sowing the seeds of raising ungrateful children.

5 Surprising Reasons Parents May Have Ungrateful Children

1. Parents Let Their Children Interrupt All The Time

Teaching young children to not interrupt can be REALLY tricky. 

But by giving them the right words such as ‘excuse me’ when they want your attention, or asking them to pat you on the arm to get your attention if you are talking to someone else can help to avoid ungrateful children. 

Stopping and telling them that you are aware they want your attention, but will have to wait a short while is also a good tactic to try.

2. Parents Drop Everything They Are Doing In Order To Do What The Child Wants To Do

This is very much linked to letting children interrupt. 

Unless the child is in danger, then getting them used to wait for a while occasionally is a great life skill. 

Patience is a skill we all need to learn and it’s vital to avoid ungrateful children!

Again, acknowledge that you know they need your attention, but ask them to wait until you have finished what you are doing. 

Make the waiting age-appropriate and don’t make them wait every time, only when you feel it is right to do so.

3. Parents Give In Rather Than Setting Limits And Sticking To Them

Setting limits for your little one has so many benefits and among them is the benefit of teaching your child to have self-control. 

If parents do not follow through with the limits they’ve set, children will spot an area of weakness and exploit it. 

This can result in children acting impulsive and behaving in ways that may be inconsiderate or ungrateful.

4. Parents Have No Consequences For Unacceptable Behaviour

Again, if children are not taught that there are consequences for bad behaviour, they will not develop a filter about what they can say to others or how they behave… which can result in them becoming one of the many ungrateful children we see today.

5. Parents Use Bribery In Exchange For Good Behaviour

There is a difference between bribery and rewards. 

Bribery is when you react to your child’s bad behaviour in the moment and offer them something if they change what they are doing or saying…

Rewards are predetermined positive reinforcement for a simple action or behaviour. For example, if a child has put their shoes away at the end of the day, they can choose the bedtime story later.

If a child is ungrateful, it is important that parents don’t offer them a reward for changing the behaviour as it will reinforce that bad behaviour gets the result the child wanted!

How Do You Deal With Ungrateful Children?

If you feel that your children are on the slippery slope to ungratefulness know that there are things you can do to stop them from becoming ungrateful children!

From 4 years of age, children start to become more aware of the emotions of others and start to understand the complexity of emotions such as gratitude and empathy.

And at this age, parents often fall into the trap that spoilt or ungrateful behaviour in young children is normal and sometimes cute… 

Nor will giving your children more things in the hope that they will eventually appreciate all that you give them.

These tactics will BACKFIRE on you.

Therefore, you need to implement the following tactics to deal with ungrateful children!

And believe me…

The following tactics WILL WORK!

5 Tips Deal With Ungrateful Children

1. Stand Your Ground

I know it can be exhausting dealing with tantrums, but giving in to this behaviour reinforces to your children that ungrateful behaviour gets you what you want. 

So, stay calm and always stick to your guns!

2. Limit How Much You Do For Your Child

It is also important not to be a slave to ungrateful children! 

Encourage them to do things for themselves as much as possible. 

Doing things for themselves is a great way to appreciate what others do for them.

3. Talk About Feelings

I cannot stress how important is it to have healthy communication with your children.

It is the fundamental base of any relationship so always ask your child how they are feeling in different situations, especially if someone acted in an ungrateful way towards them. 

Pointing out and talking about how it feels to be hurt, will teach them to understand and be aware of others’ feelings.

4. Teach Delayed Gratification

This is VITAL to avoid ungrateful children. 

Teaching your children to wait an age-appropriate time for something that they want will most definitely teach them to appreciate things and be more grateful in the long run. 

5. Model Empathy And Gratitude

Most importantly, let your young child see you being empathetic and kind towards others! 

Children learn how to behave by watching how you behave. 

If they are raised in an environment of mutual respect where family members and friends are kind towards each other then they will follow in those footsteps.

8 Steps To Raise Grateful Kids

Teaching your child to have empathy, kindness and gratitude starts in the early years. 

From the simple act of teaching them to say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’, learning to be grateful is, without doubt, a long process that needs constant reinforcement and propping up from you.

The key is to be consistent when dealing with your young child’s behaviour, so try following these few simple guidelines to keep your children on the gratitude track!

1. Put limits on bad behaviour.

2. Be consistent in your responses to behaviour.

3. Lead by example showing empathy and kindness towards each other.

4. Talk about and acknowledge feelings and emotions.

5. Express your gratitude towards your children.

6. Ensure your children socialise where they are not the centre of attention.

7. Teach delayed gratification.

8. Read books about being thankful and showing gratitude to others. Here’s one of my favourites!

Thankful By Eileen Spinelli

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In Conclusion

Being grateful is so beneficial to our wellbeing and teaching your children how to tap into this is very important. 

We feel connected to others when we show empathy and gratitude and it has been proven that just thinking about what we are grateful for is beneficial to our psychological, emotional and physical well-being! 

Remember, teaching your children gratitude is NOT about comparing how lucky they are in comparison to others…

But focusing on what they have in their life that they can be grateful and thankful for! 

Ungrateful children remain a part of our society for now, but I hope that this article has provided you with the tools to help change the world, one child at a time!

If you have any further questions about ungrateful children, please email me at [email protected] and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!

As always, thank you for reading! 

And with love and support, until next time, Happy Parenting!

Paula McLaren

Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the childcare industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

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