How to Deal with an Ungrateful Child

how to deal wit an ungrateful child

Do you have an ungrateful child in your midst?

Welcome to parenting. Few parents receive the gratitude they deserve from their children. That’s particularly true of teens though it can happen at any age.

How you manage it depends on several factors.

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How to Deal With an Ungrateful Child

Show your children that you care for them while also limiting some of the excesses. Explain to your ungrateful child that, as their parent, you will always give them love, shelter, clothing, food, education, and healthcare. Anything beyond this may need to be earned.

Step 1: Learn What it Means to be Ungrateful

upset child sitting

Being ungrateful means being disagreeable, thankless, and generally unpleasant. The ungrateful child is similar to the entitled child in that they often expect certain behaviors and luxuries without earning them first.

Being ungrateful can mean that the child expects parents to behave in a certain way, don’t respect others, or make disparaging remarks that belittle the hard work and effort someone else has exerted.

Unfortunately, the lack of appreciation from a child is all too common.

Step 2: Consider the Cause of the Lack of Gratitude

lack of gratitude

Teenagers have a lot going on. They are managing a surge of hormones, increased adult-like responsibilities, issues with peers, and pressure about their future plans.

Teens become increasingly selfish, which also equates to a lack of gratitude.

I live with an ungrateful teen. He’s a good guy most of the time, but he is still a teenager. His busy schedule requires constant driving on the part of his father and me.

We always make sure he has exactly what he needs when he needs it, and we often go above and beyond to provide. His apparent lack of appreciation is frustrating, to say the least.

I asked my son for his suggestions on this question:

What can a parent do about an ungrateful child?

He thought about it for a while. He considered many different scenarios, then shrugged his shoulders and said maybe there isn’t anything that can be done. I disagreed.

Step 3: Talk About Gratitude With Your Child

mother daughter talking

My son and I talked about what it means to be grateful.

I reminded him that a good parent must meet their child’s basic needs. A good parent will strive to ensure a child has clothing, shelter, food, access to health care, and education.

Some parents, even very good ones, might struggle with meeting those needs. It’s absolutely necessary to be thankful that the minimum is met on a daily basis.

Not having to worry about where he’s going to sleep and whether he will be able to eat is a luxury not everyone has.

He agreed with me that he needed to show his gratitude better for having his needs met, but he added some things I didn’t expect.

My son told me that a good friend of his revealed that he is bisexual, but his father would disown him if he ever found out.

His mother abandoned him when he was young, so he is stuck with a father who doesn’t accept him. My son’s friend is terrified of his dad and lives in misery.

Knowing that he has supportive, loving parents is the thing that he is most grateful for, and he vowed to do a better job showing it.

Step 4: Introduce Alternative Realities

mother daughter volunteer

I am a big proponent of volunteerism.

I love volunteering, and I love the experience and empathy it instills in my children.

Working at a homeless shelter with a food pantry or warming shelter will show even the most ungrateful child how difficult the world can be for some.

Finding time to volunteer can be extremely difficult. It’s much easier to write a check to a local food bank than it is to sign up for a few hours of sorting boxed food, peeling potatoes, or serving meals.

However, if you have the ability, I strongly suggest taking your children to volunteer. It is eye-opening to see how many people are without in every community.

Step 5: Remember What Not to Do

It’s tempting to compare your child’s life to your own childhood.

It’s something I struggle with almost every day. I experienced homelessness in my youth. Many times, all I had for dinner was a slice of white bread.

My hand-me-down clothes had holes and stains. I saved birthday money to pay for my own school supplies and often had to do without.

There was nothing more frustrating to me than to hear my own parents talk about how much worse their lives were when they were young. I remind myself of that when talking to my kids.

Though I may have had more struggles in my life, that doesn’t diminish my own kids’ pain.

Try not to yell or name call. That can be hard. I sometimes want to scream, “You’re an ungrateful brat!” I usually manage to stay calm, but there are times that I fail.

You probably will too.

If you do, don’t beat yourself up but don’t pretend it away either. Apologize, tell your child you will try to be better but insist that they must try to empathize with your situation.

Though I may have had more struggles in my life, that doesn’t diminish my own kids’ pain.

Parents Plus Kids (How to Deal with an Ungrateful Child)

Key Takeaways

Most kids outgrow being ungrateful.

In the meantime, let your ungrateful child know that you expect more. Have them volunteer with those who are in disadvantaged situations so they can see, first-hand, how grateful they should be.

Do you have a different tactic? Tell us in the comments!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the signs of an ungrateful child:

  • Constantly whines for things that they don’t need
  • Expects rewards for good behavior
  • Being overly disappointed when things don’t work out exactly how they want it to

A child could become ungrateful if they’ve had everything handed to them.

My preferred way of disciplining an ungrateful child is to make them volunteer in a food shelter or food pantry. I think it’s important for them to really see people who have so little.

Show your daughter that you care for them while also limiting some of the excesses. Explain to your ungrateful daughter that, as their parent, you will always give them love, shelter, clothing, food, education, and healthcare. Anything beyond this may need to be earned.

Show your son you care for them while also limiting some of the excesses. Explain to your ungrateful son that, as their parent, you’ll always give them shelter, clothing, food, love, education, and healthcare. Anything beyond this will need to be earned.