ungrateful kids

3 Ways to Raise Ungrateful Kids

Nobody wants to have ungrateful kids. But many do have them. My wife and I have raised four young children and none of them were naturally thankful in the early years. They were, however, naturally selfish and entitled when things didn’t go their way. Words like “no,” “me,” and “mine” were normal responses we learned to parent through.

Thankfully, we are past that stage of parenting with all our children. But wouldn’t you agree it would be a pretty serious problem if my now preteen and teen children were still regularly living out that same selfish mentality? I think I’d have a right to be concerned as a parent if my children were entitled and ungrateful. But if you want to raise ungrateful kids, here are 3 simple ways to do it.

1. Speak negatively about what you have.

My wife always tells our kids the story of the summer her family lived on canned peas because it’s all they had. But those are some of her most memorable family moments from growing up because her family was still grateful and happy. Kids with thankful parents aren’t used to hearing their parents complain about how hard things are, how little they have, and how they’re barely going to make it. But kids who often hear their parents complain about their job, their income, or their life compared to the Joneses next door are going to pick up on that discontentment quickly. Such discontentment fuels ingratitude. Rather than focusing on what they don’t have, wise parents find ways to emphasize and verbalize their blessings regardless of their size.

2. Minimize opportunities to be thankful. Highlight opportunities to be critical.

Every day, we are surrounded by one million reasons to be grateful. If parents look for ways to help their family be thankful, they’re going to find them. But often, if we’re not careful, we fail to take advantage of the little moments to teach our children gratitude. Instead, we gripe about all the things that are wrong about life in front of our kids. We quickly overlook simple things like the beauty of a sunset, the rainbow after a storm, the benefits of hard work, the people in our lives who bless us. It’s easy to find things to be critical about. But it’s just as easy to find things to be thankful for if we’re looking. For families that pray together like ours, taking advantage of opportunities to be thankful may simply look like making prayer more about giving thanks than about asking for things.

3. Allow whining and complaining to go unchecked.

Because kids tend to do what parents model, thankful parents generally raise thankful kids.

One of the easiest ways to raise ungrateful kids is simply to allow them to do what comes naturally, to whine and complain about everything that doesn’t go their way. Gratefulness is both caught and taught. Because kids tend to do what parents model, thankful parents generally raise thankful kids. But thankfulness does not come naturally to any child. It must be taught. This means that children must be held accountable for their attitudes when life doesn’t seem fair.

Learning to establish incentives for when thankfulness is shown and consequences for when it’s not helped us tremendously in those early years. As a family, we would collectively memorize scripture verses like Philippians 2:14, which says, “Do all things without murmuring and disputing.” We would also allow all members of the family to hold each other accountable to this truth. We’d regularly and publicly praise attitudes that demonstrate thankfulness like sharing, working hard, generosity, and acts of appreciation. On the flip side, we would have just as consistent consequences for whining and complaining as we would for things like lying and disrespect.

Sound off: Which of these three things could use your attention the most?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What one thing about our family are you most thankful for?”