How to Deal with an Ungrateful Child

Let’s face it. Having a child who’s ungrateful can be trying both physically and mentally. You may be feeling at your wit’s end when it comes to constant challenges of authority.

Anyone with a toddler can tell you the choice between which cereal to eat for breakfast can create drama. Five more minutes at the park can leave you emotionally exhausted. By evening, battles over bedtime with your toddler can wage wars.

Every parent wants to do the right thing when raising their children. Many parents blame themselves for their child’s ungrateful behavior.

If you feel this way, you’re not alone. In fact, nearly 49% of women and upwards of 64% of men rated themselves negatively as parents.

But, you may be surprised to learn that it’s fairly common for children to go through phases of ungratefulness. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to overcome and deal with an ungrateful child.

What Causes Children to Seem Ungrateful?

Your child is constantly learning. Between the ages of 5 and 6, your little one will start to understand how to articulate thoughts and negotiation skills. In turn, parents and close relatives are likely the first to receive the first encounters of boundaries being tested.

Every child’s development is unique. Some children may push the limits to the max if allowed, while others may settle for winning little battles, such as an extra five minutes of reading before bedtime.

Around the age of five, children start to develop their problem-solving skills. This includes heavily weighing their options in creative ways. Combined with an increase in language skills, this can lead to what seems like ungrateful behavior to adults.

During this time your toddler should also start to learn how to deal with their feelings. Until they gain better control over how to cope with emotions like jealousy and frustration, outbursts can become frequent.

Preventative Measures for Ungrateful Children

Although it’s completely normal for children to test their limits as they become toddlers, there are several things parents can do early on to encourage proper reactions.

Not only can you teach your child the proper response to not always getting their way, but you can help them learn to express their emotions in a healthy way.

Here are some quick things you can do to create a happy, emotionally fulfilled child.

  • Talk to your child about their feelings and how to put words to them.
  • Include your little one in simple choices that can teach responsibility and cooperation.
  • Encourage ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ to teach children to be grateful and gracious.
  • Give your child an understanding of time (ie today, tomorrow, yesterday) to help set limits.

Remember, every child is unique. What works for one child might not necessarily benefit another. Find what methods work best for your family and continue on that path.

How to React When a Child is Being Ungrateful

Following the below tips might seem difficult, especially when fighting the same battle repeatedly. However, remaining consistent both with your words and your actions can eventually tame even the worst ungrateful behavior.

  • Do empathize with your child. Your toddler is more likely to comply with your wishes if you listen to their feelings and provide reasons behind your decision.
  • Don’t reward bad behavior. Explain to your child why their actions are unacceptable in a calm and collected manner.
  • Do remain firm. Over time, as your little one learns that you’ll stand your ground, they’ll be less likely to push back as frequently.

If your little one decides that an outburst is a proper way to react to a situation there are several things you can do to calm them down. Learning the right way to handle disappointment is critical at this stage in life.

Child psychiatrist T. Barry Brazelton, M.D states one way to overcome especially bad tantrums is to “Sit down with her in your lap until she’s available to you. Then, discuss why you think she needed to do it, why she can’t do it and how badly you know she feels for this kind of destructive, out-of-control behavior.”

Keeping Yourself in the Right Frame of Mind

When your little one pushes their boundaries, it becomes discouraging and emotionally trying for parents and family members alike.

Try some of these tips to help you overcome your emotional frustrations when dealing with an ungrateful child.

  • Don’t allow yourself to explode. Getting angry will only create a situation where your child focuses on your behavior rather than your words.
  • Give yourself time. If you need a moment or two to step away from the situation, go ahead. Ask a family member or friend to take the reigns while you collect yourself.
    Anticipate your child’s actions and reactions. By planning ahead you allow yourself to be prepared and react accordingly.
  • Accept that this is a normal phase. According to Jenn Berman, Psy.D., psychotherapist and author, many children outgrow the ungrateful phase between the ages of 8 and 9.
  • Get support. Sometimes all it takes is talking to someone who has gone through a similar situation before.

Growing Grateful Together

Every parent wants to do the right thing when it comes to raising their little one. Dealing with a child’s ungrateful behavior is eventually something that all parents may face at some point.

It’s important to remember your child’s behavior is a two-way street. As your toddler becomes more of a free-thinker, you’ll both be learning how to cope with new life experiences.

No two children are identical. Find what works best for you and your little one when dealing with ungrateful behavior and stick with it.



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