Dear Kids, Will You Please Just Be Grateful?

ungrateful kids
Stock photo as I could never get my kids to pose like this.

I’m begging you guys, please just be grateful.

You are wonderful children. You love each other. You are respectful to adults. You do well in school. Even when you need to be corrected, you are typically receptive. You are learning how to human, and though I am far from perfect, I feel like I’m doing an okay job showing you the ropes, giving you love and acceptance, and fostering a home life where you feel safe and where you belong.

But one major problem area around here is gratefulness. How can I teach it better? How long will it take you to learn to be more grateful?

Listen, internet, I’m not saying these things to my children and I didn’t put my name on this post because I don’t want them to ever see these words from their mother, but I need to get this out. If you can relate, great. If you can’t, good on you. I’m glad you’re doing a great job at this mothering gig. I’m thrilled that your kids are grateful for everything you’ve ever bestowed upon them. I’m sure you, first time mom of a 3 month old, will do a much better job than me. And I’m sure you, mom of grown kids, don’t understand what is wrong with young moms these days for not having it all together like you did. Can you please find enough compassion to keep scrolling and not kick a fellow mom when she’s down? Thanks.

Anyway, back to the kids.

I try. I try to strike that elusive balance between indulging you and setting a good example for you. I do not give in to your every request. When you throw a fit, I do not cave except on those rare occasions when I just do not have it in me to fight. “Sure, fine, watch one more show,” I say after your incessant whining when, by this time of day, all I want is some freaking peace and quiet. I’ll give in on little things now and then because I need to for my sanity. That’s not part of the problem. That’s not why you struggle more with gratefulness than with patience or any other virtuous trait I’d like you to have. Nearly all of the time, no means no, clean means clean and stop means STOP RIGHT THIS INSTANT.

Not only do we avoid giving you everything you want because we are deliberately working to keep you from becoming spoiled brats, but we don’t have the money or resources to give you all that you desire. No, you cannot have a hover board. No, son, we actually can’t get you an Iron Man suit that flies. And while yes, your friends vacationed in Hawaii, you’ll have to settle for the nearby Florida panhandle. And you’ll go during the off season because it’s cheaper, and you should be grateful for that because so many people in your city can’t vacation in Florida, or anywhere. In fact, there have been years when we couldn’t take family vacations. You are in no danger of suffering from affluenza. (Does that term disgust anyone else?)

So, children, where does your entitlement come from?

Why do you think you deserve everything you ask for? Why can’t you be happy that we attended Disney on Ice instead of complaining that I won’t buy you the $13 Snow Cone.

Why do you guys argue and complain about going to the zoo? Or the movies? I’m sorry but there are too many of you for all of you to like everything we do. But for crying out loud, can’t you see these fun days for what they are supposed to be? Can you please show one ounce of thankfulness for our efforts to bring you fun experiences?

We are supposed to be at a parade. Instead, I am sitting in my room having been reduced to tears because of all the ungratefulness I saw this morning. Oh, you don’t want to wear the jeans you begged for? Why don’t you take them off and we’ll go give them to a child who has never owned brand new jeans?

I can’t deal with this kind of behavior anymore. You are not babies or toddlers. I know you’re still young, but I feel like you should be farther along in your gratefulness development.

What am I doing wrong? How can I do better?

We talk about being thankful. We go around the table or the car and mention things we are grateful for. I try to model gratitude. I want to be a good example for you guys.

Maybe it just takes more time. Maybe gratefulness is something you’ll be perfecting throughout your entire life.

You have so much more than I ever did. Not just in terms of things and experiences, but more of a voice in our house. No, you don’t make important decisions, but we consider you more than my parents ever considered me. I wish you could see what you have in front of you. I wish you knew how much thought and energy I put into raising you.

You didn’t see me lose it today. You didn’t see me cry. I didn’t say the mean things I was thinking. I didn’t want to shame you. But I DO want you to learn. Instead of going off for a fun day like we planned, you guys are home. And you know your ungratefulness is the reason we didn’t go out. I hope this day turns around for us and that you learn a valuable lesson today. I know my work isn’t done. I know we’ll have to go through it again. And again. Today, I just hope the dial turned ever so slightly toward gratefulness.

I love you, and I will keep trying. But right now, I want to cry and feel like a failure.


  1. I mean this in the nicest way possible… every ungrateful kid I’ve ever known has had an ungrateful (or two) parent(s). Being ungrateful has many forms and symptoms. Are you looking for silver linings when things don’t go your way, and being grateful for them out loud, to set an example of flexibility and gratitude? Do you spend as much time talking about the good things in your life that you already have, as you do about the things you want or feel you deserve? Do you often express verbal gratitude for the intangible blessings of life (health, family, friends, peace of mind, your happy life)? Do you give them opportunities to do things for others, selflessly (donate toys, volunteer, etc). Do you have them do chores or earn anything they have? Do you complain a lot, and let them hear you doing it? Positivity is contagious, but negativity even more so. Kids become what they live. Step up your own gratitude game, and watch them follow suit. You won’t complain them into grateful compliance. Genuine internal gratitude needs to be spoken out loud. It has to be modeled in the home around the clock. It’s a way of life. Nobody is perfect, but gratitude is a mindset, not just a behavior.

    I found this to be a good article:

    • Did you even bother to read the article? The author DOES express and model gratitude. Some examples of this were even listed. But no. That wasn’t good enough for you, was it? It MUST be one or both of the parents’ fault. Nevermind that they are still children and are learning to navigate the word as well as how to express their feelings. It’s obviously the fault of the parents…because you’ve decided so. You accuse the author of needing to step up their game, because negativity is even more contagious than positively; but you’re response was borderline nasty, sanctimonious, and just plain unnecessary. You did nothing but attempt shame the author for their honesty, and don’t think that writing “I mean this in the nicest way possible” negates any of your rudeness one iota. Ew.

  2. PREACH ON SISTA! This really hits home to me. I tell my sons all the time that I would like to bring them to a 3rd world country to see how lucky they are and how thankful they should be for all that they have. They think my house is bad and then I read the news and tell them stories of how bad other kids have it. I like you am trying to figure this out. I appreciate your honesty about the subject. You writing this post shows how much you care about your children. I am sure that one day your hard work will pay off and that they will see how grateful they should be for having a mom that cares about them so much that she wrote this post. Positive vibes to you!


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