You cook a great meal, or plan a great party, or change your work schedule to volunteer at school, but your children seem ungrateful.
Not only do they seem ungrateful, they actually complain about the experience or wish it was better or different.
I know this is infuriating. I’ve been there. I’ve felt the sting of unrecognized parenting efforts.
But that’s just it. Our kids are often challenged to recognize what they don’t understand.
They don’t understand the logistics of a big meal or party; they don’t relate to leaving work early. They can’t begin to understand the daily challenges of an adult, and really, that’s a good thing.
As much as we would like for them to validate and admire all of our efforts, this doesn’t always happen. Not because they are ungrateful or unkind, but because they are still learning to see beyond their own experiences.
As parents, we tend to view our children’s lives through an adult lens. We expect them to understand life the way we do, to offer reasoned and consistently polite responses.
These are important adult skills, but our kids are still learning how to do this. They are still developing their insight and hindsight.
These experiences that we view as ungrateful are actually fantastic teaching opportunities. What better way to teach compassion or noticing the good than with a real-life example?
Instead of being offended by our children or shaming them for not understanding the bigger picture, we can make a point to discuss what they may not have noticed.
Of course, I am occasionally triggered by a less-than-grateful response or unappreciative complaint. I’ve had my share of reactive or what-about-me responses.
But when the dust settles, it becomes obvious that my kids just want what I want. They want to be heard and validated. They want to share what they feel.
And sometimes a comment about a party being bad isn’t about the party at all; it’s about what someone said or did at the party.
Sometimes a negative attitude at dinner isn’t about the food that was cooked; it’s just a releasing of accumulated stress from school.
Instead of deciding that our kids are ungrateful, maybe we can first ask questions and do our best to view the situation from their perspective.
Practicing gratitude is dependent upon recognizing and acknowledging what another shares.
So if we want our children to develop this skill, we need to demonstrate and practice what we want them to know.