Development Physical & Emotional

5 Signs Of An Ungrateful Child (And How To Deal With Them)

As a parent you probably give your child unconditional love and support, and there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for your son or daughter.

But do you ever feel that this relationship is a little imbalanced, and there’s a lot more “take” than there is “give” between your child and those closest to them?

If you answered yes then you’re certainly not alone.

But the good news is once you have spotted the signs of ungratefulness, there are some proven things you can do to improve the situation and to help you deal with this unwanted and unsavory attitude.

5 Signs of Ungrateful Children

1. Never satisfied

Perhaps the number one sign of an ungrateful child is that they are never satisfied, whatever you seem to do for them.

Ungrateful children (and spoiled kids as well) tend to want more than what they are currently receiving, or freely show their disappointment when they receive something, despite how much time, effort or money that went into whatever they were given.

This can of course be infuriating for parents, and it can also be highly embarrassing – think for example of a child opening birthday gifts at their party, quickly tearing open one after the other without sparing a second to show their appreciation as they search for the “best” present or the one they really want.

2. Unwilling or Reluctant To Help

Another sign of an ungrateful child is their reluctance to help out their parents, or indeed to help out anyone for that matter.

Whether it’s doing the dishes, laying the table, tidying the house or walking the dog, an ungrateful son or daughter will at best be reluctant, or at worst outright refuse, to help with such chores and tasks.

Clearly most children are sadly never going to be as helpful as their parents would like, but the key things here are their willingness and attitude when it comes to assisting mom, dad or whoever their carer or provider might be.

3. Disrespectful

You do a huge amount for your child, so it’s only natural to expect them to show you some appreciation and respect.

But as you may have discovered by now, respect and ungratefulness sadly do not go together.

So if you believe your son or daughter is often disrespectful to you, your partner or any other adults they are close to, there’s a good chance they are ungrateful and exhibit signs of entitlement.

4. Expects Bribes, Rewards & Treats

Typically children should do the right thing because, well, it’s the right thing to do!

But there’s a big difference between what a child should do and what they actually end up doing, and an ungrateful child will more often than not expect to be given a treat, reward or bribe merely because they are exhibiting good, or even normal, behavior.

As with many of these signs a lot comes down to age, but if your child is old enough to know right from wrong and what they should do, then it’s not unreasonable for parents to expect them to do the right thing without being bribed or rewarded first.

5. Selfish

Finally, another sign to watch out for is if your son or daughter demonstrates selfish tendencies.

Children, and especially teenagers, can get incredibly wrapped up in their daily lives, which is often understandable given how quickly they are developing and the pressures they are under at school or among their peers.

But if a child is not able to see things from another person’s point of view, or struggles with showing compassion (particularly with their close family), then all signs point to them showing behavior which can be rightly classified as ungrateful.

How To Deal With An Ungrateful Child

Here are five things you can do to help get rid of this unwanted behaviour in your child:

1. Identify The Cause

There could be a number of reasons behind their ungrateful behavior, and as their parent it’s worth taking the time to really understand why they are acting a certain way.

Depending on your child’s age it could be down to overstimulation, peer pressure, anxiety or even because they don’t know how to hide their disappointment as well as adults do.

Thankfully many children outgrow being ungrateful, but there are still some things you can do to speed up the process and help them develop and mature at a faster rate, which we’ve covered below.

Related: Navigating Your Child’s Early Development

2. Discuss What Gratitude Means

It’s best not to assume your child automatically knows what you mean when you use words like “grateful”, “ungrateful” and “gratitude”.

Set some time aside to discuss with them exactly what gratitude means in a practical sense, with plenty of relevant examples.

Discuss with your child what our basics needs are as humans, and try to get them to see how lucky they are if their needs are being met and that they belong to a loving, caring home where they don’t need to worry about having food on the table or a roof over their head.

Once your child better understands this, which can be helped if you also widen their perspective (see point number 5), then you’ll be well on your way to helping them address their lack of gratitude.

3. Lead By Example

Children and adults alike learn and are influenced by those around them, so it’s essential that as a parent you lead by example.

If your child sees mom or dad playing the victim, not helping others and being selfish, then guess what – they’re going to copy this in their daily lives too.

When you’re next doing an unselfish deed or helping someone out without getting anything in return, make sure your child is there to witness this selfless event if possible, because this will help open their mind and make it easier for them to follow in your footsteps.

4. Let Them Earn It

A great way to help your child become more grateful is to provide the basics in terms of material goods to them, but encourage them to “earn” whatever extra they may want.

For example, let’s say your child wants a new cell phone and is demanding you buy them the latest iPhone with an all-inclusive data package.

By following this tactic you would agree to buy them a basic cell phone, but they need to upgrade to a smartphone with all the bells and whistles and with the amount of data they desire included in their contract.

By doing chores around the house and yard, getting a weekend job or finding other ways to make money, your son or daughter will soon learn a valuable lesson about how things must be earnt in this world, and anything they’ve received from you up until this point has been provided out of your generosity rather than out of obligation.

5. Widen Their Perspective

Finally, one of the best ways to help your child see another point of view is to encourage them to experience first-hand just how hard life can be for some people, and to see how little many others unfortunately have.

Volunteering is a wonderful way to help develop and instil a sense of empathy in your child, and is an excellent eye-opener into how some people in your community are much less well off then your child or children are.


While being ungrateful is not a positive trait, it’s important to remember ungratefulness is not a character trait, but rather a type of behavior.

And as with any behavior, it can therefore be learned and unlearned with enough will, patience and consistency.

Once you’ve spotted the signs of ungratefulness in your child, you’ll want to discuss why they are acting that way and open their eyes as to the reasons why this behavior is unattractive.

If you can then lead by example, widen their perspective and encourage them to see how fortunate they are compared to many others, you should hopefully improve the situation.

Tori is mama to 3 year old Isabella and co-founder of Rockinbaby. She has a BSc in Psychology, is a certified yoga teacher and is a working mom. In her free time Tori loves cooking delicious foods and baked treats, entertaining and working out. Learn more about Tori here.

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