Worried About Your Kids Seeming 'Ungrateful'? This Psychologist Has Some Unusual Advice

First up, the parenting pro wants you to know there's "no such thing as ungrateful".
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Your child has opened a present from a relative and it’s a toy they’ve already got. The disappointment is strewn across their face.

“What do we say to Grandma?” you utter through gritted teeth, to which your child mumbles an insincere “thank you” before rapidly moving on to ripping open the next gift.

Nobody wants their child to seem ungrateful, but sometimes they can come across that way. So, what – if anything – can parents do about it?

According to Dr Becky Kennedy, a clinical psychologist from Good Inside: “Ungrateful is not a helpful concept. Whenever we say ‘my kid’s so ungrateful’ ... what we’re really saying is: ‘my kid isn’t able to access gratitude when they’re disappointed’.”

In an Instagram post which has over 18,000 likes, she offered the example of a child expecting some toy blocks and opening a book instead – they’re understandably disappointed, and that’s OK, she said, because it’s not what they expected.

While all of us would feel disappointed in that scenario, the difference is, we – as adults – can access gratitude and say “thank you for thinking of me” because we’re able to manage disappointment, explained the therapist.

And “when you can manage the disappointment, there’s room in your body for gratitude”.

“We don’t feel ‘un’ feelings. That’s not how feelings work. That’s why there’s no such thing as ungrateful. What we really mean is ‘my kid doesn’t yet have the ability to manage disappointment’ – and guess what? That’s a skill you can teach them,” she added.

Granted, teaching gratitude will take some time – and key to getting this going is creating an environment for mindfulness, suggested the psychologist who is also a mum-of-three.

She advised parents to slow down and be willing to ask more questions with their children (for example, “what does enough mean?”) than making statements like “say thank you”.

What else can you do to encourage gratitude?

Parenting expert Amanda Jenner advises parents to avoid over-promising (by creating huge wish lists in the run up to events like Christmas) and using bribery as something to achieve the gift they want.

She tells HuffPost UK: “Focus on having lovely family time and explain to them the importance of this, and how special it is getting the house ready to make their Christmas magical – playing games, eating lots of lovely food and making everyone smile. Focus on the feelings rather than the gifts.”

Getting them involved in the prep for Christmas can also help. She recommends making homemade gifts and explaining that “giving something you have put so much love into is special and creates a warm feeling in your heart”.
“Children take so much pride if they make something at school and bring it home, the same goes for Christmas gifts and it also makes them realise it doesn’t have to be shop-bought expensive gifts,” she says.
In addition to making gifts, you can also teach them about giving back to the community. Jenner recommends decluttering the toy box and getting your children to help wrap the gifts to send to children that will otherwise go without this year.
“This is a lovely way to teach them that it doesn’t have to be a big shiny toy at Christmas and it is just about being kind,” she concludes.
Here’s to a happy, grateful holiday season.