How to Teach Your Kids to Feel and Show Appreciation

Dear Kid Whisperer,

When I take my kids out to a movie, restaurant, pool, beach, play palace, park, basically anything, immediately after we leave said activity, the kids are asking to do something else. No “Thank you,” no “We had a great time”, no appreciation… just “What do I get next?” I am so fed up with this behavior. This me, me, me attitude and entitlement is driving me crazy. What do I do? -Jessica, Saugatuck, Michigan

Jessica,

Unfortunately, your kids’ “me, me, me” attitude is very common for people under the age of 50. This is because of the rise of “Parenting Experts” in the late 1960s, whose dominance over the field that they created continues to the present day. These “experts” with letters after their names, who have often never actually worked with kids, have filled the American culture with so much garbled nonsense that parents who try to follow all of their nonsensical advice often have no idea how to raise effective kids.

You see, before then, and throughout all of human history, human beings depended upon the wisdom of parents and grandparents to raise kids who were polite, well-adjusted, hard-working, and kind to others. While people will always fall short of these ideal behaviors from time to time, the wisdom of the generations was mostly successful at creating the kind of kids that you want to have in your car and the kind of adults that I want to have as my neighbors, co-workers, and friends.

So let’s start turning your kids into people we want to be around.

First, your kids are acting entitled because they are entitled. Your actions are showing them that they are entitled to go to restaurants, beaches, and pools no matter how they act. You are showing them that it is your job to provide stimulating experiences for them no matter how obnoxious they are. Once you have given them the idea that it is someone else’s job to give them fun experiences regardless of whether they deserve these experiences, no amount of lectures about appreciation will have any effect.

Here’s how I would retrain your kids after getting into the car with them after a day at the beach.

Kid #1: I was not provided with enough cool treats during my day at the beach. I will let it slide this time. Take us to Dairy Queen immediately, driver!

Kid Whisperer: Oh, no. Yikes. I only do things for kids who say “please,” “thank you,” and generally show appreciation for taking them places and doing things for them.

Kid #2: You have must have misunderstood. We want cool treats. I think I shall have something in the “dipped in chocolate” family.

Kid Whisperer: And for whom do I do things?

Kid #3: For people who are appreciative?

Kid Whisperer: Bingo.

Kid #1: Wait…this isn’t the way to Dairy Queen!

Me: Bingo again. This is the way to our home where you will be staying for the foreseeable future. Kids, I am so sorry that I have tricked you into thinking that you are entitled to get to do things no matter how rude and unappreciative you act. We are going to be done going to fun places until you all learn to say “please” and “thank you” and learn to act with appreciation for the things that you have and for the things you get. I have really let you down by allowing you to act this way. I will be teaching you all how to be appreciative by only giving you things when you say “please” and only letting you keep things when you say “thank you.”  Once you all are able to be appreciative all on your own, you can start doing things outside of the house.  Feel free to remind and encourage each other to be courteous and appreciative. Your father and I will love you no matter how long it takes you all to figure this out.

Remember, it is not your job to make sure they graduate from Courtesy Basic Training. That’s their job.