You’ve seen them, possibly even in your own home. They’re hard to avoid these days. And while their numbers are impressive, those numbers are likely still on the rise, so you have time to get in on the action. No system is foolproof, and nothing happens without serious work, but I’m confident that if you are consistent and motivated, you can raise Ungrateful Children. Here are some steps to get you going, though they don’t need to be followed in order:
- Offer them some sort of gift or treat every time you take them out in public if they don’t throw a tantrum. Expecting good behavior most of the time is naive and unrealistic. This can obviously become expensive, so go ahead and get a second job to cushion the blow.
- Make up for their disappointments and losses by constantly apologizing and then distracting them by buying them more stuff. Never expect them to face disappointments realistically because the world revolves around them. (See next step.)
- Teach them that they are the center of their environments. The schedules, desires, and plans of others need to bend to meet your children’s dreams. Making sure they aren’t ever uncomfortable or bothered is a key element here.
- “Require” them to do chores, but finish doing the work yourself when they protest that they’re tired or that the chore is too hard. By the time they’re adults, they might not know how to function independently, but will definitely know that you tried hard not to upset them. You’re winning, Mom!
- When you’ve prepared a meal for your family, be sure to pay attention to their possible disapproval. Don’t hesitate to leave your meal uneaten while you make your children PB&J sandwiches or heat up some chicken nuggets. You don’t want them to learn to hate dinner, do you?
- Work on your negotiation skills so that you’ll eventually succeed in convincing them to: clean their rooms, eat their vegetables, brush their teeth, finish their homework, etc. Demanding removes autonomy. Try to imagine you’re kissing up to your boss as a way to convince him or her to make you a full partner. Now practice with your kids.
- Apologize or complain about gifts others give your children that are unpleasant, underwhelming, or unwanted. High standards might seem elitist to some, but why should your children have to suffer gifts they didn’t specifically request or aren’t on trend? Plus, what if their friends find out? Don’t be the one to ruin their reputations.
- Replace, at your expense, any belongings they lose or damage. Your children need to know that you care as much about their precious toys as they do, and that you are equally distraught when their things are gone.
Keep in mind that the cumulative effect of following these steps won’t be fully evident overnight. But rest assured, one day you will wake up and realize that you have an Ungrateful Child, possibly more than one, and that the results are mostly permanent. I’d recommend that you go celebrate, but you’ll most likely be busy finishing a science project for one of your kids at 2:00 a.m.