Why Is My Child Ungrateful? Selfish Kids and Holiday Entitlement


Would you say your child is selfless?

If you’re like most of the parents we talk to, your answer is probably “no.” You might even have a good chuckle at the irony. But deep down, it bothers you when your child begs for a $750 phone, or a $500 tablet. Many adults aren’t fortunate to own such luxury items.

You didn’t raise your child to be so self-involved. Why can’t they be grateful for what they have, instead of wanting the next best thing?

Parents are often confused by kids’ inherent sense of entitlement. As adults, we’re busy working for what we have, while children believe they deserve privileges and expensive gifts. As a result, parents worry their child will grow up to be self-absorbed, arrogant or manipulative.

The holiday season only adds to entitlement concerns – kids want the latest, greatest gadget and we want to promote generosity and love. If you feel like your child doesn’t embody the “True Spirit of Christmas,” you’re not alone – and neither is your child.

Entitlement is a normal stage of child development – it’s natural to want nice things! The most effective way to encourage your child to be more grateful is to role-model the behavior you want to see.

If your family values are about giving back to your community, try creating opportunities to do that together. You could buy a gift for a family in need, deliver a Meal on Wheels, or volunteer at a local animal shelter.

If volunteering as a family won’t work for you, find alternative ways to give back. You can still show your child what it means to appreciative or thoughtful of others.

Try and stay away from giving lectures about the value of family, generosity, etc. Kids usually tune these out. Instead of getting into all the reasons why the latest iPhone isn’t a reasonable gift, set limits on what you are able to give. Refocus your attention on modeling the behavior you’re hoping to see this season.

Learn more tips for guiding your child away from self-centeredness in Demanding Children and Teens: Is Entitlement Just a Stage?

Take care,

Rebecca W., Empowering Parents Coach

“As frustrating and annoying as it is to live with your adolescent’s self absorption, knowing that it’s a normal part of their development will make it easier for you to deal with their urgent demands and attitudes without your strong feelings of anger, fear or guilt.” – Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC


Rebecca Wolfenden is a loving Momma to her son and a dedicated EmpoweringParents Parent Coach. She earned her degree in Social Work from West Virginia University and has been with Empowering Parents since 2011. Rebecca has experience working with children and families in home settings and schools, and has extensive practice working with people of all ages who have survived significant emotional and physical trauma.

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