Linda Lewis Griffith

‘When are they going to be grateful?’ How to deal with spoiled adult children

Tired of ungrateful adult children? Parents need to set limits on what they do for their grown kids, retired San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith says.
Tired of ungrateful adult children? Parents need to set limits on what they do for their grown kids, retired San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith says. The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

We all want to do nice things for our adult children.

Taking grown kids on vacations and buying them special gifts is part of the parental experience. We may also be in a financial situation that enables us to treat them to events they couldn’t afford for themselves.

But sometimes adult children are less than appreciative of our efforts. They may complain about hotel accommodations or tell us that we’re cheap. Perhaps they expect more or larger gifts than we bought them for their birthdays, or they feel that another family member is receiving more attention than they are.

Moms and dads often feel taken advantage of in these instances. Resentment starts to build.

One mother recently complained to me, “I do and do and do for my adult kids. Yet they only ask for more. When are they going to be grateful?”

The answer is most likely never because the problem isn’t with the adult children. Yes, they should be more grateful, but their parents are giving them too much.

In an effort to earn their adult kids’ love and affection, the parents are overly indulgent. When these seemingly kind-hearted folks stop being so excessive, the issue will begin to take care of itself.

How to deal with ungrateful adult children

Start by expressing your displeasure. For example: “I’m really disappointed about this. I went to a lot of work to make this happen and you never even said, ‘Thank you.’ ” Avoid ranting or lecturing. That undermines your point.

Set limits on what you do for your grown kids. Regardless of the size of your stock portfolio, you’re not required to spend exorbitant amounts of money on your adult children. Decide what feels appropriate, then put the credit cards away.

Emphasize joint experiences, not purchases. Special outings, such as camping trips or sporting events, set the stage for lasting memories. Enlist the recipient’s suggestions in determining what they’d enjoy doing with you.

Don’t use gifts as a weapon. Never refuse to give a gift because you’re displeased or threaten to take back a gift you’ve already given. That creates a potentially devastating power struggle between you and your child.

Stop expecting appreciation. Give the gift because you want to do so, with no emotional strings attached. If the adult child behaves badly, you can rethink your actions the next time around.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a retired marriage, family and child therapist who lives in San Luis Obispo. Reach her at lindalewisgriffith@sbcglobal.net
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