Unappreciative Child

Updated on November 30, 2012
Z.R. asks from Palmerton, PA
19 answers

Background: I am not a neat person. However, I work outside of our home and am gone 12 hours every day which includes long commute,school runs, visiting elderly parent etc. DD is 6 so weekends are spent at her activities and quality time with her, and visiting family. This week, my mom was in hospital and I was there daily after work to visit; and our cleaning lady who comes twice a week was sick, so the house reached critical mess. Hubby does what he can to keep laundry and dishes from getting too over the top and I have been sweeping etc but in terms of clutter it's rather chaotic. So my 6 yo today says "You didn't clean this". I said," I just cleaned it". She says sarcastically (!)"Sure, mom. You're such a good cleaner." Not like her to be so bitchy but I said "whose stuff is it all over the house? How about you help clean up? in fact, instead of playing with you, i will clean the house".

Well, I feel a bit immature to say this but I am hurt. Yes, we are not neat at the best of times, but there are only so many hours in a day and I am working my butt off to cater to ill parent and small child, so i get home, have dinner and fall into bed to get onto the hamster wheel the next day. How do youe instill aprpreciation or empathy in your child?

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So What Happened?

Thanks, it's always good to get a reality check on Mamapedia. I will be vigilant about her being disrespectful. I think she tries out the attitude she hears on TV from time to ttime and I need to let her know it's not OK,rather than feeling defensive.Today she swept the living room. She was very keen to help clean up!

BTW, someone suggested that DD might be missing me since I am gone 12 hours a day...I am out of our home 12 hours a day but not away from her all that time. Grandma's house is near DD's school (while our home is a distance away) so I pick her up, spend an extended lunch with her at Grandma's, and then we visit with Grandma, have supper etc when I return from work, so DD is getting several hours with me in the afternoon and evening.

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answers from Jacksonville on

You are nicer than me. I think instead of telling her, "How about you help clean up? in fact, instead of playing with you, i will clean the house" I would have said, "How about you help clean up? in fact, instead of playing, You clean the house. I'm going to go do something nice for myself. Let me know when it is clean."

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Instead of: "instead of playing with you, i will clean the house

Try: "Ok, yes we do need to catch up on some chores. So, instead of playing, we will clean the house together"

She is 6 so there is no reason why she should not be helping out, at least with cleaning up her own toys/room. Perhaps that will help her develop some appreciation as well.

7 moms found this helpful

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answers from New York on

Z. - all kids are unappreciate - and they all have the capacity to get snarky with us. It's frustrating. I used to have a cleaning lady when my kids were young and I was working long hours. The kids never learned how to clean because someone else did it for them. I remember my daughter making a negative comment about our cleaning lady (she was 13 at the time) and that's when I had enough. I stopped the cleaning lady and began to teach my kids how to clean. 3 years later, at 13 and 16 my kids now have to clean - they have to clean the bathrooms, the kitchen floor, the living room and their bedrooms of course. They take turns with the dishwasher, feeding the cats, etc. But if I didn't make that decision to show them and work with then they woulnd't have gotten there. And it does take longer to teach them how to do it than to ssut do it yourself. And it doesn't get done as well as if you'd done it - at the beginning. But eventually they're doing the work and they're doing it well. FINALLY - there's some payoff! <smile>

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

That was not an immature statement from you at all. It was a completely appropriate thing to say. At 6, if your daughter wants the house cleaner, she is old enough to start helping out.

I think you did exactly the right thing. How do you instill empathy in her? Follow through with what you said -- get her to start helping out around the house. Experience is the best teacher.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

What you said was perfectly fine.

We also have a cleaning lady who comes every other week. Not so long ago my 9yo asked why she had to pick her stuff up if the cleaning lady was coming the next day (9 yo is very messy, just drops stuff wherever she is). I pointed out that I pay the cleaning lady to clean, not tidy, and that putting things away is tidying and therefore dd's job. She said no it was my job as the mom. I gently explained to her that if she wanted me to do it I would, but that my version of putting her stuff away would be to put it all in a garbage bag and either throw it away or donate it. Boy did her little tail get in gear to pick up her stuff!

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answers from Portland on

First, if she's using that nasty voice with you, I would have left the room with a "You know, since you think I do such a terrible job of cleaning, you are welcome to clean up your own things. I'm all done here."

Agree with her, and then calmly put it back in her lap.
I understand completely why you snapped at her. Kids are often very unappreciative. I sometimes find my son griping (5) at me and me listing off questions:

"Do you like wearing clean clothes to school? I make that happen for you
Do you like having good meals on your plate? I make that happen for you.
If you would like to help, that's great. I could really use the help. However, if you choose not to help, you may not complain."

There were also a couple of times when he threw up a huge stink about cleaning his toys up in the common areas. I decided that the price for this nonsense is no toys outside his room for a few days. Every time he began getting something else out, I would turn him back around. "Oh, you may use your toys in your room, not out here." (I sometimes also take the toys and put them away for a while. "I see you choose not to take care of these toys, so they are going away.")

Lastly, when you both aren't upset, try to reconnect with your girl. She was rude, but she may be worried that she's not important to you. I'd offer for her to skip a weekend activity just this once, if it's possible, if she wants a Mommy Date. She may just need some reconnection.That's usually when I notice my son is pushing my buttons-- that's when I have to take a step back and see what need of his isn't being met. Often, a half-hour or hour of playing together can be just what we need to get back on track with each other.

As for instilling appreciation, all I can do is model that back to my son. It does work. It's really hard for kids to 'get it' when they are young and have no real concepts of money or obligations, but when we thank them for helping us, they are more likely to be *aware* of being appreciative.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Wow, sounds like 2 PMS women.. And yes, i would swear 6 year olds can have PMS..

The response was fine..
My mother would have followed with....

"Since you seem to know what it takes to be a good housekeeper. I am going to go and rest for 20 minutes. When I get up. anything of yours out of place, will be thrown in the trash." And then she would have followed up with this promise.

Your daughter owes you an apology and she needs to be given the option of coming up with a list of ways she is going to begin helping around the house.

I honestly think you should have your HUSBAND speak with her and let her know.. NO one is allowed to disrespect his wife, especially your daughter.

Does she still believe in Santa?

If so, I suggest you purchase "the Elf on the shelf " and in the morning have him appear.. Then the 2 of you read the book together..



Allow her to live another day, and do not feel bad, you are doing what you need to do, she is the one with a sassy mouth.. Not acceptable.

IF she cannot come up with a good/acceptable list, let her know YOU will be making up the list. It will become her top priority before any down time..

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

To be honest, this isn't about a dirty house or an unappreciative child or you being immature. You are both in the wrong because you are both responding poorly to a bad situation.

You are gone a lot... A LOT. You stated you're gone 12 hours daily due to work, errands, visitations and more. That is stressful on Mom. It's also stressful on the child. I think your daughter had a moment of overload and frustration and at her age of 6 her best way to release that was by complaining to Mom, the one that is gone a lot. Yes, you spend as much time as you can with her but in reality, the average child has their parent home a lot more often than you are. You are busy and trying to do it all but after a while it's going to take a toll on you and your 6 year old. She needs more stability and when what stability she does have is disrupted even more she reacted.

I think this is an opportunity for you to learn how to react differently. I know we all have moments of being overwhelmed and frustrated and it's hard to be "on" 24/7/365. I know it's hard for me. I think when she reacts like this it's her way of saying, "Hey, life is crazy. I'm frustrated. Help me." Next time try to say, yes, it is messy here. I have been so busy working, helping you, helping Dad, helping your grandparents. Why don't you and I do some picking up for a half hour or an hour and work together to get things looking a bit better, then we can sit down and have a treat like some cocoa. Then you can do whatever you'd like to do like play on your own or maybe we can play a game together.

When I recruit my children to help out by having them do daily chores as we're a family of 6, it makes life easier. They have a chore list. On days when things get out of control we do a group cleaning where I do the bulk of the cleaning and they do little things as I point them out they do the running, lol. Then I reward them with a nice snack and then they get the rest of the day to do whatever they want and it works for us. I insist on keeping a positive attitude to lead the way.

You can also sit down with your daughter and ask her how she feels with life being so busy for Mom and try to talk it out over a mug of cocoa and a chocolate chip cookie. It's hard for you at your age. Imagine how she feels at age 6. I know when I forget with my own kids they fight more and get more snotty. Then I have to wrangle them all back in and be as understanding as I can be and work together.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

When my kids point out something is not clean, I tell them thanks for noticing and hand them a sponge or a rag so they can help me clean it up.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Your question was "How do you instill appreciation or empathy in your child?" the simple answer is to give her some chores to do. Every day chores. Six is plenty old enough. And IMO if your husband is only doing the dishes and laundry some of the time, he should be doing more as well. In my house the rule is:

I'm not the only one who lives here, I'm not the only one who makes messes here, I am however the only one who has a job and pays the bills, so I most certainly will NOT be the only one cleaning up the place.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

I have a six-year-old daughter. The reason she would never say such a thing to me is that FIRST AND FOREMOST it is not respectful. She is not allowed to be sarcastic to me unless we are just joking. Conversely, I don't speak to her that way. When she's older, we can do that, but while I'm forming her personality, she KNOWS it is not OK to talk like that. I'm a SAHM and homeschooler so my house is ALWAYS in a state of chaos, and I'm the ONLY ONE who cleans it. My soon-to-be ex husband travels 99% of the time. The kids have their chores. they know the constant cleaning exhausts and frustrates me. They would not think it was OK to boss me around or criticize me for it. Because I have taught them it is not OK to act that way. Period. I don't need to explain or justify myself to them (of course you're busy-you don't have to justify!). And therefore they do not treat me like a servant.

Don't feel hurt. Teach your daughter why that is an unacceptable attitude and what will happen if she continues it even one more time.
And of course she needs to help. But the attitude is the biggest red flag at this age.

My six-year-old daughter keeps her own room clean, helps with laundry, picks up the living room and toy room, and is learning to do bathrooms. If she was sarcastic or rude, she'd find some extra chores thrown in.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Hi Z.,
In this situation, it is not a matter of instilling appreciation or empathy, you have to teach her/remind her to be respectful and mind good manners. You shouldn't discuss anything with her or revolve around the issue like this: (kid) "you didn't clean this" and (mom) "I just cleaned it", and so on. Wrong, you do NOT report to a 6 year-old kid. You don't owe any answer to her. You stop right there, sit down with your kid face to face, and firmly (without anger) you say to her: "It is not OK to talk to mommy like this". This attitude of yours is not allowed because is disrespectful." Period.
Then, you let her know that from now on she has to clean up her toys before going to bed, or help you to match socks after doing laundry. This is a perfect age for kids to help around the house. My little one is 6, and he loves helping me. It doesn't have to be perfect or it doesn't have to turn into a maid's job, but little things H. and there teach kids that they have to be responsible, they also learn to respect mom's role.....Do not wait until she is 14.....it will be too late, and she will make YOU clean her room.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

If it was one of my kids I probably would have come back with a "well then clean it yourself" If you don't know how I will show you once and then it's your job. If you don't like that I don't want to hear that comment again! I have been in the same boat as you and a lot of times still am but my kids are older so they can do a LOT more around the house to help. Don't worry about what your house looks like the time you spend with your family including sick parents is the important things!!!!

Good luck and God Bless

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answers from Appleton on

Stop doing so much for her, she doesn't need to appreciate what you do because it's always done. As a child did you appreciate it when Mom had dinner done every night? Probably not because you expected it to be done. Until she understands how much work is involved in keeping a house clean and running smoothly she won't appreciate it. Get her involved.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I agree that having her help clean up is important. The other thing is to get her to think about what she said (or how she said it). How would she feel if someone talked to her that way? She is still self centered at this age and may need help thinking of the other persons perspective. You also sound like you have a lot going on. Talk to your DD about it and tell her you need her help. Of course, if she keeps it up and doesn't help I'm all for the - 'you leave it out, you lose it' response.

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answers from Kansas City on

wow. i'd be hurt too. my 6 year old has said something once or twice about the state of our house (i am like you, work ft, take care of EVERYTHING). i have told him, "if YOU don't plan to clean it - zip it."

and yes, he does his fair share of chores and is very empathetic, appreciative, and not spoiled. it's not necessarily that you are doing anything wrong. i don't feel i was. i just feel my son heard something on tv or from someone else and thought he'd try it out on mom. he learned that it doesn't get him positive results.

i think a little bit of "testing" with the attitude is normal. but don't try to justify to a 6 year old why the dishes are on the counter. you don't answer to her. she doesn't pay the bills, she doesn't cook the meals. don't let her disrespect you like that.

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answers from Boise on

A 6-year-old child is old enough to help out. And it can actually be fun for her! Children that age often enjoy dusting and mopping, doing laundry can also be fun. Picking up and putting away is not exactly fun, but it is not too difficult for her to do that as well. Instead of saying "I will clean up instead of play with you" why not say "we are going to clean up together and it is going to be fun!" As for the disrespectful attitude, that is unacceptable. You need to discipline her when she talks to you that way. Tell her that when she speaks to you or her father she needs to use "kind words" and when she does not use kind words she faces unpleasant consequences (such as a time out, loss of privileges like TV, whatever you normally use as punishments). And she should apologize to you afterwards (after she has calmed down). I am sorry that your mother is ill! I hope that she fully recovers and that you can get some rest!

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answers from Chicago on

My first response would have been to get hurt and angry--like you did. But I have realized that children are the biggest MIRRORS you will ever know. Where did she get that attitude from? Why did she say something like that? My guess is someone treated her the same way.

I would agree with the other mamas on here, tell her you will give her 20 minutes and anything of hers that is not put away will go in the Timeout Box. She will have to do a chore to get it back.

When my daughter got snarky, even at a young age, we fixed her attitude with a day of work. She had to give up her playtime in order to do chores around the house. It didn't matter how poorly she did them, the point is she needed to work. She wiped down walls and scrubbed out grime in the bathtub. She washed cars (in the summertime) and we picked up garbage in the neighborhood. Those days really did fix her attitude. She was always much more appreciative, she was neater because she took pride in what she did, and she felt good about herself for having contributed.

Good luck! I think kids get more appreciative as they get older. As an adult, I'm finally really appreciating what my mom did for us kids!

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answers from Washington DC on

Since it is her stuff all over the house, have her clean it up. My 3 year old cleans up after herself or it's gone and she has to work to get it back. I saw on Pinterest, a basket with an envelope filled with chores attached. If you find her stuff around the house, you put it in the basket. The only way to get it back is to do a chore. My 3 year old, cleans up her toys in her room and playroom, she helps me sort laundry, she cleans the floor with a swiffer dry mop, and puts her dishes in the sink. At 6, I was doing all these things, including dusting the furniture. Give her some responsibility, so she has some understanding. However, at 6, I don't know how appreciative she would be to stuff you do around the house. My husband is 39 and still doesn't completely understand or appreciate everything I do. She will when she's older.

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