The Danger of Expecting Thanks from Our Children

Doesn’t she know how much I sacrificed for her today? 

These words actually came out of my mouth this past week.

I was talking to my husband about the attitude I was getting from Heavenly after I had spent the whole day at the waterpark as a reward for her completing a set of flashcards.

I wanted her to realize that she should thank me. After all, I sacrificed my time, my energy, my money and my whole day just for her. I gave her an opportunity that she would probably never have had in her life. I bought her a swimsuit, I spent hours with her going over her flashcards and I hauled both my babies to the waterpark for her.

Hello, don’t I deserve a little thanks?


No. I don’t.

She is ten years old, and to her…it was an AWESOME day at the waterpark. She doesn’t understand the concept of money and that it was a rather pricey gift to her from us. She doesn’t understand how difficult and stressful it is to haul children around all day long without a set nap time. She doesn’t even fully grasp that Mom’s have feelings and that they need to be loved and praised as well as thanked.


On that day, I stood on the edge of a dangerous cliff. It’s a really easy cliff for foster parents to dive off, because when we take in these kids we give them the world, our world. We give them everything that we have and then some, and we so desperately want to be acknowledged and thanked. We start reaching around and patting ourselves on the back, telling ourselves that we are giving them things that they would never get to do in their ‘old life’, and how lucky they are to be with us. We are searching desperately for affirmation, and we expect it from the one place we can’t ask for it: the foster child.

Did Heavenly have a great day? You bet. Will she probably always remember today? I think so! But does she need to thank me and forever cut out all the attitude just because she had a great day? No, she doesn’t. She is still a child and will act like a child on most days of the week- even the days that we get to have a ton of fun at the waterpark.

Maybe one day she will look back and remember the time that she spent in our home. Maybe she will have her own kids one day and wonder how in the world her foster Mom managed to keep up with her schedule while hauling two babies around. Maybe when she gets her first job she will being to fully grasp the concept of money and how much it can cost to go to the waterpark.

But for today, I will let her be a kid. I will gently correct the attitude and continue to foster a spirit of thankfulness in general. But I will not expect or demand thankfulness or perfect behavior after I have been generous. I will not hold it against her if she doesn’t gush thankfulness and I will not give her attitude back because I clearly don’t deserve her attitude.

When we demand this from our children, especially our foster children, we start to build a wall. We are expecting them to have adult emotions with adult responses to situations, and they are not even capable of that. We are dangerously forgetting to let them be kids, and that is often what they need most from their time in our home in the first place.

I have already received so many responses to this post, so thank you for all who are stopping by to read and to share it! Of course, as with all things, this is in moderation. Yes, we must teach our children thankful attitudes. Yes, we are responsible for teaching them how to be grateful and thankful. But that takes time and many, many years.

And, yes….this absolutely applies to biological children, too! My lens is through the experience with my foster daughter, but all of this 100% applies to my biological children, too.


  1. Nancy says:

    Well said. I’ve even thought this with my biological children ;). Teaching gratitude while not getting our knickers in a knot when we aren’t appreciated in the way we’d like to be is a tough balance to reach. It’s helpful to remind them, “Did you say thanks to ____ for what they did?”, teach them to write a thank you note, etc. But it’s true that most often it’s a case of total oblivion to the amount of work and effort and expense that went into something special.

  2. Sue lewis says:

    The problem is it is still really hard to keep those my sinful thoughts in check. I appreciate your honesty.
    I have 2 very damaged now 6 year old boys living in my home now for 18 months. I keep thinking falsely, that if I invest some quality time, do some great activity, or bring them somewhere great they will not need me for a little while. But what I realize is that they are leaky vessels. They will never fill up until they have some serious healing from the deep wounds in their lives. No matter how much I give they want more! It is a constant battle for me. I have to draw my strength from the lord.

    • [email protected] says:

      Oh, this is SUCH a good point. I love the leaky vessel analogy. And you know what? It’s EXHAUSTING being the one tasked with filling up that leaky vessel…over and over and over again. I will be praying for you as you go through this, and that the fruit of your labor will be made known to you and that you can be encouraged.

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