What to Do When You Feel Totally Unappreciated

Sometimes you want your family (OK, your kids) to be grateful for you—or at least the fact that you slaved over 14 dishes and polished silver for three hours. Here’s advice for handling that (understandable) feeling.

1

Say Grace.

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Photo by Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/Getty Images

Unless your child is a MasterChef Junior, there’s no way he can understand, much less appreciate, what goes into hosting a 20-person dinner. The same holds for all the other “gifts” you bestow upon your children daily, like driving carpool and working to pay bills. “We can’t expect our kids to be grateful for their siblings or for things they didn’t ask for,” says the Reverend Kate Braestrup, a community minister and a law-enforcement chaplain in Maine. “We can’t force the feeling on our kids—or on anybody, really. We have the right to require certain behavior, but not feelings.” Her solution? Say grace. “It’s a ritual, and our bodies, not just our minds, respond to ritual.” Try these 17 words: We are thankful for the food and the hands that prepared it, for our family and friends.

2

Don’t Demand Thank-Yous.

“Heavy-handed generosity is not nearly as generous,” says humorist Roy Blount Jr. “If you do something for the sake of thanks, then it’s insincere." Instead of seeking gratitude, Blount suggests simply being content in your children’s enjoyment of the meal. “Your children will figure out later how hard it was to put it together.”

3

File Away the Feel-Goods.

“I have a rabbinic intern every year, and I always tell him or her to create a folder of ‘feel-goods’ in Outlook,” says Rabbi Joel Nickerson. “Anytime you get a positive e-mail, file it away in that folder. Then, when you’re inundated in a negative way, you can open up that folder and look at the positive things people have said.” Parents can do the same thing with the scribbles and love notes they receive from their children through the years.