Whether the question is asked on social networks, among friends or in a Parisian park, the answers usually point in the same direction: Most parents say that they do not expect any recognition or gratitude from their children. “You didn’t ask to be born”, noted Étienne on Facebook. “Whoever seeks approval in the eyes of his children is looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place” adds Agatha. “For me, recognition is the other way around.says even Amelie. I thank my children for allowing me to be a mother and for loving them so much. Without her I would feel so “empty”. »
→ CREDENTIALS. “You don’t raise children to be thankful”
Sitting in a café, Christine and Corinne, young people in their fifties from Paris, have different opinions: “I don’t think it’s because of the parenting relationship–Children who need to inspire a grateful feeling or attitude, but a specific situation believes Christine, mother of a 15-year-old girl. It is often the transmitted values that one day lead to this recognition. » Corinne, mother of two boys, aged 15 and 20, agrees: “We shouldn’t expect recognition for what we do for our children, it’s our job to do our best, She adds. On the other hand, we can hope that the values conveyed and the quality of the relationship will allow us to maintain a deep bond with them and that one day they will be able to see or appreciate our contribution. »
An expectation that is often expressed as early as puberty
Although it appeals to all parents, the question of early childhood recognition rarely arises. This expectation, even this fear for some, begins to express itself especially in adolescence, when young people try to distance themselves from their parents and when separation creates inevitable tensions. “Ever since they were teenagers, I sometimes find them ‘ungrateful'” recognizes Corinne. However, this expectation is felt most strongly in old age and in dependency.
→ MAINTENANCE. “In Asia and Africa, gratitude to parents is a moral imperative”
Many parents are concerned about the well-being of their children and, in fact, feel a little embarrassed by the issue, according to psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Alain Braconnier, author of Parents need love too (1). “Many hope for recognition but are afraid to express it, even if the children don’t show it enough, for fear of making them feel guilty and for fear of not meeting their expectations.he observes. Parents used to expect their children to help and take care of them. Today they tend to think that they owe them everything and can expect nothing in return. »
However, behavior can vary from culture to culture. If Fati, of Tunisian origin, says she doesn’t want to “to be a burden” for her two children, she “Expects a minimum of recognition”. “My son doesn’t live at home anymore, so I like it when he comes to see me, whether he comes to dinner with a bouquet of flowers or a cake, whether he ends up worrying about me, how I worry about him, entrusts this 60-year-old parental assistant crossed in a park of the capital. I’ve worked hard to raise my children the best I can, and it seems natural to me that they should be thankful for the little things. »
“Love is never free”
To expect recognition would be human and even desirable for Alain Braconnier. “That’s the sign that parents pay a lot of attention to their children, he said. When we give affection, it is legitimate to expect it in return. love is never free Only this exchange makes an encounter possible. »
→ READ. Bonding, a lifelong bond between parents and children
First, however, there is one “irducible asymmetry” in the relationship between parents and children, for its part recalls the philosopher and psychoanalyst Nicole Prieur, author of Necessary betrayal (2). “Parents give life, affection, time, and the child will never be able to give that much in return. butshe emphasizes he will have the task of being loyal to his parents, because whoever gives is in debt, and with that debt comes accountability, said anthropologist Marcel Mauss. This form of recognition is a very strong ethical bond that structures intergenerational relationships and is even the subject of the 4th generatione biblical commandment. »
Asking for appreciation by saying, “After everything I’ve done for you,” would only increase that guilt and would be counterproductive, especially since the child often feels that their parents are not meeting all of their needs. The psychoanalyst summarizes this asymmetry as follows: “Parents give generously and children pass on what they don’t have. In this discrepancy arises the feeling of ingratitude.she notices.
“It is the quality of attachment that will produce gratitude”
An adolescent cannot understand sentences like: “We bled in the four vens for you”, says the psychiatrist David Gourion, co-author of “The Best of Yourself” (3). “They’re not in that form of accounting and they’re going to feel emotional lack most of allhe analyses. For a child to be appreciated, their parents need not have been abusive, but also that something has been built in the relationship around the ability to feel. It is the quality of the connection that will lead to gratitude. »
The request for recognition can also be a sign of a “emotional immaturity”, according to the psychiatrist. Some parents see their children that way “narcissistic extensions of themselves”. Others need tokens of gratitude to be sure of their abilities.
David Gourion advises those who suffer from not receiving it or not receiving it enough to be patient. “Children may go through times when they resent their parents, but they grow and mature, he remembers. Life is made up of stages, and parents eventually evolve too. »
Children’s obligations to their parents
Article 205 of the Civil Code says so “Children owe maintenance to their father and mother or other needy ancestors.” This is the maintenance obligation, which corresponds to material or non-cash assistance and differs according to the possibilities of the child and the parent. The descendants have the duty to provide for the livelihood of their ancestors, i.e. the satisfaction of their elementary needs (food, subsistence).
However, Article 207 of the Civil Code exempts children from this obligation in the event of abuse, violence and exposure.