First off, they never seemed to want to see that a child needs more of a reward out of life than knowing that he's made his parents happy. As the roller skating and Mother's Day 1985 arcs remind us, John and Elly seem to believe that the only benefit Mike should expect for his hard work is knowing that he has done something nice for parents who can't seem to express gratitude no matter what he does.
This lack of gratitude seems to stem from a belief that the people in their immediate surroundings are living vending machines meant to hand them unearned goodies because they need to be compensated for non-existent privations and fictitious sacrifices. Since people exist to make them feel good about being themselves by paying them tribute, praising them for being true to their essential nature seems as baffling to the Pattersons as praising them fo registering a pulse. This means that Mike can't even be allowed to feel good about what he does and thus has no real incentive to help.
That being said, it's even more irritating to see them whine and growl and complain because he asks questions only to turn around and berate him for deliberately being mean to them and ruining their lives when their failure to understand that he can't see inside their brains means that he can't help BUT do a poor job because they're too mean-spirited and stupid to tell him how to do it right. This is owing to a subconscious need to sabotage him so they can whine and groan and grumble about how they're the only competent people ever and everyone is trying to make their lives worse.
This means that on the rare occasions that they're made aware that he's willing and able to do good work for people who appreciate his efforts and don't bust his ass for petty, stupid and self-serving reasons, they wonder why he can't do the same for bitter, entitled jerks who think that the world owes them a living because Daddy isn't made of walking dolls.