Wednesday Wow: Kid Party Etiquette 101

Birthday Party Etiquette-

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As parents, our child’s birthday is more special to us than the 4th of July or New Year’s Eve. After all, it’s the anniversary of the day our precious baby came into the world and changed everything forever. It’s only natural to want to throw an elaborate bash befitting such a monumental occasion. In our family it  is  treated as a holiday! We teach them that we only have 2 December babies in the family. And neither of them are named Jesus.  However, as any parent knows who has had to accompany their own child, gift in hand, to the birthday parties of countless school friends, making the scene on the birthday party circuit can get expensive and exhausting. Here are some tips on being a gracious party guest and for throwing birthday parties that work for everyone.

Who should be invited?  You may want to. But do not invite their entire class,  of the neighborhood friends, their soccer pals, plus any cousins who live nearby. It isn’t practical or affordable for most families. First, ask yourself how many children you are comfortable hosting, and do let your budget be a consideration.

  • One common guideline is to invite only as many children as your child’s age, plus one. The idea behind this is to keep the party small when children are young so they are less likely to be overwhelmed. Then, each year your child learns to handle a larger group. Older kids may be able to phone their friends and invite them over, but they should still be polite and not discuss it around other people.
  • Another thing to consider is whether the party will be indoors or out. Typically, it is easier to host a larger group of children in an outdoor setting.  You may decide to hold the party at another location such as a recreation center, church hall, or a business that offers party packages, in order to invite more children. Also, be honest with yourself about how much time and energy you have for this event. There are times when you can handle a ten-guest party, and there are times when your sanity is best preserved by taking four of your child’s closest friends out for a movie and ice cream sundaes.
  • Whether you have a big backyard bash or a smaller destination party, do invite your child’s friends, but do not feel obligated to include their friends’ siblings.

(If you were invited, bring a gift. You can’t go wrong with books or a gift certificate!)  

Do I feed the parents? If you’re feeding little ones, have food ready for the big people too. It’s not only part of kids’ birthday party etiquette, it’s a savvy move — hungry, cranky parents are less likely to pitch in to help. The food doesn’t have to be fancy — pizza or cold sandwiches are fine (keep party safety in mind and make sure you don’t serve anything that’s not safe or appropriate for the small fry to nibble on or sip — you don’t want a three-year-old reaching for a handful of almonds or a glass of wine). You’ll score brownie points with the parents by offering them cake, too.

Mama Tip: Plan out the flow of activities ahead of time: lunch, project, birthday cake, pick-up. Planning cake time for the end of the party is key—the last thing you need are a dozen sugar-charged kids running wild when they’re supposed to be making pipe cleaner caterpillars.

What if your child is invited to a party where she’s expected to buy something (like a costume or admission to an amusement park), and you can’t afford it? 

You could DIY the needed costume yourself, which could be a great bonding project. Or politely decline….more on that later.

What’s the most tactful way to remind guests to RSVP?

Make sure you give a date by which you want RSVPs, and a method or two to reach you (a phone number is best, says Post). Then, one week before the party, call any families you haven’t heard from and say, “I wanted to call to see if Johnny was going to be coming to the party. This is the time and date again. Please let me know—I’m just trying to get an accurate head count.” You’re not being pushy by giving a friendly reminder.

What if your current financial situation does not allow any budget for presents?

One option is to call the hosting parents to let them know. You can say something like, “Store-bought birthday gifts are tough for us to purchase right now. We were thinking of baking Kelly’s favorite cookie. What does she love?” This lets the other mom know what to expect, and that you really care, without asking her what you should do. Of course, you also have the right to discuss the situation with your child and politely decline the invitation.

No Gift Trend
One of the hottest trends in kids’ parties today is the request for No Gifts on the party invitation.  There may be several reasons for this, including: limiting extravagance, teaching philanthropic values, and including all guests in the giving.  However, it is so ingrained in people to bring a party gift, that it is very difficult for guests to take it seriously.

A few ways to handle the request for No Gifts include
•    If you are worried about people spending too much money, state directly on your invitation Gifts Under $10 are appreciated and reiterate this during the RSVP phone call.
•    If you want to teach a philanthropic lesson, ask people to bring items that support a favorite family charity or non-profit in your community.  As an example, if you are having a puppy party, ask guests to bring items for the local humane society.  This allows people to still bring something to the party and benefits a charity.
•    If you want to include everyone in giving and receiving at your party, organize a book exchange and request that each guest bring a book that is exchanged during the party among all of the party guests.

Another alternative to traditional presents, that is also green, is to ECHOage your party.  Completely on-line, the service allows host parents to send e-invitations to their guests and choose a charity for people to use half of the money they would spend on your kid’s party present to go to a charity and the other half of the money is given to the host parent toward one big present for the birthday child.  Charitable contribution combined with gift giving all on-line.

No-shows, delays, and inclement weather are party bummers!

How to handle rude parents 
If your child is six-years-old and younger, expect that the guests’ parents will stay during the party.  If you are worried that a particular parent will be rude during your party, then give the person a job to do at your party.  If this parent is busy, she will probably be less likely to cause trouble.  Also, don’t expect that parents hanging out at your kid’s party will pitch in, most won’t.  So, make sure to line up your help well in advance so you can relax during the party and enjoy it yourself!

Should we open gifts at the party?  There are pros and cons. The benefits are that it’s good to teach your child about opening gifts and receiving graciously

How can I teach my child to be a good host?

It’s never too early to involve your child in “writing” thank-you notes. Toddlers and preschoolers can decorate, draw, or scribble an autograph on a note you write. The more ownership your child feels and the more fun you make this part of kids’ birthday party etiquette, the more likely you will be successful at teaching manners to your toddler. Once they get old enough, boys and girls can help select their own party theme, activities, guest list and so on. If they express discontent that something isn’t going their way during the party, urge them to keep a positive attitude.

At the Party- (Don’t leave your child alone at a party unless it was discussed with the host parent)

  • One of the guests is being a complete brat. What should I do?
    Be as positive as you can be. The combination of excitement and sugar can be too much for some kids. Try to distract the child with a task or make him feel special with extra attention. If other parents are there, you could ask one of them to take him under her wing. If niceness fails, pull him aside and warn him that you’ll have to call his parents to take him home if he won’t behave.
  • What should I do with my other child during the birthday party? 
    Siblings can present a challenge at a party. Sometimes the best option is to plan a day for your other child with a friend somewhere else. However, if a sibling will attend the party, invite a friend of hers to keep her entertained. Avoid letting an older sibling simply stay in her room during the party — it can encourage bad manners and contribute to jealous feelings. As for older kids……they probably shouldn’t join in competitive games since they’ll have an unfair advantage.
    • What if my child hates a present?
      This problem can be neatly circumnavigated by not opening gifts at a party. The trend is toward that anyway — it saves time, guest jealousy, and protects everyone from the embarrassment of your child’s true reaction to an unwanted present.
    • Are goody bags a must?“Goody bags were always a part of parties when I was growing up. Sometimes the most meaningful takeaway is one you’ve made, like sending guests home with homemade muffins, or cupcake liners filled with candies or balloons.
    • My child received four identical gifts. Can I ask other parents for the receipts so I can exchange them?
      Not really. Practical parents may include a gift receipt with the package. If you know the person well you may be able to discuss it without offending her, but it’s better to err on the side of politeness. Many stores will
    • accept a return for store credit without a receipt, so try that first. But if that doesn’t work, stash it on the shelf for a spare in case the first one breaks.
    • Are thank-you notes necessary?
      Absolutely. It teaches responsibility, politeness, and consideration for others, as well as gives your child an excellent writing and creativity exercise. The notes don’t have to be long or detailed, but should t hank the gift-giver for their attendance at the party, their gift, and mention something specific she likes about it. That instills the value of expressing thanks and demonstrates proper post-party etiquette.*Remind birthday party guests to thank their host friends and parents on their way out the door as well. Teach children to practice gratitude at an early age, and they’ll reap the benefits for many birthdays to come.  – Till next time, Kelle,QC Supermom  

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