By Anissa Coleman
It’s an event your child has been anticipating all year, the one day that is special to only him— his birthday. He wants a party. He wants cake. He wants presents. No surprise there. So being the good mom that you are, you work hard to make his wishes come true only at some point to wish you could run in the next room and put a bag over your head.
“I already have one of these,” your child blurts out while opening a gift. Or, “Ewww! I don’t want clothes. I want a toy.”
Of course you want to avoid these life’s-most-embarrassing-moment situations, and the best way to do that is to talk with your child before the party.
The Gracious Host or Hostess
As soon as you start planning, begin emphasizing to your child the importance of his guests having a great time. The Emily Post Institute (EPI), composed of etiquette experts, offers several ways the host can help his guests have a great party experience:
- Greet everyone at the door.
- Include everyone in activities.
- Share your toys.
- Offer refreshments.
- Give out favors as guests leave or when you open presents.
- Say “goodbye” and “thanks for coming” to each guest as they leave.
- Send a thank-you note for presents that weren’t opened at the party or if thanks weren’t given in person.
Gifts are an important part of the birthday tradition. All kids (except for one- or two-year-olds) should be able to accept a gift and say “thank you,” according to EPI. Etiquette experts offer the following as a guide for the proper thank-you:
- One- to two-years-old: You will say it for him.
- Three- to six-years-old: If necessary, you will prompt him, but you can expect him to say it.
- Seven years and older: He should know to say “thank you” when given a gift. So how do you handle the situation when your child receives a gift he doesn’t like or already has? For the three to five–year-old, you need to act quickly and prevent any inappropriate comments or stop them with a “thank you.” Teach your six- to eight- year-old how to react to a gift he doesn’t like. Tell him to think of one positive thing to say about the gift, and be sure to say “thank you.” For example, thanks for the sweater. It’s my favorite color.”
For any occasion, thank-you notes are required for any gift that you or the child hasn’t said thanks for in person. And although you have said thanks in person, it’s always a great practice to write personal notes later, according to Post. While children like to receive postal mail, even Ms. Manners now views emailed thanks better than none at all.
The Gracious Guest
It’s equally important to be a well-mannered guest at parties. Teaching children good party manners starts before you go to the party:
- Reply to invitations right away. Of course, parents usually have to help with this, but be sure to involve your child.
- Arrive at the party on time. It’s also important to leave the party at the time stated in the invitation.
- Participate in all the fun, no matter what the activity is.
- Be careful and respectful with the host’s house and belongings. No jumping on the furniture, etc.
- Pick up after yourself. Put everything back in its place before leaving unless the host/hostess insists that you not do it.
- Follow the directions of the adults at the party.
- Tell an adult if something spills or breaks.
- Say “goodbye” and “thank you” at the end of the party.
Planning Tips for Parents
Creating a guest list can be a challenge when planning any kind of party. The rule of thumb is to match the number of guests to the age of the child for younger children. The older child can help create a birthday party guest list, so include him in the decision. To keep the list from getting out of hand, it’s usually best to determine a number of guests before deciding who is invited. Tips for guest list:
- Guests should be about the same age as your child. Some party planners advise that guests should be no older or younger than one year of your child.
- Consider the type of party you want to have, the space available, and your budget.
- Don’t exclude a child just because he’s not your good friend. If he is in a group of others who are being invited, he should be invited.
- If you can’t invite everyone in a group or class, don’t pass out invitations at school or meeting. Mail the invitations or call the parents.
- Discourage your child from talking about the party at school if everyone isn’t invited.
- If you don’t receive responses to the invitations, it is OK to call the guests and ask them their plans, according to EPI.#