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Birthday Party Etiquette for Your School Age Child

Teaching Your Child About Birthday Party Etiquette

Birthday parties can be loads of fun for kids, but they can cause loads of stress for parents. That's because whether your child is throwing the party or attending it, you want her to be on her best behavior. And unfortunately, sometimes kids and manners just don't go together.

Before your child's next birthday bash -- or before she's invited to another one -- it's smart to discuss the basics of birthday party etiquette.

The "Musts" for Any Birthday Party


Ask most experts and they'll tell you that one of the biggest faux pas today's kids (and their parents) make involves the invites.

"If your written invitations are handed out at school, make sure that everyone in your class -- or your group, or your team -- receives one," explains Peggy Post and Cindy Post Senning, Ed.D., in Emily Post's The Guide to Good Manners for Kids.

Too often, school-age children pick and choose who to invite from a class, leaving many kids left out and with hurt feelings. It's up to you -- as the parent -- to explain why this is unacceptable.

Another big mistake is letting your birthday girl -- or boy -- act like a diva.

"Remember that it's not polite to hang out in a corner with your best friend for the whole party; part of your responsibility as the host is to mingle with all your guests and try to help everyone have a good time," says Elizabeth James and Carol Barkin in Social Smarts: Manners for Today's Kids.

Make sure your child knows to greet each guest as they arrive and say goodbye when they leave.

More Manners Tips for the Host ...

  • If you plan to let your child open her gifts at the party, instruct her ahead of time to thank each person for the present he or she brought -- even if she gets something she doesn't want or like.
  • Your child should make sure all of her guests are included in any activities and games and no one feels left out. You and your child are also responsible for making sure all the guests have something to eat and drink, and for not serving any foods that a guest is allergic too.
  • Three words: Thank you notes. Have your child send these as quickly as possible after a party. Even a 5- or 5-year-old can write (or draw) a thank you note with a parent's help.

... And Manners Tips for the Guests

  • Don't let your child be late. Guests should arrive on time and dressed appropriately for any activities that are planned. (For example, don't let your daughter wear a frilly dress to a skating party.)
  • Just before the party, go over the basics of being a good houseguest: Don't put your feet on the furniture, chew with your mouth closed, and offer to help clean up after the cake is served.
  • Bring a gift that is appropriate for the birthday child. And don't forget to include a card that says who the gift is from. (This is especially important since many parents now opt to hold off on opening the presents until after the guests leave. If several gifts are missing tags, the host won't know who brought what.)
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