Etiquette Tips for Birthday Kids
These days, celebrating a child’s birthday is often a week-long extravaganza: birthday waffles at home, the birthday donuts at school, the birthday picnic with family and, finally, the big birthday party with friends. With all that attention aimed at one little person, it’s no wonder that birthday week can turn your sweet-natured angel into a self-centered demon, grabbing for more cake, more presents and more and more attention.
Author and etiquette guru Andrea Stephens has a common sense answer to the birthday gimmees: “Teach your child that her birthday is a great opportunity to treat her friends!” Stephens said. “When the child starts to think in terms of ‘What would my friends enjoy?’ and views her party as an opportunity to treat her friends special, the focus is turned from getting to giving.”
Stephens believes that even at an early age children can begin to learn how to be a good host or hostess. She encourages parents to involve the birthday child in all aspects of the process from sending the invitations, to decorating the venue—all with the idea of creating a special event for the guests. “Talk to your child about what his or her friends would enjoy doing, what would be a fun theme that they all might like, what kind of food or snacks they would think are yummy,” Stephens said. “By transferring the focus from the birthday child to the guests, children begin to grasp the idea that everything doesn’t revolve around them, and will serve them well as they grow up.”
Finally, whether your child is the birthday child or the guest, Stephens encourages you to role-play good manners before the party.
Etiquette Tips For the Birthday Party Host:
- If you don’t invite your entire class, mail your invitations so those not invited don’t get their feelings hurt.
- Never talk about your party in front of kids who aren’t invited.
- If you don’t invite the entire class, ask your mom or dad if you can bring cupcakes or donuts to school so everyone can feel included.
- Don’t invite too many guests. The best idea is to invite your age plus one. So, if you are turning 8, nine guests should be just right.
- Let your guests know if there is anything special they need to bring or wear for the party. (And no, this doesn’t mean, “Don’t forget to bring my present!”)
- Greet each of your guests at the door by making eye contact and saying his or her name, such as, “Hi, Ben, welcome to my party.”
- After greeting your guests, show them where to put their belongings and where to find the bathroom.
- When all your guests have arrived, take a moment to introduce them if they don’t all know each other. Include information about each person such as, “This is Kimberly. She is in my ballet class.”
- Remember to interact with all your guests and not just your best friends.
- Consider serving each of your guests birthday cake before you take your piece.
- When you open your gifts, always behave with gratitude, even if you already have the item or don’t like it.
- When your party is over, say thank you to each guest, using the guest’s name, such as, “Thank you, Lily, for coming to my party and thank you for the gift.”
- Always send your thank you notes within one week after your party.
Etiquette Tips for Birthday Party Guests:
- RSVP as soon as possible.
- Arrive on time, or call if you are running late.
- Never play with the birthday child’s gifts unless he or she invites you to.
- Always ask if you can help with anything, and be willing to help clean up after the party.
- Be a good houseguest: never snoop! Don’t open doors, drawers, cabinets or the refrigerator unless you are invited to do so. Always say please and thank you. Don’t put your feet on the furniture. Chew with your mouth closed. Don’t talk with your mouth full of food.
- When you leave, thank your friend and his or her parents for inviting you.
- Oh, and of course, never, never, blow out the candles on someone else’s birthday cake!
Andrea Stephens, is licensed and trained by the Emily Post Institute and works with ages 3-24. For more information about her classes and workshops, call 918.872.6216 or visit www.andreastephens.com/absoluteetiquette.html