Birthdays are really supposed to be fun, but they can be fraught with issues. One mom asks me:
My son (5 1/2) wants to invite everyone in his class to his birthday party except 2 people who he has singled out as not being his friends. This is his first ‘friends’ party. We've discussed how these kids might feel (reading Junie B. Jones ‘That Meanie Jim’s Birthday’), but I haven’t (yet) made an issue of it. However, I do feel bad. What do I do about inviting/not inviting these 2 kids??
Here’s my take on birthdays. There are two kinds of birthday parties:
1. Small meaning a few close friends
2. Big meaning the whole class, or the whole brownie/cub scout group (ie. no exclusions)
I suggest you let the child decide on whether they prefer option 1 or 2. The child must understand that if he goes for “big” it means including everyone in the group, even those that he doesn't like. Explain that while it is natural to not like every person we ever meet, we have to treat all people with respect and dignity whether we like them or not. To exclude a few from an established group is shunning and rejecting. That is not okay. It’s disrespectful.
If the idea of having the classmates he doesn’t like attend his party is soooo upsetting, be understanding and remind him he can always choose the other style party and invite his 5 or 6 best buddies from the "tighter" circle of friends.
I started very early talking to my children about the idea of how discouragement can make people act in ways that can look like they are "meanies" (in this case). I explained that underneath their tough façade, those kids really want deeply to be liked and to feel accepted, but they are lashing out from feelings of hurt and rejection. Once children understand this, they are willing to work harder to reach out and include them.
I hope that’s helpful.
For more parenting tips visit alysonschafer.com
About the Author:
Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine. Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t MIsbehavin”. She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.