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A birthday party is a yearly highlight that most kids anticipate with excitement. Every other holiday is shared, but a birthday is a unique day that belongs to the child alone. Birthdays can be extra special events for parents, too. They mark another year with a son or daughter. Definitely a cause to celebrate!
Like so many significant stepping stones in life, birthdays are a training ground. They provide an opportunity for children to learn skills essential to entertaining and the world of giving and receiving gifts. Think about these skills in three distinct categories; the first comes as part of planning the party:
Whether it’s a wedding or a five-year-old’s birthday party, creating a guest list can be the most challenging part of the party. By the time your child is four or five he may be ready to help with this decision, and you can talk with him about who to invite. You can establish some guidelines by choosing how many guests and then help him decide who to invite.
Gifts are an important part of the birthday tradition. All kids (except for one- or two-years old) should be able to accept a gift and say “thank you.”
What should you do if your child receives a gift he doesn’t like or already has? For the brutally honest three to five year-old, nip any comments in the bud, stopping him at “thank you.” Teach your six to eight years-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! “Thanks for the t-shirt. It’s my most favorite color.”
No matter what the occasion, thank-you notes are required for any gift that you haven’t said thanks for in person. And even if you have said thanks in person—like at the party—it’s great practice to write thank-you notes later.
Birthday parties really are a great training ground, both for the birthday child and her guests. Kids can and will absorb and learn good party manners—which are really nothing more than everyday manners bumped up a notch. Special occasions provide special opportunities to teach some special manners:
This article originally appeared as a post on Cindy Post Senning's parenting blog, The Gift of Good Manners.