Children’s birthday parties can be a source of frustration for some parents. Besides spending time arranging a fun experience, there’s the expense that’s involved. Will everyone RSVP on time? Will everyone who said they were coming actually show up? The mom at the centre of the latest controversy over party etiquette was quite miffed that a child who had RSVP’d didn’t in fact show up. I’m sure we can sympathize with her. Who hasn’t forked out a lot of money on invitees whose parents didn’t bother to inform them that Johnnie wouldn’t be coming after all?

Tempting as it might be to send a “no show fee” invoice to the offending parents, that isn’t the correct way to handle the situation. Whether we like it or not, we take a risk planning costly birthday parties for our children. And for this mom, it’s no different. However, the dad whose son didn’t attend should have been willing to pay the share that the mom had to incur without the need of an invoice. This is a good time to cover some basics of party etiquette with our children and with ourselves as parents, too!!


Plan to RSVP within a week of receiving the invitation. The parents need to know numbers soon during the planning process. And if the party involves an outside venue, the hosting parents will be responsible for the number of children that they stated would be attending. If you discover a double-booking error, let the parents know ASAP. This father claimed that he lost the invitation and couldn’t let the mom know. Sorry, not good enough. Make a concerted effort. Contact other parents or children who know the family’s contact info. This dad could have contacted the school to ask them to inform the family that his son wouldn’t be able to attend. Wouldn’t he have wanted to be treated the same way if the positions were reversed? I believe that’s called the Golden Rule!!

Arrive on time – don’t leave in the middle

Arrive on time…no more than 10 minutes late. If it’ll be later because of traffic snarls, let the host know. In my classes, I ask the children what to do if they’ve been invited to two parties occurring on the same day & time. Most of the time, they say that the first party that you agreed to go to is the chosen one for the day. But some students mention that maybe they could to half of one and half of the other party. This is not showing respectful behavior leaving in the middle of the one party to go to another. It’s actually insulting to the Birthday boy/girl.

Good & gracious behaviour

Teach your children to treat their friend’s home better than their own. Don’t put feet on the furniture. If there’s been a spill, clean it up. Don’t go through drawers or open doors to other rooms. Stay with the rest of the party. Offer to help the parents serve food. Don’t help yourself to food from the fridge. Especially, don’t complain about the food or choice of games. Fully participate in the activities that are planned without complaining. Say “Please” and “Thank you” a lot. The Birthday girl/boy shouldn’t show any partiality to the gifts. The guests all receive a similar polite response. Teach children how to be tactful.

Time for the Birthday Child to shine

This is common for younger children who have a hard time letting the other person have their special day. Remind your children that it’s their friend’s special day and they’ll have their turn soon. Don’t tolerate tantrums over the gifts. As the parents of the Birthday boy/girl, feel free to do gift opening later after the party if some guests are wanting to play aggressively with the new toys. All too often, something gets destroyed and there’s lots of tears and sadness.

Thank you cards

Make it a priority to have your children write out and snail mail deliver Thank you cards to family. Thank you cards to friends are an important way to show appreciation to others who took the time to purchase a thoughtful gift.

In conclusion to the controversy with the offensive invoice, now the mom of the birthday boy isn’t allowing her son to play with the other boy. Really?? At the end of the day, it’s her issue with the other parent. I am disappointed that she’s projecting her angst with the other adult on to her son making this a larger deal than necessary causing added friction to the boys’ friendship. What is her son learning as a result?

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Maria and her Etiquette Program have been featured in several media outlets including:



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