When Maxine and her daughter Stephanie were planning Stephanie’s eleventh birthday party, Maxine became upset. “Steph wanted to exclude one girl in her class from the invitation list. I was shocked because it was so mean, and I didn’t think she was like that, but Steph said this girl is mean to her and she should be able to have who she wanted at her party. I didn’t let her do it though, and she was really angry with me. It wasn’t one our finest moments together!” So, at this age, how much should you get involved?
What’s the most important lesson your child needs to learn—independent decision-making, or something else?
You might be surprised (or maybe not) to see this question in the top fifty. However, as you can see from the previous question, older-elementary-age children feel strongly about wanting to be able to control their own social lives. Choosing who to invite to a birthday party, or any other kind of party, is a big deal to them.
Like Stephanie, your child may feel justified in excluding a child. In fact she may even feel that this is the only power she has over a child who has excluded, teased, or bullied her. It is important not to discard these feelings, even though it is usually not right to exclude one child from an invitation list, even under these circumstances.
Your child may have other, less obvious reasons for asking this question. For example, you might find out that peers are pressuring her not to invite a particular child. They think the child is “weird,” and she’s afraid if she invites her they won’t come to the party.
Typically, your response should be to tell your child that it is not right to exclude one child, even if you don’t like her. Explain that, “You need to invite her, and if she doesn’t like you either, she probably won’t come.
However, if she does, you should be as polite as you would be to any other guest.”
The only exception to this is if the child has bullied your child in an extreme manner. In this case it may be in your child’s best interest to respect her wishes and not extend the invitation. This will give her an opportunity to finally stand up to the bully. If you choose to make this decision, I would suggest speaking to the teacher in advance of sending the invitations so that, should the child’s parent complain to anyone other than you, the school is prepared with a logical explanation.
If your child’s reason for wanting to exclude one (or more than one) child isn’t immediately obvious, it is worthwhile to take the time to talk to her about it, rather than assume you know the reason. This offers an opportunity for you to find out what is going on in your child’s social life in a way that she may not have told you before now. Although you may not be able to give your child the quick solution she wants—since it’s not usually acceptable to leave out one child—at least you will be able to open a discussion about a healthier way to resolve her bad feelings, rather than not inviting someone to her party.