Best of the Forum: My child doesn’t want to invite someone – advice?

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My preschooler’s birthday is coming up and we’ve come up with a short list of children he wants to invite to his party. He doesn’t want “girls” which made me chuckle (last year we had both boys and girls). I rattled off the names of boys at his school, and he wants to invite all but one of them. He says that boy plays too rough. I know that kid’s parents, and yes, the boy does play rough, but I do not believe he is trying to be mean or anything like that at all. He’s just got a lot of energy and trying to be funny. So what to do? I think it would hurt that little boy’s feelings if he finds out other kids at this small school were invited but he wasn’t. On the other hand, if my son really doesn’t want him there, I wouldn’t want it to backfire on me or his party if I insist. Where to draw the line? Surely if the other kid was a bully, then absolutely, I would listen to my child and not invite this kid to the party. I’ve tried talking to my son about “it would still be nice if you invited him since you are inviting the other boys” and “he looks up to you” (which he does– he’s 1 year younger). What have other parents done when presented with this type of situation?

  • You can be certain of a few things in this situation: 1) if he is excluded, the little boy and his mother will find out; 2) their feelings will be hurt and it will damage your and your son’s relationships with them (it may also damage your relationship with others at the preschool who might feel it was unkind); and 3) you will feel badly about excluding the child long after the party’s over. Empathy is not an easy thing for a five-year-old boy to understand, but is incredibly important to teach them. My son is 12, and I’m still reminding him to put himself in other people’s shoes. It doesn’t come easy, and I’m not even sure it comes naturally. But it’s just as important to learn empathy as it is to learn to read. This is a golden opportunity for you to model empathy to your son. He is just turning 5, so has a hard time looking at the situation from any perspective other than his own. You should step in and say “We need to invite all of the boys in the class. It would be unkind to leave one out. How would you feel if you found out that xxx was having a party and you were the only boy not invited? Also, it sounds like the mother of this little boy is aware of her son’s rambunctious behavior and takes appropriate steps to curtail it. You can put yourself in her shoes, and think about how grateful she may be to have her boy included. My kids are older (12 and 16), so I don’t remember when “drop-off” parties begin. But perhaps inviting her to stay at the party also could allay any fears you have about her son’s behavior getting out of hand. Good luck!
  • There’s a great fun kids book on this topic you might consider reading with your son : “Hooper Humperdink, not him” by Theo Lesieg (aka Dr Suess).

  • I, too, would suggest being inclusive not exclusive and teach kindness and acceptance. Preschool classes are small and are safe, intact, supportive, accepting groups where small people can learn to socialize and be independent. It’s not an environment where kids are supposed to be rejected. There’s enough of that later. It sounds like this little boy is doing his best to learn to control himself, and that his mother is supporting him and the teacher’s efforts, too. I’m sure the mom will attend the party and supervise her son, if he needs it. When my twins started preschool last year right before they turned three, my son had some times when he still hit. From everything that I have read, it was normal for three year olds, but it certainly did press my buttons and I’m sure no one else was happy with it. The preschool was firm, consistent, and supportive of teaching him to use words and ask for help. This worked well as he outgrew it. He and his twin and frankly, I, would have been really hurt if we had been excluded from an activity the entire group was invited to. There is also the possibility that this little boy has some sort of special learning need and that is why he has more trouble controlling himself. This would be something he was born with and I’d hate for him to be excluded. We have a five-year-old friend with high functioning Autism spectrum and he hits from time to time. I’m teaching my twins to understand that their little friend always tries his best and doesn’t hit on purpose, and how they can best deal with it. Mine are not yet four, but are able to understand this. Ambiguity is understandable at these young ages.
  • I agree! Include, rather than exclude. You will feel so much better in the long run having done the right thing and having given your son a chance to learn the valuable lesson of caring for others’ feelings. My son was once excluded from a party because the girl giving the party thought he was too rambunctious and the other children who had been invited came to him and told him why she was leaving him out. They lobbied for him to come as they all liked him. She ended up relenting, letting him come along, and they all had a great time. He & that girl are now friends. Sometimes, it just takes that sort of communication to make things work out. You might just want to whisper in the mom’s ear, so to speak, that your son has some hesitations and ask her to let her son know what sort of behavior he should keep in check to be respectful of your son’s tolerance levels, too. All of that said, if this child is rambunctious to the point of ruining a party (and it sounds like he is not), I think it’s perfectly ok to leave him out if that is a concern. My daughter twice invited one girl to parties at our house in which she managed to rub sticky silly putty throughout one of our carpets, and during the second party she hid my son’s ipod to the point where we thought it was gone. Much later, we discovered that this girl had hidden it in the house in a very unlikely place — she actually admitted to it. So….I would always err on the side of being kind and inclusive, but respect your son’s and your own rights if the child shows any signs of being rough to the point of damaging your property or really ruining things for your boy’s birthday. It’s a fine line.
  • Maybe consider giving your son the option of inviting all, none or less than half the boys in the class. For all the reasons others have already stated, I wouldn’t exclude just one or two. Good luck!
  • Giving options offers the birthday child some acceptable choices, but respects their wishes as well. 5 is sort of in-between the preschool/k norm of inviting the whole class and the older grades when parties get smaller, so maybe your son is ready to move towards a more refined guest list.
  • Whatever you decide, it’s best to send invitations directly to the kids’ homes and not hand out invites at school where other kids (e.g., the girls) will know there’s a party going on and they’re not invited.
  • Completely agree with the other posts. You’d be hurting the feelings of both the boy and his parents by excluding him, and he’s bound to know that he was excluded. I’ve had these sorts of conversations with my four-year-old and he has started to really understand what it must feel like to be someone who’s left out.

 

 

 

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One Response to “Best of the Forum: My child doesn’t want to invite someone – advice?”

  1. Ann DeWitt says:

    I agree with the “invite all, none or fewer than half” guideline and I think it is appropriate for all ages. My daughter is 11 and was hurt when more than half her soccer team was invited to a party and she wasn’t. We all understand being closer with some kids than others but excluding kids is hurtful and it feels like exclusion when it gets to 50/50.

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