Teaching children manners



The schools years teach children more than just reading and math. School is the primary social life for your child and that can mean receiving dozens of children’s birthday invitations every year. All the parties and invitations may just become a blur to you and make weekend event scheduling a challenge. But each birthday party is a big deal to the birthday child and each party is an opportunity for teaching and learning good manners for kids. Your child will only learn good birthday party etiquette if you demonstrate good birthday party etiquette and manners. 


Our more relaxed society seems to have forgotten what RSVP even means. When a party invitation comes, who to RSVP to is usually part of the party information. RSVP stands for the French phrase répondez s'il vous plaît, or please respond.

Politeness dictates that if you receive a party invitation with an RSVP, you let the host or hostess know if you can or cannot attend, because a reply either way is being requested. No response to the invitation or RSVP on your part is not an assumed, “No, I am not attending the party.” Silence on the part of the invitee simply not good manners for kids or their parents. And it causes confusion as to how many kids are coming to the party, especially since many kids do show up at the party without previously RSVPing.

The parents hosting the party need to prepare for the number of kids in attendance. If the party is at a party venue, such as a skating rink or bounce house, then the parents pay for a certain number of kids to attend. Too many kids and the parents hosting the event unexpectedly owe more money. Fewer kids than expected may mean the parents over paid and are not likely to get a refund. How much food and goody bags to prepare also depend on the RSVP response received.

If your child receives a party invitation that requests an RSVP, teaching children manners means you do need to RSVP with a yes or no. You don’t have to give a reason if you don’t want to. No response to a request for an RSVP is simply not good manners.  Also RSVP as soon as you can or by the date requested. RSVPing the day before a party may cause problems if the venue needed a head count a week ago, or the food has already been ordered.

One last tip on the RSVP, it does help teach your child birthday party etiquette to have him handle the RSVPing. However, do check that the message was conveyed correctly to the parent of the birthday child. Some children, especially younger kids, may forget or say they are going to the party when in fact they are not. There’s also a chance the birthday child may not remember to tell his parents the message correctly or at all. So, do make the final RSVP your responsibility.

No Siblings

Just as with any party or wedding invitation, the name on the invitation is the only child that’s invited. Unless the invitation includes siblings, you can assume that siblings are not invited. Asking if a sibling, especially one that the birthday child does not know or has never met, can come to the party is not polite and is not teaching children manners.

Asking if or insisting that a sibling be allowed to attend puts the parent and birthday child in awkward positions. The birthday child probably doesn’t want strangers at his party. The parent probably doesn’t want to invite 20 classmates and all of their siblings.

It also teaches the sibling to either bully their way to get an invitation or to crash a child’s party. Simply put, if your kindergartener was invited to a party, but not her fifth grade sister, then leave it at that. The sibling is not invited.

Be On Time

Most children’s birthday parties have a schedule of events and games. And if the party is being held at a venue, the allotted hours are strict. If a party is from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. then you need to arrive at 3 p.m. and pick up your child at 5 p.m. In some cases, the venue may wait for all the kids to arrive to get started. So your child being 30 minutes late may mean the birthday child and all of the guests have lost out on 30 minutes of the party. Venues with strict party times will clear the party out on time. If you are late picking up your child, then the party host parents have to wait with your child outside until you arrive. If extenuating circumstances make getting to the party on time challenging, discuss that in advance with the parents of the birthday child.


Birthday gifts are still customary, but don’t feel you need to break the bank or skip a party because you can’t afford a birthday present.  That old saying, “It’s the thought that counts,” is true. Have your child make a card with a picture or other homemade gift as a present to save some money. If you are buying a present, there’s no need to spend more than $20, even if you can afford more, and less than $10 for a gift is certainly acceptable. If such a gesture is looked down on by the parents of the party, then you may want to reconsider your child’s social circle.

Also, slipping cash in the birthday card is appropriate for the grandparents or other close family members so the child can add the money to a savings account. But for a child to slip a $20 in the birthday card as a gift to another child is uncouth and not thoughtful. If just shows you had better things to do then take 30 minutes to make a gift or stop at the store. Skip the $20 dollar bill and take the time to teach your child to think of the birthday child. A gift card toa favorite store, handmade craft or picture, or donation to a charity in the birthday child’s name would be much more thoughtful and appreciated. There’s no need to teach young children to expect cash from friends for their birthday.

Birthday parties for children are an excellent opportunity for kids to learn good manners. Kids learn their manners from their parents. If you practice good birthday party etiquette, then you will be teaching your children manners as well.