Who to invite?

Question of the Day from a Mom in Northbrook, IL:   

Dear Bulldog,  

My daughter is in 3rd grade and we are working on her invitation for her birthday party. As we are writing up the guest list, I noticed that she is excluding some girls in her class. There has been some friend drama, but I know she is leaving out one of her really good friends. My daughter is saying that this particular girl is "a bad friend". What do I do? How do I approach my daughter about this?  

Thanks from a perplexed mother!  

Dear Perplexed Mother, 

This happens a lot when children start to build their friendship network and it is great that you are willing to address it versus ignore what is happening. Here are a few of my suggestions:

  • I would probe more on why she feels this girl is a bad friend. Ask her what makes a good friend. Find out what happened. Then review each person she’s excluded and find out why and ask for specifics. Ask open ended question and try to avoid leading questions.  Sometimes we lead our questions and the kids just end up telling us what we want to hear.
  • I would ask her how it would feel if she’s was not invited to a party when all the other friends were invited. Frame it as: “say there is a party how would you feel if all your friends where invited and the birthday girl didn’t invite you”. Then ask how it would impact her at school and with her other friends.
  • Another option would be to ask if you can invite the friends just in case she changes her mind. You can hold off on sending the invitations, but have them ready. Kids often make quick rash decisions, and it is important to give them room to think and process. Often they end up changing their mind. Just having a back-up plan can help your daughter not feel stuck if she decides to invite the girls at the last minute.
  • When kids have parties it’s a way to exude their social power. You want her to feel in control and be a kind leader. So let’s say that this “bad friend” might be making poor choices and starting drama. By your daughter excluding her it might cause more drama if not addressed properly.  Ask about how she can show kindness and be the leader of her class. So your daughter could tell the “bad friend” that she doesn’t like the way she’s treating her, but wants to be the bigger person and invite her to her party. By showing kindness, it might turn the situation around.
  • Share a story about how you got excluded and then how it made you feel. Then share about a time you had an argument with your friend and excluded her.  Share what happened and what you regretted and learned. Story telling is a powerful tool to teach kids life lessons.
 Focus on building empathy and having her understand the negative impact of exclusion.
We hope this helps and good luck with party planning!