Back to articles Birthday Party Invitation Etiquette

Categories: Parenting

Birthdays are really supposed to be fun, but they can be fraught with issues.

 One mom asks me:

My son (5 1/2) wants to invite everyone in his class to his birthday party except 2 people who he has singled out as not being his friends. This is his first ‘friends’ party. We’ve discussed how these kids might feel (reading Junie B. Jones ‘That Meanie Jim’s Birthday’), but I haven’t (yet) made an issue of it. However, I do feel bad. What to I do about inviting/not inviting these 2 kids??

Here’s my take on birthdays. There are two kinds of birthday parties:

  1. Small meaning a few close friends
  2. Big meaning the whole class, or the whole brownie group (no exclusions)

I suggest you let the child decide on whether they prefer style 1. or style 2. but the child must understand that if he goes for big it includes everyone, even those that he doesn’t like. Explain that excluding a few is shunning and rejecting and that is not okay. If the idea of having those classmates he doesn’t like is soooo upsetting, that is fine, he can choose the other style party and invite his 5 or 6 best buddies from the “tighter” circle of friends.

I started very early talking to my children about the idea of how discouragement can make people act in ways that can look like “meanies” (in this case). When children understand that these children are hurting underneath their tough façade, and that they really want deeply to be liked and to feel accepted, they are willing to work harder to reach out to them and including them.


Alyson Schäfer is a psychotherapist, parent coach, popular public speaker and host of "The Parenting Show" Rogers Television.. She teaches parent education classes and works with parents one-on-one in her parent coaching practice. For more information on Alyson, please visit her website at