Social Rules For Birthday Parties

Getting invited to a birthday party is something most children get pretty excited about. It’s easy to understand why this is. Being invited means being included, which is always better than the alternative. Plus, birthday parties are a great opportunity to socialize with peers in a fun, laid-back environment. Throw in pizza, cake, and party favors and you have the recipe for a perfect day by most children’s standards.

Still, as much fun as parties are, there are rules that have to be followed if everyone is going to enjoy the day. Many of these fall into the category of “unwritten rules,” which are the social rules that most children are able to pick up on and follow. Children who struggle socially have a hard time with this, and that often leads to them being outcast by their peers.

As parents, one of the best things we can do is help our children understand these unwritten social rules. That helps them to understand what they should expect and what is expected of them. That is why we have put together a list of “unwritten rules for birthday parties”. You should discuss this with your child before he attends one.

  • Patience will make waiting go by faster. There will probably be a lot of other children in attendance, which could mean that your child will have to wait his/her turn to join in a game, or to be served when it’s time to eat. Make sure your child is prepared for this possibility, and discuss what polite waiting looks like.
  • Add to the current conversation. Birthday parties often bring together a large group of children, which can be a great opportunity for your child to work on his conversation skills. Remind him that listening is an important part of getting along with others, and that he should consider the topics being discussed in a conversation before joining in. The other children will likely want him to add to the topics already being discussed, rather than trying to change the subject or dominate the conversation.
  • Remember “please” and “thank you” every time you make a request. Have your child practice asking for things politely. Remind him that if he does not want something he should simply say “no thank you” instead of complaining. At the end of the party, he should thank the birthday boy/girl for inviting him. The family hosting the party will appreciate his good manners and be more likely to invite him to future parties.
  • Try new things. Your child should be prepared for the fact that the activities planned for the party may not be his favorite things to do. That does not mean that he should become upset or refuse to participate. Going with the flow will make the day more enjoyable for everyone, and there will be other opportunities for your child to do his favorite activity-perhaps next weekend, or when his own party comes around.
  • Today is not about you. Today, the whole celebration will be centered on one person, and that person is the birthday girl/boy. For children who struggle with perspective taking, it can be difficult to accept that someone else is the center of attention, which can lead to jealousy or negative behavior that is intended to steal the spotlight. Explain to your child that today is about making someone else feel special, and that he will have his own turn when it is his own birthday.

For children with more significant social deficits, it may be necessary to review the rules before each party until they are memorized. It might help to first explain to your child that these rules are not meant to keep him from enjoying the day. Following them will actually help ensure that the birthday party is as fun as possible for everyone there.


Isa Marrs is the Founder and Executive Director of the Where I Can Be Me® social skills program. She is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in pragmatic language (social skills) disorders in children. Read More