Parents: Stop Going Overboard On Birthday Parties!

Birthday Parties Were Once Rare

When did it become the new normal for parents to plan big birthday bashes for their kids, costing hundreds of dollars each year?


Growing up in the 1980's, it was a rare thing for someone to have a birthday party.  For those lucky few who did, it was a casually thrown-together affair at their homes, consisting of chips and cake.  Seldom was anything epic like pizza served.  Guests brought small token gifts, never exceeding five dollars.  Extravagant parents hosted parties at McDonald's, long before play equipment was even installed.

We didn't realize how rough we had it--because we didn't.

Birthday Parties Are Now Entitlements

Today, parents shower their kids with birthday parties on a yearly basis, starting at age one when the parties won't even be remembered.

Is it about celebrating their children or competing with other parents?

It certainly seems like parents are trying to out-do each other, as if their social media feeds depend on it.  These are the same parents who traded church dresses for prom gowns at homecomings to ruin school dances and transformed graduation parties into events that overshadow most people's wedding days.

It's no longer good enough to host parties at roller rinks or party centers with bouncey houses either--those have become passe and primitive for reputation-conscious parents.

Now, parents are turning to exciting birthday venues, like these:
  • Indoor Ninja obstacle courses
  • Trampoline parks
  • Pool parties
  • Gymnastics centers
  • Fun centers with mini golf, go-carts, arcade games, and bowling
  • Laser tag 
  • Paintball 
  • Game trucks
  • Make-up and hair parties at kiddie spas
Hosting a party at Build-a-Bear or Chuck E. Cheese used to be considered over-the-top, but not any more.  

Photo courtesy of Ninjas United via Flickr
Just like addicts who need bigger hits to feel a high, kids are being so pampered and spoiled that it's taking more and more to provide them with a good hit.  Yet, parents keep trying!    

As a result, are kids becoming more and more grateful to friends and family who attend and buy them lavish gifts?  No, they are turning into entitled brats who feel everyone owes them, which is one reason we are seeing a spike in the socialist movement in America.

Expectation Leads To A Lack Of Gratitude

Some parents include a note in the invitation advising guests to forego the gifts.  No one listens.  How bad would you look to be the only one at the party not to bring a gift? 

Kids today receive more toys at one birthday party than some of us did our entire childhoods. 

When kids had fewer toys, each toy was loved and played with until it was completely worn out.  Kids used to engage their imaginations to find new and inventive ways to have fun with their limited resources.

Put a kid in a room filled with toys today and they quickly grow bored and act like they don't know what to do.

They have become entitled toy collectors who like the thrill of new things, but quickly lose interest.

Kids who have everything handed to them also don't appreciate the value of a dollar and the sacrifice people make to give them a gift.  

It was Emma's fifth birthday, so her mom decided to mark this milestone by inviting her daughter's two closest pals over for a small, in-home party.  Along with food and cake for the Hello Kitty-themed gathering, Emma's mom created four short party games, assuming the girls would prefer to go off on their own to play.  

Once the four games were done, the two guests looked at Emma's mom expectantly and asked, "Is that it?"  

Emma's mom was incredulous.  Food, cake, party games, and gift bags for the guests wasn't enough?  Apparently, not in an age when parents feel responsible to provide their kids with 24/7 entertainment!    



Parents Need To Limit Birthday Parties

When your kids are invited to a birthday party at the latest, vogue destination, they beg you to go.  However, can you afford to let your kids attend every one?

Here's the math.  Let's assume you have two kids, they are each invited to four parties per year, and you spend $25 for each present.  You're paying $200/year on kids who don't need or appreciate your sacrifice, and this is a conservative estimate!

It's okay to tell your kids no.  If their BFF's invite them to their parties, consider allowing them to attend one per year, but don't feel obligated.  Just because unwise parents overindulge their kids doesn't mean you need to participate in their insanity.

Conversely, don't be the parent who feels pressured to host the perfect party every year.  You actually do your kids a disservice because you're teaching them to be self-centered narcissists who feel they deserve to be showered with gifts and adulation.  It's ridiculous!  This is why the upcoming snowflake generation can't handle learning it isn't "all about them" in the real world.

Some parents are seeing the light and trying to reverse the adverse effects of party pandering.  To teach their kids to be less self-absorbed, they celebrate birthdays by doing something good for others.  For example, one child celebrated her winter birthday by soliciting scarf and mitten donations she could deliver to a homeless shelter.

While some might find that going to the opposite extreme, middle ground does exist.  

Where Do You Draw The Line?

Who loves your kids more than anyone?  You and your extended family, of course!  The rest of us have better things to do on a Saturday afternoon.  If you're going to insist on having birthday parties, just invite your family to your house and let your kids have good, old-fashioned fun playing with their cousins and creating their own entertainment.  

An expensive birthday party is a flash in the pan that will be quickly forgotten, yet your kids will expect a better one next year.  

How, then, do you make your kids' birthdays special?  Love them, celebrate them, let them know how much better life is with them in it.  Cook their favorite breakfasts, buy them presents, enjoy a special family activity,  and make them the center of your attention for the day.  Showering them with your love and focus will create their favorite birthday memories.


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