You have everything in its place. The buffet table is looking delicious. The cake is fabulous. The party boy or girl is loving being the centre of attention, excited at their friends coming over to party BUT, there is one stress on the horizon that virtually every parent finds difficult to handle – disruptive behaviour from someone else’s child.
So, how to deal with behaviour that threatens to disrupt the party; it may start with preparation but, what about when it happens at the time?
It’s all in the preparation
Not planning to prepare, as the saying goes, is preparing to fail and the same can be said about managing behaviour at a children’s party.
Excitement, like all other emotions, is one that some children can find difficult to handle; some children cry and appear distress, and yet others seem to go completely off the rails, almost aggressive in some cases.
By having a clear and proactive plan ready for the day, you can quite successful circumnavigate these issues. But, when all else fails, we have a plan for that too…
Games and interaction are key to making a party run smoothly but you do need to be proactive, setting out rules and expectations if you feel this is necessary. Having a mix of games appropriate for the age of your guests, as well as entertainment can also help in keeping behaviour under control.
The party plan
As guests arrive, make sure your child is there to greet them and say hello. Most parents like to slip away, unnoticed at this stage!
When all your guests are there, bring them all together and introduce some games; good ones at this point are active games, where children can run off excess energy and excitement. However, keep the game under control!
If you feel that it is getting out of hand, use a typical ‘calming down’ game, where children have to sit and focus their energy more. These calming games are also best before food is served and any entertainment too.
Best laid plans
However, there can be instances where a child’s behaviour can become out of control and, as the adult host, you have responsibility to wrestle control back.
Any chastisement must be responsible and age appropriate…
- Distraction – the majority of the time, children can be distracted from continuing with their pattern of behaviour, by asking them to complete another task etc.
- Talk to them – if distraction isn’t working, then you will need to speak to the child. This needs to be done firmly but politely. Explain to the child which of the behaviours you want to change e.g. “there is plenty of food [use name], please stop taking food from people’s plates”
- Warnings – children as used to received warnings as in most schools, this is how they alert to children needing to change behaviour. Use the word warning that they now have to change their behaviour or… and give a sanction, such as phoning home or sitting out the next game etc.
- Ratio – a common issue is when there are not enough adults to nip the behaviour in the bud; the rule is, the younger the guests the more adults you will need; for children under 6, try to get parents to stay. For older than 6, try to have 1 adult for every 3 to 5 children. Ask people that you know enjoy the company of children!
- Fun rules – many children respond better to rules when they are fun. Instead of shouting ‘stop’ at the top of your voice, introduce the word ‘freeze’. Tell the partying children that this is a good thing as it means something nice will happen; and that there are rewards for children who freeze instantly on the spot!
- Positive, over negative – the aim of any party is to have fun and being positive in terms of what behaviour you want to see is important, although with all the preparation and running around on the day, you can be exhausted. This can deplete your reserves of patience so remember to check with yourself that it is bad behaviour from a child, and not your reserves of energy running low…
When you have tried everything, and the child is still misbehaving, then the last resort is to phone the absent parent and ask them to come and collect the child. But always attempt to end the party on a good note; thank them for attending and give the party bag, if have them, to the parents.
The key to a successful party is making sure that you have more than enough for your small party guests to do, from quieter creative tasks to more boisterous, but controlled games.