Hosting your child's birthday party can be stressful - especially when a guest becomes unruly or disruptive, threatening the fun for everyone. We've compiled advice from experts in the Westchester County, NY, area on the best way to deal with a rude party guest, so you'll be prepared to save the day when the time comes.
Party Poopers, No More!
Even when you've planned and prepared till the cows come home, hosting a birthday party for kids can have its moments of stress. Remember that the occasion is marking another of your child's milestones (one year older, one year wiser, and one more candle on the cake!) - so don't let something as inconsequential as a whiny or unruly child ruin your day, and especially your child's.
All your prep will go far in creating an environment conducive to fun and peace: Pick age-appropriate activities and party places, know your guests (and their parents' expectations), etcetera, etcetera. And then be prepared for anything. As Natalie Swatz, a restaurant manager with 10 years of party entertaining experience under her belt, says, "Not every four-year-old likes hot potato or balloons. By having clear plans in place, you've certainly won half the battle."
To prepare you for the other half, we asked her and other local experts - who've seen it all - for their advice:
How can parents deal with a young guest who is being disruptive at their child's party?
"Birthday parties are a time for friends and family to come together and celebrate the guest of honor's very special day. Unfortunately, at times an invited guest may be moody, unhappy, or acting difficult.
If a party is being held at a place outside the home such as ours, it is often easier for a parent to navigate these situations because the staff is experienced and poised to step in. Our party host, for example, might notice the unruly guest and react by first trying to change the child's outlook. We tell parents, 'This is what we do-let us take care of it for you.' But of course, it's what parents do all the time, too. So whether it's the party staff or a parent who's present at a party in your home, the important thing is changing the child's negative outlook, transforming his or her attitude.
When a party guest is unhappy, the most probable reason is that attention is being given to someone else. This is natural, and it's common in other everyday situations with kids, too. We suggest pulling the child aside and playfully presenting the fun day she is about to have-talk about the activities, and let her know she's special. Just that little bit of one-on-one attention can do wonders! We want all kids to leave a party with a smile on their faces."
-Jessica Orozco, birthday party manager, Life...the place to be, Ardsley
"There are always a few challenging kids. For them, be firm and straightforward in your directions. Don't give them a laundry list of rules to follow, but do be clear about expectations, maybe pulling someone aside to avoid embarrassment if necessary. Just like adults, children want to be respected and understood.
Prior to a party held outside the home, I recommend talking to the host of the venue about their tactics for handling unruly kids. Most establishments will generally have written standards for employees to follow, so they can be open about how they'd like a situation handled.
And no matter where a party is being held, it is helpful to engage in discussion with the parents of any guests you might be unfamiliar with. Kids often make new friends they're eager to have at their party, and that unfamiliarity can be disconcerting in a group setting. Having a conversation with parents beforehand goes far in making a connection and getting both families on the same page about expectations. Some parents don't mind a call from the birthday mom if their own child is in need of guidance, while others feel it is your role to deal with their child, good or bad, for the duration of the party. (Which brings me to my next point: Have all invitees' phone numbers and contacts on hand during the party!)
Always. always have a 'plan B'-and back-up. If you're not an outgoing individual, you might consider bringing your fun neighbor, an older niece or nephew that is a kid-magnet, or another adult to help you gain control when needed. When it comes to chaperones, home parties should have enough adults for every two kids if the children are four or under. Little ones are fast and need guidance for everything. From ages four to eight it takes fewer parents to have control over the party. I feel after the age of eight, most parties only need two or three parents, unless you have a group over 15."
-Natalie Swatz, general manager, Bellizzi Restaurant, Mt. Kisco
"Parents and party hosts should make it a priority that the birthday child always has the best experience at the party. If another child is acting out, we instruct our staff to distract him-possibly by giving the child another activity to do, or just leading him away from the party for a while. Parents can assume that same role when parties are held at home, and when the party is at a venue such as ours, a staff member typically stays with that child until he or she is ready to rejoin the fun."
-Sylvia Rogers, owner, Leapin' Lizards, Port Chester
"The secret to having a successful, stress-free party is to have the children constantly engaged in an activity. They should move seamlessly from one attraction to another. And the food and drink should be set up and ready to consume the minute the guests sit down. Kids can be impatient-and more importantly, easily distracted! Use that to your advantage.
Hosting your child's party outside the home can often make life easier for the parents. We've been doing it for 20 years, so we've come up with or own solutions for dealing with issues such as disruptive guests. Our first strategy: Talk to the problem guest and warn him that if he continues to misbehave he will not be allowed to participate in the activities and games. If that doesn't work, gently inform the child that he will be the last to receive tokens or goodies that may be given out near the end of the party. This usually works. If all else fails, we place the child next to the host and remove him from the attraction so as not to endanger any of the other guests. We very rarely have to resort to this measure, though, as the other strategies are typically enough to distract and re-engage the child in the party."
-Jerry Petrini, owner, My Three Sons, Norwalk, CT
"What I've learned: Getting kids involved makes a party fun for the kids and the parents, and keeps everyone engaged. Take a child who is being rude under your wing, give him attention, and something to do. For me, that means making the child a DJ.! First I would put on the headphones and let the kid see how the music is being played. Next I'd ask if he wanted to say something on the microphone. Then I'd announce, 'Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our new d.j., Mike!' Before you know it, the individual who was minutes ago the problem child is now the center of attention and having fun! It doesn't really matter what age the kids are at a party-the secret is really keeping them involved!"
-Mike Annunziato, deejay/owner, M.A. Music presents..."Karaoke for Kids," Yonkers
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