• Resolving Problems

Parenting and friendship: Teaching kids to do the right thing

Published: July 22, 2014 | By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
A mom worries that her daughter isn’t doing the right thing by disappointing a friend on her birthday.


Hi Irene,

My daughter was invited to a friend’s birthday party and said yes. Then she received another invitation from another child for a weekend birthday party at a beach house for two days.

Now she wants to go to the weekend party because she doesn’t want to miss a beach party with all her friends. She was never invited to the beach house before and has been hoping to go this summer.

I tried to compromise by suggesting I would drive her down the next day, but she is worried they will all be talking about the fun they had the night before and she will miss something.

How do I show her how to make the right decision even though it might be disappointing at the time and that she may lose a friendship over this? Not to mention what the parents will think of our decision as parents to allow our daughter to change her mind about which party to attend? Please respond if you can. Thank you!

Signed, Phyllis


Hi Phyllis,

You haven’t said how old your daughter is but it sounds like she’s at an age when she should be capable of managing her own friendships.

You have come up with an elegant solution to her two-parties-on-the-same-day dilemma but the ultimate decision of what she wants to do should be hers. If she is unwilling to go the beach party for only one day and insists on the entire weekend, she needs to be responsible for apologizing to her other friend and accepting the consequences (which may entail losing the friendship). Perhaps, this friendship is less important to her than you think and that’s why she is willing to risk its loss.

You’ve let your daughter know your thinking on this matter and have given her every opportunity to do the right thing. Now the choice of how to handle this situation has to be left up to her. Hopefully, with your guidance and whatever real-life consequences derive from this experience, she’ll learn something about making and keeping friends.

One other thing: I realize this may be an awkward situation for you as well. If the mother of the child she is disappointing is your friend, you may want to let the other mom know you didn’t agree with and were disappointed by your daughter’s decision but felt she was old enough to decide on her own.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Comments (3)

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  1. Mary says:

    I agree with Irene and the commenters-either let her decide, tell her how you feel and live with the consequences, or have her keep her word. Aside from the great points already made, your daughter will be a good example to the other girls
    about honoring commitments and respecting the person you made them to. If this was an instance where it was to be a one on one sleep over or a day plan that could be rescheduled and happen anytime, the situation would be different, she could tell her friend that the beachhouse situation is rare and important to her, but a birthday party only comes around once a year.

  2. GraceW says:

    When I was a kid, something similar happened. I accepted an invitation to go to an amusement park with one friend and later, a different friend invited me to go to a rock concert. Know what my mom said when I asked to cancel with the first friend? No! You gave your word to the first friend, and you’re going to keep it.

    You’re the mom, tell your kid no. If she doesn’t like the compromise, then she doesn’t get to go to the beach house at all. Disappointing your child will not cause the universe to implode.

    As an adult, I still place a lot of value on keeping my word, and I value friends who keep theirs. I don’t befriend people who don’t.

  3. Amy F says:

    Phyllis, I like the solution you came up with. This can be an important teachable moment. I think showing her to honor her commitments and not to drop one friend when a better offer comes around is, in my opinion, part of being a good friend and a good citizen. It’s the same reason we have a project due, we go to work when a friend invites us for a spur of the moment spa day. Whether she’s grade, middle, or high school age, you only have so many opportunities to teach good values and empathy in a practical matter.
    Empathize with her disappointment, and ask her to try to imagine how Friend #1 would feel if she missed her party for a better opportunity. How would she feel if people missed her birthday party for a better offer?
    I would generally agree with Irene about allowing her to handle her friendships without interference, but I think she needs more direction on this one.

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