What's Out of Control About Birthday Parties Today? (page 2)
- Party costs are skyrocketing.
- The number of children exceeds what many parents can handle.
- Children are getting too many presents that cost too much money.
- Gift bags contain more and more junk.
- Kids get over-stimulated and difficult to manage.
- Themes and venues have to be cooler and better each year.
- Birthday celebrations are turning into “party weeks” with several parties: family, friends, and school.
- Being on the “party circuit” is stressing families’ schedules and budgets.
- There is pressure to make parties perfect, original, and enriching—a once in a lifetime experience every year.
Why have birthday parties gotten out of control?
- We live in a supersizing consumer culture: more, bigger, splashier.
- Today’s parents have high expectations of themselves and want to make every activity enriching for their children.
- Some parents are competitive and keep raising the bar for birthday parties in their communities.
- Other parents are afraid that their child’s party will fall below that bar, and therefore do more than they really want to.
- Today’s “time squeeze” leads to outsourcing birthday parties and spending more than at home.
- Smaller families allow for more spending on each child’s birthday.
- Some parents may be compensating for their guilt over being too busy and overscheduled.
- A lot of parents nowadays want their children’s approval and have trouble setting limits and saying “no.”
- Birthday parties are a new profit area in a “more and better” business environment.
- The “Martha Stewart Syndrome”: make it wonderful, and from scratch.
How do out of control birthday parties affect kids, parents and communities?
For Kids: Not all children face each of these consequences, but enough children experience them to give us worry.
- They get stressed out from parties that are too large and too orchestrated.
- They are overindulged by too many presents.
- They feel entitled to what they want, not just want they need.
- They feel envious of friends who get more—and someone will always get more.
- They feel disappointed, because enough is never enough.
- Long term, they develop materialistic values that equate personal celebrations with accumulating things.
For Parents: Some parents say they are happy with birthday parties that drive other parents up the wall. But we have talked to many parents who report these consequences.
- They feel pressured to “make” their child “happy” by meeting escalating community standards for parties.
- They feel guilty if the party was below community standards that they don’t really agree with.
- They feel overloaded with TOO MUCH STUFF, which they have to manage, organize, and clean up.
- They feel an energy drain from planning, shopping, preparing, and hosting the party.
- They feel regret or resentment afterwards when their child, or others, is not appreciative enough—“Why did I extend myself so much?”
- They run up debt from their own parties and from buying gifts for other parties.
- They experience couple strife when parents do not agree on how big to make the party and how to carry it off.
For the Community and Culture: This issue is bigger than individual families. Personal decisions affect the wider world. Out of control birthday parties contribute to:
- A too much stuff culture
- A me first culture
- A trash and waste culture
- An entitlement culture
- A envy culture
- A more of everything culture
Reprinted with the permission of Birthdays Without Pressure.
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