It’s your daughter’s birthday, and you don’t want to invite the entire class
While it is unkind to leave out two or three kids from a group of 25 classmates, inviting only two or three may be easier to understand, says Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas. But it’s still important to be polite and discreet: mail invitations, email the parent, or call directly instead of sticking the invites in your child’s book bag. You don’t want to ask your child to keep it a secret, but you can explain to older kids that it’s a small party, and you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, suggests Gottsman. And if you do get a call from a hurt mom asking why her child was left off the guest list, respond with a simple, honest answer, for example, “We had a small gathering with family and a couple of friends. Julie loves Tara and it was not an intentional slight.” (Here are 50 etiquette rules you should always practice.)
Your child opens a present she isn’t excited about… and shows it
Everyone hears your kid ask loud and clear if she can return it, including Aunt Sue. Now Aunt Sue is embarrassed and you’re mortified. You’re way beyond shushing at this point, so instead acknowledge in a way that shows the gift-giver you understand your little one’s response wasn’t appropriate, suggests Susan Bartell, child and parenting psychologist and author in New York City. Say something like: “You’re right, you do have that toy already. Sometimes when people give you a gift, they don’t know exactly what you have and want, but you can still appreciate it and say thank you.” Tell your child she can exchange it, and then let Aunt Sue know what she picked instead. Here’s more advice on how to raise a gracious child.
You host a play date, and your pint-sized guest acts up
Even if the little brat pushes your last button, you can’t yell, punish, or put your hands on another child. But what you can—and should—do is enforce your house rules, says Bartell. Structure what you consider appropriate behavior for both your child and his guest; tell them that “in our family, we don’t hit,” and that if they have a hard time, you’ll have to separate them. When the parent comes to collect her spawn, tell her what happened, but tread lightly: “Don’t blame the other kid fully; instead frame it as how your child perceived it,” offers Bartell. “You could say: ‘We had a little bit of a hard time. Johnny told me Sam was hitting him. I’m not sure if Sam really was, but I watched for the rest of the time to make sure there was no hitting.’ If it’s your kiddo who’s being the tyrant, here’s advice for handling bratty kid behaviors.