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Kids’ parties gone wild? How to tame them

Child demanding an extravagant celebration? Dr. Gail Saltz, the “Today” show’s relationships editor, shares tips on throwing appropriate events.
/ Source: TODAY

So your daughter’s sweet 16 party ballooned to 500 guests and your son’s fifth birthday just had to include a petting zoo. Sound familiar? On “Today’s Money,” we look at kids’ parties gone wild. It turns out over-the-top kids parties are on the rise. Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist and a show contributor, was invited on “Today” to share her tips for how you can stop yourself from going overboard the next time you throw a party for your child.

We all know the problem: overblown, extremely costly, outrageously extravagant parties for bat mitzvahs, sweet 16 celebrations, graduations, you name it! Part of what fuels this excess is the competitive drive of kids and their parents. Trying to outdo your neighbors, friends, or colleagues ratchets this all up a million percent.

Since we’re all familiar with the problem, let’s look at ways to put the brakes on parties gone wild and plan more appropriate celebrations. Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t make your child’s celebrations peak early. If your daughter’s bat mitzvah is more like a wedding, then what does she have to look forward to when she walks down the aisle? Nothing is less psychologically healthy then having seen it all and done it all by the ripe old age of 13. Remember how important it is for your children to have the satisfaction of slowly working towards better things in life.
  • Don’t substitute opulence for depth. A party is an opportunity for you to show your child what you really value: what is on the inside rather than the superficial. Think about ways you can show off your child’s inner beauty rather than the party’s setting, decorations, and food.
  • Take pride in altruism and creativity. Anyone with money can throw big bucks at a party, but it takes smarts and creativity to throw a memorable party on a budget. You and your child will feel prouder, if you are able to accomplish this. Help you child come up with ideas where they can give back to others as part of their event. Both of you will get more from the party if you do. You might have the guests make some of the party’s decorations or plan an event.
  • Involve your child in the party’s preparation: from the ideas through to the execution. This allows her to take pride and ownership of the party rather than just whining for you to make it bigger and more costly.
  • Make a reasonable budget and the stick to it!
  • Talk to your child about why your family is having a party for her. Tell her that you love her and that you’re proud of her and her accomplishments. Let your child know that the party is not proof of your love, but rather a family celebration that you can all share together. Money does not equal love.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie,” by Dr. Gail Saltz. She is also the author of "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts," which helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .