Should Parents Force a Shy Child to Have a Birthday Party? 

When it’s your child’s birthday, you may think they would want a big celebration with all their friends and family. For a shy child, a big party may not be the best option. Dr. Bennett shares her advice on if parents should make party plans or skip the party for something simpler.

By Dr. Kimberley Bennett




about the doc

Dr. Kimberley Bennett has a Doctorate in Child, Adolescent and Educational Psychology.  She has been a Registered Psychologist for 10 years. When not at her practice, she is a mother to two beautiful children. Her eldest was the inspiration behind The Psychologist’s Child. Becoming a mother taught her more than any of her professional trainings to date. Her highly sensitive son guided her down the gentle parenting path which has aligned so seamlessly with the theory and research that she studied and practiced throughout her Psychology career.

Dr. Bennett has a particular interest in Child Development, Attachment Theory, Interpersonal Neurobiology, Infant Mental Health, Positive & Gentle parenting.


You can find more of Dr. Bennett’s work on her website

My 5-year is extremely shy with everyone outside of the house. Her birthday is coming up, and she says she doesn’t want to have a birthday party, but my husband wants to invite her classmates over for a party in the hopes that she will get more comfortable with them and they can get to know her better. I’m torn about respecting her wishes and also wanting her to develop some friendships. What do you recommend?



You can do both here, respect her wishes for her birthday, and work on developing friendships within her class. Here is the thing, little kids can find birthday parties really dysregulating (even when they choose to have one). The anticipation, excitement (or nerves), the business, the noise, the collective energy… all of this can be too much for many little ones to cope with. As a result of the dysregulation, parents might notice more silly behavior or even more meltdowns as a result. My advice would be don’t force a party if it is not what your daughter wants. Instead, respect her wishes around her special day, and plan other, more child-led ways of developing some friendships.


As a starting point, you could ask your daughter if there are any children in her class that she would like to get to know a little better. If she doesn’t have her own ideas at this young age, I would recommend speaking with her teacher and ascertaining their view on who might be a “good fit” for a play date for your child. Schools can also take small steps to support your child’s social skills if they feel I would be helpful. Circle of Friends is a lovely model for this.


Next, you want to consider what setting would work best for your child to host this play date. Some children will do best having a peer over to play in their own home where they are comfortable in their own habitat. Other children will prefer a more neutral space, like playing in a local park or going on a nature walk together.


Plan something that your daughter will feel excited about but not overwhelmed by. Maybe you will visit somewhere that she really loves, and perhaps you will let her choose a special snack for her and her friend to share.


For little ones who can find social situations overwhelming, a party likely isn’t going to be the best way for them to form meaningful connections with their peers. Instead, focus on small, low key, intimate get-togethers with other children of a similar temperament.




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