I’m a fool for the Let It Go song from Frozen. Absolutely love it, can’t get enough, play it in the car when I’m by myself – on repeat. My kiddos, 5 and 7, didn’t get into the movie or the songs. (Clearly, I have gone wrong somewhere in my parenting for this to be the case!) I have spent more time than I care to admit trying to change their minds. I blast the song as we scoot around town, ignoring their moans and groans. I attempt to convince them of its virtues, talking them through each part, explaining why I think it’s so wonderful (and with quite convincing language, if I do say so myself). To no avail. *sigh*
At least they appreciate Olaf’s song. I’d REALLY worry if they didn’t love Olaf.
5/28/14 UPDATE! Mommy has prevailed. Since I wrote this blog, my kiddos now know ALL the lyrics to every Frozen song and have requested to watch the movie TWO times! It’s about time they came to their senses, sheesh!
But whether they eventually took to Anna and Elsa or threw the soundtrack in the trash behind my back (never), all I really care about, honestly, is that they feel safe and comfortable expressing their opinions and ideas. I think that’s the only way they’ll develop a strong sense of self. Freedom of the mind. Oh, my whole heart wishes these things for them. As it would be, the message of “Let It Go” suggests such freedom! And to accept yourself exactly as you are – another wish for my children.
Their birthday celebration is an easy, satisfying way to make these wishes reality. I do as the song suggests, and LET GO of party control. I embrace who my children are and listen to THEIR ideas, their wishes. And they never disappoint. When given the chance, my children dream up awesome themes, ideas, and activities for their birthday parties.
The result? A reflection of self-expression for my children, coupled with my positive example of support and encouragement of their ideas and individuality.
Here are five chronological tips to help LET GO of Party Control and celebrate your child’s autonomy.
1. Keep an Open Mind
One-of-a-kind themes and party ideas can beautifully embody your child’s unique personality. Consider stepping away from trademark themes. Instead, encourage original ideas. You’ll be surprised with what they come up with! Case and point: My son, The Ham. For his 5th birthday he had one main request – to wear his hot dog costume that Santa brought him. He decided to incorporate this idea into a costume party theme! “Be What You Want to Be” is his original language, making his invitation a treasured keepsake.
When we as parents listen and remain open to our child’s ideas we are motivating positive behavior. We are showing respect. We are instilling self-confidence. Our actions speak volumes. “You are valued. You are smart. You can do anything you set your mind to.”
2. Theme Selection Timeline
As we all know, children have a knack for changing their minds, so having a timeline for deciding the party theme is important. Well in advance, have your child make a list of his or her TOP 3 party theme choices. After a week, ask your child to cross one idea off the list. After another week, ask your child to cross one more idea off the list, leaving you with his or her theme.
Once the theme is chosen, delve right into planning, generating lots of excitement. Your child will be less inclined to want to change the theme if you get him or her all pumped up!
3. Limit Activity Ideas
Now that a theme is chosen, it’s time to hear what your child wants to DO at the party. Too many ideas will get everyone flustered; keep it simple and guide your child to discuss 5-10 ideas only. Narrow your ideas down to his or her MOST favorites. If possible, throw in 1 or 2 unexpected surprises for fun.
The games and activities for my daughter’s “Silly Party” were all her own, and it was perfect.
4. Look no further than your child for answers.
All too often we assume a number of things about our children – what they like or don’t like, what they may be feeling or thinking. We don’t ask questions – we make decisions for them instead. Sure it takes a little longer to involve our children, but when we include them in decision-making they become invested in an experience! And what we learn about them in the process is enlightening. We begin to see our children in a different light.
Look no further than your child for answers to your party questions. Empower them to help in the planning by asking these and lots of other questions:
- What type of food should we serve?
- Who is it very important for you to invite?
- Would you like to have cake or something different?
- What music would you like to listen to?
- With what colors should we decorate?
- What is one of your favorite games to play?
- Can you help me to set up the food table… organize this party activity… write your friends’ names on the favor bags… ?
5. Have a basic plan, then go with the flow.
During the planning process and come party day, follow a basic plan (Beginning, Middle, End) while remaining flexible. Don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t over-think. What is she enjoying in the planning process? (Keep doing it!) What are the children enjoying at the party? (Keep it going!!) When is he smiling and laughing? (A sure sign you’re getting it right.)
On the flip side, keep what DOESN’T go according to plan in perspective. Is it really SO BAD? Be prepared to adapt. So your party game was a flop. So what?! (Move on to the next activity or turn on some music and dance!) So your child had a birthday meltdown. So what?! (It will pass faster if you don’t react negatively. Give her a big hug and distract her with funny balloon noises. Or maybe it’s time to open presents!)
What’s most important is that your child have fun. Root yourself in this mindset and you can’t go wrong! Remember to do yourself a favor and try to RELAX. Your child will follow your lead in attitude, and so will your party guests!
Birthdays are for celebrating, and so is TODAY. Celebrate Today. Let it go; apply these tips to your EVERY day and reap the happy benefits. The cold never bothered me anyway!