Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Can you help with this fifth grade social etiquette problem?

Asked by wundayatta (58706points) February 21st, 2011

My son has been invited to one of his classmates houses for dinner. He doesn’t want to go because he doesn’t want to have to deal with the grilling he will get from the girls in the class and the teasing he will get from the boys. Or vice versa.

He’s somewhat sensitive. He refuses to ever get a haircut because all the boys tease others who got a haircut. Thus, he looks like Justin Bieber—at least, in terms of hair.

He wants to decline the invitation in such a way that he will not get any further invitations and he will not hurt her feelings. What can he say?

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20 Answers

Pandora's avatar

My mom won’t let me go to any home parties where she does not know the parents.
I’ve been grounded for the school year from going to any parties ever since I was caught sneaking out of the house to go hang with a friend.

gailcalled's avatar

Oh, dear. If he is too convincing, he will regret it when he changes his mind in 3 or 4 years.So I guess that telling everyone that he is preparing for the priesthood is not a good idea.

I gather that the invitation is from a girl. Have him simply say “No thanks” for now. He doesn’t need any explanation. If she invites him again, he refuses politely again.

The odds are slim that she will persist.

wundayatta's avatar

Of course, there are more details. It was the father who asked, and he has been talking to us when we pick up our kids, and since my son said he was interested (what else could he say right in front of her?), we said sure lets try to get them together. So we do know the parents and we can’t say, “No thanks,” since we have already implied a yes. We just didn’t know.

gailcalled's avatar

Can you talk to the father on the qui vive? And can he be trusted not to tell his daughter? They did put your son on the spot.

I think of you whenever I drive past the gates of Kripaula, which is several times a week.)

WasCy's avatar

I think that if I were you I’d talk seriously to my son (but not too seriously at his age) and suggest that he should learn to accept, deal with and ignore “teasing”. If he’s too cowed now to brave the group mores, then what happens when he starts junior high school or high school and the group is all, “Hey, you gotta try this weed or whatever,” or “Whassa mattah’? You too good to ride wi’ me now when I hadda coupla beehs or what? Get inna car, man.” Better that he should be going against the grain now and get used to it, so that he has the wherewithal to do it when he needs to, to save his life.

And then he can have dinner at her house, have a great time, and tell the bozos to stick it in their eye – because he’s going to do it again sometime. Okay, maybe in a parallel universe. Baby steps for now. He should go and deal with the bozos in any case.

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BBSDTfamily's avatar

@wundayatta The guys may make fun of him, but he could turn it right around on them and pick on them for not yet being invited to a girl’s house for dinner. If he really can’t muster up the courage and adventure to go, then I think this is a good time for Mommy/Daddy to teach him to be honest and not lie about sticky situations.

Jeruba's avatar

If this were my son, I think I’d offer to tell the father something like this: “Nathaniel is feeling a little shy about accepting this invitation, even though he likes being friends with Millicent. I remember how I felt at that age—don’t you? He thinks the guys will tease him. So please don’t take it amiss if he has to decline for now.” What does Nathaniel think of your saying that?

Nathaniel has to decide which would discomfit him more, going through with it or backing down.

You’re in the middle here only because you let myself be in the middle by implying the acceptance. If this were just between Millicent and Nathaniel alone, I’d say he had to handle it himself. But I don’t see him as being responsible for the awkwardness if you’ve already spoken for him.

Probably I’d have hedged if approached by the parent: “Why, thanks, that’s very kind. Nathaniel, let’s talk about that when we get home.” My rule with my kids was not to put me on the spot about anything, and I wouldn’t do it to them either. They knew that if they did that with me, I’d always say no rather than submit to social coercion. I would always ask them such things privately so they could answer without pressure.

Maybe a good alternative would be to suggest that your two families do something together (if you’re interested in this much of a relationship) at a time when school isn’t in session.

Jeruba's avatar

[Edit] You’re in the middle here only because you let yourself be in the middle . . .

SmashTheState's avatar

What he really needs are some lessons in self-defence. My father was an amateur boxer. We moved to a rough neighbourhood when I was young, and I was getting daily beatings because my parents had taught me to be a pacifist. When the beatings became so bad that I needed a police escort to and from school, my father finally took me down into the basement and taught me how to box, how not to be afraid of getting hit, and how to let loose the angry primate so that I’d never hesitate at inflicting violence on another human being. As a result, I grew up into a strong, confident activist with a reputation for fearlessness and defiance in the face of aggression.

My advice is to teach this kid how to land a right cross. The confidence which comes with being able to defend yourself translates into being unafraid of being “teased.” Si vis pacem, para bellum.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I think the dinner invitation for a 5th grader is a little weird myself. Generally at that age it was several kids being invited over, or dinner was an accidental extension of working on a school project.

Being invited for dinner without your parents and without other kids is a little off for this age. 5th grade is the tail end of “girls have cooties” and the beginning of having crushes. Your son seems to be letting you know that he’s not comfortable with that transition. A few months, and he’ll feel differently.

sliceswiththings's avatar

@Jeruba Nathaniel and Millicent. Love it.

wundayatta's avatar

@Jeruba Your idea seems pretty good. Although I think your comment about us letting ourselves be in the middle is off target. This is how all play dates are made. Kids tell parents they want to play with so and so, and then we negotiate with the parents if that can work out. This is because there are all kinds of arrangements and schedule changes that have to be made in order to let the kids get together.

Her father approached us, saying that his daughter was a friend of our son, and when we checked with him, he said it would be fine. We’ve never had to check with him privately before, so we weren’t prepared for this kind of mishegosse.

@SmashTheState If we took your advice, we’d be looking for a new school for our son the next day. Violence is not tolerated, especially if you initiate it. There would probably be all kinds of therapy costs associated with that action, as well. These kids are learning how to run things, not to break someone’s nose.

He’s the best at karate in his school. So he could take any of his friends out if he wanted to. But why would he want to? He’s sweet and polite and loving and everyone likes him. Hence the invitation.

His instincts are right. He wants to take care of everybody, not smash their faces. He doesn’t want to turn fifth grade into high school. It’s the girls he is most afraid of—pestering him to tell them what happened. Is he supposed to break all their noses, too?

I believe that using violence to solve problems means you have failed completely.You’ve lost control of both yourself and the situation. When you use violence, you solve nothing. You merely shove your problem out of sight. It will eventually reappear. It is what we are seeing all over North Africa right now.

Seelix's avatar

Do you like the parents of the girl? What if you turned it into a dinner party? Invite the parents and daughter over to your place; that way the kids can hang out and you get to make new friends too. You could introduce the invitation using an explanation similar to what @Jeruba suggested – I’m sure Dad would understand. Then, if your boy gets any flak for spending time with Daughter, he can just shrug it off as “Our parents are friends”.

wundayatta's avatar

@Seelix We really don’t know them.

VS's avatar

Having a 5th grader “over for dinner” seems a bit stiff and formal. When we were 5th graders, and even when my kid was a 5th grader, they just got together and played and maybe one or the other would stay at the house of the mom who was the better cook!

I liked @WasCy‘s answer for advising to push him a bit towards doing this, even if it seems a little uncomfortable right now. He will need to learn later how to be adept in various social situations, not all of which are going to be comfortable. If he takes some gentle ribbing about it, he can deflect it easily enough. And while he may not want any more invitations right now, in a few years, he will be hungry for all the invitations he can get.

Jeruba's avatar

I accept the correction, @wundayatta. It’s been a while for me, and my older son always wanted to invite girls (and boys) over or be invited. He never seemed to go through the “girls are yucky” stage of about fourth and fifth grades, which seems to protect them against getting too interested too soon. My younger was the opposite and required a lot of slow acclimation before he felt at ease with someone, so I would never have rushed him.

Being a bit socially reluctant myself, I was always respectful of my kids’ right not to be pushed into one-on-one situations over which they had no control. So protecting their power of choice would have been routine for me. Group situations are a little different because no one is trapped in a single focused encounter.

In any case, you did kind of help him into it, so I don’t think it’s wrong for you to help him out if he really feels strongly about it. I don’t see what good it would do to force him to deal with all that stuff when he’ll come to it naturally soon enough. I’d be concerned that if he feels overwhelmed now, it will delay his coming to it naturally because he’ll be affected by an uncomfortable experience.

jca's avatar

I would be honest with the other kid’s father that you were “mistaken thinking your son would want to go there for dinner – he’s shy about it and so maybe not just yet, or maybe we can all go out to a restaurant so as not to put your wife out” (that way, it’s like you’re inviting them all out, everyone goes, not just your son).

wundayatta's avatar


He has decided to accept the invitation, just not on the night suggested, since he is busy that night. He actually is busy that night, although it is with an optional activity. Sort of. If he did go to dinner that night, it would keep his parents from doing something that is pretty important to them.

I’m not quite sure why he changed his mind, but it seems like he decided he could deal with the teasing should it occur.

Normally, these things happen so that the kids can have plenty of time to play together. I’ve never seen a focus be on dinner before, but maybe it isn’t. Maybe they’ll watch a movie or something. But it seems a little weird, now that I think of it. I wonder how much of it is the father and how much the daughter.

Jeruba's avatar

@wundayatta, this update reminds me of something my son told me about a teacher in his elementary school—a second-grade teacher named Mr. B. My son didn’t have him, but he saw him on the playground.

When a kid would express fear or timidity about joining in the active running and chasing games that they were all expected to play, Mr. B. would shout “I’ll protect you!” and run in close, blocking anything from coming at the kid who was afraid.

Didn’t take the kid long to say “Never mind” and step out to join his peers.

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