A thread on my local Facebook Mum’s page the other day really got me
thinking annoyed. It actually really annoyed me. The woman who posted it was annoyed too and I don’t blame her. You see, she had invited 30 children to a 9th birthday party. 22 accepted, 16 turned up. She was out of pocket on the party bags, but luckily the leisure centre where the party was being held only required a deposit of 12 places and the balance was paid at the party. However, in the thread that ensued on the mums’ network the comments poured in and one lady said her sister was once out of pocket by over £100, due to kids not turning up.
Now, I am sorry, but this is down right bloody rude behaviour from these parents. This was in no way an isolated incident. Comment after comment cited similar experiences. This unfortunately is an extremely common, modern phenomenon.
Don’t get me wrong – we all fuck up every now and again. But when I fuck up I am mortified. If I forgot a party I would make sure that I rang the mum and apologised profusely. I would be so embarrassed. What annoyed me and upset me about what was being said on this thread, was that not only did people not reply, they also replied that their child would be there and then didn’t show. Or, a common theme seems to be that people wait until the last minute to reply, to see if something better comes along. What is this teaching their kids about commitment?
My girls all work for me. They teach in our Taekwon-do classes and get paid to do so. There have been a few times when something better than paid work has come along, perhaps a day’s shopping with friends. However, we have taught them that they cannot let us down. If they want to miss work, they must organise cover (luckily for them there are several of them to choose from). On the odd occasion they can’t get cover, they have to e mail the instructor who they work with and apologise, or miss out on the alternative. They are learning the rules of commitment.
In my blog: Is the Art of Communication Dead? I featured the vlogger Nicole Arbour, who talks about how kids nowadays don’t want commitment. They seem to be repelled by it. You can read this blog here:
Reading the party thread, I now know where they get this attitude from.
My theory is that technology is making it too easy not to commit to things. Firstly, you can mark an e mail as unread. It may sit there and prick at your conscience every so often, but it is not a voice at the end of a phone line requiring an immediate response. E mails also get swallowed up – marked as read at a red traffic light and then forgotten. E mails mean that we can leave them hanging around in our inbox until a better e mail comes along. Without the necessity of face to face contact or an awkward phone call, it is far too easy to lie in your reply – no body language to read, or faltering tone to pick up on. It isn’t just kids’ parties where this attitude pervades, we see the same attitudes through our work.
Such is the RSVP nightmare these days, that psychologists are issuing advice on how to deal with it:
There are ways to goad them into action, says media psychologist Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D., director of the Media Psychology Research Center in Boston (and herself a mother of six). She likes to start with a paper invite and tuck in a balloon or stickers. Yes, it’s more effort, but you’ll get a higher rate of return. “Research shows people respond more when you’ve given them something, even if it’s small,” Dr. Rutledge says. Jotting a note creates a further sense of obligation (“Looking forward to having Sean join us!”).
If your initial invitation is sent electronically, prod parents with an e-mail: “Please RSVP so there isn’t a pizza shortage!” (“Our brain responds to scarcity,” Dr. Rutledge notes.) Oh, and bribes work too. “Appeal to parents by saying, ‘RSVP by this date and you’re entered in a raffle for a bottle of wine,'” she says.
So, next time you are organising a kid’s party, bear in mind this advice. Alternatively, don’t bloody bother with it in the first place, because quite honestly, it doesn’t seem worth the hassle.
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