Dear RezilientKidz Team,

Our son is turning 10-years-old this month, and we’d like to celebrate his birthday a little differently. A lot of his friends have had super-extravagant birthday parties with some really pricey gifts. We’re not trying to go cheap on him, but we want to do something that focuses on celebrating him rather than fixating on over-the-top festivities and presents. Any suggestions?


What a great way to approach a birthday! Every year of life is a thing to celebrate, and if you can direct the celebration toward your son and not make it all about the party you can make birthdays an opportunity to communicate special value to your child.

Please don’t misunderstand me—I am not against parties! Taking your son and a few friends to laser tag, a trampoline park, or other play places can be a fantastic way to make birthdays fun and memorable. But if his birthday is also a time when your son is reminded of his worth and is encouraged to make strides in character development, you can make an impression that may yield positive results for the rest of his life.

One way to make this type of impression is to consider instituting some birthday traditions designed to convey your family’s values to your son. Judaism does this well. When a boy turns 13, he is considered a bar mitzvah—a man and a full-fledged member of his faith community. Various rites and rituals surround this event, particularly with regard to religious instruction. Whether or not you’d consider a 13-year-old to be a man according to today’s standards, there’s no denying that these rites send important signals to a young man about values and his place in the community.

Unfortunately, many religious faiths lack similar meaningful coming-of-age traditions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t begin some new family traditions that can both remind your child of his importance and transmit your values. Asset #19: Religious Community speaks to the importance of some type of religious upbringing. There is strong empirical data to support that the fact that children who are raised within a religious community, do better than those who aren’t 

There are lots of simple things you can do toward this end. You may wish to write your son a letter describing his positive qualities and encouraging him to use those in serving others. You can even ask everyone in your family to write a letter about his good traits, then read those notes aloud.

You can speak a blessing over him that articulates your love for him (Gary Smalley and John Trent’s book The Blessing provides some great ideas on how to give a blessing to your child).

You can choose a character trait that would be appropriate for your son to work on in the coming year of his life and plan interesting and fun ways to encourage him in his development. Character traits that reflect some of the 40 Developmental Assets that you see in him are a good way to continue to encourage him and point to how he is building resilience. Consider these: Asset #19: Service to Others, Asset #26: Caring, Asset #27: Equality and Social Justice, Asset #28: Integrity, Asset # 29: Honesty and Asset #30: Responsibility – the list is practically limitless. Please note this is not the time to point out faults and flaws or try to “fix” your son. This is about giving encouragement and love with no strings attached.

With some thought and planning you can make your son’s birthday a time of celebration and affirmation.

Now go eat some cake!