July 23, 2008,
J.H. asks from Midlothian, VA on July 17, 2008
How to Deal with Neighbor's Kids Who Disrespect Our Things?
We have lived in our current home for almost 4 years now. Our immediate neighbors have sons that are close in age to my boys. We constantly have a problem with them running off with our toys and household items and either breaking them or losing them completely. The boys are all very good friends, and everytime mine get a new toy, they can't wait to show the neighbors...but twice the new toy never even made it into our house, but disappeared into theirs, never to be seen again. Yesterday I found out that they have taken several small items of mine and thrown them out into the yard. They helped me to find one after I put up a huge fuss. Their mother was going to send them out to find the rest, but never did - now, as usual, they will all act as if nothing happened. Talking to their Mom does no good, as they all just blow me off as if I'm overreacting, but I'm sick and tired of our home and possessions being disrespected! I've tried banning them from the house, but then they retaliate by being angry with my oldest son (the Mom has even done this).
How on earth do I handle this situation? It has been going on for way too long now, and I'm sick of it!
M.W. answers from Washington DC on July 18, 2008
These boys should be permanantly banned from your house. They are not good companions for your sons, and their disrespectful behavior will only get worse as they approach the teen years. If they are on a course for being in trouble with the law, you don't want them around your boys. These are not friends, they are parasites on your sons. Friends don't steal (which is what they are doing) from their friends.
Lock your doors, and tell them that they are no longer allowed on your property. If they get angry with your sons, maybe it is better for them in the long run. These are kids who will be getting into trouble down the road, you don't want them associating with your sons.
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K.B. answers from Washington DC on July 17, 2008
Maybe tell your boys the rules and tell them they have to help you enforce them by telling their friends what "mom" says is ok and what is not. Also tell the neighbor boys the same...like have them in your home and sit down and tell them and tell them the consequences if it continues. Like they can not play together anymore. OR atleast not inside your house or with any toys in your yard. And let your boys decide if they want their friends to play in your yard with no toys in it or have friends stay home and toys can stay out. And be sure to watch your two do not take any to their house...just explain they are NOT ALLOWED to take them off of your property.
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A.P. answers from Norfolk on July 18, 2008
This really isn't advice, and I'm no anthropologist. Just some things I have observed watching my daughter develop and interact with other people.
I think we often forget that we are primates, and have primate impulses, especially in children. As parents we have to "tame or civilize the primate" in our children.
In your situation, the kids next door sound exactly like a troup of chimpanzees or baboons, taking whatever they want, breaking or just dropping when they tire of it. They don't care about the item at all, just that they got it from someone less dominate than they (hmm, maybe the neighbor boys are trying to show their dominance over your kids).
I'd only let the kids play outside in your yard with a few old toys. Don't let them into your house, and don't feel bad about telling them that you don't trust them in your house. They need to learn that trust has to be earned, and they have proven they don't deserve it. If they need to use the bathroom or get a drink, their house is just as close, as another poster stated. Would you let a troup of chimpanzees in you house?
Where is their dad? Can you talk to him? Obviously, their mother doesn't care and is probably following the mantra of "Boys will be boys." (to their detriment) because she doesn't want to deal with it or is trying to shift the blame and their problems to you. Don't let her get away with it! She has to raise and discipline them, not you, and their behavior reflects on her good or bad.
Talk to your boys about their toys. Try to explain that the toys cost money and you are not buying gifts for the neighbors. Do your boys get an allowance? Maybe it's time for one and all toys are bought with allowance money. Perhaps then they will be less likely to let the chimpanzees get ahold of their toys. I was also thinking that your boys like to show off their toys as a bid for dominance, and then the chimps have to reassert their dominance by taking the toys from the boys.
Try to expose your boys to other kids, but don't totally cut off they neighbor chimpanzees, or they may become the forbidden fruit. Just keep them outside where chimps belong.
I'll probably get a lot of heat for this comparison, but it is an interesting way to look at the situation.
I came up with this idea of the untamed primate when I had to deal with an incident in which my daughter's preschool teacher threw away her snack. Would you take food from a wild primate? Well, her teacher got what she deserved in my opinion, but of course my daughter had to learn that civilized people don't act the way she did.
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S.M. answers from Washington DC on July 17, 2008
Very simply, they may not play at your house or in your yard. It may be an awkward situation for you, I understand, but you must stand up for your kids. Even if you could tolerate the disrespect to you, you have to send your kids a message that they should not allow themselves to be treated like this. It sends a very bad message to them that they are not worth you defnding them.
You oldest son should learn wha true friendhsip is and not let himself be bullied - his attitude should be "I don't care if you are mad, you caused the problem." I know it is tough when friends get mad at you, but to "retaliate" is not friendship - do you want him to think it is?
The neighbor kids are doing this because there are no consequences. It is up to their mom and dad to discipline. But that doesn't mean you don't get to make the rules for your own kids. Look at it this way - Right now, the neighbor parents are having the most influence on YOUR kids and not YOU. You are letting them set the tone for your household.
My guess is that if you AND your children tell them "I don't want you to play here because you aren't respectful of me and my stuff" they will change their behavior. And each and every time there is a problem, send them home and tell their parent. You can't punish them, but there are consequences to their actions when it is your stuff and your kids.
I suggest you have a sit-down with your kids and discuss the problem ahead of time and tell them what is going to be the new set of rules and consequences. If you do that, it is likely the next time they see a problem developing they will say - "Hey, you can't do that or my Mom will send you home." That might be all it takes. But it has to be consistent. I say, ban them and find some new activities for your kids. Tell them to be civil, but keep them very busy making new real friends.
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L.C. answers from Washington DC on July 18, 2008
Wow! This is a toughy!
First sit with your boys and come up with a list of rules for your household. For example: I do not take things that do not belong to me without asking. The outside toys stay outside. The inside toys stay inside. Lending toys is unacceptable. etc..
Print the rules out in an easy to read font, frame them in a large frame, and hang it in a prominent place in your house.
Bring the neighbor boys over. Show them the rules. Ask them if they understand. If they don't follow the rules, they consequence is that they go home and aren't allowed back for x number of days.
I think they need structure. If their mom gets angry... too bad! I honestly think you won't have to send them home too often...
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J.Z. answers from Washington DC on July 17, 2008
Ouch! That is something horrible. I just suggest having your boys play with other kids and not these boys. If they are this way now, no telling what may happen in the future. If the neighbor throws a fit with you, ignore it and move on. In some cases you just got to lay firm and move on. Life is way to short and something like this shouldn't be something that makes your day miserable. Best of luck!
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K.L. answers from Washington DC on July 21, 2008
Dont call the police. You could start a huge issue in your neighborhood...and end up having to move. That will just esclate things.
It is your house and your rules. You could try sitting down with yoru kids explaining these other kids are doing something that is hurting them and your family. You could explain that is the reason the boys will not be allowed in your home as they cannot be trusted to be respectful of your things. I would nicely explain that to the boys as well.
If your kids want to take thier toys out of the house they should be responsible to bring them back. If they dont, then THEY lost them. They should not get replaced. Then your kids will have to learn to be responsible to get their stuff back. If they dont get it back they should do chores to pay for a new one. Then they will on thier own not want to bring thier toys over there, nor will they let the kids break them. It worked for our son.
S.T. answers from Washington DC on July 18, 2008
urk to the passive aggressive mom who takes out her ire on your kid (and teaches her kids to do likewise.)
it's not mean to have rules in your own house. make them simple, and stick to them no matter what, eg YOU MAY NOT TOUCH OUR THINGS WITHOUT OUR PERMISSION and NONE OF OUR STUFF LEAVES THIS HOUSE. if they break the rules, tell them kindly but firmly that playtime for today is over and you hope next time they'll be able to remember better. do this every single time.
i'd also actively seek out better friends.
D.K. answers from Washington DC on July 18, 2008
Boy, it sounds like nothing you're trying is working. It's time to get serious and discuss with your boys the concept of true friends. These aren't the kind of boys you want your kids around, they could pick up bad habits. Since you have tried every reasonable approach so far, I would say to cut ties altogether. No more interaction with that family would be best. You can explain to your kids that true friends care about each other and don't treat each other's belongings that way. Those boys aren't behaving like true friends. It's important to teach your boys at this young age how to be discriminating about what kind of friends they hang out with. Lessons learned now will make it a lot easier for them to resist the "bad crowd" when they get older. I know that some touchy feely liberals could argue that everyone is deserving of friendship, but this just isn't true. One of the most important things you can do in life is to surround yourself with a good support system, and practicing this behavior begins with the kind of friends you choose in childhood. It can be hard for a child to say "I really don't think we should be friends any more" but it's a necessary lesson of life. These boys and their mother have proven themselves unworthy of your forebearance and friendship.
K.C. answers from Washington DC on July 18, 2008
Have the kids play in a supervised area when the neighbor kids are over. When they are playing inappropriately with toys, you can point out that we don't do that in our house. Make sure all toys are put away before the kids leave. Play outside as much as possible, with very few toys. Stress to the kids that your toys stay at your house, period.
J.D. answers from Roanoke on July 18, 2008
Sounds as if your neighbors house is one of complete disrespect! Have you tried sitting the neighbor children down and talking with them personally? Maybe a week of no contact with your children? You don't want to punish your boys, however maybe the neighbors will miss them enough to gain some respect for you and your belongings.
D.S. answers from Washington DC on July 18, 2008
If your neighbor is not doing anything about your request to get your things back then call the police! She is teaching her kids that it is okay to steal and destroy other people's property. That is so wrong! Call the police. They don't sound like good neighbors to have. I would refrain from letting my kids play with them period...Who cares how angry the mom gets when her kids aren't allowed to play with yours. How are you teaching your children to care for what they have and that it is not okay to steal from others.
M.C. answers from Washington DC on July 17, 2008
As for the toys, you could buy some stickers with your son's names, or you last name on them. Put them on all of the toys that you care about. Then there is no question about who they belong to. As for the boys taking things from your house, I'm dumbfounded. I can't believe that the Mom is allowing this. Is there a way to let them play in your basement or just one room without letting them get to things in the rest of the house? Maybe if you post some house rules? Otherwise you only have two choices. 1. your boys stop playing with them at your house, 2. involve the police for stealing.
R.C. answers from Washington DC on July 18, 2008
WOW -- I strongly disagree with the "ban the neighbor boys" approach! After all, people are more important than things -- and learning how to communicate well and get along in this world with all kinds of people (even those who don't know or yet understand the importance and value of taking care of others' belongings as the owners would like them to be cared for) will ultimately be more important to your children than protecting their "things."
It's reasonable to expect other children to have high regard for your home and your possessions. And it's more than reasonable to explain "rules of play" in your household so the neighbor children understand the consequences of using, loosing or breaking something. Be clear, consistent and reasnoable about what those consequences will be (perhaps toys will be placed off-limits, or maybe they need to do some chores or housework to help compensate for damages done, etc). Be prepared to repeat and reinforce these rules and associated consequences with the children directly, since they may not be reinforced at the children's home. Let the neighbor mom know that you have these rules in place so she understands; but give your kids the primary responsibilty for safegaurding their possessions -- letting them know that you expect them to explain and model your house rules related to respecting and caring for their belongings. And let them see themselves what happens if/when they trust their belongings to others who don't have the same measure of care or respect for things. You may find that your children become the best gaurdian of their toys, rather than you having to be "on gaurd" all the time. Good luck!
K.S. answers from Washington DC on July 18, 2008
In this situation, I would call the police. Period. If the parents wont do anything about it and youv'e tried, then you have no other choice. The cops can come out and give them a stern talking to and explain to them that technically they are stealing and vandalizing and that if they were older they would be punished severly. Not to mention their behaviour, if continued, will land them in Juvie Hall, no doubt. If you are able to document any of this by video or photo, try to do so.
Some people may think this sounds harsh, but if parents wont make their kids behave then someone has to.
S.C. answers from Norfolk on July 18, 2008
I would have your boys play in the house or in the backyard. If they go to ride bikes have them out when the neighbors are usually unavailable to play. You can tell the kids you are taking a time out from playing with the neighbors and you may want to tell the neighbors you are taking a timeout. Pick a time frame maybe a week or two. during that time your kids will learn to play without those children and even if they go straight back to their bad behavior at least you have given yourself a break from it. your options are really pretty few unless you would like to move.
A.G. answers from Norfolk on July 17, 2008
My rule for ANYONE, whether they are family, friends or my own child is that if you can't respect it then you can't have access to it. PERIOD. Control what the kids have any access to when they come over, making sure that nothing disappears with them when they leave and don't let your kids take anything over to their friends house. Don't make a big deal about it just tell your children that this is the new rule, there is no need to explain unless you feel compelled. Act as this is the most natural thing in the world, which it should be, and this way your kids can still enjoy playing with their friends without anything disappearing or getting damaged anymore.
If your neighbor thinks you're over reacting just tell her that this way you won't feel so frustrated and your kids can still enjoy each others company. I wouldn't tell her about the new rules though unless she asks about it. Even at 2 my son knows this rule and is not surprised if I take something away because he isn't treating it well, an adult shouldn't be surprised either.
A.V. answers from Washington DC on July 18, 2008
I agree on labeling things, but you shouldn't have to label every posession you own. The long and short is that these children (and their mother) have no respect for your posessions or those of your children and should not be allowed to play with them. If you really think that they need these kids as friends (I personally would wean my kids of hanging out with these types - there are better friends), only do so somewhere else, like at the playground where no one brings any belongings, period.
When you say "angry with your son" how do they behave? Does your son get pushed around? Yelled at? If they are harassing your family and won't talk to you/stop, then take it up the food chain. Neither you nor your children need to be treated like this. Your sons do not need to grow up thinking this is how "friends" treat you.
L.T. answers from Lynchburg on July 18, 2008
I'd call the police and ask them how to deal with it. Your things are your things and it is theft when items going missing from your home and are not returned, and vandalism when the items are damaged.
J.P. answers from Norfolk on July 21, 2008
I think I would sit down with my kids and set down some rules to protect them and their things. I would first let them know that it is not a punishment to them but a way to protect them. I would tell them to make sure to put things away that they don't want to dissappear. You may need to remind them what it felt like when they didn't get whatever the neighbor kept. Let them know their friends are welcome to come over but they are all to remain in "common" areas (living room, family room etc). No bedrooms for example. If this rule is violated then the privilage to be in the house is revoked for however long. They can still play together but not inside your house. You can't make these kids be respectful of other people's things but you can make sure they respect yours. Your problem is a huge pet peeve of mine. I wish you luck and stand your ground, it is your home after all.
A.D. answers from Washington DC on July 18, 2008
This seems to have hit a nerve with a lot of us moms. I right in BIG BIG letters with a Sharpie on all of our things. I write MY first name on all the outside toys. I let the kids know that they are MINE and not my boys. Since doing this we haven't lost as many items this summer.
And I agree with the other Moms, do not let them into your house,no bathroom breaks, no treats, no play dates.
I think their Mom needs to grow up too!!!
C.D. answers from Washington DC on July 18, 2008
I have dealt with a similar situation and I handled it in the following manner. I began encouraging my kids to "find" other friends, then we began having other things to do, even if I had to go to the store several times a week. In this way, my kids were seeminly busy and could not play with the "troublemakers" as often. My kids still maintained a friendship with the children but with less time spend with them, I felt better and so did my kids. If I were in your position, I would continue to talk to the mom about your frustrations and concerns and I would explain to your boys the situation, how frustrated you are and ask them how they feel when one of the new toys disappears. It is a sensitive subject and I wish you luck. Who knows, maybe there are other neighbors who feel the same way about this family.
T.K. answers from Washington DC on July 18, 2008
I totally agree with Cynthia C. The boys in question are not your children's friends. Friends look out for one another and respect each other. You want your children to have enough respect for themselves to not allow this behavior. You can not change other people, only yourself and how you react to them (the other boys AND their mother included!)
Enough is enough!
T.H. answers from Norfolk on July 18, 2008
i would sit down with my kids and tell them our things do not leave the house....period. and your toys are to stay in the house. if you must tell them thy have to play together either outside or at their house. thats basically all you can do.
F.S. answers from Washington DC on July 19, 2008
O.K. I see that you have gotten lots of advice. First of all DO NOT CALL THE POLICE>. They have actual criminals to catch and do not have time to handle brats like your neighbors kids. I a very similar situation that got really out of hand. This is what I did: I talked to my kids and explained to them good vs. bad. I told them that if their friends could not behave then they could not come to our house. What surprised me is that my two boys loved playing with the neighbors kids but also did not like the fact that they were breaking their toys. Sit down with all of the kids and tell them your house rules. If they do not behave tell them they can not play at your house for one week. Also try a reward system maybe they do not get any love and attention in their own home. Buy special treats and reward them for behaving and cleaning up. GOOD LUCK!
Y.M. answers from Washington DC on July 18, 2008
I have the same problem. Last summer was horrible. We have two little girls next door that are 5 and 7. They would ransack the house and break things, etc. Also, the would come in the house and help themselves to juice boxes, snacks and popcicles.
I talked with their parents about it and they did nothing.
I decided I wasn't going to have that this year. I don't allow them in my house anymore. If they need a drink, they can have water and if they have to go to the bathroom, their house is as close as mine. I'm not mean to them, I just try to suggest to them to be respectful of other people's belongings, etc. It has gotten much better.
I know it's the parents fault. Alot of times children who are like that are just looking for some boundaries. Children thrive on structure and knowing their boundaries.
Hope this helps...Y.
N.R. answers from Richmond on July 23, 2008
Hi J.. You are right. Now it's very important to your boys and their friends for you to make clearly defined rules at your home and to follow through with consequences when needed. I promise you that ALL of the children will respect you no matter what they say out loud. You are NOT one of their friends you are the authority and they must obey your rules at all times. NO EXCEPTIONS! And you will be tried and tried again and again to see if you really mean what you say. If their mom won't teach them to respect rules and other people's property then you will through your actions. Maybe you will even teach their mom how to say what you mean and mean what you say.
Our home is the meeting place of the neighborhood. We will have 13 or more kids here most days. We have all had them over and told them how much we love having them here to play. We let them know our rules (nothing from here leaves here, no fighting, no hurting others, no bad words, no trashing the yard, etc.) and what will happen if they disobey us (they go home-PERIOD!). Have we had to send some home before? You betcha'! Have they been mad and talked about us, most likely. They are kids. Do we love them and welcome them back the next day? Absolutely! They all know that they can depend on us to tell them the truth and to follow through with what we say we will do.
You sound like a great mom who loves her boys and wants the best for them. Keep up the good work! Good Luck!
N. :) SAHM homeschooling 3 boys 12, 7 & 2 yrs old. Married to Mr. Wonderful for almost 15yrs. We share with everyone how we shop for safer, healthier products (that we all use every single day) on a tight monthly budget and SAVE MONEY TOO! How about the price of groceries now days? Check out www.angelfoodministeries.com for great food that saves you money. Email me if you have questions.