How to Handle a Worry Wart Neighbor...?

Updated on August 27, 2015
J.N. asks from Cartersville, GA
20 answers

We've lived where we are for a year now. The house we rent is between our landlords and their family members. The matriarch of the family lived in our hourse up until she died a couple of years ago. Essentially, we are completely meshed with this family. All of the properties sort of converge, as they are all on family owned land. So, when we daughters go outside to play the neighbors are generally around, as well. The lady right next door to me babysits here granddaughter, who is the same age as my youngest. I've witnessed how over protective she is with her. Not allowing her to run for fear she'll fall down, etc. While I find it extremely weird and unproductive, I know it is none of my business. And until recently it did not affect me or my girls. But now she has started harping on my daughters. She'll tell them not to to ride their bikes so fast because they might fall, and those sort of things. I've tried being passive about it or saying things like "she/they are okay". And she makes these comments when I'm sitting right there watching them.

How do you handle a neighbor like this who doesn't respect parental boundaries? TIA

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answers from Columbia on

I wouldn't put much stock in it or bother responding. At the most, I might say, "Well, it's a good thing we have helmets and band aids, isn't it, girls? Why don't you race to the mailbox?"

And then bring Granny out some iced tea and sit and talk about how crazy the world is getting.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

My mom is like that and my kids are old enough to understand that it's just her way. They ignore it and always have. I ignore it too, with the occasional, "they'll be fine" thrown in. It's the sign of an anxious person. Be empathetic and forgiving. It's hard to be so stressed all the time and feel like you need to try to control what little ones are doing.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

like most things, with directness and courtesy.
'marylou, i sure do appreciate you keeping an eye out for my girls. it's so nice to live in a community like this where we all care about each other's kids. but our philosophy is to let our girls explore and experiment, and we want them to experience the world without fear. it's okay if they go fast/climb high/fall hard. they're tough cookies!'
if she persists, it's possible you might even have to be more direct. 'marylou, your concern is very kind, but my husband and i have made the rules clear to our girls, and as long as they're behaving in the bounds of those rules, they ARE allowed to go fast/climb high/fall hard. that's how we've decided to handle this situation in our family. thank you for respecting that.'
but you probably won't have to. once you're very clear (and courteous!) about it, most sensible people will get it.

15 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

I've had to do this with some relatives: Just override them and take the last word. You can't make her change her behavior, she will still tell the kids what to do, so you just contradict her forcefully but keep your tone non-angry at her. When she says, "Don't ride so fast right here." Then you say loudly right after her, "It's OK, hunny, you're allowed to, go ahead!" Boom. Done. What's she going to do argue with you? So what? Say, "I want them to learn to ride fast, it's OK, thanks for being concerned though."

With my MIL she'd always let the kids do unsafe stuff or semi-bad stuff like stealing from restaurants and hotels.. and I'd have to over-rule her when it was dire. She'd say, "Go ahead, take the centerpiece from the table, they don't mind, oh look WEEEE how nice, it's a souvenir!!!" And I'd move right in and say. "No. Put it down, you do NOT take property from places, it's stealing."

Did my MIL like me? No. So what.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Love those *special neighbors. I just say, "Thank you for your concern. I'll keep an eye on them to make sure they're playing safely, but still having fun." Rinse. Repeat. I never had one of those special neighbors until we moved a few months ago, and now I have the lady across the street being my annoying reporter.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Sometimes people like that aren't so much worried about your kids as that they don't want the child they are watching to think they're allowed to do that too.

So if she's telling your girls not to do stuff, she's likely hoping they will stop so that her granddaughter doesn't try it.

If that's the case - then that would be annoying. We had a neighboring helicopter mom do that with our kids.

In that case, you can just say "Thanks for your concern, but I'm ok with my daughters riding their bikes" - end of discussion.

If on the other hand she's just an overly cautious well meaning grandma - I would let it go. It's only a problem if it starts confusing your kids and they don't know what they are allowed to do.

Good luck :)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Let me see if I understand, you got on your child's bus to introduce yourself to the bus driver, holding up the route. You lost your mind because the dentist doesn't think kids need their hands held but you think a old lady perceiving kids as moving at blinding speeds is weird and unproductive?

I had to think really hard about when my kids were younger because old people's behavior really didn't make a memory, it was a non issue. Yeah, thinking about it my ex's grandma used to lose her mind when my kids were climbing walls, quite literally. Yeah, my kids could have fallen off the stuff they were climbing but they didn't. Still all my kids every did was say, I'm okay. Sometimes they would stop for a bit so as to not give her a heart attack.

Your behavior, which actually guides them, is the issue. Not some grandmother who is probably "too old for this". She is not harping, she worries. She is not parenting your kids, she is suggesting they could be harmed. So how do I handle, I didn't, my kids did, politely.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

Just tell your kids to ignore her and follow YOUR rules.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

It would depend on how much I liked the grandma. If she's generally a sweet old bird, I'd cater to her a little. Other than that, I'd probably just say what you said, and let it go. It's annoying, but harmless. Your kids can continue to ride as fast as they'd like.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I would also tell your daughters that this lady is not in charge of them - you are. Such-and-such might be her rule, but they don't live with her. Your rules are such-and-such. Hopefully they will 'get' that. My son HATES to be corrected by strangers, so we have had this conversation because he is old enough now to ride his bike around the neighborhood and I have some neighbors who are just obnoxious and trying to be funny shouting at my son in a joking manner - but he takes it seriously. It was to the point he didn't want to go outside because he knew he would get "yelled at" by this neighbor.

I would continue to be outside when the kids are outside too, and if a polite "she's fine" doesn't do it, then maybe a little firmer, "Ms. X, we have different rules at our house. She is allowed to run. If something happens, I will deal with it, don't worry." Of course said with a nice smile.

My grandma has some outdated ideas too, and when she asks me about the way I do some things, I really am forced to just smile and explain, "this is how we're doing it, it'll be ok, I promise." I have to say it with love, but I HAVE to say it because anything else would be a lie (and I can't lie to my grandma!!)

These are difficult life lessons. For moms and for kids :) Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

Every time she says... 'be careful..' turn to her and say 'kids will be kids... they are fine but thank you for your concern.'
My mom was a cluster of fear... no candles .. the house will burn down. Dogs are bad because she was bitten once as a child. I could go on and on and on. It took a lot to just be myself but I did it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

Do you live next door to my MIL? I try to ignore her.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

As annoying as her constant correcting is, her intentions are about safety.

I bet she was severely injured as a child from a bad fall. In reality, kids don't have as far to fall as an adult and in a quiet moment with her, when you're not bothered by her village approach to parenting, I would directly ask her if she's been hurt before from riding bikes, etc. By asking a simple and personal question, she might connect the dots to her own history and see that she is unnecessarily trying to protect others.

In the end, she means no harm.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I find that grandparents see things way differently now that they are grandparents. ;-) My mom and MIL do this sort of thing all the time with my kids. They don't mean to be overbearing (although that doesn't make it less annoying) but they just worry more. They aren't in the day-in-day-out of it all and they forget that they let us do that stuff too.

Maybe be more direct with something like we believe in natural consequences and if they fall it will help them learn how to handle their speed better…or something. It's important to be somewhat tactful since it sounds like you'll be seeing a lot of her.

I will add that no matter what you say, it might not help. I'd let it go as much as you can unit your kids say something to you about it. If they do just explain that grandparents worry a lot and that the neighbor cares about them, etc. but they need to listen to you if they need to stop a behavior or whatever.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Have you said, "I'm here watching them. You don't have to."? That would be annoying.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

My MIL is very much like that.. even now, with a grow son... whenever we have gone on a trip.. her "Nastrodamus" be carefuls NEVER stop... it does get to be a little much.. over and over we hear the warnings of christmas past :) and we have to just say to each warning.. ok ... ok.. ok... and well, kinda ignore her. that might sound mean.. but when you've heard it a over and over. you'd go bonkers if you didn't...
now.. what her warnings of doom cause in ME is that it stirs up my own anxiety... for example.. when it comes to driving.. I already feel stressed about it.. I don't need to hear someone doom and " glooming" me about it.. when we walk anywhere in the city. we also get the be careful .. it's always in this cataclysmic voice... be warned... be warned..
anyway.. as long as you live.. you may have to learn to drown her out..
caring is nice... but fear mongering isn't.. .
there seems to be a fine line..

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Kind of what "Rosebud" said....while it's annoying it's harmless.
Better that someone is watching out for your kids than not & trying to harm
them or push them.
I would just ignore her & your child will, too.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

It's not about respecting you or not respecting you. It's called friendship and caring about the kids. She's had years of experience and she's seen a bunch of injuries.

Why not ask her why she's so protective of the kids? Why not ask her why she thinks riding bikes is so dangerous? Talk to her and find out the why because they you'll see what the root issue is. Otherwise tell her off and expect to not have a new lease later on.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I really like QueenoftheCastle's advice. That's exactly what I would do. Margie's post makes a lot of sense too. And if that's what she's thinking, you just have to ignore that, because you aren't going to allow that for your kids.


answers from Norfolk on

I'd start asking her "Did you NEVER do anything you weren't suppose to do?".
If you think about it, when we were kids we didn't have car seats, we didn't wear seat belts, we didn't have bike helmets, we played in mud, rolled in grass, climbed trees, sledded down hills - it's a miracle we survived - and we still had a blast.
If she doesn't let up after that, I'd tell her that I prefer my kid learn things first hand and if that means a few scraped knees and elbows then so be it.

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