Neighbor Doesn't Supervise Her Son

Updated on May 10, 2011
K.M. asks from Oklahoma City, OK
19 answers

We moved into a new neighborhood a little over a year ago. Our next door neighbor has not shown an interest in getting to know us or in being friendly, which is fine. We know she is a single mom, retired (though she seems quite young for that) with three boys. Two are teens and one is 5 years old.

The young one is frequently outside playing alone. We have watched him tear up a "for sale" sign and the attached flyers at a house across the street; terrorize a stray cat; play with a real bow and arrow; hit real golf balls with real clubs in the road, toward houses; bang on our brick mailbox with a hammer; and try to let himself into another neighbor's yard "to pet the dog" (and the dog is large and reportedly does not like children--that neighbor now locks his gate). He also comes up to our front porch and looks into our house through the storm door or the windows.

Yesterday, we decided to take our dog for a walk. The young boy was outside and invited himself along. He showed my husband a new pocket knife he had, "And it's a real knife, not a play one!" It was admittedly a small knife, but apparently no one had talked to him about safety with it. My husband talked to him (and demonstrated) about why it's not a good idea to walk/run with an open knife. I found it interesting that as DH showed him about it, he listened, and once he understood how to be safe with the knife, he happily followed the instruction. I also found it interesting that he walked around the neighborhood with us for close to an hour, never told his mom where he was going, and no one came looking for him. I used to think this boy was a little brat, but now I think he's just a bored child (there aren't any other kids his age in our neighborhood yet) with no supervision. Of course, it's typical that kids who misbehave do so because their parents let them get away with it, I guess. It's like they give him a "toy"-- a knife, a bow and arrows, whatever--and tell him to go outside and play.

This is more a rant than a question, but I still wonder if I should do something. I don't feel like it's my place to go and tell his mom how to raise her child. He doesn't lack for food, shelter, etc. He doesn't act like an abused child. I think, if anything, he's a little neglected. Judging by the age difference between him and his brothers, I imagine he was probably a "surprise." Mostly I worry for his safety, and secondly I worry about the destruction he does when left to find something to do on his own.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thank you for your responses. For now, our plan is to be nice to him when we see him, maybe spend a little time with him when we can (he came over yesterday and helped us pull weeds in the front yard--he's really taken a liking to my husband). I do correct him when I see him doing something harmful. We've stopped him from being mean to the cat (several times), and beating on the mailbox. When he comes and looks in our windows, he goes away if I tell him to.

I like the idea of the "I just wanted to let you know" visit. I'd just want to do it once, though, and if the mom didn't start keeping a better eye on him after that, I'd probably be inclined to call the police if needed. The only thing about that is, she is dating a cop, and the boy told us his dad is a cop hopefully that wouldn't work against us.

We do want to have a neighborhood get-together sometime soon. It's a new housing addition so that'd be a good reason to throw it. We're thinking of having it in our cul-de-sac, since we have the only one (so far--they're still building) in the neighborhood. Also, a new family moved into the house that was for sale across the street, and it looks like they have three or four kids, two of which might be close to the boy's age. So hopefully very soon he'll have some friends to play with.

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answers from Honolulu on

So he seems to be wandering around the area, by himself and without supervision.
Gee, what if he just goes "missing" one day?
Or, someone takes him???
Or, someone tells him to come into their house??? A 'stranger's house?
He even goes across the street.
Wanders around to other people's homes.
Meandering around.
Dangerous situation.

Pedophile's dream.

I would call the Cops.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

The destruction of property and terrorizing of pets is where I would clearly have to draw the line. Going into other peoples yards/porches, etc..that as well. I personally would say something to him for some of these things, but my HUSBAND would be the first one knocking on the Moms door with the kid in tow telling her about the destruction or animal cruelty sorts of things. If she did nothing or was nasty, and they were observed again, a call to the police would be in order. They are well versed in who to call form there and what channels such things need to go thru.

Poor kid..and poor neighborhood.

I hope things improve for everyones sakes.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Chattanooga on

Ugh. We had people like this who lived down the street. We had seen their kids running wild for months, but never knew where they came from... when we tried to figure out the kids wouldn't cooperate. Finally one day we saw a kid who couldn't have been more than 3 years old driving one of those motorized cars down the middle of a fairly busy street... Traffic was backed up 5-6 cars both ways to avoid hitting him. I parked my car in a nearby church lot and got him out of the street, and told him to go home. I followed him to his house, where his mom answered the door. When I told her what had happened, all she did was tell her little boy to go inside. As I was walking away, I saw the little boy come back out and climb right back inside his little car and take off again... I also saw the other kid who was always seen running around unsupervised (around 5 years) leave the house and take off the other way. So I called the police and informed them about the situation.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

I am wondering if anyone has talked to his mom about any of the dangerous and destructive incidents. She really might have no idea what he is getting into. Next time you see him breaking a mailbox, etc, walk on over and let her know. That isn't telling her to raise her child, it is just making her aware of a situation. Who knows, maybe after that she will supervise him more closely.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

my best friend likes to tell me that God gives children to me for a reason. This is her consistent response when I'm dealing with angst with my daycare. (or with my own children!)

I think that's why you have this boy. You & your DH now realize that it's a lack of parenting driving this child. You've seen 1sthand how he's able to respond....God has given you him to provide the guidance he so desperately needs. If you keep this front & foremost in your see him, then I think you'll all be happy.

By no means do I want you to think that I mean it's your duty to raise him. I am simply saying use every single interaction with the best of your parenting ability. & sometimes that just means a smile & a "hello". He sounds like a normal, bored child & I'm so happy that you are now recognizing this! Kudos to you.....

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

In many cases like this a call to CPS won't actually do a whole lot or be terribly negative. There are great resources out there and it sounds like this little guy just needs someone to spend some time with him. CPS could very likely help the mom find different organizations to get her child involved (at low to no cost to her) and may very well mandate that she does so. I'd say that the next time this child is being destructive call the police, let them come again and again and they can get CPS involved. But you can't just let this child destroy other people's property or you really aren't doing anything more than his mother.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Honestly, he sounds like a typical boy to me. IF my 8 yo was unsupervised at 5 and was used to being outside, alone, left to his own devices he would have probably done many of those things. (He was not.)
This is just another example of poor parenting. Not everyone is Mother Of The Year, obviously.
I posted a kind of similar issue and got lots of "be the safe place" "Thank God you're there for this kid" type responses. I get that but the thing main job is taking care of my own child. Not the kid of a slacker mom.
So, anyhoo-I don't have any answers for you other than I think you are within your grown-up, neighborly rights to say "Oh! Johnny--No! Don't play with the hunting bow and arrows" or "Please don't scare that cat!" etc. WHEN you are aware of or see those things happening.
Poor kiddo. He is bored and ignored.

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answers from Hartford on

::sigh:: As soon as you said that he terrorized a stray cat, my chest started to tighten up. Then it got worse. He's destroying other people's property, he's playing with weapons, and he's not supervised at all. I'm not one to jump at calling CPS because I know the damage that can be done because of spite calls, but this is serious and warrants intervention. He is being neglected and not only is he in danger but so are the pets in the neighborhood and the other children.

If you're hesitant, remember that you can file the report anonymously and never have to give your name or address. Within 11 days CPS/DCYS MUST follow up and start an investigation. If you don't want to be the one to call Child Protective Services and aren't sure if this situation warrants it, then call 911 and explain the situation to the operator. They'll know exactly how to handle the situation and dispatch appropriately. And the police are mandated reporters, so they can start the investigation themselves and get CPS involved.

This isn't a case of benign neglect. This is harmful neglect. This is not typical misbehavior. It's serious and dangerous. Please make that call. You owe it to that child, the pets in the neighborhood, and the future children that he could injure if you don't call.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

When you witness him doing something destructive, and Mom is not present, I would absolutely correct him, gently, but firmly. If he doesn't stop, I would make a friendly, "I just wanted to let you know" visit to his Mom. If he oversteps his boundaries on your property, let him know while it was was nice going for a walk and chatting with him the other day, it isn't polite or allowed that he come and stare into your windows, or whatever. I would feel sorry for that boy and I would be extra nice to him. It's sad that some kids are really just left on their own quite a bit. Hopefully, he will find a few neighbor kids to play with this summer.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Gainesville on

I had a similar experience with a neighbor of mine. This little boy was 5 always outside and when my kids went out he immediatley came over to play with my son who was 11- yeah my son stopped wanting to go out b/c this kids was always there. I once was walking hom from bringing the kids to school and i found this little boy walking (kindergarden!) walking towards his home all alone. i brought him home and rang doorbell and explained to the mom. she was thankful but that's it "ok thanks" ! who lets their kindergardener walk to school 3/4 mi alone? I always called the kid out if i saw him doing something destructive- such as breaking branches in a tree we shared. But otherwise mom didn't seem to care too much and so i left it alone. Turns out the family was in midst of divorce & mom was extremely unhappy.. but anyway.. Good luck -poor kid =(

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answers from Portland on

Reporting it to child welfare is not such a bad idea. If only for his safety. You can remain annonymous. A neglected child lives without love! I wouldnt wish that on anyone. You are right about guideing him and showing him how or what but who will give him love? He needs a mother. Neighbors are just not enough. Im sorry you feel uncertain but dont watch anymore. Do the right thing. He needs you to make that call.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I'm interested to see the responses you get. I have a neighbor who I can't stand and she lets all of her children (minus the 1 year old) play outside alone...this includes a 2, 4, 6, and 8 year old twins. Plus she is pregnant again. She lives on the corner and cars fly in our neighborhood. Her kids play in the street and don't move when cars come. I'm on the verge of calling CPS on them.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

If you are worried about this child's safety, then yes, call DCFS or whomever.

If you just don't agree with "her parenting style" then don't do anything.

If you're MOST worried about his destructive behavior, then catch him in the act ONCE and tell him that it's inappropriate and "how would he feel if someone broke his stuff"? Then if his destruction continues have a talk with the mother about it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lincoln on

The impression I got is that this boy is left to do whatever he wants so as long as he is not "bothering" his mom. When I was little, I was able to play all over the neighborhood, so as long as I told my mom where I was going and who I was playing with. It's a matter of getting street smarts that way. But honestly, these days, I would not have my son if at 5 do that. It seems that his mom could really care less as to what he's doing and he needs to understand respect and boundaries especially with property. When I was about that age, I picked all the flowers in the front of our neighbors house because they were pretty. However, I did get in trouble because those flowers were not mine and did not belong to me.

It takes a village to raise a child, but these days, it's more like "I don't want to get involved as it's not my business" kind of attitude. I think if more people took to the village idea, maybe some things would stop.

Is there anyway, your street can put together a neighborhood picnic or something to get to know everyone? Usually I find that neighbors that keep to themselves have some drama in their life that they don't want to discuss with others if they happen to be friendly. Otherwise, I would just walk over and talk to the mother with what's been going on and to offer that if she needs help of any kind to not hesitate to ask since you mentioned she is a single mom. The worst that could happen is that she would not like you, oh well. Next step would be to call the police if nothing stops.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I haven't read your other responses, but that's sad. I think you hit it on the nail: he's bored and lonely, has no friends or social interaction. What's he to do? Exactly what he's been doing, creating his own "fun." I don't know how you feel about this, but I bet he'd totally soak up some extra attention if it's yours to give. Kids that age love to be helpful and they love to learn new things (case in point, the knife safety tips your husband gave him). Raking leaves, weeding the garden, helping to wash a car, helping to walk the dog ... maybe some outdoor, helpful activities with the chance to earn some change for his piggy bank? When I was a kid, there were always neighbors that would provide a task if I was so inclined...

Anyway IMO, other than that, really there is nothing you can do other than make him a little helper

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

CPS should be reported for his lack of supervision. Most states do not allow children his age to be unsupervised until after the age of 12 y/o. This little boy is in a much greater risk group for being kidnapped, raped, molested or dying from being hit by a car, drowning in a lake/pool, or other possible situations.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

I say call the authorites. It is great that he was outside playing but he could get seriously hurt and it sounds like noone would know if he did. And no child supervised or not should have a real knife at any time as a toy. That is just an accident waiting to happen
Good for you for taking notice and caring. And Kudos to the hubby for taking time to explain saftey to him.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I would call child welfare too and allow them to tell her what to do. I also think he needs an adult male figure that can mentor him, there are some things that no matter how wonderful the mother is, that a woman just can not teach a boy in the same way as a man. If that is something your husband can do, great, if not help them find a big brother's big sister's program.

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answers from Cleveland on

Sounds like our old neighbors. But it turned into a night mare because we literally couldnt walk out of our house w/ one or all four them coming into our yard, and being obnoxious, rude etc. And they wouldn't leave! Their parents were complete loon buckets, so of course its not their faults, but then it makes a responsible adult like your self feel as if you must watch after this kid.

If you don't mind him being around, thats great. Give him guidance when you can. But if you see him doing something that could harm him or someone else, or is vandalism, call the police. Maybe that will give his mom a wakeup call!

1 mom found this helpful
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