You love the fact that your neighborhood has lots of kids for your children to play with, but how do you set boundaries so your front door is not a revolving door and your home isn't constantly in chaos?
Can I come over to play?
We chatted with experts and parents to find out how to keep your sanity intact by managing the neighborhood kids coming over — without looking like the mean mom.
“When my daughters were younger, my house became the 'fun place' to be," said Robyn King, a counselor at Schenectady County Community College, saying that most of the time she didn’t mind. “But when the bell rang at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning when I was still in bed, and I saw a neighbor drop off her kid and leave in her car, I knew I had to set down some boundaries — with the kids and their parents.”
She's not alone. “My son is 3, and our 7-year-old neighbor is constantly coming over. While I love that they play together, swinging by at 7:45 p.m. on a school night is not OK in my book,” says Kristin Serio, who tells us she has tried nicely dropping hints to his mom to no avail.
Do these stories sound familiar? Most parents will run into this situation at one time or another and it helps to be prepared and know what to do so your kids can enjoy playing with the neighbors without your house turning into a free day care.
How to set boundaries with neighbor kids coming over
What about the neighbor kid who always acts up?
What if you have a neighbor child that always wants to come over, but is a troublemaker? Nancy S. Buck, developmental psychologist and author of several parenting books, including How to Be a Great Parent, suggests talking to the parents about what boundaries you expect at your house.
"In our home these are the things we expect from one another. We want all people to treat each other with kindness and respect."
“When speaking with your neighbor simply and neutrally state, 'In our home these are the things we expect from one another. We want all people to treat each other with kindness and respect. Sometimes we know children will forget, or may not know what that means. So we will help children respect self, respect property and respect others,'” she says. “This does not need to be a big deal. It's as simple as deciding what time the child is expected to arrive and leave, if are there any allergies you should know about, and these are our rules and boundaries that you and your child should know about.”
“If the child repeatedly disrespects and behaves in ways that are intolerable to you, it is okay and appropriate to ask this child not to come to your house to play anymore. If the child's parent wants an explanation, feel free to explain,” she says.
Consider the benefits of having the “hangout” house
Some moms love the fact that their home is the "hangout" spot for the neighborhood kids, including Lisa Cutter, whose twins are getting ready to go to college.
“I can tell you without hesitation that being the gathering place for kids has done a number of things. [It] ensured we knew at all times who our kids were hanging out with… provided a place for kids to feel safe and welcome, ensured that our kids spent a great deal of time at home instead of out getting into mischief and strengthened our bonds with our kids and their friends,” she said.
“While we often had huge grocery bills, it seemed a small price to pay for all of the above," she said. "I feel very strongly that this is part of community building and creating family."
Dara Michalski, writer and recipe developer of the award winning website Cookin' Canuck, agrees, saying she and the neighborhood parents have a system worked out. “This has been the summer of the neighborhood gang! Luckily, they spread their time evenly between three houses, but they want to play with each other all the time! They built a fort in the back field behind our house, so I am responsible for keeping an eye on them while they're there. To be honest, I love that. I know where they are, who they're with and what mischief they're up to.”
How do you set boundaries with the neighborhood kids? Or do you like having the hangout house?
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