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Setting limits with the girl next door - I feel like the mean mother.

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I am so conflicted over this.  My two girls, almost six and three (still such a baby) have started playing with the girl next door.  She is turning 8 tomorrow.  We allow them to play for an hour here or there, but it gets out of hand.  This girl would play with my daughters ALL DAY LONG if I didn't intervene.  She is completely aimless.  Her parents are nowhere to be found.

 

What is the problem?  The girl is a bit disrespectful, is constantly trying to get food from us (my daughter coming and saying "B wants some ice cream."  or "B wants some cookies."  I just tell her "no, honey" and tell dd, you may have some after lunch... etc.

 

That, and her family has major problems.  DH is a counselor at an addiction rehab center and knows that questionable things are going on in this house... not "just" alcohol addiction but meth use, etc.  This girl's mom is never around.  There are multiple men in her mother's life.  Just to name a few.  This girl always seems to be home alone.  Her Grandma is the main person next door.  We never see her parents.

 

We are a traditional family.  We are religious (but crunchy too), we take our girl's education very seriously.  In addition to school we do math with them, encourage reading, etc.  We feel worlds apart from this "family" next door. 

 

We have set some limits:

 

They are not allowed to play in this girl's house.

They can play outside (mostly, we have a large fenced yard)

Mealtimes are set and my girls must come in and have a normal sit down meal, etc.

 

This girl must be lonely, she sits outside and waits for my girls to see her out the window, then they get so excited "B is outside!  B is outside"  ...

 

Am I making any sense?  Are there times when you just know that a particular child is not a good example for your child?  Yet you feel bad to ban their play all together?  And how do you handle a child who lives next door, who is always around?  Please help!

 

post #2 of 8

It sounds like you/your family could be a very positive role model for this little girl.  You may be the only positive role models she has in her life, and you could make a big difference to her.   As the parent, I would speak to the neighbor girl directly and set your boundaries with her rather than via your young children.  If you think the Grandmother is providing a safe home for the girl, then I would also estabish a relationship & boundaries with her about visiting & playing at your home ("please have so-and-so give us a call to see if it's a good time to play before she comes over", etc.).  If not, you may need to call on CPS if the girl is being neglected or is in danger.

 

It also sounds like to me that she may truly be hungry based on what you've said about her family situation. If you're able to provide a heathy snack for her at times, I would do that if her alternative is nothing or junk at home. When your DD comes in and asks for food for the neighbor, I would go talk to the girl and say "it sounds like you're hungry, DD said you're asking for cookies/ice cream.  Let's get you a healthy snack -- what else have you had to eat today?" I would also let her know to come directly to you in the future if she is hungry & not ask your DD.  Ask her if healthy food is available at home.  If it is, you can send her home to get a snack, or use it as a reason to wrap up playtime for the day (it sounds like you're hungry, and we need to get ready for dinner, so head home for a snack and we'll see you another day".  I often serve something like home popped popcorn for an inexpensive snack. 

 

It may be difficult to ban play altogether, and your girls do enjoy her.  Are you able to devote some time when she is there to supervising the play, so that you can gently redirect if the play or conversation goes in a direction you deem inappropriate?  It sounds like this girl simply does not have the role models to know what may or may not be inappropriate (and 8 y.o.'s in general still require redirection, at least mine does...lol).  Perhaps you could include her in the extra math/reading your girls do - allow some play time, then say "DD's are going to read their books now.  Would you like to join us for some quiet reading time, or would you prefer to head home?"  Or math, and print some math sheets out for her to join you.  Like you said, it sounds like this little girl is very lonely and craving attention.

 

We have an older neighbor who my children adore, and she grew out of wanting to play with them pretty quickly.  At 8, she loved to play with them, but each year since then (she's 11 now), she has been less & less interested, so this may be a temporary thing with your neighbor. 

 

Children need to learn to be around other children who may not be the best role models and still adhere to their own values/family values.  I don't think there's anything wrong with setting boundaries for your family, but if you can provide a little bit of "normal" for her, it could make a big impact in her life.

post #3 of 8


I love this advice. I was struggling with how to answer because I *do* get why you would be concerned, OP, and your first responsibility is to your own family. However, I saw first hand how much of a difference it made when my mom was wonderful and kind and compassionate to a few "strays" my sister brought home from school (including buying them clothes, if necessary!).

 

It was also an incredibly valuable learning experience for my sister and me. Although things were *far* from perfect at home for us, we came from a highly-educated, middle class background. To see how poverty "worked" was hugely eye-opening for us. Moreover, we could actually talk about the things that were going on in my sister's friends' families and it reinforced the values my parents were trying to teach for us and model for us.
 

As a religious person yourself, I'm sure you'd want to model loving compassion for your children.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MAMom View Post

It sounds like you/your family could be a very positive role model for this little girl.  You may be the only positive role models she has in her life, and you could make a big difference to her.   As the parent, I would speak to the neighbor girl directly and set your boundaries with her rather than via your young children.  If you think the Grandmother is providing a safe home for the girl, then I would also estabish a relationship & boundaries with her about visiting & playing at your home ("please have so-and-so give us a call to see if it's a good time to play before she comes over", etc.).  If not, you may need to call on CPS if the girl is being neglected or is in danger.

 

It also sounds like to me that she may truly be hungry based on what you've said about her family situation. If you're able to provide a heathy snack for her at times, I would do that if her alternative is nothing or junk at home. When your DD comes in and asks for food for the neighbor, I would go talk to the girl and say "it sounds like you're hungry, DD said you're asking for cookies/ice cream.  Let's get you a healthy snack -- what else have you had to eat today?" I would also let her know to come directly to you in the future if she is hungry & not ask your DD.  Ask her if healthy food is available at home.  If it is, you can send her home to get a snack, or use it as a reason to wrap up playtime for the day (it sounds like you're hungry, and we need to get ready for dinner, so head home for a snack and we'll see you another day".  I often serve something like home popped popcorn for an inexpensive snack. 

 

It may be difficult to ban play altogether, and your girls do enjoy her.  Are you able to devote some time when she is there to supervising the play, so that you can gently redirect if the play or conversation goes in a direction you deem inappropriate?  It sounds like this girl simply does not have the role models to know what may or may not be inappropriate (and 8 y.o.'s in general still require redirection, at least mine does...lol).  Perhaps you could include her in the extra math/reading your girls do - allow some play time, then say "DD's are going to read their books now.  Would you like to join us for some quiet reading time, or would you prefer to head home?"  Or math, and print some math sheets out for her to join you.  Like you said, it sounds like this little girl is very lonely and craving attention.

 

We have an older neighbor who my children adore, and she grew out of wanting to play with them pretty quickly.  At 8, she loved to play with them, but each year since then (she's 11 now), she has been less & less interested, so this may be a temporary thing with your neighbor. 

 

Children need to learn to be around other children who may not be the best role models and still adhere to their own values/family values.  I don't think there's anything wrong with setting boundaries for your family, but if you can provide a little bit of "normal" for her, it could make a big impact in her life.



 

post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 

Wow, thank you both for the EXCELLENT words and advice.  You have made me feel much better about the situation and you have given me very good ideas for how to work with the situation, instead of against it.  Also, thank you for understanding where I am coming from.  I was so conflicted about whether it was fair of me to feel this way, even though the differences between our families are so plain to see.  You are right that this is a great opportunity to be an example to my own daughters, as well as a good experience for the neighbor girl, as well.  Thanks so much, mamas!

post #5 of 8

The other thing I'd add is to assume that this child needs to be taught basic manners and household rules, rather than getting irritated with her behaviors. If her home life is as troubled as it sounds, she probably has not been taught appropriate social behaviors. It's OK to give her direct, specific instruction on how things work at your house. If she's rude, gently point that out and tell her how to say it politely. If she misbehaves, explain the rules at your house. Heck, I've had to do this with neighbor kids who come from perfectly stable homes. They're kids. They don't always know the rules, and they don't always think about how they sound. It's also OK to limit her time with you - - "You can come over after nap time (3 pm) or before lunch, and then we need some family time."

 

When you say that the girl is home alone, do you mean that the 8 year old is home alone and grandma's at work/gone? Or that grandma's inside not paying any attention to the girl? If an 8 year old is home alone for hours with no adult present, I'd strongly consider a call to CPS.

 

Finally, I'd say that if you have any evidence (vs. suspicion) that there's meth in the house, I'd call CPS. If there's evidence that they're cooking meth, call the police ASAP. Meth is highly toxic, and quite volatile when being prepared. They're a danger to the neighborhood if they're cooking meth. If mom is 'just' using, there's not much you can do other than to keep your eyes and ears open. If you see evidence of abuse, please call the authorities.

post #6 of 8

Sounds to me like you were given some great advice . I feel for that little girl so much .

post #7 of 8

I think you're a good mom for setting boundaries with the neighbor girl.  We have a girl next door that my kids love to play with.  She's an only child and we have 5 girls.  I think it's pretty natural for her to want to be here. smile.gif  We have a general rule that the kids can play outside together, typically at our home.  I'm not a big fan of kids getting together a lot indoors because they always seem to gravitate to computers or tv.  I am certain there would be a wide gap between what my kids are allowed to watch/do on the computer vs. our neighbor girl.  I figure if they're gonna play, at least let them run, play tag, ride bikes, etc. 

 

As far as food, C regularly asks me for food.  While your neighbor girl may truly be hungry, it's also possible some of it is just the age and needing to learn proper manners.  I know C is not hungry and is being well cared for.  I also know that sometimes my kids will ask me for food, saying C wants some because THEY want some and think they're more likely to get it that way.  I remember doing this when I was a kid, whether it was food, spending the night or something else.  I don't usually give the food when asked, because I don't want to encourage the behavior.  But I do make a point to often try to offer a snack of my choosing before I'm ever asked.  Sometimes I'll offer for C to stay for a picnic lunch if it's okay with her parents (I always insist that she ask).  Sometimes I'll tell her the kids can't play anymore because it's lunch time.  I think being willing to be friendly but direct is the key. 

post #8 of 8


We have some issues with a neighbor girl and I have set some rigid boundaries with her. It has been hard because there is a language barrier but I think it has been worth it. A few things. Deal with the girl directly. Your children shouldn't be enforcing boundaries, that is the parent's job. If she needs some knowledge about what is socially appropriate and what isn't, tell her.

 

Also, don't look down on this girl because of who you think her parents are. She is still a forming child.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beppie View Post


 

We are a traditional family.  We are religious (but crunchy too), we take our girl's education very seriously.  In addition to school we do math with them, encourage reading, etc.  We feel worlds apart from this "family" next door. 

 

 

 

Do you think education is not important to non-religious people? I don't get where you are going with this.

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