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10yo neighbor, how much independence is normal?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hi moms, I haven't reached this age in parenting mine so I wonder about this new friend of ours. A girl from down the street has started hanging out with us every day after school and eating dinner with us every day. My boys are 2 and 6. She's 10 and lives with her aunt and grandma. I haven't met them yet, I had her mention meeting them sometime on the phone when she checked in today but they said it was not a good time today. The girl says their puppy is too territorial for anyone to go to her house so I couldn't go meet them any time. She says she's allowed to go in anyone's house if they have kids. Today she asked if she could spend the night, and I said maybe one day but I'd have to meet her family because in their position I'd never leave my 10 year old overnight with somebody I hadn't met, she really pushed it asking why not tonight, it's ok with her family, she does it all the time. Also she's been asking when are we going places, can she come too, etc. Honestly we get so few chances right now to do stuff as a family I need the break with just DH, the kids, and me even if I had been comfy taking some stranger's kid somewhere.


She want to come over as soon as she is allowed and never wants to leave for me to get my kids wound down for bedtime, also she's odd about food, fishing for dinner invites, everything we eat is new to her (asparagus, wild rice, homemade coleslaw, stuff like that), and keeps commenting how I play with my kids and I don't yell at them (I do correct them like constantly actually, they're crazy little boys after all). Portions go down a little fixing her a plate but it's ok as long as it doesn't keep happening EVERY night. She is good to have around though because with just us here the boys mostly like to have screen time in the evenings and when she is here instead we take more walks, do art, and play pretend. She is polite and friendly, very inquisitive about our family life, food, and our homeschooling.


What is normal as far as going to friend's houses, spending nights, dinners, going places with friends' families? How can I nicely set limits?

post #2 of 13

It sounds to me like she's bored and lonely and likes to spend time at your house. I've got an 11 and an almost 8 year old, and I would be comfortable with them going to someone's house, but it'd only be after I'd at least met the parents. I wouldn't let them stay over for dinner, but that's because dinner as a family is really important. My kids stay over for dinner only if there are advanced invitations and I've confirmed it with the adults.


It sounds like you could play an important role in being a good role model and maybe even a bit of a refuge for her. It's really nice that you're open to having her over sometimes. At the same time, it's important to set up some pretty clear boundaries. It doesn't sound like she's getting clear direction from home, so you're going to have to be pretty direct with her. It's OK, you can be direct and polite and most kids will appreciate the boundaries. Kids this age still aren't attuned to subtle social cues. So you need to be clear.


So, how often would you let her come over in an ideal world? Once a week? Twice? Less than that? More than that? Do you have things planned on days so it's not convenient to have her? If so, tell her so. Something like "It's ok if you come over on Mondays and Wednesdays. Tuesdays/Thursdays we have swimming and Fridays are our family time." Another thing I've seen suggested is that you get a flag or something like that and when it's hanging outside, it's OK for her to come over, if it's not, then it's not.


As for food, I would send her home for dinner most of the time. The line I use with our neighborhood kids is:  "It's time for us to eat dinner. You need to go home now." Don't beat around the bush. If she starts angling for dinner, I'd say "I'm sorry, we don't have enough to feed you tonight." Repeat as necessary. As you get to know her better, you can instruct her that it's not very polite to invite yourself to dinner. I would then set up the dynamic where you invite her to dinner maybe once every couple of weeks, you could then invite her as soon as she comes over. She'll probably learn pretty quickly that "If I'm invited, I can stay for dinner, if I'm not, they always send me home."


I'd do the same thing for bedtime. "It's time for my kids to get ready for bed. You need to leave now." If she pushes, then I'd say "My kids are little, they need their sleep. You need to go home." If it continues then I pull out the big guns "If you can't go home when I ask, we won't be able to have you over. It's important for my kids to get their sleep."


Overnights and outings: No. My major reason for saying this is that she sounds like she's really needy for attention. I also worry because she's at risk for being sexually abused if she makes a habit of this - she's lonely, wants to please, without great boundaries. If she asks why I'd say "I'm not comfortable with it. It's not appropriate for you to spend the night at someone's house if your parents haven't met them and if they don't have a girl your age."


Finally, if you're comfortable with her being in your home, you might keep an ear out for things that are going on in her home. Does she show signs of abuse? Are there signs of neglect? (Note: 10 year old girls often are entering a growth period and can eat a lot, so being hungry isn't necessarily a sign of neglect.) What is she reporting going on at home? Right now it sounds like she's got less than ideal parenting from her grandma and aunt, which isn't a crime. But if there's signs of neglect and abuse, that's another matter. If you know what school she's going to and you're worried, you can also call and talk to the school counselor as a concerned neighbor.



post #3 of 13

We've had some kids like this. Our home is pretty isolated so there is no impromptu visits but we've had a couple girls that would push to be over at our house constantly. I find they really want that Norman Rockwell sort of "family" experience. One girl in particular, her mom was in jail. She'd been in foster care 2 years until her dad could reclaim her. She liked DD but mostly, she wanted to come over and cook dinner, sit at the table all together, play board games, ect. Her dad worked a lot. She had a little brother and sister (for whom the sister started to want to come over too but WITHOUT the big sister lol.) They had a grandmother babysit them but she was really just a body to make leaving them legal... not cruel, just totally disinterested in the children. It was a little bit of a drain on us but I think both the girls got what they really needed at the time they needed it. It lasted a few years and then dad got an unstable girlfriend who was threatened by our relationship, jealous that dad's girls were getting attention HER girls were not and they were no longer allowed to be around us. I was surprised at how crushing that loss was. In the years since then, the older girl turned to boys for comfort. The younger hangs with a rough crowd. It hurts to see them like that and I so wish we could have been there during critical middle school years..... but they aren't my children and while crazy girl friend is in the picture, we simple can't be involved. There have been other kids who spent time with us for long periods wanting a particular "family" experience. They eventually drift away when they don't need you anymore and you can't stop them but they've turned out quite lovely and I'm proud of them.


I guess what I'm saying is while I'd certainly draw up some boundaries, look at this as your fulfilling a need that this child has. Maybe she'd be OK not coming over daily if you gave her a day of the week where she could come help make a dinner she particularly enjoyed. You'd still be giving her special attention but cutting down the quantity. You are right not to have her stay without meeting her family and stick to your guns on that one.

post #4 of 13

She sounds bored to me too.  How sweet of you to have her over for dinner and be concerned about her!  I'd be pushing to get to know her family a bit more too, if possible, and start setting some pretty clear boundaries.  Lynn is totally right when she says that 10yr olds don't know much about how to act around people - if she's generally polite but doing things that aren't quite right it's probably because she doesn't know better.   Telling her very directly what is ok and what is not is probably your best way forward. And, I would not take any kid anywhere unless I was pretty familiar with their family or had some other really good reason ie, an organized field trip or sports event, medical emergency.

post #5 of 13


Originally Posted by JamieCatheryn View Post

 She's 10 and lives with her aunt and grandma. I haven't met them yet, I had her mention meeting them sometime on the phone when she checked in today but they said it was not a good time today. The girl says their puppy is too territorial for anyone to go to her house so I couldn't go meet them any time. .... she really pushed it asking why not tonight, it's ok with her family, she does it all the time.


This ain't normal. I see flags for child neglect.


It is really normal for kids this age to show up at their friends houses at odd times and eat the food.


It is NOT normal for their parents/guardians to allow it every day.


A child going home to an empty house crashing at a house with humans is normal, but it's also normal for the parents to want the kid to come home once they get home from work.


It's normal by about 5th grade for kids to occasionally have play dates with kids when the parents have not yet met, but it isn't normal for the parents to NEVER meet.


Something is wrong is that kid's life. It isn't normal for a parent to never want to see their child and never meet the adults they are spending time with.


It isn't normal for a child to NOT want to ever go home. I wonder if she feels safe at home.

post #6 of 13

We have a bit of a similar situation with our next door neighbor (I'll call him NB for neighbor boy).  NB is the same age as my DD and while his mother is not neglectful or abusive in any sense that would trigger CPS, she yells and screams at him constantly, alternately ignores and then rages at him, and says things like "you are a bad boy - why can't you be good like (my DD)."  She's also a single mother and goes out partying a lot, and seems to look for occasions to foist him on anyone who will take him.  There are occasions where an hour long play date with another neighbor across the street will turn into a 36 hour marathon simply because NB does not want to go home and his mom does not seem to care.  There was also a stretch where NB's mother's new boyfriend rather inconveniently had a vengeful wife, and she would do things like drive by and throw bricks through their window, and on one occasion broke into the house.  The poor kid was terrified and sought refuge at our house for as long as we would let him stay. I think, like another PP, our house provides a family experience he lacks and is interested in.  We have taught him about composting, gardening, cooking (he is fascinated when we do stuff like make our own hummus, or make popcorn on the stove as opposed to from a microwaved pouch), treating animals gently, and some basic social skills he lacked.  He's never really had fruits or vegetables except at our house, and he is thrilled that he can pick raspberries, blueberries and more in our yard.  He is a sweet and awesome kid with a big heart, and I think my DD looks on him a bit as a brother.  We have had, however, to be very firm about boundaries over the years. 


There were multiple occasions where he would simply WALK into our house and look for DD, even when were not home.  On one occasion he did this when poor DD was on the toilet with the door open!  He would ring the bell, and then when we didn't answer, he would knock, and ring and knock, and ring, and then go into our backyard and peer into the windows.  This was not a welcome habit when I was, for example, nursing, trying to put down my younger DD for a nap, or simply looking for some quiet time.  I had to be very direct and firm with him about our boundaries.  He still constantly asks to go places with us, and any time we set out on a walk/bike, he begs to go along.  When he learns that we are making pizza, or grilling something, he hangs about and drops loud and unsubtle hints (BOY I LOOOOOVE PIZZA).  The hardest thing is when we have another family over and they have kids, and he thinks that means he is invited too.  We've also had many a challenging moment when DD has a friend over and NB tries to insert himself (sadly, in the 6 years he has lived next door he has never had one friend over - he's a really social kid and we live in an urban area with tons of kids close by, so I think this has more to do with his mother not facilitating play dates for him). I've had to teach my DD to say "X and I need some time right now for just us (and if true and appropriate: "but we'll come knock on your door in an hour to play outside.")."  Dd has had to carefully consider how her birthday parties will go (he can't seem to understand that an all-girl party means NO BOYS), and as a result, she has taken to just inviting 1 special friend to do something with us, to avoid the challenges of him crashing a party meant just for girls.


I find I have to reinforce boundaries on a regular basis, and I do so by reminding him that we need family time, and that there are times when my kids need down time.  He is perplexed by this concept, perhaps because it is alien to him, so I just continue to reinforce it.  We've developed a close relationship over the years so I can easily put my arm around his shoulders and gently tell him a hard truth that would have been very difficult to say several years ago. I think about the research that shows that the single greatest predictor of success is for a child to bond with an adult, and I think that if we are a stable, accepting and loving force in his somewhat sad and chaotic life, than that's a good thing and it is worth the inconvenience the relationship occasionally brings.


But more to the point of your particular dilemma: our neighborhood is crawling with kids, with various stages of supervision.  Sometimes I am shocked at the lack of supervision.  My Dd (almost 10) is never, never, never allowed to go into anyone's house if we do not know them.  I have a similar rule with neighborhood kids.  If I do not know your families, you are not allowed inside our house.  End of story.  (This is just as much for my protection as for theirs.)  If Dd, who is a really responsible kid and who has a certain amount of freedom to play outside in a clearly delineated area with a few of her neighborhood friends, is invited inside, *even by a family we know*, she has to come and ask me or let me know she will be going into X family's yard or house.  I just would never allow a child inside if I was not familiar with his or her family.  I would therefore strongly suggest you let the girl know - in addition to the excellent suggestions by PPs for establishing boundaries - if she is going to be spending time in your house, you need to meet her family, know them by sight and by name, and have a phone number for them, if possible, as well as providing them with your information.


This sounds like a sad situation - what a sweet and lonely kid.  Maybe you will be the adult she is able to connect with who can provide her the bonding experience she needs, that could ultimately be the difference in her ability to succeed.  Bottom line, this kind of behavior is clearly indicative of something amiss at home.  You need to protect your family's private time, and if you are able to do so while also offering a refuge to this child, it could be a really positive experience for all of you.

post #7 of 13

We had a similar situation for a while here too.  Boys were living with their grandparents most of the time (down the street) with occasional visits to parents.  I finally walked myself down and introduced myself to the grandparents, and you should probably do the same.  There were days when a parent would drop the boys at the grandparent's house but the boys would come up the hill to be with us -- the grandparents didn't even know where they were.  Or the grandparents wouldn't be home but the parents didn't know that because they literally opened the door and pushed the boys out.  And these boys were 6 and 8.


After a few months we started to put the pieces of the puzzle together.  The boys wanted meals because the grandparents told them they were responsible for feeding themselves and they didn't know how to really do that.  Or there wasn't enough food in the house for them to eat.  They were very thin.  And clearly someone was abusing them or had abused them badly because when they started swimming here that summer the scars were really obvious (like cig. burns -- really obvious not just childhood accidents.)   And at some point they had been homeless -- they kept building "hotels for poor people" out of blocks and legos.


I see many parallels between what we saw and what you are seeing.  In the end, I decided it was important to be there for these boys.  I did march down and meet the grandparents, gave them my name, phone number, cell phone and got blanket permission to take them places.  One entire summer they pretty much "lived" at our house.  While it was a pain sometimes, they were healthier and happier than I had ever seen them before.  It was worth it.  They have since moved back in with their mother and I worry about them.


You can set limits and you have to be direct about it -- kids, especially "disadvantaged" kids, don' t get hints.  But do be open to the fact that she might be hungry, lonely and/or abused.  Since she is nice and easy to have around, consider including her when you can -- you could be the only person in her life who cares and is kind to her.


post #8 of 13

If you had a kid anywhere near her age, I could see this being a little more "normal", but otherwise, no. I was this kid. My parents weren't abusive or neglectful (well, actually I guess they were, it's not like they didn't feed me or make sure I had clothes to wear, but they were way more wrapped up in their own lives than I don't know, taking me to soccer practice or anything ever), I just preferred their house to mine. The family I latched on to, the dad was a friend of my dad's, and the mom worked from home as an artist, and they had two little boys. I was basically an only child. It's really, painfully boring to be an only child with uninvolved parents. I would have 4 hour long conversations with myself. I always wished for a little brother or sister, so going over to their house was awesome 'cause I could actually play with someone, even if it was a toddler. The only reason this family tolerated me is because I was a "mother's little helper" and I would entertain their children so mom could get housework or grocery shopping out of the way. I had enough sense to leave when it was dinner time, but every weekday, after school until dinner, I was there.

post #9 of 13

I thought about this a little as I was picking DD up at school and noticed one of her clingy-er friends grabbing onto her as she left - this kid could easily be this girl. OP, you mentioned that she does have siblings, so the only child theory is out. DD11's friend is similar, every time she comes to our house, she wants to call her mom to stay later, sleep over another night, etc etc. Any boundaries you try to make with her are difficult. She has a twin brother but no other siblings, parents are recently divorced and they are usually with mom. They have a lovely home, but the mom is very strict about their diet, everything must be organic and even though they aren't vegetarian, they eat more veggies than our kids do. While kale might meet with some complaints around here, DD's friend will happily eat it, and devours anything we put out. Her mom is great, but I do think she's too strict about what the kids eat. I think that is one of the reasons she tries to stay here as much as possible - I don't think anything sweetened with something besides carob or agave nectar has ever darkened their doorstep. The other reason is probably like I said above, she prefers our house to hers. She's not around the crazy energy of her brother and his friends (which might be neighbor girl's impetus here, even if your boys are crazy, they may be better than her sibs) at our house, and things are new and different which any kid can appreciate. I wouldn't call CPS or assume this kid is being neglected, but you do need to set firmer boundaries. The "what days are okay" system has worked for us with the neighbor kids around here. Our neighbors seem to be more along the lines of yours - every time they come over, they ask for bananas or fruit because they don't have any at home (pretty sure they're on welfare and eating nothing but processed crap) and they have never played any of the games our kids do and don't leave when it's time for dinner. After we realized we were feeding these kids, and the older one probably stole a few things, we told them they were only welcome to play outside in the yard. They ended up calling our dog an "a**hole" and then shouted some rude things over the fence, so they're not allowed over here anymore. I have thought I should call CPS on them, but they are our neighbors, and given how their children act, I can't sleep well knowing they won't do something like poison our goats/dogs/destroy property/steal things/etc.

post #10 of 13

We have a neighbour child who is pretty much always at our house as well. She's DD's age though. That being said, it's not great for her at home. Her mother is either absentee or apathetic, she has no stability, and in a recent conversation I had with her mother, neighbour child told her that she wishes she had a real mom like my DD has...ugh.


I am going to guess that this girl who's at your home all the time has little interaction with those that she lives with. I am guessing she's getting normalcy from your house. Kids crave normalcy, just as my neighbour child is craving a real mom.  I'd put up with it for as much as I could stand it. You could be making a difference here. 


I'd also walk up to her front door and introduce myself to her family.

post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 

She has siblings that she doesn't live with and a cousin who's around sometime but is a 14 y o boy and causes her trouble (breaking/stealing her stuff). I think they feed her there but just fast food, nobody there is a cook. Mostly it seems they go out without her or watch tv at home. I had to turn her away Sunday because we had plans, and she only came over a little while because it was about to storm yesterday and she had to get home before it started. With football practice starting up I told her Wednesdays and Saturdays will be best and once in a while we'd love to have her over for dinner, and I still want to meet her family when they have the chance.

post #12 of 13

I could just hug the lot of you who are stepping up and being part of these kids villages!  It's heart warming to think that so many lost/bored kids are finding solace in warm homes. 

post #13 of 13
Originally Posted by Jen Muise View Post

I could just hug the lot of you who are stepping up and being part of these kids villages!  It's heart warming to think that so many lost/bored kids are finding solace in warm homes. 

nod.gif Yes! These children will forever remember your kindnesses and perhaps pass them on to their children. nod.gif
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