Setting boundaries with neighbor children - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 09-20-2004, 07:15 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm in a situation I haven't experienced before. My ds is only 2, and we don't really having children coming over to hang out. The contact he has with other children (other than his cousins) is in the form of carefully arranged playdates. We have new neighbors moving in this week, and already I can tell that things are gonna be interesting. They have a 4-year-old boy who is generally a sweet little boy, but I can tell there are going to be some challenges for me in relating/dealing with him. I don't really know what's "normal" for 4-year-olds because it's been a long time since I worked with that age group. I suspect that most of what he's doing is normal, but I don't really know how to handle it as the neighbor and not the mom.

The first time we met them, he fell in love with a toy airplane that my ds had. When they left he had it in his hand and I politely asked for it back, and he totally melted down. His mother gave it back to me, but I looked out my window 5 minutes later and he was still in her arms sobbing over it. So, a few days later he came over to play and loved the airplane again. They are staying in a hotel till their house is done, and I know he doesn't have all his toys there, and I felt bad about the previous incident, so when he was getting ready to leave I told him and his mom that he could keep it over night and bring it back to me in the morning. I wasn't sure this was the right thing to do, and my gut instinct was right. When he came back the next day, not only had they forgotten to bring it, but he informed me that he had broken it (but they would glue it back together). It's a pretty inexpensive airplane, but it's also something that I can't just go out and buy because we bought it on vacation in Washington, DC and I live across the country. My ds loved this airplane and so did I. So lesson learned--I will no longer lend toys.

Then yesterday in church (they will be going to our church), my dh took my ds out to change his diaper, and the next thing I knew this little boy had snuck away from his parents' bench and was sitting next to me. When my dh and ds got back, things were OK for a few minutes, but then the quarreling began between him and my ds. He wanted to play with all of ds's "quiet" toys, and got upset when ds wanted to be involved. Ds on the other hand wasn't too thrilled about sharing either his toys or his daddy with another child. And since we were in the middle of the service, we had to try to resolve all this in whispers. Finally, the neighbor boy's mom came and took him back (after he yelled out loud at my ds), but he snuck back to our bench several more times before things were over. Then, after the service he told me that my ds needed to come back to their hotel with them and play. I explained that ds was going to go home and have a nap but they could play together later in the week. He was so crushed! He kept telling me how it would be OK, ds could take a nap at their hotel, etc. etc. I was kind yet firm about my decision. But he was very upset that I said "no".

I guess he's just a really sensitive little boy (although he has hit my ds and "ordered" him around a few times too. I like his mom a lot, and she has intervened in all these situations when she's been there. I just feel awkward being the "bad guy" with someone else's child. At the same time, I feel like I need to validate my own ds's feelings. If the neighbor boy hits him, even if the boy's mom is there and talks to her child about it, I feel like I need to acknowledge to my ds that he got hit and that's not OK, but it makes me feel like I am double-whammying the other boy, KWIM? I also feel awkward knowing that this boy is going to melt down every time I say something to him that he doesn't like, or make/enforce a decision that he doesn't like. I have a 4-year-old nephew who is not like this at all, so it's a new thing for me.

I have a feeling the neighbor boy is going to be wanting to come over and play all the time and I"m going to be the one disappointing him by sometimes saying no. Also, I really don't have a desire to become a babysitter in church, mainly because of the turmoil it causes for my own ds as we are trying to keep him reverent--and things go really smoothly when it's just us and him on the bench.

I feel like I am a kind, yet firm mama with my own child. Why is it so hard to be the same with someone else's child?
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#2 of 6 Old 09-20-2004, 09:36 PM
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Well, I won't be much help. I actually came here to read and/or post about my own issue with a 4 year old neighbor boy! He acts much as you describe. Hanging out at our house a lot (I am not even sure his mom is aware of all the times he is in our driveway or garage), being kind of bossy with my 2.5 year old, and wanting to play with and borrow ds's favorite toys. This kid is not satisfied with "no" from another adult, he whines a lot and keeps pushing, in all kinds of ways. We can't even play in our yard anymore without this boy coming over and hanging around and I am starting to feel like a babysitter.

Reading your post, the impression that I got is that your son's friend's parents need to be doing more parenting and setting more limits. Even though you said that the mom intervened, in the church scenario, for example, why was this boy allowed to roam around the church away from his family and move to a different bench in the first place? Why is the mom not calling you and asking if her ds can go over and play at your house, rather than sending him over and making you be the bad guy. Where were his parents when he was badgering you and ds about going to the hotel?

Would it help to have a discussion with his mother, at least about the coming over to your house? I think that in my own situation, in addition to being firm with the child (I am slowly getting better with this, but still have trouble saying "I think it's time for you to go home now" if that is what is needed), is getting to know the parents better, and setting some ground rules about how visits will go, just like in any other playdate.

Oh, and from what I've seen of four year olds, the ordering younger children around, and some of the other things you mentioned, do seem very normal.
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#3 of 6 Old 09-21-2004, 01:42 AM - Thread Starter
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"Even though you said that the mom intervened, in the church scenario, for example, why was this boy allowed to roam around the church away from his family and move to a different bench in the first place?"

I'm not sure how he ended up on my bench in the first place. He had to climb over a whole row of people to get there. His mom told me she just turned her back and he was gone. After that first time, she did follow him and take him back every time he escaped.

"Why is the mom not calling you and asking if her ds can go over and play at your house, rather than sending him over and making you be the bad guy."

Every time he's come to my house so far, it's been arranged. They are in the process of buying this house and moving in, so I had offered to watch him while they unpacked. He came over while they did their walk-through with the realtor. The other two times he's come have been when his mother was there. I am going to be watching him several times this week while they move in. I just have a feeling he's going to latch on to my house, especially because there are no other close neighbors. (It's an area of new homes and there are just empty lots between us and them.)

" Where were his parents when he was badgering you and ds about going to the hotel?"

He came running up to us after the service ended, and his parents were detained because the people sitting near them wanted to chat. His mom came up after a few minutes and agreed with me that Dallin (my ds) wouldn't be going home with them. The thing that was awkward was that she comforted him by saying that some other time there could be a sleepover. (And I"m thinking, NO WAY, my child is only 2 years old. And there's no way I have any desire to have the neighbor boy sleep over at OUR house--that would feel way too much like babysitting.) But I didn't say anything.

Maybe part of this is awkward because I don't know this family well and since we are going to be neighbors I want to make sure things get off to a good start? When he was here w/o his mom I felt much more comfortable laying "ground rules". When she was around I wasn't sure how much to take the lead and how much to let her be the one interacting with her own child.

I'm glad you're in the same boat too! Maybe someone will have some good advice for us!
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#4 of 6 Old 09-21-2004, 07:28 PM
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Well, I have a 3.5 year old dd, so I think I have a little better insight into the age. I had to smile when I read parts of your post, because they resonate so much with the stages we are going through, as well as what my perception would have been when she was 2 interacting with an older child.

Everything that he is doing sounds age appropriate. When dd is tired or stressed in particular, the screaming tantrums can be very impressive and drawn out. I wouldn't worry about it too much. They feel everything very deeply and personally at that age, and are also starting to see how their behaviors affect others. They are testing boundaries. A phrase that is often heard in our house is, "I understand you are upset, and I'm sorry you are feeling badly right now, but crying isn't going to change my decision." Firm but kind is my motto.

They are also getting bossy. While my dd is not terribly bit by the bossy-boots bug, plenty of her age-mates are. I'm betting she will get into it when her little sister is a bit older. Your best bet is to be vigilant with your supervision, and make sure your little one doesn't get trodden on. But also remember that the other child is just a little boy too. Firm but kind (see a theme?

I have to work very hard these days to keep track of my older daughter. She is quick, quiet, and sneaky. :LOL While I am very vigilant in public (like a church), it is difficult to remain so at home.

He sounds like a pretty sweet little boy who is going through a big transition.


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#5 of 6 Old 09-22-2004, 09:22 PM
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We have the same problem but reverse the ages. A 2 year old neighbor boy (the family is new to the area) has caused lots of behavior problems with my 3.5 yr old dd. The 2 year old is in the "mine-mine-mine" stage, takes toys and runs, throws things at my dd and has even hit her with one of his many "sticks" (he seems to need to carry something that resembles a stick all-the-time!). I like the mom, a lot, but she isn't as watchful as she should be with her very active son. She has a newborn and a 6 year old too (who doesn't respect/listen to adults).

But over the past 2 months I can see how my dd's behavior has gone downhill and I'm going to stop allowing them to play (they see each other outside our homes & we've all gone to play at the local playground).

Ditto on the craziness at church with quiet toys..jeesh!! We will try and get to church earlier to sit further up or on the other side. I've looked at him (their 2 yr old) and said "go sit with your mom and dad, now" quite firmly, almost angry look in my eyes, and he usually goes.

I'm going to refocus on my 3.5 year old dd's needs and not let being a good guy (yeah, me too) have a negative affect on my dd. My oldest dd, 9, can differentiate between good and bad behavior so she's less a concern with their oldest girl (plus, mine is just busy with girls her own age).

When they come around, and they will, I'm going to say my dd can't play right now because she hasn't been behaving. Period. I don't need to elaborate on my daughter's issues, not their business.

One thing I tell my DH CONSTANTLY.. and it works for me too (but I don't always remember) is that if he goes crazy trying to help everyone (technicallY) it causes 2 problems.. 1) he spends less time with is family; and 2) he's preventing someone else from making money by doing it for free (charity work aside, I'm talking about friends who can either afford it or should review their spending habits - we shouldn't enable any dependencies). So.. how will the other children meet friends that are more age appropriate if they are spending too much time with mine/your children?? Offer information on play groups in the area, and then move along.

BTW, the other mom asked if I could watch her son in a few weekends for about 4 hours and at first I said yes, but then later re-thinking it (more like stressing out over it) I said I couldn't and then gave her the name/number of a girl who was a great babysitter.

It's just not easy sometimes..

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#6 of 6 Old 09-22-2004, 10:17 PM
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Well, at that age, those behaviors are somewhat expected - the question is whether the parents are allowing things that shouldn't be allowed.

I wanted to speak up a bit about the whole issue of what to do when a parent has scolded her own child but you feel like you should validate your child's feelings - do that without talking to/about the other child. The mom has it covered with her own child. You just talk to your own kid "I know that hurt, here's a kiss, let's cuddle for a minute, ouch" you know, basically whatever it is you do when your child falls down or hurts himself. Unless the other mother's response is seriously inadequate, resist the temptation to correct the other child - let his/her mom decide the appropriate response (and if the mother's response is seriously inadequate, you should re-think whether you want the kids doing much interacting).

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