What's Appropriate "Neighborhood Play" Etiquette? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 16 Old 04-13-2010, 07:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My boys are 7 years and 4 years old (almost 5). We recently moved into a very safe, friendly suburban neighborhood, and have started letting them have more freedom to roam with the other kids (whose ages range from my son who is 4, to age 9 and everywhere in between). I generally keep an ear and an eye on them wherever they are at, and they have boundaries which they've been pretty good about keeping. However, this has opened up SO many doors and SO many questions, and I was hoping some other moms of older children could give me some opinions? Here are my questions:

1) Would you let children of this age play outside alone, while keeping an eye out from inside the house?

2) Would you let them go into a neighbor's house if you knew that neighbor a little, but not really well?

3) How often should I expect to allow neighbors children in my house? I find that I get annoyed having to look after them, but I also want to give them a chance to play here sometimes. They ask me every day and I just can't hack that- I like a certain degree of privacy and peace.

4) Do you think they are old enough at 7 years to come home at certain time each night (i.e., if I were to get him a watch and say 6:30 is your "come home" time each night, is that too difficult of a concept yet?)

5) Is it appropriate to allow them to knock on a neighbors door once per day to ask if their friend can play? Currently this is my rule, but every single day seems excessive to me.

6) Last but not least, how do you deal with an annoying 6 year old neighbor who constantly asks to come in, and wanders in the house without knocking when my kids are outside playing, and who invites himself over for dinner (even after being told no repeatedly), and invites himself everywhere with us? He also rings the doorbell incessantly if we don't answer the door (like at naptime, sometimes I lay down with my 4yo and my 7yo is not allowed to answer the door during this time, but this kid looks in my window and keeps ringing it because he sees my son inside).

Thanks for any advice you all have! Parenting is ALWAYS a learning experience!!!

Jessica, Mom of Three
Ethan (age 7)
Alex (age 4.5)
Baby Girl due this spring!!

Jessica- married to David- parenting our 3 monkeys- DS #1 (age 7) DS #2 (age 4) and a brand new DD (born 5/10/10)
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#2 of 16 Old 04-13-2010, 07:28 PM
 
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Our nearly 8 year-olds are free to be outside completely unsupervised. They know where I am if someone's bleeding, but other than that, they're solo. They also can ride their bikes up and down the block. (Should caveat by saying we live in a very safe neighborhood, with sidewalks on both sides of the street, and know our neighbors well.) They walk to friends houses w/in around a 2-block radius. They are not allowed INTO neighbors' houses without first asking me, and in fact there are steep penalties for doing this. Even our lovely elderly neighbor next door, if they go into her house to see her cat or whatever without first checking in with me, they lose a significant amount of freedom for a time and we talk all about it. Haven't done that in a while actually.

Our 5 year old is allowed in the backyard only unsupervised (again, by unsupervised, I mean, he's outside cooking around the sandbox or digging for worms, and I'm in the kitchen. He knows where I am and he is definitely in earshot but I can't SEE him 100% of the time (though obviously I check in on him regularly). He is not allowed out of our yard or in our front yard without first asking me. Again, the kids have had enough beautiful days spent inside (without TV) with mommy who has to be studying or has work to do to know how much it sucks when you don't respect the household rules for safety. Rarely do they make a mistake on that anymore and like I said it's been a long time for the older two.

As long as they ask me first, then yes they are allowed to go to someone's house and ask them to play, or go inside for a snack, or visit the cat or whatever. I don't like controlling too much the whole asking a friend to play thing. If I thought it was a problem (my kid were at their house twice a day asking to play) I'd put some rules in there, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The big thing we're working on now with the 8 year-olds is them recognizing when a previously allowable situation has changed. For example... the nice old lady is now in her backyard gardening and they're inside with the cat... the friend's mom runs out to the store leaving 2 8 year-olds in the care of a 16 year-old sister, etc. Basically I tell them, when I give you the okay, it's for this and this specifically... not a carte blanche to be there the whole day no matter what happens. I think this will become really important in the teenage years a la when the party goes south, or when the bad kids show up at the party, etc. then what.

HTH.
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#3 of 16 Old 04-13-2010, 08:09 PM
 
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i am currently dealing with my own issues wrt this. I recently heard the term "helicopter mom" and i am worried that this describes me!
I have an 8 yo ds and until recently, i have not allowed him outside of our fenced backyard alone. There is one other little boy on this street (they are in the same class at school). I used to insist that they play here, in our backyard. However, it is a small backyard and is almost completely taken over by raised garden beds and so it isnt a great place for 2 rambunctious little boys. Everytime they got together, something wound up being destroyed. DP said the neighbor couldnt play here anymore. SO after a while I decided it would be okay if ds played in the neighbor's yard; it is fenced in too and a better, bigger yard for them to run and play ball, etc. I have told him he is NOT to go inside (i dont know the parents at all, but it looks to me like they bring him home from school and then take off, leaving him alone). I felt comfortable with this, because i could go out my front door and see/ hear them....it's across the street 3 houses down. But now that it is spring and the trees and bushes are filling out, i can't see them anymore. I ask him to come check in with me about every hour, and if he doesn't, i grab the baby and walk down there to check on them. If it gets too hot and they want to play inside, i let them play in ds' room, altho dp doesn't know this and would be quite upset w me if he did.

As far as your issue with the boy knocking down your door, have you talked to him? I would tell him it is not okay and explain how sometimes the baby is napping or whatever yadda yah. If that didn't stop it, i believe i would talk to his parents.

Good luck finding the right balance in feeling comfortable yourself and keeping the kids happy as well!

Mama to 3 boys 

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#4 of 16 Old 04-13-2010, 08:25 PM
 
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I don't know what's appropriate in Miss Manners terms, but this is what our neighborhood is like:

Most kids over the age of 5 go outside without direct supervision. The rule in our house is that if they go to someone else's house/yard, they have to tell us where they will be. They also cannot go over to someone else's house if the parents are not home (even if there is a babysitter -- babysitters aren't being paid to take care of my kids).

I'm OK with my kids going into someone else's house, if I've met them and my gut instinct is good. We are in a different situation in that we've lived here for 10 years. But honestly, we aren't close friends with most of our neighbors and it's still OK for the kids to go over there. There is one house where they are not allowed to jump on the trampoline because it has no safety net. They can go over there if they don't jump on it. If they do, they come home, and that's happened exactly once for each child.

It's OK for neighbor kids to come to our house as long as it's not nap time or dinner time. Naptime is no longer an issue (our kids are nearly 6 and nearly 9), but dinner is. For better or worse, the neighborhood spends a lot more time at our house than other houses, but at least I know where they are. When it's dinner time, we say "time to go home kids" and they leave. When we're eating they come to the door, our kids say "we can play after dinner."

During the summer we sort of have a roving pack that goes from house to house in the afternoons. When we've had enough, we shoo them on.

Feeding: A small snack is OK, but my kids have to offer it. You do not request a snack at someone else's house. If you do that at my house, I tell you it's rude. If my kids want something substantial to eat, we send the other kids home.

Doorbells: I have had to teach about 1/2 the kids in the neighborhood that it's very very rude to ring the doorbell more than once. They can knock once and ring once, and if we don't answer, we are unavailable. Somehow having a neighbor tell them that rather than their parents seems to work.

If I had a child still napping, I'd put a sign or something else over the doorbell so that it can't be rung. Then I'd teach the kids what this meant. If they still did it, they would incur the wrath of Lynn. I would get up, speak very sternly to them that ringing the doorbell when we've asked them not to is rude, march them home and tell their parents in no uncertain terms that they had woken us up from our nap, and that because of that they are not welcome at our house for the rest of the day.

It sounds like the 6 year old has major boundary issues. Be fearless and ruthless in your boundary setting. You can be fearless, ruthless and gentle all at the same time. Just do not assume that he knows what is polite, do not assume that he will get subtle hints and do assume that you will have to escort him out of your house more than once. "No, you cannot come with us. This is a family outing and you are not invited. Please go home now."

I don't do much disciplining, and I'm not afraid to send kids home if they're not getting along. I'm also not afraid to remove one of my kids and send them to cool off for a bit when they're not behaving well.

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#5 of 16 Old 04-13-2010, 08:36 PM
 
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I have 8 and 6 yo boys. My rule is they have to be within "calling" range. We live in an area where we are separated from other houses by a wooded ravine. My kids recently met two kids who live in the house across the ravine. They are both allowed over there to play, but since I haven't met the parents, they are not allowed inside the kids' house. That may change but they respect that rule right now.

Apparently the other kids are not allowed in the ravine (and they are 9 and 7), so they haven't been over here.

To answer your question, I think the 7 year old is old enough to play outside alone or with other kids, as long as you know where he is and can somehow reach him to come home. I personally would not be comfortable with allowing a 4 year old the same freedom. My 8 year old I would not trust to watch the clock and come home at a predetermined time, but if your child is especially responsible you could always try that. Don't be surprised if it doesn't work, though.

As for going in other's houses, up to you, but I would want my child to let me know whose house he was at (again so I could reach him or go get him if necessary).
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#6 of 16 Old 04-14-2010, 09:21 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post
It sounds like the 6 year old has major boundary issues. Be fearless and ruthless in your boundary setting. You can be fearless, ruthless and gentle all at the same time. Just do not assume that he knows what is polite, do not assume that he will get subtle hints and do assume that you will have to escort him out of your house more than once. "No, you cannot come with us. This is a family outing and you are not invited. Please go home now."


So much of this post rang true for me. I have been much happier since I stopped trying to be subtle so as not to hurt the child's feelings. Kids don't get subtle. Be direct; make sure everyone knows where you stand. This is the best way to get what you want especially in regard to roaming kids.

You don’t owe them an explanation, just a response.
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#7 of 16 Old 04-14-2010, 09:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the replies! This *really* helps me a lot, because I was so confused as to what other parents consider appropriate and what freedoms are acceptable, etc...

At least now I feel like I'm probably giving my 7yo just the right amount of freedom for his age, and my almost-5 year old I do watch a LOT more carefully, and his brother is very good about keeping an eye out and letting me know if something goes awry. After all, he is still very little and I don't always feel comfortable letting him run free. We do live in a cul-de-sac, and the yards are very open, so I can usually see my kids no matter where they are. Their boundaries end in places where I can't see/hear them and they know where those places are- and we are working in learning to ask before we go into other people's homes (and they are only allowed in certain homes that I feel comfortable with, others not so much). They lost outside priveledges the first time they went into someone's house without asking, and watching their friends play in the yards all weekend without them was enough torture that they've been really good about asking ever since then!

I also feel better hearing that some of you have had to basically "teach" your neighborhood kids what etiquette is expected at your house- sometimes I feel like I'm not ballsy enough to do that, but with the new baby coming soon I NEED to set some ground rules and part of that will definitely be posting a sign on the doorbell when we're resting. My 4yo still has quiet time in in the afternoons too (sometimes naps, sometimes not) but regardless, I like to know that during that time of day, I can get some peace and quiet and sit in my underwear if I want, LOL!

Thanks again for all the replies!!

Jessica, Mom of Three
Ethan (age 7)
Alex (age 4.5)
Baby Girl due this spring!!

Jessica- married to David- parenting our 3 monkeys- DS #1 (age 7) DS #2 (age 4) and a brand new DD (born 5/10/10)
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#8 of 16 Old 04-14-2010, 10:58 AM
 
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My dd is 4.5, and we live on a cul-de-sac with tons of kids going up to age 10. The unspoken rule here is that everyone plays outside- no one really goes into eachother's houses (I can see that maybe changing next winter, but I don't think it'll ever be a free-for-all) If I'm inside with windows open so I can hear everything, I'll sometimes let dd play in the back or out front without me- but only in our yard and generally only for short periods, like while I'm getting dinner ready and checking out the window every couple minutes. If other neighbor kids are out, then they're all welcome to play out fron without me- and dd knows to come ask me if she wants to leave our yard. If other neighbor parents are out, then I'm totally comfortable with her running in the pack from front yard to front yard. No back yards unless there's a parent there, or unless I'm outside someplace where I can keep and eye and ear open. I defintely hover more than the other parents, but my dd is a full year younger than the next youngest child. Our little "system" here works well. My one concern now is that dd's favorite friend has an awesome swingset in her fenced backyard-- as well as two pitbulls. I'd like to be able to have the girls play back there without me hovering, but I'm very conscous of when the dogs are out back, and make a point of being inside their back fence with a book or something so I can be there if any dog-weirdness breaks out. Not sure if I'm being too strict or too lax with that one.

ETA: and I totally get you on having one kid inviting themselves in, etc. Most of the folks here will keep their garage doors open and the kids can go in and out of the garages to get toys, etc. We don't do that, because I just don't want to have to police the paints, dh's rc airplane, etc. in our garage- I consider it our private space. Always a pain when this one child tries to barge in the side door to the garage to look for toys, etc.-- and she's so pushy that I've had to grow way more ballsy and just say "nope-- you guys need to stay outside and dd or I can bring things out for you to use" (repeat a gazillion times a day)
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#9 of 16 Old 04-14-2010, 11:19 AM
 
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Here is my take-
4yrs old is too young to play outside without adult supervision.
My dd will be 8 in 2 months. She can- if she is invited and I agree- go three houses down to play in the backyard of a friend who is 1yr older. I always ask who is home before I let her go over.

She does not play inside houses.
Neighbourhood kids can play in my backyard pretty much anytime.
There was only one child who I would let in for playdates, but she and her family have since moved away

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#10 of 16 Old 04-14-2010, 12:59 PM
 
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My dd is 8 now but has been able to play outside unsupervised for a few years.

Our general neighborhood rule is that if the weather is nice, kids should be playing outside, and we all shoo them out to play GENERALLY though we will all occasionally let a group of kids come in if there is something they specifically are wanting to do that can't be done outside. But generally they play outside and wander from yard to yard.

They are allowed in neighbors houses, but I know everyone pretty well here. I would work to get to know the parents until I felt comfortable.

If the weather is bad, I do let kids in the house pretty much every day, or more like every other day to every few days because they'll spend a day here, and then the next day elsewhere. We have a play room, and they have to play there. I poke my nose in occasionally, very frequently if there's a kid we've had problems with before or whom I don't know well and trust. There's one child who is not allowed inside, though we're still having problems with her outside (and I have a thread on that.) Because of the "free range" nature of our neighborhood, it's harder to control who dd plays with outside.

My dd does have a watch and knows we eat at 6. It is her responsibility to get home on time for dinner if she wants to eat with us, and family dinners are important to her so she seems to be good about that. She's only been late a few times because she forgot, and I just heat her dinner up. It hasn't been a problem for us.

If the weather is nice, I tell dd to play outside so the neighbors can see her playing and come out. If people don't come out, I let her call or knock on a door. But I find the playing outside thing works most of the time, so knocking on doors doesn't happen too often. Also, all of us in the neighborhood send our kids out to play if the weather is nice so there's almost always someone already outside playing anyway.

As for #6, you have to just set boundaries. Stop her at the door, move her outside, tell her "no", and walk her over to her parents' house if need be. If you have firm boundaries, she'll figure it out pretty quickly.
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#11 of 16 Old 04-14-2010, 02:18 PM
 
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This is a great discussion about neighborhood play practices.

I run a blog and am writing a book about helping parents give their kids a life of neighborhood play.

See <a href="http://playborhood.com">Playborhood.com</a>. There's an awful lot here on all sorts of neighborhood play issues.

My 2 cents on this issue is that this isn't a binary thing. You give your kid a little more rope every month or so, watching to see what he or she can handle at every stage. My 2-1/2 year old boy can sometimes be in our front yard alone for a few minutes at a time, but we didn't just decide to let him do this all of a sudden. My 5-1/2 year-old boy is the 2-1/2 year old's role model. They do pretty well together.
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#12 of 16 Old 04-14-2010, 03:55 PM
 
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We live on a very small cul du sac (5 houses) way off of a main road. Our 3 kids are allowed in the circle part of the cul du sac and in one neighbor's side yard. (not the other yards because of dog poop issues) No going in houses or garages w/o permission. My kids are 7, almost 6 and 3. I can see them wherever they are in the cul du sac. Sometimes I sit outside, sometimes I watch from the windows. I worried at first about the 3 year old, but I can see him and his sisters are good about keeping an eye on him. He's been good about staying in the circle. And like I said I watch him well, I'm just not always outside. We have big windows I can see him from.

I don't let kids in our house because my husband works nights and sleeps in the day.
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#13 of 16 Old 04-14-2010, 05:48 PM
 
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1) Would you let children of this age play outside alone, while keeping an eye out from inside the house?


I would. My children are 6 and 4 and I am comfortable outside if I can see them (if I try) from inside the house.

2) Would you let them go into a neighbor's house if you knew that neighbor a little, but not really well?


It depends. I go with my gut on this one. I look at the way the parent behaves with their kids and go with my gut. I have let my kids over to peoples homes who I am not good friends with but on the other hand I won't let my kids go to their cousins house without me there.

3) How often should I expect to allow neighbors children in my house? I find that I get annoyed having to look after them, but I also want to give them a chance to play here sometimes. They ask me every day and I just can't hack that- I like a certain degree of privacy and peace.

4) Do you think they are old enough at 7 years to come home at certain time each night (i.e., if I were to get him a watch and say 6:30 is your "come home" time each night, is that too difficult of a concept yet?)


I don't know. My son is 6 (seven in Nov) and he would not be able to handle this.
Maybe give them a watch with an alarm with instructions to come home when it beeps (my son might be able to do this)

5) Is it appropriate to allow them to knock on a neighbors door once per day to ask if their friend can play? Currently this is my rule, but every single day seems excessive to me.


Once a day sounds fine to me. I would let them know that ringing the door bell more than once is not ok. (kids seem to struggle with this (well they didn't answer the door maybe I should try again....no answer maybe they can't hear me ......)

6) Last but not least, how do you deal with an annoying 6 year old neighbor who constantly asks to come in, and wanders in the house without knocking when my kids are outside playing, and who invites himself over for dinner (even after being told no repeatedly), and invites himself everywhere with us? He also rings the doorbell incessantly if we don't answer the door (like at naptime, sometimes I lay down with my 4yo and my 7yo is not allowed to answer the door during this time, but this kid looks in my window and keeps ringing it because he sees my son inside).


I now have a curtain because of this problem. My only advice is don't be subtle. Kids don't get it and usually aren't offended if you are very direct. If they keep persisting I have no advice. Hopefully it will pass with enough no's.
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#14 of 16 Old 04-14-2010, 07:07 PM
 
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Great thread. We just moved into our new house last weekend, so I have a great opportunity to set boundaries right from the get-go, and there are some wonderful tips in this thread!

OP, I agree with the others that it's not rude or anything to be very clear and direct with little kids who are still learning social boundaries. Once they understand the expectations at your house, they'll probably accept them pretty readily.

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#15 of 16 Old 04-14-2010, 07:36 PM
 
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1) Would you let children of this age play outside alone, while keeping an eye out from inside the house?


At age 7, yes. At age 4? Nope. I just don't think kids that age have enough impulse control to be relatively unsupervised outside.


2) Would you let them go into a neighbor's house if you knew that neighbor a little, but not really well?

I have a 4.5 year old, we live in a great suburban neighborhood with a very tight knit group of stay at home moms. We just started doing independent play dates this month and so far so good. They are planned by the moms, a mom is supervising and there is a time limit, which I think is really good for the mom who is hosting! With that said, I've been in the homes in which she has gone to play because we rotate homes for a weekly neighborhood play date.


3) How often should I expect to allow neighbors children in my house? I find that I get annoyed having to look after them, but I also want to give them a chance to play here sometimes. They ask me every day and I just can't hack that- I like a certain degree of privacy and peace.

I think once a week is enough. I know when I have kids here even for a couple hours my head feels like it is going to pop off when they leave and they are really great kids - it is just so much energy output staying on top of the mayhem.

4) Is it appropriate to allow them to knock on a neighbors door once per day to ask if their friend can play? Currently this is my rule, but every single day seems excessive to me.

I think it depends on the neighbor and their kids. Some families are really extroverted and really looking to interact often with others and they would probably really like it. Others would not. Have to figure it out on a case by case basis.

5) Last but not least, how do you deal with an annoying 6 year old neighbor who constantly asks to come in, and wanders in the house without knocking when my kids are outside playing, and who invites himself over for dinner (even after being told no repeatedly), and invites himself everywhere with us? He also rings the doorbell incessantly if we don't answer the door (like at naptime, sometimes I lay down with my 4yo and my 7yo is not allowed to answer the door during this time, but this kid looks in my window and keeps ringing it because he sees my son inside).

I'd talk to his parents and explain to them that your household routine and family time cannot include their child as often as he would like and that while you enjoy having him visit sometimes, daily is too often! Diplomatic yet firm.

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#16 of 16 Old 04-24-2010, 01:32 PM
 
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Great thread. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has to teach the neighbor kids sometimes. I trust my 5yo to play in our fenced yard by himself but if other kids come around I come out to supervise. He is also allowed to play at someone else's house (in or out) as long as I know exactly where he is. And only if we know the family a little bit.

I feel confident in dealing with other kids firmly...but I have more trouble with parents! I'm not good at handling that social situation for some reason. I think I need to be more explicit with them as well. For example, I won't let my kids in one neighbor's house (because my kids are afraid of the dad and I never know when he is home and also because the mom used to leave my kids in someone else's care, often. and without asking me)...but the mom doesn't understand why. I don't know if I'll hurt her feelings more by explaining or by leaving things where they are.
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