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My kids and the neighbor's kid are all in the same kindergarten group. Despite having plenty of interaction there, they seek even more contact. That's not bad in itself, of course, but it's annoying that they climb onto the top of the swing set in order to see each other over the hedge and across the street - and then they yell really loud.

It annoys us parents that:

  1. they climb so high just to see each other. (The hedge is dying and we're forced to put up a fence this year; we're contemplating making it really high.)
  2. they yell so loud that the whole neighborhood can hear them. I suspect several neighbors might be annoyed by that, and personally we don't feel that's an appropriate way to communicate.
  3. their yelling is senseless bragging or teasing, or promising to come over despite not having asked the parents first.
  4. they continue to disregard our commands to get down from there and stop yelling and they're upset when we lift them down onto the lawn and send them indoors.

How would you handle this? Obviously the fence height isn't going to be a practical solution - we want to deal with this properly and personally.

Update:

  • The problem is compounded because the kids don't understand that the parents often have other plans; either family would have guests over soon, or would be leaving soon; lunchtime or dinnertime soon; etc.
  • Most importantly we feel that the neighbor kid has a bad influence on our kids: spoiled single child who only plays with toy weapons, and visits also always includes mobbing of our youngest. If the interaction would be more balanced, we'd be more inclined to let them play together (in either home and either yard, location doesn't matter).
  • We have a nice relationship with the adult neighbors, but evidently our opinions differ regarding good toys and acceptable play. We do let our kids visit occasionally, and vice versa, but usually we have to deal with the aftermath of the bad influence and the destructive abuse of their toys as weapons.
  • Did I get the layout correctly: the two gardens are separated by the street, not directly adjacent? And what knd of street is it? – Stephie Jun 11 '16 at 22:03
  • Could you move the swing set to the other side of they yard so they can't see each other? – user7678 Jun 11 '16 at 22:09
  • @Stephie yes the layout is like that, and the street is a 1-lane suburban street, 5 cars per day. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 12 '16 at 8:21
  • @RachelC no there's no place we could move our swing set out of visual range, and the neighbor also has one. Our gardens are small and parallel. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 12 '16 at 8:22
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Kids climb. And brag. And are kind of loud. It's great that yours have parents who let them be kids and do those things, because getting fresh air and exercise, getting in some unstructured, kids-only socialization, and all aspects of unstructured play, all produce indispensable psychological benefits for children as they grow up. They can be a little "wild" like that.

The one place they should not be "wild," of course, is in obeying their parents. So (4) is the only real problem here. (Taking limited risks is also an important, and undervalued, source of psychological health and development; swingsets are built so that climbing on them is not inordinately dangerous. A few bumps and bruises--even the prospect of a broken bone, you'll recall from your own childhood, isn't the end of the world--are part of growing up. You can't reduce more serious risk to zero--but you can, in an overreacting effort to do so, be sure to stunt kids' psychological growth by depriving them of such experiences.) I would avoid, in this and all things, the "requests" (or "negotiations"), and avoid the "suggestions" unless you really intend to give the kid the leeway to make his own choice in the end. Especially at this early age, you need to keep things simple. ...I'd think hard, all in all, about whether you really do need to issue the "order" to get off the swingset. But if you do decide to fight this battle, then as always it must be swift and ruthless!

Even more to the point: I don't know your particular housing setup, but it sounds like keeping the kids separated in their yards is creating this problem in the first place! Is there any reason they can't play together after school for a bit, and need to be placed so "cruelly" separated so they are calling out to each other plaintively like some sort of nonromantic Romeo and Juliet? Real play time is what they really want!

  • Thank you. I provided an update in the question; essentially the neighbor has a bad influence on our kids, otherwise we'd allow more interaction. As for taking risks, you should see how we let them climb on that swing set - they are true little monkeys :-) so I wouldn't want to prevent the climbing per se, it's just that it also makes the yelling so easy. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 12 '16 at 8:26
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Playing devil's advocate here:

In our neighbourhood (rural Germany, so basically "fence country") most fences separating the backyards have come down except for a few families, like those with a dog.

Most children are primary and early secondary school age. They play in one yard or the next, depending on which features their current game requires. Tree house? Neighbour A has one. A soccer match? Neighbour B with the big flat lawn. Hide and seek? The neighbour C's garden is perfect... And because we live in a quiet residential area with hardly any traffic, the street is another common playground for the various vehicles.

While I understand that you want kids in kindergarten age safe behind a fence and you value your privacy: Have you considered establishing some kind of gate or window between your gardens? A hole in the fence or a tunnel in the hedge? This means the kids can communicate without yelling at the top of their lungs or climbing random structures.
An even more adventurous idea could be "whisper holes" (think thick pipes) or tin can telephones.

  • I agree with your thoughts. In our case, the two gardens are separated by a small street and two hedges, so direct interaction is not possible. And for reasons of normal privacy, we don't want to just tear down the hedge entirely - we are going to need something along the perimeter when the hedge finally dies. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 12 '16 at 8:31
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    If yelling results in an easier way to interact, you are encouraging the children to misbehave. – zondo Jun 12 '16 at 13:21
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You could buy them a cheap pair of toy walkie-talkies so that they can talk to each other whenever they like without climbing and yelling.

Of course you might find that they still want to climb and yell because they see that as the fun part. ;)

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