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We are in the awkward situation where new neighbors have moved in and it would seem they have a very different parenting style to our own, which in our opinion has begun to affect the safety and well being of our children, I am wondering the best way to approach this situation as obviously it's very delicate and high emotions are involved.

History

We are fortunate enough to have a communal garden area that all the houses face into, where no cars etc can come through creating a great space for the kids from the area to play.

Our first child is now 4, and for the past 4 years, we have been able to take him out on the front and experience the pleasure of the other neighbor's kids playing with him and including him in games despite age differences. In the last year, we have built up to and began to feel comfortable to let him play outside on his own, providing he stays within a certain area and that he checks in roughly every 10 minutes (handily we can also see roughly the whole area from our landing window :) ). Many kids now "knock on" and ask him to come out :)

The Change

The first problem is the new parents seem to treat the area as a front garden i.e. a lack of understanding that it is used by other children/adults and therefore it is a place of potential confrontation, confusion, and danger.

Their children are 7 and 2, they put both outside the front, without any supervision for long periods of time, I don't know if they believe other neighbors are watching or their 7-year-old is capable of looking after the 2yr old. This concerns me but it has started to become a problem because the 2yr old has very little understanding of sharing or frankly danger.

On multiple occasions he has pushed my child off / snatched their toy, hit other children/animals, been found playing on the nearest road and running around with a Phillips screwdriver (real & pointy). All this means I no longer feel comfortable to let my child play out on his own, I also no longer feel comfortable leaving my front porch open as the young child keeps removing toys/items from our front porch & garden.

Around 2 months ago, the young child would listen to me, and I was able to make some progress on the snatching and the front porch (I play with my child outside often, sometimes in games with their child, so I found myself present in times of bad behaviour), but recently he has to started to simply screech "daaaaa"/run home/both, whenever I try and speak to him. This has to lead me to situations where I am trying to talk to him in the presence of his parents, to which they often say some variation of "he doesn't understand what you're saying, he is only 2, you can't use words", most recently this statement was delivered in a somewhat confrontational way. Disappointingly this often ends with the other parents "snatching" the item off the child and handing it to me I have to bite my tongue to stop me saying "I wish you wouldn't do that".

Resolving the conflict?

Obviously, this is a conflict of parenting styles, and every parent feels their own style is the best way and I feel quite horrible and snobby writing this but the way I see it, something has to change so either:

  • I tell our child to play in the back garden more (and put lockable gate on our front)
  • I tell my child to stay away from their child (and put lockable gate our front)
  • I have an conversation with the parents

The first seems like simple cowardice and denying my child something he has earned the right to do (he built up to playing outside, follows/ed the rules and plays nicely).

The second seems like it would eventually lead to confrontation, kids are very honest and I could easily see him saying to their child "my daddy says I can't play with you", it would also be a shame, their child in my eyes is not a "bad kid" he can actually be very sweet and I have successfully played nice games with him, my son and my 1 year old. It really is just a lack of understanding.

Now the last seems the correct thing to do, but despite some efforts, we haven't really established a relationship with the neighbors (we are at the 'hello, how are u', 'not the come over for dinner' stage), so it would be quite hard to initiate the already difficult conversation. This almost seems like an interpersonal question, but does anyone else have experience of this situation, advice or tips?

I had one attempt at it last week, not sure how it went down. We went outside to play on my child's balance bike, but it was missing from the porch. It turned out that it had been left outside, and another neighbor was kind enough to keep it safe at theirs. Now I know 100% that when we put the kids to bed, that bike was inside the front porch. I do not know 100% who took it, but so far only one child has ever taken something from the front porch. So while playing with my child and his child, the father became interested in the game, and I tested my luck: me: "Small thing, his bike was left out last night, and I know we brought it in, I don't know how it got out. I know *** sometimes takes it from our front porch so could you talk to him about it and help me keep an eye out anyone else who might be doing it?"

him: "It wasn't ****, i know, I saw another kid riding around on it"

me: "oh, ok, do you know who?"

him: "no, didn't recognize them"

me: "Well, could you still speak to **** about not taking it"

him: "come on ****, [walks away with child]"

Its difficult to interpret the outcome, but I would say the problem got worse, not better.

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    Is this a rental situation or are they likely to stay around a while? I think it does change what you may want to consider if you are likely to be around them a year or two versus perhaps decades. – threetimes Sep 5 '17 at 10:02
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    Video the incidents. This may help with the other parents believing. – Mister Positive Sep 5 '17 at 13:16
  • likely to stay around for decades, but they are not home owners – chrispepper1989 Sep 5 '17 at 13:42
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    Pre-verbal children can actually understand quite a lot. – Paul Johnson Jun 15 at 6:56
  • Is there anyway to move this question into a more 'Anonymous state" I don't have the most discreet user name and now that we have resolved the issue I wouldn't want the neighbour coming across this post.... – chrispepper1989 Jun 25 at 8:34
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So there's a couple things you can do here to protect yourself legally and to provide a framework for discussions with the neighbor.

  1. Is there any kind of covenant or regulation governing the use of the communal space? If so, now would be an excellent time to go back and refresh your understanding of the rules of the area. All neighbors have a right to use the space as they see fit if specific regulations for the space's use are not clearly defined. This is an unfortunate reality given your previous, peaceful, use of the space. However, you can protect your children and property by limiting the 2 year old's access to your private space.
  2. Who manages and maintains the space? If a third party, you should absolutely converse with them to determine what actions can be taken to better outline the expectations of the space's use.
  3. If neither of the above exist, then this is the perfect time to have a community meeting and discuss the need for mutually agreed upon rules. You could phrase it as a liability issue, and to protect everyone in case something were to happen.

All of the above aside, as uncomfortable as the situation is, you will need to talk to these neighbors sooner rather than later. I would reach out to your neighbors (either as a prelude to #3 above, or just to confirm your thoughts) and see how they feel about the neighbors, and to ask if they've had similar experiences with them.

With that information, assuming you're all in agreement regarding the issue, whomever is on best terms with the new neighbor could go over and speak frankly and honestly with them regarding the community concerns. It will be uncomfortable, it will be awkward, and might get hostile, but you will have notified all concerned parties and be 'covered' for future interactions as all parties will be aware of the current state of things.

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    This is a good answer, the area is owned by the council, some houses like mine are ex-council, some are still council owned (including the new neighbors). I know some other neighbors have already reported them to the council. Only downside is we have never had a community meeting before, so it would be especially awkward to call one in which the sole reason becomes quite obvious... – chrispepper1989 Sep 5 '17 at 13:45
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    Better now than later when something big happens! – Marisa Sep 5 '17 at 15:50
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What I would do in your position (to get back to your concerns on the neighbours):

  1. Please don't try to make your son stay away from the kid. This is essential. Talk to your son, explain what a good friend is. He needs to recognize that a kid who is being rude to him (stealing toys for example) isn't a friends he wants to have, not you.

  2. Parents (most of the time) love their kid. I would guess that confronting them with this issue (out of the blue) would just activate their "I care for my child, what are you talking..." syndrome and they may start to do nothing, or worse, blame you or your boy.

However this is up to you, as I (and the rest on this stack exchange) don't know the personality or motives of your neighbours. By following my first point, I think in a few weeks the problem could be settled down. Kids loose the interest in bullying or being rude to someone very fast if they don't interact anymore.

  • I think your inline with my thinking already :). But the main problem I have isn't whether he is their friend or not. Its that the other child has become a nuisance regardless, taking things from our porch makes me feel uncomfortable leaving items in there and if he is running around with sharp objects in the same area, he is a potential danger. Not to mention the general stealing of toys etc. Because of point 2 how can i possibly restore the communal area back to a space I feel comfortable him playing in :( ? – chrispepper1989 Sep 5 '17 at 15:29

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