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Neighbourhood Kids: It’s Time to go Home

neighbourhood kids coming to play

My kids are loud. Really loud. This seems to attract the neighbourhood kids.  Now, I don’t mind other kids coming to play at our house.  I like it in fact. My kids are social things and love company but it got me thinking about neighbourhood etiquette and what level of trust parents place in other parents when it comes to their children.

On the day we moved into the current neighbourhood, a girl of perhaps 6, turned up on our door step. It appears she plays at many different homes in the neighbourhood.  I’ve never met her parents and I don’t even know where she lives!  And yet for the period of time she is in my home, I’m responsible for her well-being as she is on my property.  Honestly, I don’t feel comfortable with the arrangement.  What if she was to hurt herself? How could I contact her parents? 

On the other hand, my neighbour’s children sometimes jump the fence and play with my children too. The difference is I have met their parents and we have established two-way ground rules and the ability to to say, “It’s time to go home.”  For me, this is the correct neighbourhood etiquette. My children are not allowed to enter a person’s home without my permission (and the said parent’s permission). And the children must leave when asked. That’s it.

How do you determine whether you can trust someone with your kids?

A friend’s child was left alone in a park after a birthday party finished early.

I lived next door to young children children who constantly said F****.

Another friend had a neighbour’s child describe the porn games they play at home.

I know children who have been abused by people they thought were trustworthy.

I’m not looking for a paedophile under every rock but I don’t trust, like really trust, many people with my children.  I won’t leave them in the care of people I don’t know well (outside of educational facilities).

This is not about being over-protective or hovering over every move my kids make because I do aim to give my children a lot of freedom within helpful boundaries. However, my children are my most precious earthly gifts and, while I don’t believe children should be wrapped in cotton wool, I feel strongly in my primary role as their guardian and the need for me to provide a nurturing environment in which for them to grow and mature.

I rely heavily on these two things:

1. Equipping

I can’t protect my children from life but I can equip them.  I wrote about Stranger Danger for SuperParents in terms of trying to find the balance between fostering a childhood that is both innocent and aware. I want to both protect my children from harm and equip them for the future; it can be a hard balance to find. You can read the post here: SuperParents — Stranger Danger.

2. Trusting My Gut

Intuition we call it — don’t we?  But really, when it comes down to it, intuition is the ability we have as women to take on masses amounts of information: people, situations, body language, emotions, and put them together over time, to get a ‘feel’ for things. We are women; it’s what we do.

I’ve come to trust my gut. Because I know my kids and how they react in certain situations. Because I know that even when I’m a CrankyMum and I feel like I’m bad for my kids, they need me. Because I know I take in a lot without realising.  Because they are my kids, my responsibility, my joy, my life.

So do how do I know who I can trust with my kids? I don’t. I don’t know for sure in many cases so I’ve, in essence, taken that part out of the equation. Instead, I trust my kids (not blindly, but wisely) and equip them for the future. And I trust God and the wisdom I have to parent, even if I make epic mistakes. 

I love having kids come over to play and I sometimes allow my children to play in other people’s homes (but not yet in our neighbourhood).  I trust my gut, equip my children and hope I’m doing the right thing.

Here are my questions  to you:

Do you have issues with the neighbours kids or is neighbourhood etiquette practiced?

Is it safe to have a child in your home when you don’t know the parents’ contact details? (help me on this one)

How do you know who you can trust your kids with?

Relevant Links

Pushing too hard. And not enough.

Terrible Mother Moments

Dr Tired and Cranky

Tired. So Tired.

External Links

SuperParents — Stranger Danger

Tropical Mum — When Neighbourhood Kids Come to Play

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Robyn
    March 29, 2011 at 8:09 am

    We don’t have many kids who live in our little culdesac but we do have children who come over regularly when they are visiting their grandparents. I don’t know their parents at all which is kind of weird but we know the grandparents. My rule is that they have to ask me first if its ok for our girls to play (if its a school day then homework needs to be done first) and their grandparents MUST know where they are and give permission. I also give them a time frame at the beginning, so let them know that they can play for an hour but then we’re going out or the kids need to do their jobs etc. We also have rules for our family/home (like not swearing or saying unkind things) so if necessary I’m happy to say to visiting kids that “we don’t say mean things to each other in this house”. I will ask them to go home if they aren’t able to play nicely and I’ve found it works well so that even if their behaviour is quite different at their grandparents, they make better choices while they are here so they can be with our kids! I’m really nice to them when they’re here and making good choices too so I don’t think they see me as a big meanie! 🙂

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 9:27 pm

      You are no where even near a meanie Robyn! And thanks for your advice…very much appreciated.

  • Reply
    Chris
    March 29, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I had this exact same problem with a delightful little boy (age 9) who turned up at our place to play with my boys (7 and 5). I was uncomfortable too, so I took his hand, asked him where he lived and I went straight to his house and met his Mother. We chatted for a little while and I told her that I was happy for the kids to play but I thought it was a good idea for us to meet. She agreed, we exchanged phone numbers in case of emergencies and the kids have been playing happily in our quiet cul-de-sac.
    After a while there was a need to set boundaries. The kids are allowed to play after dinner but outside only as I was trying to settle my two year old ready for bed and the young boy’s dad has a very stressful job and probably wouldn’t appreciate someone else’s kids running around in his house.
    They go home for lunch on weekends, they are not allowed to go to each others house without informing their parents and when they are told to go home they do so without question. I told the little boy’s mother this and she was thrilled as I made it sound like I was considering her feelings with these rules.
    I like my children playing in our small street. All our neighbours are wonderful and don’t mind the kids riding their bikes and just hanging out. However, I have taught my kids to be considerate of our neighbours privacy and right to live in peace. They do not go in their driveways, don’t harrass their dogs, don’t ride their bikes near their cars and to say hello and be polite and respectful if our neighbours speak with them.
    Good luck! I hope you find this helpful as there is nothing more joyful for a child than to have playmates on their doorstep!

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 9:28 pm

      Thanks Chris. I think I’ll do that too and make sure I know where she lives.

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    March 29, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Ah, a very good topic.
    I agree that it’s important to meet the parents first and establish that connection, and also to ensure the children seek permission first.

    Do you allow neighbourhood children to play inside your house (i.e. ”behind closed doors”? What about when your husband is home? Are you concerned about the potential for allegations?

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 9:29 pm

      Thanks Rebecca. My husband works forever and is never home…lol…but our family time is so precious, I’d send the kids home if he was home… And they play outisde and never behind closed doors.

  • Reply
    Amanda
    March 29, 2011 at 10:27 am

    You’re phrase ‘my children are my most precious earthly gifts’ brought tears to my eyes… what a beautiful way to describe children. My Aunty lost her husband and only precious child in the Floods in SE QLD on the 10th of January… for some reason this phrase really pulled my heart strings, and reminded me, once again, to treasure those precious children that we are blessed to call our own.

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 9:31 pm

      Amanda, I’m so sorry about your loss. I’m teary too…so, so, so very sorry. They are indeed so very precious. ((hugs))

  • Reply
    Susan @ Reading Upside Down
    March 29, 2011 at 10:38 am

    We have a young girl who lives two doors down from us who sometimes comes to visit when she is bored. She is in between the ages of my children, closest in age to my youngest son (but not sharing any of his interests) and a few years younger than my daughter (who is the main target of her interest.

    I have met her parents and am happy for her to come and play but have learned that she doesn’t always tell her parents that she is leaving the house. Her father came to our house distraught one day because they couldn’t find her. She told me that her parents knew she was coming to visit, but she had actually left without letting anyone know.

    My biggest issue is that she is incredibly dominant to the point that she questions me on my decisions and asks me, constantly, to justify anything that I say to her. I once said it was too late for her to come and play (it was after 6.30pm on a Sunday evening with school the next day) and she told me that it was fine, she didn’t feel tired yet so she would come in to play anyway (she was aged 7 at the time). If I say that my daughter is out, she wants to know where, who with and how long she will be. She actually told me that I should send my parents home once because I said my daughter couldn’t play because her grandparents were visiting.

    I am happy to have neighbours kids over to play, but agree with you that it is important to meet their parents (or caregivers) first, if only for the kind of routine ‘are there any allergies I should know about’ type of questions and an exchange of contact numbers.

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 9:49 pm

      Goodness! I’m not sure how I would feel if the child I had there didn’t respect the rules of my home…or me…I can be tricky…This thread has really helped me to be clear about what I expect and what I should do…thank you.

  • Reply
    Debbie
    March 29, 2011 at 10:44 am

    We had a similar situation with a neighbour’s daughter. She’s a few years older than our children, and turned up when we had a garage sale….and stayed until well after it had finished. We had no idea where she lived or who she belonged to. She’s come over a few other times since and stayed for hours. I’ve had to tell her that it’s time to go home because it’s getting dark etc. I was also the one who initiated contact with her parents, who seemed to not really care where she was. It was an odd situation because they didn’t really seem to care where she was – they didn’t know me or make any effort to get to know who their child was with. I felt uncomfortable because the onus was on me should anything happen. I ended up setting some ground rules – that her parents needed to know where she was, and we would only play out the front of our house. I was more than happy for her to play with my children, but also felt her parents needed to take responsibility for knowing where she was. It’s a tricky one, because I love the idea of having neighbourhood children playing together (not that there’s many in our street). I also don’t let my children go to someone’s home without getting to know the parents first – this doesn’t always guarantee that everything will be fine, but hopefully we’ve done a lot of ground work with our kids so they know what we do and don’t approve of. (Sorry that was so lengthy!)

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 10:06 pm

      Yeah, I can’t understand how parents can be so comfortable not knowing where their kids are…This is the first time this has really happened to me so I’m trying to work it all out.

  • Reply
    Collett from The T(w)een Factor
    March 29, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Great article! We have a bunch of lovely kids in our neighbourhood and most of us agree that we will send kids home when we feel ‘it is time’.

    Our next-door neighbours have a boy and girl similar ages to our 2 eldest, so we usually make sure we have the girls over, while the boys play next door or vice versa. It spreads things around a little.

    We once had a new family move up the road. Mum worked a lot overseas and dad arrived with his 2 kids asking if they could play and promptly left them for hours. The youngest was TWO at the time. I never had nappies or anything for this little tot. Dad had never even met us other than that short sentence over the fence. We never expected him to just disppear like that. (They moved soon after) Shudder – talk about lack of safety issues.

    Another rule we have is no computers at other people’s homes (other than grandparents and a few close friends that we know have the same value system as ours). That to me is like letting kids loose in a new city without any adult supervision. The homes I allow this to happen have the computer in a public space and activity highly monitored within a specific time frame. This topic is my passion anyway 😉

    Thanks again for some great comments!

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      Very good point/rules about the computers Collett. Same goes here.

  • Reply
    Michelle Dennis Evans
    March 29, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    we often have our next door neighbour’s grandkids come for a play – it’s more work, but no problem. I’d rather kids come here to play – my kids never walk down the street and enter anyone’s house or yard – we’ve never allowed it.
    Earlier this year my girls 9 & 7 were at a good friend’s house – who I thought I trusted – she left my girls and her daughter (8) home alone – though only for 10 minutes – I was horrified – a) she didn’t check with me whether was ok with it. b) my girls have never been left home alone. My friend apologised – but I haven’t let my girls go back there since.
    It’s so hard to trust and call on intuition after that has happened.

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      I’m absolutely with you: I’d rather kids come and play at my house than the other way around. Sorry you had a bad experience…

  • Reply
    Andrea
    March 30, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Good questions. My eldest is 5 and just started school. I won’t let him go over for a play date without me unless I go over first and suss things out. You never know what peoples living arrangements are: do they have other relatives/visitors etc staying or living there too? Who knows?
    May make me paranoid, but my children are my special little souls that I need to look after as best I can, so I’m not willing to risk them going to other peoples houses that I dont know well enough.
    Similarly, at this age, I’m not having kids over here that I dont know their parents.

    We had issues with some of our old neighbours. The kids would turn up on our doostep EVERY DAY and even the nanny would just turn up with them randomly to play. It was so annoying, especially as my youngest was a baby and it would always wake them up from his sleeps. I ended up putting a little sign out the front to say the baby was sleeping and to come back later, or call my mobile (and tended to leave this up a fair bit, as a deterrent). I love having kids over to play, but I’m not running a drop off child care centre!!!

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 10:10 pm

      Yes, I really like the fact that you brought that up about not knowing if other people are in the home too. I don’t think you are paranoid..some may call me that too after this post but it’s not about being controlling but being safe…

      Fortunately for me, it’s not everyday. I think I would have a problem with that as much as I like having kids over to play, it does change the family dynamics and we just need family time sometimes…

      It’s not nice to be used as s child-care facility is it?

  • Reply
    Bronnie
    March 30, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Oh God, I hate this … We used to have a 9 year old who lived across the road, and ALWAYS came to our place after school because her mum and step-dad weren’t home. We were never asked or thanked. She was always starving so I ended up feeding her as well. I hated it, but I felt sorry for her.
    Often she came over on the weekends and her mum had no idea where she was until I took her home.
    Another time, when my son was 7, a friend of his would often come to play. When they returned the favour by asking him over, I found them playing in the parkland/reserve in a tree on my way up to pick him up. Again, she had no idea where they were. There were snakes in that reserve, a creek which led into a river, walking tracks etc, and it was totally the kind of place where people could be attacked and no one would know. I was furious. It broke his heart but I never let C. go back there, although I often still had his mate over.
    Finally, C. was attacked by a neighbourhood bully (15) when he was supposed to be at a neighbour’s house playing last year. They had left the house and had gone to some parkland and a creek. She knew but didn’t care. The kid came and punched and kicked the crap out of him (no reason, just because he hadn’t bashed C. yet and he’d done all the others), broke several ribs. Luckily his friend ran and got me, and I scared the bully away, told him off etc, reported him to police etc. The other mother KNEW the bully was in the area, and even after that attack still let her kids roam the streets knowing he was around. On their own. Other kids continually got hurt but they were still allowed to roam around, ride their bikes etc on their own.
    I’m amazed at how lax some parents are. Maybe I’m a bit over-protective, but still …
    I now don’t let my kids go anywhere unless it’s with people I know really, really well. They hate it, but it’s not worth the risk.
    We are now in a much nicer area, and the street has a rule where kids can play with each other, but they have to stay at home, and a parent is always supervising.
    Home time is 6 pm wherever they are, and they are then walked home.
    So much nicer, and I’m glad there are other parents like me!

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 10:14 pm

      Goodness! How terrible!

      For me there is a huge distinction between being responsible and being over-protective. In these areas where there truly can be a great risk of harm, I think it’s responsibile to protect kids. It’s not being over-bearing but responsible…

  • Reply
    Rachael
    March 30, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    I am horrified at all of the stories you have shared of parents not having a clue where their young children are. I have the same thinking as you all. Be as careful as possible. Know were they are. (still easy for me only 4 & 3 yrs old.)

    Things do happen, few months ago, we found out an old friend of ours was busted in a pedophile ring and sent to jail, would never have suspected!!! (thankfully had only seen him a few times since having kids!!) And recently a boy has gone missing near where I live http://www.cairns.com.au/article/2011/03/21/155295_local-news.html
    just so sad.

    So yes I too would love to say, go play, enjoy, do what you want, but my instinct says, no. Need to have contact details of people and know them really really well. That and starting to teach them about protecting themselves. All I can do. Yes I will be over protective I think. Cant help it!

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 10:17 pm

      What a frightening story! I’m saying a prayer right now for him and his family.

  • Reply
    www.thephdmom.com
    February 18, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    I read your post and wished I’d written it

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