Monday, July 12, 2010

He Said She Said: Parenting the neighborhood kids

Two of our contributors are asked to take opposing stances on an issue and present a case for their viewpoint. Comment and tell us who you agree with or what you believe or think! The topics are suppose to elicit a response and start a conversation in comments. Enjoy!

TOPIC: Parenting the neighborhood Kids.

He Said:

Two years ago when I was dismissed from my job, I noticed a phenomena when I became a SAHP. As you can guess from the title of the topic, I was suddenly everyone's parent while their parents worked or basically neglected them.

No, I wasn't the cool person...I was just emotionally available to anyone and everyone. I was okay with that and I was consistent with everyone on what is and is not acceptable in terms of behavior. Wipe your feet before you come in. Say "please" and "thank you". Ask your parents first before asking me if you can sleep over.

At first, some of the kids didn't like the expectations I placed on them...but they eventually understood that if they showed respect or behaved properly, I would be more receptive to them. However, there was this one thing that drove me nuts every day.

They kept coming over at lunchtime, which meant they expected me to feed them. I tried to get their parents to feed them. Uh-uh. I tried sending my girls over to be fed by them. Uh-uh. I tried getting the kids to brown-bag their lunch. Uh-uh. That's when I had enough and I told everyone since none of them were willing to feed my girls, I would not feed them anymore.

Oh, there was a bit of a fallout all over the neighborhood, but I refused to cave in. I stood my ground and every time a kid came over "hungry", I would gently remind the kid that there is food at her/his home and point the way. One house stopped talking to me (I didn't care since their sons were nothing but trouble and wouldn't stop cussing) and another stopped sending the kids over.

The kids still stop by, but they don't expect to be fed - they play with my girls. My sanity was restored. As for my relationship with the girls, things got much better. I no longer felt anxious about the possibility of them bringing their friends over.

Do you think my decision did some damage to their relationship with their friends?


She Said:

Neighbors are why I live forty miles from the nearest city in a gated community with a ten foot fence around my property. I'm not exactly known for my ability to play well with others. One of my biggest anxieties about having children was that I'd have to deal with other parents. Seriously. I may seem like a bundle of sweetness and beauty, and I certainly am, but I like people to keep their distance. I don't let people in. Sometimes, maybe even a lot of the time, I have difficulty with even superficial relationships.

So I get this.

I found that I even have it in me not only to dislike other people, but to dislike their children. Who dislikes a child? I do, apparently. I've had these kinds of kids at my house. They're rude, they're messy, they're always hungry, they're disrespectful, and they are teaching my children things I don't want them to learn. They don't respond well to rules. And I just wanted them to go away.

I laid down the law. The kids who didn't follow my rules were no longer allowed to play in my home. I was gentle, but firm. I tolerated them, though they made me grind my teeth and their parents made me stabby. I fed them, I entertained them, and showed them the love and attention a lot of them were looking for and not finding at home. I might have even learned to like them a little better.

And because I didn't follow my instincts, which were to erect an electric fence around my house and laugh as people were delivered a nonlethal jolt when they tried to get in, I learned that I can be someone for these kids that their parents can't or won't be. I can feed them and entertain them and let them raid my fridge and admonish them for getting dirt on my floor even if their parents aren't willing to do the same for me.

I have the choice to let it piss me off, which it certainly did at first, but instead I decided that the kids are not responsible for their parents idiocy. They can't help it that their parents dumped them off on me, expected me to take care of them out of the goodness of my heart. They're just kids and they clearly need a positive adult role model in their lives since their parents can't be bothered to be decent human beings.

So I suck it up, I take them in knowing my kindness is not going to be reciprocated, and I hope that what I teach the little heathens about behaving themselves will stick at least as long as they're playing with my children, maybe even a little longer if I'm lucky. And of course, when their parents are extra horrible, I fall back on one of my favorite pastimes. Writing letters and issuing penalties as the fictitious president of the homeowner's association.

Gucci Mama


heelsnstocking said...

this drives me mad also! especially as i often find my kids offering food and drink to all. Just on Saturday I found My eldest and 4 of her friends tucking into a magnum (icecream) each! they were Mummy's **sobs**

I have yet to put my foot down but Saturday evening the kids got a lecture and a threat of pocket money deduction so lets see what happens!

DCHY said...

HnS - all you need to do is be consistent and the kids will get it. You could threaten pocket money decution, but they'll just steal money outta their parent's wallets. ;)

heelsnstocking said...

@DCHY - Im confident in my parenting and know that the kids understand stealing from us is never acceptable. The youngest used to 'find' money, when I asked hime where did you find it? 'your bag'! so we did lots of talk and work on that at the time.

Using pocket money deduction works in our house, it teaches them to value things. The daughter now knows that dishing out my icelollies is the equivalent to half her allowance. Its a valuable lesson if life.

Did ostrasizing the children from the others in the neighbourhood have an effect on them at the time?

DCHY said...

Oh, you meant YOUR kids when you were talking about pocket deductions. LOL I meant the neighbors' kids. It would be (in German accent) "vedy intedesting" to see what would happen if you use that on them as well.

As for ostracizing the kids, that wasn't the case. I just told them to either bring food or go home and eat there. That worked out beautifully. They were always welcome at the long as they cleaned up afterward. ;)

heelsnstocking said...

@DCHY - ROFL at accent

Im sure not playing with the naughty boys hasnt damaged your girls but do you think it has had a negative impact on the naughty boys, excluding them from a positive environment as it sounds like they need it?

Gucci Mama said...

@HnS - That's my thought process exactly! That's why I tolerate these kids, because they are starved for positive attention/interaction with adults. Maybe I can't do much, but I do what I can.

DCHY said...

Ahh...those "naughty" boys...the last time they came over and played with the toys, I locked the front door and then announced that everyone had to clean up. What did they do? They bolted for the door. Oops, locked in. LOL

They kept acting out such as yelling obscenities, mumbling to me on purpose, and peeing on other people's lawns (in full view, no less).

Their mother will NOT do anything and she is now busy dealing with her very pregnant 16 year old daughter. Their father has started drinking to forget. I can't blame him.

Believe me, I really TRIED but they weren't willing to improve themselves. I have known them since they were two and they are now 8.

Gucci Mama said...

Oh, wow. In the case of those boys I'm quite sure playtime would be OVER. That behavior is the outside of enough. I'd be drawing a line in the sand there for sure. Yikes.

The parents sound nightmarish. Unreal.

heelsnstocking said...

Totally, im sure you have had a positive impact, i know in my experience with these naughty kids that you show them the postive impact of what respect and rules can do. They wont know it yet but in years to come they will realise it.

**tear in eye thinking of bart Simpson running next door to Flanders house for some normality

Gucci Mama said...

@HnS - It's my hope that they'll remember the impact I made on them in years to come.

Also, I have a confession to make which may totally ruin my reputation. I have never seen a single episode of The Simpsons. There. I said it. Let the mockery commence. ;)

DCHY said...


Anonymous said...

Over the years, it depended if my kids actually enjoyed playing with that random neighborhood kid or not, and if our rules were abided by. Otherwise, my kids were busy if these kids just wanted to randomly drop by. If it ever did become too annoying, we would often take the play outside or at the neighborhood park down the street and set a limit on play time.

As they have gotten older (10 & 16 now), I am glad that they want to have their friends hang out at our house. As a result, I know their friends (and many of their parents) well and have some measure of control about what is going on under our roof.

Even at the teenage stage, some of my daughter's friends are looking for a little guidance that either is lacking at home, or from someone who isn't their parent. I remember what it felt like to be that age, so I don't mind being there if a listening ear is needed.

Anonymous said...

DCHY - good for you for laying down the law. You really shouldn't be expected to take on all the responsibilities of their parents. It is one thing if you invite them to stay for lunch. My children always knew not to invite themselves, or there would be hell to pay at home. ; )

DCHY said...

Anonymous - that's what I am hoping when my girls are older...that they know what is acceptable and what is not. Also that they know that this house is their safe haven. With consistency comes expectations. With expectations comes the feeling of security.

Mrs.Duran said...

Now my son in only 3 years old but I have always said that I would want them playing at my house because then I know what is going what they are doing. As I was growing up we had a lady on our street that had a pool and we were able to go swimming and she has a fridge full of drinks and snacks for all the kids on the street. So I have a feeling when my son gets to the age of him playing with other kids on the street that I will do the same thing. But who knows I may change my mind!! Like i said he is only 3!

TisforTonya said...

over the years ManOfTheHouse has reminded me that he'd rather be feeding the entire neighborhood than having our children out wandering the neighborhood and not knowing where they are.

I'd agree more wholeheartedly if I was the one at work while my spouse were home trying to be a short order cook.

I've pretty much turned into the Boo Radley of the block parents - it's all good if the kids' friends want to come hang out... but my rules (no swearing, no fighting) must be attended to and the mess YOU made, YOU clean. I've let a few children know upon leaving that they are not welcome to come back until they've learned a few lessons. and I'm positive that I've pissed off more than one neighbor. I don't care.

Will my children suffer socially? Again - don't care. I know that's heartless... but REALLY, I'm not ostracizing EVERY kid, they will still have SOME friends... and judging by the number of phone calls my 15 year old gets per day, apparently some of those young'uns got over it eventually!

DCHY said...

615sWife - so you'll find out when you are ready. ;)

T - at least you are being consistent. That's important. If I was living well within my financial means, I wouldn't mind so much about feeding them but I'd ask them to feed my girls too. We ALL know that won't happen. (Eye roll)

wendy said...

Being a SAHM or P is not an easy thing sometimes. I liked for my kids to have friends over and for them to have an abundance of friends.....but when it comes to feeding them all lunch everyday, is a definete No No for me.
Yeah, maybe pick a day of the week that they know friends can have an "eat over" and you'll serve them that nutritional meal of hot dogs and twinkies.....but only once in a while.
and any parent who gets mad at you for Not taking care of thier own kids needs their heads examined.
I say invite them to stay at home for a week and Parent the neighborhood. They'd be begging for their cushy desk job back with their latte at their side.
I loved parenting my own kids severe moderation.

wendy said...

But one more first comment concerns young kids....when it comes to teen years I like having the friends over.
Felt more in control of WHO they were with and WHAT they were doing.I wanted their teen friends to bee happy and welcome in our home.
Just meant MORE hot dogs and twinkies.

scorpiorising said...

Just playing devil's advocate because something DCHY said struck me.

"Their mother will NOT do anything and she is now busy dealing with her very pregnant 16 year old daughter. Their father has started drinking to forget. I can't blame him"

Poor father? Is he really to be pitied instead of bearing any of the blame?

Perhaps the father's drinking started before the children's issues and are a cause instead of a result of that. Just throwing it out there.

heelsnstocking said...

@scorpiorising - agreed!

Anjeny said...

@DCHY...good job of laying down the law and sticking to it. I am with you that if the parents of the other kids wouldn't feed my kids, then I definitely wouldn't be feeding their kids too. are making a difference in those kids' lives. I'm pretty sure they will remember the nice lady down the road who lets them come over to her house and raid her fridge years from now. I think you being there for them does make a difference to them.

You're both doing a great job!!

DCHY said...

Wendy - "Nutritional meal of hot dogs and Twinkies"! That killed me. LOL You're right about parenting for a week would send them right back to their desks. ;)

Scorpiorising - I totally get what you are saying. The father did try to get involved...disciplining his kids and the whole 9 yards. Guess what the problem was? He had to go to work and his wife just didn't care enough to follow through. I used to talk with him before he started drinking and he once confided in me that he was constantly frustrated with his wife and disappointed in his children. The boys just run wild all over...and the daughter? I found out she had never been chaperoned by her mother whenever a boy visits.

DCHY said...

Anjeny - exactly. It is not fair that they won't feed my kids but expect me to feed theirs. It worked out for me. Not so much for certain parents. ;)

nitebyrd said...

DCHY, I don't think you did any damage. Parents are supposed to take responsibility for their own children. What is supposed to happen and does happen are two different things. The parents that understand or were shocked to find out what their kids were doing (you know that kids can just be bratty and liked your food better) are the ones that still let their kids play with yours. Those are the ones you'd want to have as friends.

All parents go through this with random kids from the neighborhood. There is definitely a place to draw the line.

Gucci Mama, the way you are looking at the situations and handling them are admirable. Not every parent could do that. I know it's something I wouldn't and/or couldn't do. The children that are wanting are lucky to have you.

I think you've both done what is right for your circumstances and that's good. There isn't a right or wrong way to handle it because each parent and each child is very different.

DCHY said...

Nitebyrd - thank you for your support. :)

H.K. said...

I loved reading both points of views and actually agreed with both of them. As for me because I have only one child it was difficult entertaining him all the time so it was easier for me to have neighborhood kids at our house. It was a way for me to get to know them, their parents and values, and the kids knew what my rules were and they were pretty good at observing them. The kids that didn't like them stopped showing up- it was a great filtering process.

And I didn't mind feeding the kids when they were at my house. I loved it, but I did get irritated when my son would be at a parents house and he wasn't fed especially when the parent asked if my son to be at their house all day. I don't get those type of parents, it's okay for me to feed your kid, but not okay for you to feed mine. Oh, well, I still fed the kids who were at my house anyway.

Gucci Mama said...

It's not my favorite thing in the world to do, for sure, but I try to do what I'd want other parents to do for my children. Even though I know most of them don't.

I also like to have the kids here because I know what they're up to then. If the parents of these other kids haven't bothered to teach them manners or respect for people and property, I don't want my children in that environment picking up those bad habits. Better the devil you know, I guess.

It can be difficult not to punish the kids for the parents behavior - i.e. sending them home when it's mealtime or whathaveyou, but it isn't their fault their parents are competing for the Douche of the Year award. I try to keep that in mind.

Missty said...

Great topic. We have been down this road. And for the most part I haven't minded. And as the children get older, and they are teenages... guess whose house they are still at? Yep, ours, which is a good thing. You want your kids and their friends at your own house - it is a wealth of information to be had. lol So for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some carrot sticks when they are small, it is so worthwhile as they are older.

My beef is with the working parent who think I want to cart there children to school or a practice. grr (I dont do car pools)

DCHY said...

Gucci Mama - then I am totally out of the running for Douche of the Year award? Man, I had a speech prepared. ;)

Gucci Mama said...

DCHY - There's time, love. You have until the end of December to douche it up. I will bag the winner the First of January.

DCHY said...

LOL! Nah, I am too busy parenting other kids. ;)

Gucci Mama said...

Hahaha! Me too! But I still have time to identify douches that need to be bagged. I'm a multitasker.

heelsnstocking said...

Can I nominate DCHY early for that award?? :P

Gucci Mama said...

@HsN - I'm always accepting nominations! ;)

scorpiorising said...

DCHY- I still think the father's just as much to blame as the mother. What a cop-out! She won't and I can't? When I was in the position of feeling that my spouse was negatively affecting my kids I told him to shape up or ship out.

His drinking is definately not a constructive way of dealing with the situation.

I think our society needs to get out of the 'blame mom' mode and start thinking 'parents', as in mom and dad.

Just my take on it. :)

Gucci Mama said...

@scorpiorising - I agree with you 100%. Perfectly stated.

DCHY said...

Scorpriorising - like Gucci Mama siad, I am with you. That's why I thought it is sad that he's drinking to forget. I know from experience (my father) that it won't work.

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

I'm stepping in the middle of a conversation here, but I definitely don't think it's okay for people to come over and constantly partake of my food and shelter, for the very fact that I NEED my own space.

I won't discipline them either. I mean, I if they are doing something at our house that isn't acceptable then we ask them to go home, there is no second chances.

All of that said. Our house is the neighborhood gathering spot. And as much as I fought it, and hate it... I've learned that, like others have said, I always know where my kids are, and that I was fighting a losing battle.

FO Sho.

So I stuffed my refrigerator with things that are really healthy. Like apples, oranges, and string cheese and drinks like Capri Suns flavored water and little 1/2 size water bottles.

Although when my kids go over to other people's houses I ALWAYS warn them with their life, that they do not ASK for any food. If they are hungry, they call me to pick them up to go eat, or they go without, or come home if they are close enough on their bikes or feet.

When it comes to lunch, kids are sent home from our house, but I always get my kids saying that their friend wants to eat at our house and is it okay because Mom or Dad isn't home.

I'm like many others also who have said that they aren't really kid people. But I have found that when my kids have friends over, I have MORE time for myself... if you know what I mean.

Is it a double standard? Sure. But my kids like to be at our house, for some strange reason, and I was sick of it bugging me, so I compromised. They can have snack like foods and I get to have a bit more peace and me time.

On the father drinking bit. I don't feel bad FOR him or think that is okay at all. Ever. You chose your life and wife... now man up and pay the piper. Find ways to help solve the problem, not make it worse or escape from responsibility... again I emphasize... EVER.

Anonymous said...

At my house, my kids have friends over, and they occasionally spend the night. So in the mornings? If I'm home, and up for it (which is around 100% of the time) then it's pancakes for breakfast. We are known around the neighborhood as THE place for a kickass breakfast!

The thing I've always enforced, and the thing all visiting kids learn rather quickly, is that ALL kids in my house live by the same rules. If I expect it of my kid, then I expect it of their friends. As a result, our place is a place of consistency, and peace, for many neighborhood kids.

There have been a few that have tried to break me. Do things that simply won't fly. And they are sent packing rather quickly. And the funny thing is that those kids don't stay friends with my kids for very long.

Great topic, folks, and excellent responses. So may new faces!!!

Anonymous said...

What Tysdaddy said. And being that we are a team that's a good thing! One more thing to add however - The neighborhood kids also know that Tysdaddy and Arynsmom have no qualms about talking to a problem child's parents should the need arise. I expect the same from other adults in the neighborhood regarding my children as well!


tiarastantrums said...

DCHY - I don't think it is anyone responsibility to feed the neighbor's kids? And daily? WTH is that about? I find that truly ODD! Never would have floated with me.

GUCCI GIRL - I totally get that - other's kids do annoy me and I have yet to figure out why? perhaps b/c I think mine are angels? (they so are not) I had a HUGE playdate a couple of weeks ago and one kid went into my pantry (without asking) and dug out food and asked for it - I WAS SHOCKED! Literally, if my kids ever did that - I don't know what I would do - pull their ear or something!