Tips for Keeping the Neighbor Kids Out of Your Yard

Some Parents Are Idiots


The days are warmer, and everyone is spending more time outdoors.  That includes the neighbor kids, who may have developed the bad habit of extending their boundaries into your yard and personal space.



The real culprits here are the parents.  Common sense should guide parents to remind their kids where the invisible boundaries are between houses, but this overly narcissistic generation shows little regard for anyone but themselves.

If you try to be pleasant and cordial with your neighbors for the sake of getting along, this may be misconstrued as a welcome invitation to invade your personal space at will.

A "kid person" loves interacting with the neighborhood children and doesn't regard them dotting the lawn as an invasive species.

Others are only "kid people" with their own kids and don't appreciate uninvited company.

Thoughtless parents with no respect of your privacy or personal property put you in a pickle.  They are the idiots who should know better and enforce boundaries, but when they don't, you'll end up looking like the bad guy if you say something.

What can you do?

The Direct Approach

The blunt, bold, and direct approach should only be taken if you want to permanently alienate your neighbors.  

When you're dealing with idiots, subtle hints never work. No matter how many gentle innuendos you make, they will never catch on.  Narcissists have high opinions of themselves, so any mild rebukes you lob their way will go over their heads.  They will assume you are talking about other neighbors because you could NEVER feel that way about them.

I know this from first-hand experience.

Next door, we are plagued by a typical, millennial couple.  A pain before they had a child, they are completely insufferable with a daughter.  They have always asked us and other neighbors for help--empty their pool cover, let out their dog, water their plants, mow their lawn, let them borrow our oven, borrow our wheel barrow, sharpen their mower blade, to name a few examples.  They never feel guilty for asking, and it never occurs to them to reciprocate.

Like typical self-absorbed people, they have bemoaned parenthood.  It's more work than they bargained for and puts a huge crimp in their lifestyle--one that revolves around "self."  On the husband's first ever Father's Day, the wife asked if we could babysit their daughter so they could go out and celebrate.  Huh?  Isn't the holiday's concept about spending time with your kids?  Never mind that we have children and would be celebrating Father's Day, too.

Because parenting takes patience and determination, our millennial neighbors decided it would be easier to not discipline and let their child run wild.  We stopped having garage sales at our house because this heathen would run into our garage and start tossing our items on the floor in front of customers.  She would pick bouquets from my planted annuals.  She would beg to play with our kids, only to litter their toys all over the yard and not help with pick up, throw rocks in our yard after being told not to, have to be physically hauled from our yard by her parents while throwing a tantrum about not wanting to leave, and crossing her arms and pouting when she couldn't boss our kids around.

Every time we stepped a toe into our front or back yard, the heathen, whom we dubbed "Animal" (like the character from the Muppets) would race to our house and want to play.  Our kids begged us to intervene, but we didn't want to be unkind.



Even when sitting on our back deck for privacy, these neighbors would brazenly open our latched fence, plop down in a chair, and make themselves at home while their child overtook our backyard play set.  We couldn't even eat a meal outside in peace.

At our kids' behest, we started coming up with excuses why Animal couldn't come over and play, hoping they'd get the hint.  They didn't.  One winter day, we were playing in the snow in our backyard when the dad brought Animal to the fence and asked if she could play.  When I told him she couldn't because the gate was frozen shut, he lifted Animal to toss her over the fence, apparently desperate to unload the heathen he and his wife created through lazy parenting.  That was the last straw.

Come spring, Animal ran over while I was working in the front yard to ask if she could play with our kids, who were in the back.  I told her no.  She angrily crossed her 5-year-old arms, furrowed her brow, and scolded me with, "Well, I have always been able to play with them BEFORE!  What's the MATTER?  Don't you LIKE us?"



If I had dared talked to an elder in such a tone as a child, my mother would have spanked my rear all the way home, but Animal has never been taught respect for authority, and she has none.

The mom approached and asked if it was okay for Animal to join my kids, and I calmly and very firmly replied, No.  Our kids don't like to play with her because she is too undisciplined.

The mom looked stunned.  I wanted to add, Sorry, I thought you knew, but decided against it.  The mom quickly shooed her daughter back to their own lawn, and we have since ceased engaging in  polite conversation with them--only a brief hello in passing and avoidance of eye contact when possible.

It's a shame it has come to this.  The family seems completely unaware of what they could have done to offend us.  But, we enjoy our privacy and don't want to dread what we'll face each time we step foot outdoors.  Home is our safe haven and cozy nest, and it's not wrong to expect people to respect one's privacy and land boundaries.

On occasion, I still spy Animal running across our front yard, admiring my flowers, and playing in our driveway, like a wild creature free to roam, but most of the time, she's entirely avoidable.

Hopefully, you won't have to take such extreme measures, but sometimes, the only way to keep peace and your sanity is to disconnect.


The Avoidance Method

A brooke runs behind the homes on our street.  Many neighbors on both sides of the brooke have fences so kids can play in back yards without fear for their safety.  Our kids are allowed to open the fence and play by the brooke, only when we are outside to keep watch and only if they stay on our own bank without straying to another property.

A family across the brooke has three boys.  Like typical boys, they are full of boundless energy, but unlike our kids, their play is feebly monitored, leading to unchecked misbehavior.  These young boys, all under third grade, use frequent profanity, fill the air with noise pollution, and tote water guns they threaten to shoot at our kids.  Their dad hacked a path through the overgrowth to allow the boys easy access to the brooke.  Since these kids are super aggressive, one in particular with apparent anger issues, we have cautioned our kids to avoid the brooke when these boys are in it.

Our kids are friendly and always open to welcoming new friends, but sadly, the friend choices in our neighborhood leave a lot to be desired.

These boys aren't instructed to stay on their own property, but frequently hop over to our bank to play, with our fence the only barrier to keep them from accessing our back yard.

Again, this all leads to idiot parents with no respect for boundaries.  We know to keep our kids on our own property, so why don't they?  It doesn't even occur to the parents to ask if it's okay.

Our kids have implored us to tell the boys to get off our property, but we've already alienated one neighbor and prefer not to make too many enemies.

Instead, I opted to intervene when the boys shouted threats across the brooke to our kids.  I confronted them and asked if they had a problem.  They drummed up imaginary scenarios where they were afraid our kids might throw rocks or sticks at them (valuable commodities kids toss into the brooke).  I assured them our kids would do no such thing and told them that should settle it, and I shouldn't hear them yelling our direction again.  It worked.



If your kids were shouting threats at the neighbors, wouldn't you notice?  Not if you're an idiot parent!

These boys might come onto our bank, but thus far, we haven't found any of their belongings or rocks left behind from their play.  They are always on the move, so even when they do frequent our bank, they aren't there for long before they move on to something else.  If we do find any toys left behind, we plan to throw them in the trash as a lesson to keep their belongings in their own yard.

Our kids continue to play in the brooke, but only when the hoodlums aren't already there.  Even when both sets of kids are in their backyards at the same time, our kids continue to play their own thing together and just ignore them, as do we.

Avoidance is another way to keep the peace without fueling an ongoing conflict.  It doesn't keep the neighbor kids entirely out of your yard, but it prevents making enemies.


The Ideal Solution

Kids growing up in the 1950's were known to roam the neighborhoods, with parents only requiring them to be home before dark or to remain within ear shot to hear the dinner bell.  Kids would stand on front lawns and holler to parents inside, asking if so-and-so could come out and play.    

We no longer live in an era where that can be done safely. 

Now, the best way for neighborhood friends to get together is to arrange it.  Non-idiot parents are very adept at this method because they have good, old-fashioned common sense.

Two friends see each other playing outside, and they excitedly ask a parent if they can get together.  One parent contacts the other and invites the child over.  Both parents agree on an end time and see the child is safely returned home.  The receiving parent thanks the neighbor for the invitation and offers to be the host next time.

Most importantly, neither parent simply allows their child to storm the neighbor's residence, just because everyone happens to be outside.  A dialogue occurs where parents seek permission, or inquire if now is a good time for play.

If one parent says, "I'm sorry, but we're only going to be out for a short time before we have to get ready to leave" or to eat dinner, or get showers, or have family time....no one takes offense.  Usually, if a play date isn't convenient, the parent will also add, "But she is welcome to come over tomorrow afternoon."  

This is how you respect boundaries and privacy.

To keep uninvited kids out of your yard, establish ground rules like this from the beginning.  Let parents know their kids are welcome to come over, but they need to ask permission first, and time limits must be set--you don't want them over so often you can claim them on your taxes.

This Is How You Wear Out Your Welcome

Living in town is totally different from living in the country.  Unless you've lived in both, the dynamics may not be as obvious to you.

In the country, land separates you from neighbors.  Everyone has a ton of space, so kids don't feel compelled to enter your territory because they have enough of their own.

In the country, the vastness of your kids' personal space fosters imagination and creativity.  There are endless play possibilities, unlike living in town on a plot the size of a postage stamp.  Because of this, they aren't bored as quickly, causing them to reach out to other kids for something to do.

My husband was raised on a 150-acre farm with two siblings.  During the summer, two weeks would sometimes pass before he ever left his property to see kids outside of his own family.  He had a brooke and sand to play in, woods, enormous boulders and hay bales to play on, barns, animals, fields, and he was needed to help with farming.  Country kids don't need city parks, public pools, or neighbor kids to entertain them because their own properties are brimming with fun possibilities.

City kids are so close to each other it seems natural to merge lawns and lives.

However, it's smart to ponder Robert Frost's poem, Mending Wall, which includes this iconic line:  Good fences make good neighbors.  What does that mean?  Simply put, you'll get along best with your neighbors when you respect boundaries and their privacy.

Even better than Frost, the Bible warns what happens when you fail to respect boundaries.  Proverbs 25:17 says, Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house, let he become weary of you and hate you. 

If you start feeling animosity towards the neighbor kids for constantly ending up in your yard, it's time to reset boundaries.



Establish Boundaries

The last thing you want is to make yourself look like a grumpy old neighbor, even though you are completely justified in wanting your property boundaries respected.

Some kids might even see your resistance as an open door to torment you even more.  If they know they irritate you, they may make a point to enter your yard more than they did previously.  You will also be the first name that comes to mind when they consider toilet papering a house.

There are a few ways to set boundaries, and you need to pick one that best fits your situation.


  • Be honest.  Let the parents know you simply aren't the kind of neighbor who wants uninvited company.  If you can convey your sentiments nicely, honesty is always the best policy.  It also saves a lot of energy because you do it once, and it's over.  Some people can't handle the truth, and some have a hard time delivering truth bombs.  There are other ways to approach your issue, but they aren't as effective and require much more effort.
  • If honesty isn't an option because it will not be received well, always have an excuse why the kids can't come over to play.  Most people will get the hint and stop asking, but some won't.  For obtuse parents, you will have to employ the direct approach and risk permanent alienation.  "I'm going to mow, so you'll have to go home because I don't want a rock to catch the blade and hit you."  "We just sprayed chemicals on the lawn, so you can't be on it."  "Our kids have both been sick, and we don't want you to get it."  "Our kids aren't allowed to have friends over until they finish their chores."  Global pandemics, like COVID-19, also do the trick.  Tell people you're social distancing--permanently.
      
  • Bypass idiot parents and address the kids directly.  In a nice but firm voice, tell the kids they aren't allowed over to play and give a reason.  "Sorry, but you don't follow the rules," or "No, because when it's time to go home, you misbehave."  Kids will know you have them pegged and not be able to argue.
  • Pack up and leave.  This is the coward's way, but if you are too timid to be direct, tell your kids it's time to leave for grandma's, the store, a hike, etc.  You shouldn't have to remove yourself from your own home to find peace from the neighbor kids, but it's one way to make them leave.  
  • Erect a barrier.  If you have the funds, invest in a tall fence with locked gates.  (Electrified fences with barbed wire are tempting, but too obvious.) Your neighbor kids might hear yours playing, but they won't be able to get in and are easier to blow off if they try to get your attention.  Planting trees known for creating a natural barrier might also work too, unless your neighbors would have the audacity to push their way through anyway.  If you have a back deck, consider building a privacy wall on the ends that face your neighbors.  You'll be able to sneak to your deck and enjoy the peace without being detected.
  • Buy a door mat that says it all.  When your neighbor comments on it, you can say neighbors get along best when they leave each other alone.  
Click on the doormat for Amazon pricing
  • Communicate with your body language.  Learn to be polite but elusive.  You can acknowledge your neighbors with kids without actually engaging in lengthy conversations, and your aloofness will be off-putting.  Parents won't feel confident to approach you about having the kids playing together.  You can appear cool and distant without being mean. 
  • Get a dog and tell the neighbor kids it bites, so they can't come over because you don't want them to get hurt. 
  • If your neighbor kids invite your kids to their yard, tell them you don't want your kids to intrude.  That should make the parents pipe up and say, "Oh, we don't mind!  They can come over!"  You can then seize the opening and reply, "No, we really don't want to get that kind of thing started, but thank you anyway."
  • Move!  This is an unlikely option, but it is possible.  If you find you just can't deal with close neighbors, consider a home in the country.
To keep things in perspective, just remember kids won't be kids for long.  They will grow up and move away.  Their parents might not.  If you've made an enemy of your neighbor, your uncomfortable animosity could last until one of you moves or dies.  With this in mind, you may have to grin and bear it more than you'd like.

Be a Considerate Parent

You might love kids and welcome them into your lawn any time they want to visit.  If that's you, just remember not to assume everyone feels like you do.

Monitor your kids and make sure you keep them on your own property.

Watch your neighbors' body language and gauge their words to see how they react to your kids.  They might say it's fine for your kids to enter their property, but their smile might fade and they will sound faintly hesitant.  "It's fine," or "It's okay" are curt responses that should indicate it's not really fine or okay.

If your neighbors are actually more like extended family, then you have more flexibility.  Even if your kids enjoying hanging with the kids next door, always set times for them to come home, and remember to reciprocate hosting.

Depending on your neighbors, your kids can either make a ton of fun childhood memories or learn to hate people.  You are the gatekeeper.  Let the nice kids in, but keep the bad influences out.


#neighbor

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