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Badly Behaved Neighbors

Badly Behaved Neighbors


Dear Rachel,

I live next door to a woman who has kids the same age as my kids. While ideally this should be a great situation for us to have playmates next door, her children are terribly misbehaved and a horrible influence on my children. When they have played together in the past, my kids have come home saying things and acting in ways that I will not tolerate. Worse yet, the parents don't seem to notice or care. When I spoke to them about things their children did, they paid no attention at all. It is clear that I don't want my children playing with them, but being that their children are outside daily, every time my kids see them they ask to play. How many times can I tell my children "no, not today"? Please help.

Jerusalem, Israel

Dear S.C.,

When children are involved, both yours and your neighbors, it is always a difficult situation. However, from what you describe it is clearly an unhealthy combination. There are really two issues here. One is the behavior problem that takes place when the children play (and can anything be done about that?). And secondly is what you should tell your children in the meantime.

Regarding the behavior, there is no question that if you determine a situation is not positive for your kids, you cannot allow them to partake in it. Our children are sponges and absorb from everything around them, and bad behavior is unfortunately something they are particularly adept at picking up.

Being that the parents of these kids don't seem to notice or care, it is very possible that the kids are acting in such a way as a cry for attention. When children are basically ignored, they will often go to great extremes, often negative ones, for someone to simply notice them.

So perhaps, rather that forbidding your children to play, maybe you can first try another option that might potentially be beneficial to all involved. Have you tried having these other kids over to your home where you are able to completely monitor what is happening? Maybe try inviting them over for very limited periods of time and in a situation where you are able to be completely present when they play. If you tell the kids that they can have the neighbors over for an hour, and then come up with a board game to play or some other supervised play, it will not only provide your children with a play date, but it will allow you to see first hand what is going on.

There are two possible outcomes to having them over. Either the children will behave well in a different environment, in which case you are providing play time for your kids and providing these other children with a healthy, loving and caring environment to play in. Or, they will misbehave terribly.

If you see these children misbehaving, they can be told very firmly the rules of your home and how they need to behave. Sometimes children misbehave simply because no one told them that certain things were wrong. If they can do whatever they want at home and are never disciplined, how should they know that such behaviors are necessarily a problem?

When you are explaining to them how they need to act (in this house, we say "please" if we want something… in this house we do not slam doors… in this house we put away a toy when we are finished playing, etc.), you should have this conversation with all the children involved. It is always good for your children to be reminded of how they are expected to behave, and it is important for them to see firsthand that you have given this explanation to their playmates as well.

Ideally, the children will follow your rules and change their behavior, at the very least when they are in your home. If they can learn to behave while with you, then perhaps you won't mind the children playing. Granted, for a while it will require your involvement, but it is important for your children to see that before you forbid something that you explore all options. And simultaneously, although it is not your responsibility, it is a big mitzvah that you are doing for these other children. Providing them with a structure and rules, and teaching them proper behavior is something they clearly need, and are not getting at home, and this could be a real opportunity to influence them.

If, however, you set down the rules and these kids will not listen to you, then you need to make it clear to these kids as well as to your own children that they are absolutely not allowed to play together.

However, rather than just looking like the mean mom who said "no," there is a very good chance that even without explanation your children will understand exactly why that is the case. After all, they will have heard you explain what you expect, and if these kids have refused to listen to you, then the obvious punishment is that they will not be allowed to come over to play.

This will also give you a time to explain to your children that it is important that we always listen to our mothers and fathers. Furthermore, explain to them how the concept of kibbud av v'em, honoring your parents, is a mitzvah from the Torah. If their friends won't listen to you, and are being disrespectful, then they cannot come into your home to play and you certainly can't allow them to play over in their home when you are not watching them. Chances are that they will have already witnessed the problem and not even need the explanation.

You can tell them as well that it is because you love them that you want what is best for them, and in this case it means saying "no" when they want to play with these kids. So that they don't feel left out, perhaps arrange play dates with other kids from school so that they have other children to play with. Or maybe take them to the park if possible or away from the home if the neighbors are outside playing.

So while it will take some work on your end, give it a try and see what happens when you invite these children into your home. Regardless of the outcome, it will result in some very positive and important lessons for your children (as well as theirs) and will truly be an educational experience for all involved. Good luck!


"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Chad Howell July 28, 2016

We have a neighbor who's children behave badly. Just put in a security system on your property and ignore them. We pray for the father who we believe is really messing the children up. Reply

Shelly austin, tx June 25, 2012

children I see that you will all put up with other peoples crap and let your snaity go out the window for other peoples bad behavior.

I moved clear out in the county just to have lots of property to run and not deal with this stuff. I am affraid it is happening here too, there was nobody here when we bought this land and now people around us. They have the same bad manners parents as well as kids. I won't put up with "hey lets let the neighbors take care of our kids while we stick up our feet." !!!! Then when we don't get our way we are allowed to be mean and hateful to them mantality. Really do you want this in your life ? Tell them to stay away from you and your family. So what if you don't have a good relationship with your neighbors, they did it to themselves !!!!!!! Reply

Anonymous Los Vegas, NV March 22, 2012

bad neighbors I tried summer after summer. I invited the bad kids to play here to change how they played in the other yard. The child waited till I turned my back and would do things to my daughter. She only play with one child at a time so she could pull her evil tricks on others and had a child to help her in her sedistic ways. I finally yelled for her to stay out of our yard . The parents allow their kids to bully others as well as at home. This is not welcome here anymore. So when you invite bad children over and plan to help, you are simply inviting this nonsense to your side of the fence. You can't spank or disipline others kids and why would you want too . I am not thier parent , I have my kids to raise not theirs too. This just means you are a great babysitter for other peoples kids. Now are you going to let them sit back and put up their feet while you do their job for them? I think not. Reply

David June 8, 2008

Rachel, help!!! Rachel's answer is perfect.

But I saw a question with no answer: How many kids before it is too many to handle? And, if it is too many, what to do then?

And, IFyou know your sisters and brothers will shun you for saying "These are our family's rules," what is the alternative? You can't give up your whole family. The kids' behavior is truly intolerable. So what do you do?

And, what if you are not the host but the guest, and you are visiting your friend or your sister or your brother, whose children are bullies or whatever. What do you do then? Stop visiting? Cut off familial relationships? There's got to be a better way.

Rachel, help!!!


hinda Schryber jerusalem, israel June 6, 2008

denial Sorry to say this, but anyone who thinks they can protect their kids from seeing things or hearing things is out of reality. the world is not built so that we can forever protect our kids. What we can do is show them what is right by example. And there is no better example to your own kids, than when you take another kid into your home, that obviously needs help, and help them. I have also seen many examples of kids from Over controlling homes go wild when they grow older. Its a delicate issue of balance, one that is not taught in text books. I like Anettes answer it smacks of love, care and concern. Reply

Anonymous Israel June 5, 2008

What to do when there are too many What to do when there are too many badly behaved kids that they outnumber your own kids? I rarely send my kids downstairs to play because even though the parents are sitting right there, they won't blink an eye if their child starts uprooting a tree for instance. People see me as a snob, but as long as they are not down there seeing the bad behaviour, I couldn't care less... While it's realistic to change a few kids at a time, what do you do when you're faced with a parent who thinks there child can do no wrong exactly when they are doing just that. Reply

Annette North Bay, ON via June 4, 2008

'my house: my rules' Go ahead and invite these kids! Know that that they are likely attracted to your children sensing in them a void in their own lives. You don't have to fully raise other people's kids, but we ARE responsible for one another, and they are likely dying for attention. So give it to them, with Firm love, something like 'tough love'; let them know what the rules are, do You know what Your rules are?
I was firm with my girls’ friends and they liked being in our home (the only jewish home for all of them)the more liberal the home a girl came from, the more comfortable they were when they learned a rule.
This is a custom tailored situation HaShem (G-d) is giving YOU! go ahead and grow through it. Put a smile in your mind and talk to Him and yourself positive affirmations and keep asking Him to give you counsel here... and there... and how... etc. keep asking yourself: if I were in front of G-d what would I ask Him and what would He want of me?


varda rav-noy L.A, Ca. June 4, 2008

what if the other kids are relatives? This is a challenge and we have to do the same, as Rachel did. we can say:'This house can tolerate only good manners and gentle talk". we are intitle and have to set rules in our home.
Thanks vrn-La. Reply

Anonymous Queens, New York June 3, 2008

What if the other kids are relatives What if the neighboring kids are the our nieces and nephews? How do we approach the kids or their parents without hurting their feelings? Reply

Sari Daytona Beach, Fl. June 3, 2008

bad behaviour I have also brought in children who have had problems. It helped them out to have a a responsible loving adult around. It also brought out our family values to my children. The young people I speak of have sent me mothers day cards thanking me for helping them. I think its a good cause to help young ones. Its a cause I hope more young mothers take up. The children I mentioned above are doing very well. Leading moral lives, I know my "mothering" helped. They told me it did. Reply

Anonymous Jacksonville, FL June 3, 2008

Response - too strict Dear Anonymous in Brooklyn

A child who is used to “inappropriate behavior” has no clue as to what they did wrong. A time out chair, will work in correcting wrong behavior only if the child knows and understands what they did wrong, otherwise, in their mind the adult is being a bully, or showing favoritism, and will only instill in the child anger, or fear. They learn nothing from time out, except that an adult deprived them of having fun for a few minutes.These children really had clue that their behavior was not appropriate, because the behavior they exhibited was everyday common conduct in their home. Cursing, pushing, hitting, and yelling. These children behavior was really not their fault, because it was all they knew. It was not humiliating to ask the child to tell me (not the other children, or even in front of others) what they did wrong. When they responded “I don’t know why I was punished”, I believed that they honestly did not know. I then explained what was wrong, and why. Reply

Bar Pasternak Tel Aviv, Israel June 3, 2008

parenting Dear Rachel, I really liked your insight into this problem and your advice including and perhaps especially the concept of Kibud av ve em (honoring your parents). Kol Hakavod! Reply

v.rn Los-Angeles, Ca. June 3, 2008

children need structure I agree that children should have rules and structure. Rachel's idea is very smart and can help those kids. Maybe even their mother. we need mazel (luck) and hard work, with raising children. May G-d send us Hatzlacha (success) in raising our children.

Anonymous Brooklyn, NY June 1, 2008

too strict Putting a child into time-out should send a clear enough message about wrong behavior. Making them say what they did wrong and "creating a plan" for not repeating the behavior is totally humiliating and degrading. I would never treat my child this way. Remember, children are human beings too and deserve our respect. Reply

Anonymous Jacksonville , FL May 28, 2008

This works I know your advice works. As a general rule when our children were younger (they are now in their teens). The neighborhood kids loved coming over, yet they knew I had strict rules. If dressed inappropriately they had to wear a large -long T-shirt over their clothes, be careful of how they spoke, act polite and respectful. If they broke one of my ruels they were given a choice of placing themselves in our time-out corner for 5-10 minutes and afterwards saying what they did wrong, and create a plan for not repeating the behavior, or leave. They usually chose the time out chair.

Despite my strict rules, I provided the attention these poor unfortunate children craved for.

When the children left, I would speak to our children, and point out conduct or speach that I did not want them to imitate, explained why,layed out what would happen if they did. Also explain to them, that we were helping these children by providing a safe place to play and being thier friend. Reply

Hinda Schryber jerusalem, israel May 26, 2008

THIS IS SAD whilst i know that badly behaved children can be something difficult to deal with, i have to ask if you have ever wondered WHY they are so badly behaved. They were not born that way, something must have happened or be happening to make them like that. perhaps there is somehitng happening in the home that you dont know about, perhaps they are really suffering and displaying anger. perhaps if you knew why they were like this then it would be a whole different ball game. Why are we so quick to judge that the parents dont care - very few parents dont care at all. perhaps the parents are sick or have mental health issues. I would agree with inviting the children into your home and see what giving them a bit of support and TLC will do for them, and while youre at it why dontyou invite mum over for coffee as well. It could change things completely. Reply

Hannah May 26, 2008

Badly behaved children This is good advice and is something I have already been doing for some time. My two young sons have a number of children from the same school living in and around our street. Most are from homes where there is little or no discipline and it was, at first, difficult to know what to do when my boys wanted to play with them. I came up with exactly this solution and can say that both my children and the neighbours' children benefit from the sense of security that our clear rules and guidance gives them. I see the looks of relief on the faces of the other children when firm but loving discipline is carried out. Persevere, and you will all reap a great reward. Every blessing! Reply

Lisa Providence, RI May 25, 2008

Bad Behaved Neighbors S.C. from Jerusalem, Israel, it's possible your neighbors's children have serious behavior problems, and their parents ignored your complaints because they've heard them too many times before by everyone else - or they just plain don't care.

Whatever the case, you need to be honest and truthful with your children about WHY you won't let them play with your neighbors's children.

Just saying: "No, not today." is NOT the way! You simply have to tell them the truth: The children are badly behaved, and it's possible their parents don't discipline them.

You raised your children to be respectful and to abide by the rules of your home, and it's sad and unfortunate that not all parents truly understand what it means for you to not allow their children into your home if they won't be polite and well-behaved.

No matter what reason or reasons those children misbehave, I can only hope this problem can get solved - it's possible their parents ignore them like they ignored you!

Sarah Dubov May 25, 2008

Tehillim In addition to Rachel's excellent advice, the Lubavitcher Rebbe writes that to say daily,(or whenever possible), the chapter of Tehillim (Psalms) corresponding to the age of one's children, is a spiritual protection and help for them, particularly regarding friends.

I personally try to do this, and have also mentioned it to other moms, and we all agree that it definately helps!

(To do this, one says the chapter just above their current age. Ie, if the child is six years old, one would say chapter seven (Kapital zayin), as the child is in his/ her seventh year.)

Wishing you much success with this, and may you have only much "yiddishe nachas" from your children!

PS You might even wish to say a few chapters for the neighbours children! Reply

suzanne May 25, 2008

Children who behave badly Good advice, Rachel.

It is not natural for children to behave so very badly. I hope you can help them.

But if they cannot adapt, you will have to accept that and refuse to let them play with your children.

Please let us know how this turns out. Maybe, Gd willing, you will have good news for us! Reply