How to avoid war with neighbor's kids?
October 3, 2005 1:24 PM   Subscribe

BadNeighborFilter: A friend has a next-door neighbor whose kids leave their toys, basketballs etc all over my friend's garden, behind her car etc.

My friend has asked the parents politely, several times (I think it's been going on for a couple years) to do something. Parents agree, say something to kids (Kid, whining: "Aw do I HAVE to?"), situation improves for two days, then goes back to normal. Except lately it's gotten worse - if my friend's in her car waiting to back out of her driveway, at the same time as the kids are shooting basketball, the kids are refusing to get out of the way. Friend says she gave up waiting and started backing slowly out anyway, and one kid waited until the last second to move out of the way.
One kid is at least 9. I don't know the others' ages. There's been some prior low-grade tension with the parents over their dog's habit of shitting on my friend's lawn (Neighbor: "Sorry and yeah we'll do something about it," and does nothing about it). Suggestions for avoiding all-out war?
posted by cybercoitus interruptus to Human Relations (24 answers total)
A fence perhaps? If it is an option.

As the saying goes, good fences make good neighbors.

confiscating the toys that are on her property, and requiring the kids come to talk to her if they want them back.
posted by edgeways at 1:33 PM on October 3, 2005

My parents strategy: Anything left on our property is ours. Period. No Exceptions. The kids will learn real quick not to leave stuff laying around (the toys were returned to the kids when they apologized for leaving a mess on our property). As for the car thing, I had a similar problem with some neighborhood kids when I was first learning to drive. First, I started parking backwards so I didn't have to back out - that way, I could make direct eye-contact with the kids so they'd know I knew what they were doing, and I'd have less chance of running someone over. Second, I'd start laying on the horn the minute they started resisting - you need to make this situation as inconvenient for the parents as possible, so that they're more likely to step in with their kids.
posted by muddgirl at 1:36 PM on October 3, 2005

Why would you want to talk to the kids. Throw it into a box and make the parent come over to reclaim it. Which they will since they don't want to buy it again and perhaps it will motivate them to discipline the kids - they have things they'd rather do with their time than come fetch that crap, I imagine. This won't be a conflict-free solution but if said friend is up to it it's more likely to succeed than having the kids come over, I expect.

I don't think I understand the backing out problem - how are the kids playing basketball in front of your friend's driveway? Muddgirl's backing in suggestion mirrors my thoughts - you can't rely on kids (who by definition think they're invulnerable) to get our of the way effectively, make sure you can see where you're going.

Anyway, google yields a lot of results for 'neighborhood conflict resolution' and a lot of communities have programs and systems for this kinda stuff.
posted by phearlez at 1:43 PM on October 3, 2005

Honestly, if it was me and things were being dragged out this long then I would run over anything left in my driveway and flat out refuse to replace any of it.
posted by jeffmik at 1:45 PM on October 3, 2005

Move. You can't reason with people that don't respond to reason -- they form the bedrock of our wonderful gene pool. My bet is that ramping up pressure will lead to passive-aggressive (and maybe vindictive) neighbors. Might be also worth considering if these kids are going to end up causing trouble as they reach their teen years. The situation sucks, sorry... I think the only way out is to move or make huge overtures to befriend and bribe them.
posted by rolypolyman at 1:47 PM on October 3, 2005

Befriend the kids!

Buy popsicles ($2-3 a box)
Cold cokes ($2-3 a six-pack)
Peace of mind (Priceless!)

Apologize to the parents and all of the kids, together.
"Listen, I think I have been a little cranky lately about the drive way, etc. My work is really stressful, and I don't have kids, so I don't really know how to talk to kids. But I want us to be friends since we live so close together. What can I do to make it right?"

They'll be taken aback, and say it's OK.

And whenever you see the kids out on a hot day, drop some popsicles or sodas on them.

If I know kids, your problems will be over -- hell, they'll probably go out of their way to help you out.

Adults may be vicious and malicious -- kids are simple.
Just be nice.
posted by Methylviolet at 1:49 PM on October 3, 2005

Response by poster: She has put up a fence around her back yard...the neighbors were offended! I'll see if she's been thinking about one for the front, too.

She says that when she's confiscated some of their basketballs etc., the parents just buy them new ones. And some of the toys are borrowed from nice neighbours' kids, so confiscation won't work in that case. Nice neighbors haven't indicated any annoyance about the toys not being put away properly (more important things to worry about, maybe), but my friend does say she'll talk to them soon and try to enlist their help. Tips for how to phrase the problem persuasively?
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:53 PM on October 3, 2005

Never negotiate with terrorists.
posted by letterneversent at 1:57 PM on October 3, 2005

Response by poster: I don't think I understand the backing out problem - how are the kids playing basketball in front of your friend's driveway?

They're at the end of a cul-de-sac. Neighbors have a freestanding basketball hoop on the sidewalk (their driveway's too steep, or something). Thanks for responses so far.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:01 PM on October 3, 2005

And some of the toys are borrowed from nice neighbours' kids, so confiscation won't work in that case.

Even better. After a few times of nicekids having to fetch their stuff, perhaps they'll stop lending toys to the neighborskids unless neighborskids take care of it.

I think a combo plan of confiscation and befriending the kids could work, though I do not suggest that your friend take the blame or discuss "issues" with the kids. Just let it rain popsicles from the sky.
posted by desuetude at 2:12 PM on October 3, 2005

The fact that they appear to simply buy replacement toys is fabulous, because it means your friend has a built-in source of free money. Confiscate toys left on her property, 30 days later the items are resold.
posted by aramaic at 2:22 PM on October 3, 2005

Check your local laws. That basketball hoop might just be illegal where it is located. In which case you know what to do.
posted by konolia at 2:24 PM on October 3, 2005

I'd definitely do the backing-into-the-driveway thing with that description. These kids lack decent supervision & discipline sufficient to overcome their genetic lack of a sense of self-preservation.

If she's got a homeowner's association she should check the bylaws - they often have language dealing with things like this, or your city may.
posted by phearlez at 2:37 PM on October 3, 2005

Leave a water sprinkler that goes off right in the middle of the game. Also, goes off before she backs out of the driveway.

Or take the damn toys and after the end of 30 days donate them to kids that will appreciate them.

In the sane world....The "move" says that you find this acceptable. Don't. Don't relent.

Call up the parent for your friend.
"Hi. It's your neighbor. We're having a problem with the kids and I'd like to stop this before it escalates. I don't want to be an asshole."

Seriously. Direct methods by people who are obviously avoiding the issue.

"I have two problems, one which is serious. The toys are ruining my friend's property which brings her pleasure. I don't want to be the badguy and confiscate your kids toys. Do you think you can, on a daily basis, make sure the toys are picked up. Additionally, each time that your kids do this, I'd like them to apologize. I'm sure you're great parents but it's clear that they're kids...and remember for a couple of days, then forget. If they have to apologize each time, they'll remember.

Second, one of your kids, has taken upon himself to terrorize her in by standing near my car when I back out, making it difficult for me to get to work/food shopping. I'm sure they think it's a game. I remember being that age....but it has to stop, and stop now.

I'm calling because I don't want this to escalate. Of course, if you have solutions, I'm open to hear it. What ideas do you have?"

So, review:
Mention that you'll find a way to escalate
Make it a "group" problem.
Indicate that this sort of behavior is unacceptable
posted by filmgeek at 3:17 PM on October 3, 2005

Careful! A war with the neighbors can escalate and make your whole damn life miserable. And I strongly disagree with the advice to find out what codes they are violating and drop a dime on them. That is chickenshit, and they will know who did it anyway.

I like the comments that combine buying off the kids with some pressure. Maybe hire one of the kids to do some yard work as part of the bribe. At the same time talk with the parents again ("You guys are such great neighbors! Just one little problem..."). At the same time, put a motion activated sprinkler out where it will keep the kids off the lawn (say it is for the dog). But do not start a war that has no end.
posted by LarryC at 3:56 PM on October 3, 2005 [1 favorite]

Talking to them has done what, now, exactly? Not much? You think that will change?

Fence, fence, fence, and fence. The neighbors getting offended... man, that's just laughable.

Your friend must NEVER back out of the driveway. There is precedent for the kids not moving. Someone will eventually get hit, and balls in the yard will be the least of your friend's problems at that point. Back into the garage, and drive frontwards out of the driveway.

This is the price of living in suburbia. There will be jackass kids and/or jackass parents (and/or jackass single people, old people, etc.) somewhere on every block. If there's a problem with living in someone else's lap, maybe suburbia is not where your friend should be living.
posted by sageleaf at 4:09 PM on October 3, 2005

Nuclear option: yell, at the top of your lungs (sorry, your 'friend's lungs'), call them 'stupid bastard cunts', 'retarded motherfuckers', that kind of thing. When parents come over, do same, only louder and more abrassive. Break some glass or ceramic objects. Explain that you will not be stopping the car when kids are in the way, etc. Curse, a lot, all the time, for no reason whatsoever.
Become the psychotic neighbor children are told to avoid.
posted by signal at 4:28 PM on October 3, 2005 [1 favorite]

And some of the toys are borrowed from nice neighbours' kids, so confiscation won't work in that case.

This strikes me as enabling. Moreover, if badkids leave borrowed toys, then badkid parents need to request them back (and apologize). Letting goodkids (and/or goodkid parents) have an easy out (direct retrieval) isn't going to solve the problem.

Parents won't try to control their kids unless the alternative (having to go to the store to buy new toys, having to deal with goodkid neighbors who want their loaned toys back, having to come over and apologize) is worse.
posted by WestCoaster at 4:45 PM on October 3, 2005

I think signal has struck on the exact reason I so rarely have trouble with neighborhood kids.
posted by adamrice at 4:47 PM on October 3, 2005 [1 favorite]

Bribing the kids sounds like a supremely dumb idea. Way to encourage antisocial behavior!

I'm in the take-the-toys-away, run-over-the-dumbass-kid-who-won't-get-out-of-the-way camp.

But then, I'm an asshole.
posted by ook at 5:48 PM on October 3, 2005

Yes, there is that.

Many of the answers here seem to forget that these are children we're dealing with. This is not anti-social behavior, but simply thoughtless behavior -- kids being... kids.

Someone has to be the adult.
If the children's parents don't choose to be adults, then the OP's friend is going to have to be an adult.

And adults deal with children kindly.
posted by Methylviolet at 5:58 PM on October 3, 2005

your friend might want to consider this from a liability perspective. if they're leaving their toys on her property, it means they're playing on her property. and if they get hurt, they sound like the kind of neighbors who would sue.
posted by clarahamster at 6:33 PM on October 3, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for all the thoughtful responses. Most helpful will probably be the following:
Muddgirl - excellent point about backing into the driveway from now on.
Methylviolet - I doubt my friend will go for befriending with Cokes as I suspect she may see it as rewarding bad behavior (bad behaviour meaning, she views the kids as not giving a damn because they've learned it's ok to be inconsiderate from their parents), but I may be wrong. At any rate your points have persuaded me that at least a one-time peacemaking / good faith gift of Cokes or whatever, to go with the laying-down-the-law conversation I'm going to recommend, would be a very good idea.
Consistent confiscation will probably appeal to my friend the most, especially in light of Desuetude's & WestCoaster's points about leverage potential of niceneighbors' toys. Even if it's not effective she'll at least get a small income from fencing or a rosy glow from knowing she's keeping underprivileged kids in her city flush with basketballs (thanks Aramaic and Filmgeek).
Clarahamster - thanks for mentioning liability, which never crossed my mind!
Konolia - I think looking up local laws is a great idea, to have info about potential penalties at hand for working into the kind of conversation that Filmgeek suggests - as concrete motivation for badparents to be better parents & neighbors. Filmgeek, thanks for laying out specific phrases (especially including positive reinforcement ones, which can be an effort to think up when dealing with assholes) & items to request that will help pin down neighbors' verbal commitment to shaping up.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:37 PM on October 3, 2005

In hopes that I'm not too late, I'd suggest a two-pronged approach:

• Possession is 9/10 etc.: Confiscate, as suggested above
• Let the market decide: Post large signs immediately after the confiscation, announcing a garage sale. If you want to appear nice rather than nasty, note that all proceeds go to _____________ (yr fave charity here).

Give the suckers a legal and a financial lesson for free.
posted by rob511 at 10:54 PM on October 3, 2005

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