Ask Shuli: Nice Neighbor or Wild Thing?

clean up time!Dear Shuli:
I have two children and live in the ‘burbs. We’re trying to get to know our new next-door neighbors, who have two children about the same age as ours. The only problem is, every time we get the kids together to play, I’m slightly dismayed at their oldest child’s wild behavior (she doesn’t go to preschool, as our oldest does). Should I worry about their kid influencing mine, or hope that mine provides the good influence?
– Neighbor Tsores
Dear Neighbor Tsores:
If you enjoy spending time with that whole neighbor family overall, what does one kid’s behavior matter? That is, as long as her parents aren’t letting her run around your house breaking things or drawing on the walls. How much tsores (trouble, distress) is the kid really giving you?
If mom and dad are standing idly by while their child behaves extremely poorly in your home, you should tell your neighbors that you expect better behavior from kids in your domain. Whether they’re Jewish or not, explain your standards of derech eretz at home. Tell them you love hanging out with them, but a romp around the backyard or trip together to the park (work out those wiggles!) might work better than containing the kids inside. Face it: preschoolers will be preschoolers.
My guess is that your well-behaved children (nu, really?) will influence their more unruly pal. If you’re concerned about your own children, explain in kid language that your little neighbor friend is still learning about manners and good choices, and your children can help set a good example. For example, sharing toys, saying “please” and “thank you,” and helping clean up. This is a big bugaboo at our house. I always expect young guests to help clean up toys when playtime wraps up, and we return the favor when we visit friends and neighbors. Children need to learn to treat their hosts with respect, even if it takes a long time to get this point across!
I do think it’s really important to nurture those neighbor relationships, especially at the end of a long winter— when everyone’s been cooped up indoors, and Minnesotans tend to hibernate and keep to themselves. Take a cue from “Sesame Street” and answer this question: Who are the people in your neighborhood? (Just try not to get this song stuck in your head.) So, they might have one wild child. Are YOU perfect?
Nu, readers? Do YOU have a question? Don’t be shy… Ask Shuli! Write to me at [email protected]