Dear Dr. Bill,
Our son is 6 years old, and recently he and the neighbor boy next door have been fighting a lot. He routinely comes over to our house without an invitation and gets mad if my son Jeremy can’t play with him. But if Jeremy tries to play with this boy and his friends, he’s often yelled at and rejected. The neighbor boy has already pushed my son off the bus and hit him with a plastic bat — and then lied about it. The last time the boys got into a fight, the father next door yelled at my son and told him to never come over again.
Since then we’ve kept our kids away from the neighbor’s yard, but their kids still come over to ours. This situation has really upset our family--what should we do?
The fact is you can choose your friends, but in most cases you can’t choose your neighbors. You want to get along with these folks, but their child’s behavior is negatively impacting Jeremy and you need to nip it in the bud.
I’d suggest you and your husband call the boy’s parents and tell them you’d like to sit down over coffee and discuss the recent conflict between your two boys.
Approach the conversation with gentleness and respect. Explain that there have been some recent incidents involving the boys that you are concerned about. Don’t make accusations, simply share your version of what has occurred. Then ask them for their perspective.
If they respond defensively and refuse to take responsibility for their son’s behavior, politely but firmly tell them that you don’t want their son coming over to your house anymore. Also, let them know that if their son acts aggressively toward Jeremy on the bus or at school, you will report the incident to the principal.
If you take this action, you’ll need to talk to Jeremy and let him know that you don’t want him playing with the neighbor boy anymore. Explain that some kids behave nicely, and some kids don’t, and that you think it would be better for him to spend time with some of his other friends.
Also tell him that if the boy is mean to him in any way, you want him to let you know right away.
Thanks for writing, Linda. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.