The summer of 1968, my parents were in the market for their first residence. At a neighborhood they enjoyed, they found two houses, side by side, up for sale. They decided about the one around the corner once they toured the two, and moved in a few weeks ahead of my older brother had been born. Three more of us followed in constant succession.
The men and women who purchased the house next door were an older couple. If you limit the definition of “good neighbors” to how they keep their homes, then the Lincolns were the best. They maintained their home and lawns immaculate, but they had been unfriendly. His constant expression was disapproval combined with suspicion, and that she always appeared to be discovering a bad odor.
My parents took care of our home and lawns, but in the front our lawn met theirs, and the line of demarcation was as obvious as if there was a fence. Second only to the care and keeping of his enormous Cadillac, lawn care was Mr. Lincoln’s life’s work. When a ball dropped across the property line, one of us would retrieve it, running like the grass had been lava.
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My sisters and I had been taught to be respectful of all our neighbors’ property and the neighbors themselves, but the Lincolns were a couple of curmudgeons, our mere presence was an affront. This sort of disdain wears on the mind. When we moved it had been such a relief to have acres of woods and fields to drift through and to be free of constant suspicion and disapproval.
Once I grew up and purchased a home of my own, I discovered we had the kindest neighbors on earth, but I tried to make sure my children weren’t wearing our neighbors out’ warmest welcome.
Here are my recommendations for helping your children learn how to be good neighbors.
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1. Establish boundaries and routines with your neighbors. This sounds obvious, but in the busyness of life, simple things could be forgotten or taken for granted. Ask your neighbors what they’d want your children to perform if a ball goes into their yard. May your kid walk into their yard and recover it, or would your neighbor favor a knock on the door? Are there any special concerns? Does your neighbor work at night, and would he enjoy right throughout the day outside his bedroom window ? Asking simple questions needs and respect your neighbor’s fantasies and will reveal you care about.
2. Teach your children boundaries. When they are quite young, explain where your property ends and where your neighbors properties’ start. Explain to your children what you and the neighbors discussed for anything or ball recovery. This is especially important if your neighbors have animals.
3. Explain borders that are figurative. Your child may be entirely on your own property but yelling his or her sweet head away. Although you may have the ability to tune this out completely, your neighbor cannot. Children should not need to skulk around whispering, but a basic understanding of other people’s needs will serve your kid forever.
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4. Do not cover it up. Accidents will happen. Teach your child what to do if things go wrong. Discuss through different situations: children are playing ball and inadvertently break a neighbor’s window. The urge would be to operate, but that’s no solution. Help children decide how to find and request help when they are scared and many tempted to make a terrible situation worse.
5. Teach your children to look for opportunities to help and serve. Is a neighbor struggling to carry in a carload of groceries? A simple, “May I give you a hand?” A neighbor’s day, could earn and give your child the opportunity to experience the fantastic feeling that comes from helping others.
6. Ask for feedback. Keep an open conversation with your neighbors. Most individuals won’t rat out your kid to being a pest, but if you check in and ask how things are going, your neighbor may feel freer to express an annoyance that’s easily corrected.
Being a fantastic neighbor while still young can allow your child find his or her place in the world.
Your turn: How have you taught your kid to be a fantastic neighbor?