What Happens When Happy Free-Range Kids are Also Rude and Loud?

Here’s ibfdyrdysn
a letter that had me wondering what to do, too:
Dear Free-Range Kids: Curious as to how to best handle this. I have no children of my own, but I do have three dogs. My neighbors (row house neighborhood), let their three young children out to play alone, regularly. This is AWESOME. Kids need a little independence these days.
But here’s where the issue comes in. They have also allowed all of the other neighborhood children into their yard. So, what’s going on is their children are outside unsupervised, and then the number of children grow, sometimes over 10 kids, as young as four or five. The issue I have is that none of the parents are around, and I have had multiple issues with children coming onto my property without permission, tormenting and trying to scare (promptly followed by trying to pet) my dogs.
When we first moved in, we told them that if our yard was empty they (specifically the neighbors’ kids) could retrieve lost toys. Then the parents decided our dogs were threats to their children, and called animal control, even though no child has ever been bitten. Yet still, the parents have allowed their kids to come into our yard. Guess I figured that if my dogs are a threat, they would assume not to come onto my property.
But, they also instead of using a gate, have been seen climbing my fence. I have visions of someone breaking a wrist, or leg, and me getting sued. The children have also been outside, on temperate mornings when windows are open, even earlier than 9 am, and have woken up myself and my fiancé (who works the overnight shift). I asked the kids to watch their volume as people were still sleeping but did not tell them to go inside.
The other neighborhood children are also present on their property whether or not the homeowners are at home. I have no idea who the parents of the other kids are, because I’ve never seen them. I wrote a message to my neighbors, explaining my issues, and why. They told me we were unreasonable, exaggerating, and needed to believe in “community living”.
Any advice would be great.
My only advice is to let the neighbors know how much you believe in kids being outside and having fun, and that with freedom comes responsibility: The responsibility to not enter other people’s yards, and the responsibility to not make too much noise during normal sleeping hours.
You might back this up with a plate of cookies or something to show no hard feelings. It’s always easier to get people to agree if they feel you are all on the same side, and truly want a solution that works for everyone.
I’d add the Free-Range Kids never endorses trespassing or negligence. Kids at a park are one thing — that is public space. In fact, that’s why there ARE parks: As gathering places for boisterous kids. But if there is regularly a group next door that is large and loud, with kids under age 5 and no adult even inside to whom you can appeal for consideration, that seems less Free-Range than unneighborly. The only option is to try to create community.
One summer when our kids were very young, we lived near a lady whom we called (not to her face) the “witch.” She hated having kids playing near her home, and even yelled at them. I wish I could remember how things changed. Maybe she mellowed, maybe our kids did, or maybe we did. Anyway, we’ve been summer neighbors for 15 years, and now she is beloved. So have heart: Things CAN change. – L.




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51 Responses to What Happens When Happy Free-Range Kids are Also Rude and Loud?

  1. Ann in L.A. May 10, 2016 at 10:55 am #

    Our neighbor’s kids are sometimes up, outside, and screaming by 6:30AM on weekends. My kid sleeps with her windows closed all year so that they can’t wake her up.

  2. bob magee May 10, 2016 at 11:47 am #

    rude behavior is rude behavior.

    parents do not seem inclined to reign in the kids as they 1st deny the issues, then cite “community living” as justification for kids unruly behavior.

    I would raise a stink every time they come in my yard or pester my dogs.

    I would remind them about “community living”

  3. Jetsanna May 10, 2016 at 11:49 am #

    We moved into this house around 25 years ago. At the time there was a vacant lot next door. It was our first weekend in the house and we were exhausted from working, moving and planning our wedding. We were looking forward to seriously sleeping in on Saturday morning. It was a beautiful night at the end of May, so we left the windows open.

    8AM in the morning, we hear a shrill voice scream, “EVERYBODY PITCHES!” Yes, the vacant lot next door was host to frequent early morning baseball games. Sometimes even during the week before school. So we bought an air conditioner.

  4. Christopher Byrne May 10, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

    We had a guy in our neighborhood who used to shoot rock salt out of an air rifle at kids who ran through his yard. It was worth the risk since it was the fastest way to the playground on the other side. It became a game of cat-and-mouse. Our parents’ response was, “that’s you get for trespassing.” Stung a little if you got hit, which was seldom. Air rifles are not made for shooting rock salt. Can’t imagine that happening today, somehow.

  5. Lihtox May 10, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

    First off, I agree that the parents are at fault for not enforcing better manners from their children.
    That said, you might try befriending the kids and appealing to their sense of fairness, perhaps with a little light bribery (cookies, money for odd jobs, etc). If they get to know you as a person, they may have more respect for your property and your rules.

  6. Vicki Bradley May 10, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    Jetsanna, you sound like a very reasonable person, and kudos for finding a solution that worked for everyone, without causing any issues. I love seeing kids outside playing games that they’ve organized themselves, so I was glad to read that you didn’t try to stop them from doing this.

  7. lollipoplover May 10, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    “The issue I have is that none of the parents are around, and I have had multiple issues with children coming onto my property without permission, tormenting and trying to scare (promptly followed by trying to pet) my dogs.”

    This isn’t a free range kids issue, kids have a right to play outdoors but…no child should be taunting dogs behind a fence.


    Personally, I would video tape one of these *visits* and show it to the parents, genuinely concerned for their safety (and your dogs!). Dog bites ARE a serious safety concern and no pet owner should put up with this behavior. They start taunting dogs, they move to humans, and we wonder why bullying, domestic violence and child abuse occur at alarming rates.

    Free Range parents or dog lover, abusing animals (and humans) in any form is never to be tolerated. Good communities should look out for all of their members, 2 legged or 4 legged. Good luck. They sound like absolutely rotten children.

  8. BL May 10, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

    These days rude loud adults are at least 10 times more likely than rude loud kids.

  9. sigh May 10, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

    My guess is these parents want EASE. They called Animal Control in the hopes that your dogs would be removed; that way, the area would be “safe” for their unsupervised kids, kids they are quite happy to let outside, out of the house, out of their view, out of their hair.

    It was the same in my day, minus the parents trying to erase the dogs from the neighbourhood, an we were absolutely versed in what was “considerate” and “inconsiderate.” And if we did something that bugged another adult in the neighbourhood, that adult gave us feedback, and we listened, and modified our behaviour. If we didn’t, our parents heard about it, and after that we DEFINITELY modified our behaviour.

    Consideration for others is a huge part of “community living.” For heaven’s sake, just because you want the ease of allowing your kids to “be kids” outdoors doesn’t mean that all your neighbours have to tolerate every behaviour your kids dish out. In fact, it’s antithetical to positive community-building and trust-building to ignore or minimize someone’s concerns about your kids’ behaviour and how affects you and your property.

    Plate of cookies? Not so much. I’d name their need for ease, and say yes, you support that, and you’d like ease too. You don’t require the kids to be supervised outdoors, but you do expect your dogs to be left alone and your property to be respected! (And reasonable hours between which loud, sudden noises occur.)

    Again, these parents don’t want to micromanage their kids. So they send them outside. Fair enough. But then you have to CARE what your kids get up to and how they affect others. Teaching kids boundaries and consideration is imperative, if you are to enjoy ease. No one wants to spring a kid from lockup! That’s not easy!

  10. Suze May 10, 2016 at 12:33 pm #

    I always raised my son as I was raised. Unless you play with a kid in that house and that kid is HOME, you have zero business being in their yard or anyone else’s in the neighbourhood unless you need to retrieve a stray ball, pet etc. Great these kids all like to play together but we are Free Range Parents and not irresponsible ones; letting kids as little as 4 go unsupervised (can’t a parent in that house keep a half an eye out during these play times?) so as they are doing things they shouldn’t isn’t the point. I also agree with the ‘rude is rude’ statement. But, from some of the younger parents in my neighbourhood, they seem to have the opinion that their little snowflakes can play wherever they please which I have put a stop to. My front yard is not their playground and I’ve told them as such. I have no issues in general with our younger neighbourhood children but from what I see, they aren’t being taught to play in their own yard or friends but feel everyone’s yard is fair game. No, it isn’t. Same goes with this lot in the article.

  11. JJ May 10, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    “They sound like absolutely rotten children.”

    I agree taunting animals is something to take very seriously. But to me these kids are not so much “rotten” as in need of guidance from parents or some kind of responsible adult.

  12. Kerry May 10, 2016 at 12:38 pm #

    I would try addressing it with the kids directly since the parents don’t seem to be doing so. My son brings home neighborhood kids all the time (most of whose parents I know well, but some I don’t). If an issue comes up I address it with the kid directly as I would with my son and set down the rules for my house – slightly different scenario but if they’re on your property you should be free to make the rules. It may take some patience but if you get a few of the kids to behave they may well police the others themselves.

  13. andy May 10, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

    I think that the only solution is to tell kids not to climb over the fence to your yard and not to be mean to dog – repeatedly and in authority voice. Unfortunately I would not expect then to learn it on first time.

    I would not bring cookies “to show no hard feelings” through. I would be fine with them thinking I am angry when someone mistreat my dog. In fact, I am angry in that situation.

  14. Roger the Shrubber May 10, 2016 at 12:54 pm #

    Buy them an Xbox.

  15. Mark Davis May 10, 2016 at 1:01 pm #

    I don’t think either side is blameless here. Certainly the kids need to respect the neighbors and their property, and the OP is right to object about that. Probably meeting face-to-face with the parents to talk things out is a good start. And the parents should not have called animal control without first trying to resolve the issue with the OP.

    OTOH, the OP seems to think that kids should not make too much noise before 9am? That is unreasonable. Most cities have an ordinance of some kind about quiet hours, but they sure don’t go as late as 9am. If you work the night shift and need quiet in order to sleep during the day, you need to own that yourself, and there are many ways to manage the noise inside your house regardless of how loud it is outside (e.g. we live pretty close to a freeway but we have two sets of dual-pane windows on the freeway side of the house, and it’s dead quiet inside).

  16. Vaugvhan Evans May 10, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

    Why have children’s informal games disappeared?
    A cross old lady might exclaim that children are “rowdy.”\
    What does “rowdy” mean-in a legal context?
    -If I were to exclaim “re Rover. Red Rover, call Judy ove? am I being rowdy/
    I am being whole-hearted and joyful.
    It seems that the SAME old women, you enjoyed playing Red Rover when THEY were children-did no have cross old people claiming about noise-are the SAME ones-who exclaim that children are rowdy.

    People seem to have lost the ability to enjoy simple pleasures-like the rhythmic clack that skipping ropes make on sidewalks.
    ALSO: Whatever happened o singing?
    In my city, the School Board is having a $24 million budget cut-outdoor programs, and music programs are threatened
    -But why do school have to do the job?
    -We hire highly qualified coaches, teachers to teach activities that children used to learn informally from their parents or peers.
    Mothers(and other girls)often taught younger girls to play with skipping ropes.
    Fathers(and older boys)helped younger boys learn baseball and football skills.
    My father got his outdoor education-from hiking in the woods-and along the streams-in his North Vancouver home.
    (Even today, North Vancouver has many hiking trails in wooded parks.
    Greater Vancouver has 600,0000 in Vancouver City and about 2,000,000 in the Metropolitan area and about 250,000 in the Lower Fraser Valley.
    The Coast Mountains are just north of the North Shore of Burrard Inlet-and the north side of the Lower Fraser Valley.
    I would like to start a program called “The Canadian Skipping Dancers.
    We would combine rope skipping, singing and dancing.
    I belong to the Vancouver Folk Song Society. Canada has as rich a repertoire of folk songs-many of them have lyrics in both of Canada’s official languages.
    Canada also has as rich a repertoire of folk songs in the French language.(French Canadians were(and are)a very joyful musical people-who love to sing and dance.)\
    Do you know what a skippingdance is?
    It is an activity-which combines rope jumping, singing and dancing.
    I have been trying to tell people that today’s people often have to choose between food and rent.
    There are are a number of reasons for this:
    -We have moved from an industrial economy to a tertiary(information based economy.)
    A higher percentage of jobs are in the serviced industries-where the wages are low o moderate-at best-hardly enough to support even a single person-at a time of high taxes-and high living costs.
    –High paying jobs in the trades still exist-but they are not steady. People with high hourly wages often have low yearly income-because the work is seasonal or subject to fluctuations.
    -Many people do contract work or part-time work. This is so that department stores do not have to pay benefits-such as dental plans.
    -The feminist mothers are making the same mistakes-that the macho fathers and mothers did(who raised me) I am 67. The adults who had few opportunities during the 1930’s and during World War Ii wan the children to have everything they missed.
    My mother(who enjoyed a large variety of things-as a youth-waned me to specialize in one sport-to get good at it-to improve my ability to et along with other boys.

    My mother was not a good athlete-but she played for fun(Her best friends was her kid brother.
    Similarly the women who were treated condescendingly as girls-want to OVER compensate.
    They give their daughters every opportunity under the sub.
    THE RESULT: Young adolescent girls who are no only bullying other girls-but murdering other girls
    (in Victoria(a city near Vancouver)one 12 year old girl named Reena Virk was murdered by other girls.

  17. Ron Skurat May 10, 2016 at 1:43 pm #

    Just make sure your homeowners’ liability is substantial, I very much doubt “community living” extends to broken collar bones. Also, if they can’t control their kids you have no obligation to control your dogs.

  18. lollipoplover May 10, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

    Agreed. But it makes me think of the quote by Margaret Mead:
    “One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.”

    As for their behaviors, yes, I do think they are rotten and children need guidance from adults as well as established BOUNDARIES. You don’t have to become the “Get Off My Lawn” neighbor, but you also shouldn’t accept kids taunting and abusing your pets on your property. This is completely unacceptable behavior in ANY neighborhood. Tell the parents and talk to the kids- it sounds like he wrote a letter and they already blew it off.

    I consider my kids to be free range, but I am raising them to be respectful and considerate of other people’s property and need for peace, especially if they pointed out they work night shift and are resting. Asking kids to be aware of noise levels isn’t unreasonable. Our elderly neighbor is going through grueling chemo treatments and we know she sleeps in…so I am extra careful of my dog’s barking and what my kids are doing outside in the morning and even when my husband mows the lawn. A little consideration isn’t unreasonable.

  19. EricS May 10, 2016 at 2:04 pm #

    Well, for one thing, that isn’t exactly “Free-Range”, that sounds like the parents just let their kids do whatever they want without discipline. People need to remember, DISCIPLINE, RESPECT, and COURTESY are all part of “Free-Range” upbringing.

    As Lenore suggested, have a chat with the parents. Explain to them your views and concerns. And if the kids still invade your privacy, and trespass (including climbing your fence), be stern, firm, and authoritative to the kids. If the parents aren’t teaching their kids discipline, do it for them for yourself. No one wants to be the “bad neighbor”, but if people start taking advantage of you, it’s time to put your foot down. Your not the one being a bad neighbor, so don’t feel guilty for sticking to your guns. They will get the point eventually. You may lose a neighbor “friend”. But then again, do you want to be friends with ignorant people who don’t respect you and yours?

    As for the noise, well, that’s pretty much a write off. If they are making noise outside and in their own property during the day, there’s really not much you can do about it. Maybe buy your finance one of those noise cancelling ear plugs. That’s one of the things I looked for when moving into my house. How were the neighbors, how were their kids (if they had any). If they had a habit of throwing a lot of parties, or letting their kids run amok (which this sounds like), and no discipline, I wouldn’t move in. Even if the price was great. The stress of dealing with bad neighbors isn’t worth the deal you get on the house. And that “deal” may be for a good reason. 😉

    Good luck. I used to have bad neighbors. I know how it feels. But I spoke up. It didn’t fix it, but it did make it better. Then we finally moved. Our first place got small anyway.

  20. Marie May 10, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

    The kids probably do not see it as taunting the dogs. They see it as “getting the dog to play.”

    My suggestion is to keep a stack of six big bags of mulch near the back door. Engage with the kids every time they come over the fence. First, Call your dogs inside and tell the kid you need someone with muscles to help you for a minute. Have him drag a bag of mulch to the front door. Ask him to decide the best place to put it. If he/she is the chatty type, ask him to move another bag for you. Talk to the kid. Get a bottle of cold water for him as a thank you. Tomorrow, do the same. Maybe the same kid, maybe not.

    Keep a big bucket handy so you can ask for help carrying a full bucket of water. Have them move the mulch to the back. Ask them to plant some beans or carrots or flowers with you.

    Engage with the kids. Talk about the news or the books they are reading. Ask them to recommend a movie.

    You may not like them at first and it may be more trouble than it seems worth. The payoff is huge, though. They are sentient beings and not just a pack of animals. They won’t always be this age.

  21. Marie May 10, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

    A four-year-old playing with a bunch of kids is not unsupervised.

  22. James Pollock May 10, 2016 at 2:59 pm #

    I’d suggest recording as many incidents as possible.

    It’s often true that parents have no idea what kids are up to when not being watched by parents… the parents may have one idea of what is happening, and be reacting defensively to an accusation by reflex. But if you get video of kids climbing over the fence to taunt the dog, it’s kind of hard to argue that this is somehow part of “community living”.

    It’s also true that showing the videos to a third party might produce feedback that, yeah, the letter-writer is overreacting to kids. (Possibly because of having the authorities called on their dogs.)

    Reducing the “he said, they said” to “let’s go to the video” should be helpful.

  23. BL May 10, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

    @Vaughan Evans
    “(in Victoria(a city near Vancouver)one 12 year old girl named Reena Virk was murdered by other girls.”

    When you quote one incident that happened 20 years ago, it’s not very convincing evidence of a trend.

  24. lollipoplover May 10, 2016 at 4:44 pm #

    “The kids probably do not see it as taunting the dogs. They see it as “getting the dog to play.”

    Yeah, no.
    Dogs will become territorial and protective when treated like this which is probably why animal control was called when the source of the problem is the children, not the dogs. I don’t care what they see it as. It’s wrong.

    Please get to know the kids and educate them on the proper way to approach animals. Establish “House Rules” and I would put an end to entering your yard, especially if they are not using the gate, as you’ve asked them to do.

    There always seems to be that house where the kids will congregate and meet. In our neighborhood, it is usually ours, so I am wanting to defend this group gathering and these kids…but I can’t. We get quite a few kids here and some even have younger siblings that they watch over. The young ones are usually not the problem. In the 15 years we’ve lived here, I’ve only had to kick one boy off our property. He was throwing large rocks at my daughter and didn’t seem to care if he hurt her. I asked to talk to his mom. She said, “He would NEVER do that” when I had at least 3 eye witnesses, so clearly, he did. So he’s no longer is welcome on my property. He continually defied the boundaries I set, I addressed it with a parent, and nothing changed. I am a good neighbor, but I don’t have to put up with this.

  25. TeacherJR May 10, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

    I’m a dog lover too, and a homeowner, and these neighbors have me very worried. The fact that they immediately tried to call Animal Control on your dogs tells me they have no love for you or your pets, and also have no problem immediately jumping to the nuclear option when something isn’t to their liking.

    Here’s something scary to consider: In many states, YOU are liable if your dogs injure a person who is on your property. Generally, the only exceptions are if the victim is trespassing on your property, or if the victim clearly provoked the dog. And depending on your state, the injury doesn’t have to even be a bite – it could be a scratch from a doggy toenail, or even bruises from getting knocked down through excess doggy enthusiasm.

    Since you’ve given the kids permission to enter your yard, AND the kids have a track record of harassing your dogs, the “injury” scenario is very possible. Those parents would try to have your dogs removed so fast you wouldn’t even get to say goodbye, and would probably make an expensive claim against your homeowner’s insurance for good measure.

    For your safety, and that of your dogs, FORBID the children from entering your yard. Do it in front of their parents and get it on camera or in writing – maybe even through certified mail. No more getting their own balls or frisbees – they either come to the front door and ask you to retrieve it, or it’s lost forever. Keep the gate locked and post no-trespassing signs. Then, set up a motion-detecting camera to record any instances of trespassing that continue to occur. I know this sounds like a nuclear option in its own right, but video evidence and a paper trail may be all that’s between you and some serious legal pain.


  26. SKL May 10, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

    I would say just go tell the kids to stay out of your yard. If they are independent enough to play without direct supervision, they can take that kind of instruction.

    It’s none of the neighbor’s business if the kids are just playing in the neighborhood. I fail to see the problem.

    Also, how would you know if the parents are watching from their windows or not? Where I sit and work, I can see the whole block from my window. I would assume parents are looking out periodically while they do their housework or whatever. Do they not have windows?

    When I was a kid, parents never played outside with kids past about age 2.5, but my parents magically knew what I was up to most of the time. 😛

  27. SKL May 10, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

    We used to have a few old neighbors who complained about our noise and stuff when we were kids. We just blew them off. Once or twice we did something loud just to annoy them, but mostly we just ignored them.

  28. delurking May 10, 2016 at 5:17 pm #

    It is hard to complain about kids playing outside during the day, and 9:00 am is pretty well into the day for kids who are used to waking up at 6:00. Plenty of kids wake up at 6:00, including one of mine

    On the other hand, no one who calls animal control over a neighbor’s fenced-in dogs can reasonably turn around and tell that neighbor to believe more in “community living”.

    So, my advice would be to get used to the morning playtime, but stand firm on kids not being allowed to climb your fence or torment your dogs. A real issue, since we only have one side of the story, is whether or not the children are actually aiming to torment or scare the dogs, or if the writer’s perceptions are biased by the animal control incident.

  29. Donald May 10, 2016 at 5:28 pm #

    This is a major problem. I’m not kidding. Social skills as well as the knowledge of how to act in a community has faded over the last 30 years. This problem works in both directions. Each direction feeds on the other until we have a ‘chicken and the egg’ circular argument. In this example above we see problems. A few letters back we saw other problems of a different kind but still coming from the same source. (lack of social skills)

    Overprotection, litigation, and fear hysteria, has made it so that children don’t develop social skill. Self esteem development has also taken a hit and was replaced with parent assisted esteem. This is a HUGE breeding ground for people that appear to be creeps as well as genuine creeps. Rude behaviour is another outcome. We saw how a man asked two girls if they were selling girl scout cookies. When the reply was no, he drove off. However that wasn’t the end of the story. People went berserk.

  30. Cassie May 10, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

    Some of that story could have been about my house.

    The kids gravitate to our yard. One day a few weeks ago I had 11 kids in the backyard!!

    One other day a few weeks ago I heard my neighbour outside chastising two of the kids in the yard (my 6yo and a neighbouring 7yo), he told them to go and get me. I found out they had been throwing oranges (pulled from our tree) and garlic (that I had sitting ready to plant) over the fence. One orange had hit a vehicle.

    I asked them what they ‘thought’ they were doing, and the truth was an innocent game, but a big brainfar on their part. They knew much better (taking unripe oranges from the tree is not okay, neither is taking my gardening seeds, or annoying the neighbours).

    I gave them both a good revving, and then marched them all over to the neighbour to properly apologise, then I had them clean it all up while I revved them a bit more. They were lucky that the orange that hit the vehicle did zero damage.

    Basically I was a parent, and I made sure the neighbour saw that I was a parent.

    It must have worked, a week later when the neighbour had his own grandkids visit he sent them to our yard to play with the kids.

  31. J May 10, 2016 at 5:51 pm #

    Start with formally revoking their permission to be in the yard before one of the kids is or claims to be hurt by your dogs and animal control comes knocking. Or, they injure one of your dogs. Tell the parents that their kids can no longer come into your yard for any reason (and that you’ll return any stray toys to them), and tell the kids, too. Put up no trespassing signs. It’s great that these kids have free play, but their rights do not have to extend to your property.

  32. Anna May 10, 2016 at 7:22 pm #

    So if the idea of “free-ranging” is such a throw-back to the fifties, maybe look back to the fifties for your response as well. At least based on the fifties kiddie-lit I read in my childhood, this sort of behavior was not acceptable to parents back then. The norm was that other responsible adults could also weigh in and the parents were expected to agree with them and teach the kids what’s what. Not that this really gives you a suggested course of action… sorry….

  33. James Pollock May 10, 2016 at 7:43 pm #

    “Also, how would you know if the parents are watching from their windows or not?”

    Presumably, from seeing something that they didn’t feel should be happening, deciding to go talk to the parents about it, and finding out they’re not home.

  34. Cassie May 10, 2016 at 8:27 pm #


    I agree. I have no problem with any of my neighbours chastising my children if they do the wrong thing (e.g. my previous comment).

  35. Yocheved May 10, 2016 at 9:23 pm #

    I suggest you find out exactly how tall you are allowed to build fences in your zoning area, and then get permission to add an extra 2 feet of lattice on top “for the children’s safety”, of course. 😉

    Set up a security camera that turns on when movement is detected whenever the little darlings are out and about.

    If that doesn’t work, I would move. I do not put up with kids “free ranging” on my property, and if I caught one of them even looking sideways at my dogs, they’d be in a world of trouble.

    Free ranging is a privilege, not a right!

  36. lollipoplover May 10, 2016 at 9:41 pm #

    Planting poison ivy along the fence line would deter those who trespass

  37. elysium May 10, 2016 at 9:56 pm #

    I have to agree with others that the kids on your property are a liability if one of your dogs injures a child. You should definitely tell them and tell the parents that they do not have permission to go onto your property for any reason. As far as the noise, you may have to let that one go. But I’m worried about the kids on your property. These neighbors sound like a real peach. :-/

  38. Jane May 11, 2016 at 12:55 am #

    Free Range doesn’t mean feral. I would put a “beware of dog” sign on my fence, ensure it’s sturdy (hopefully 6′ tall) and in good repair, with padlocks on gates so there are no escapees and kids can’t get in or let dogs out. And of course pups are fixed and current on rabies vaccinations. A security camera is a good option if something does happen so it can’t be he said, she said.

    Animal Control has to answer calls for service but when they show up and see dog owners are doing everything humanly possible there isn’t anything they can do. I had neighbors who seemed to have them on speed dial because their kids were scared of all animals but finally gave up when she got no joy.

    And I’d there’s any way to fence the front yard I would do that too – with a no trespassing sign.

    Oh, and as a former third shift worker a box fan or similar is great at filtering noise and make it easy to sleep.

  39. Elin May 11, 2016 at 4:24 am #

    I would be furious if I found out my child had harmed or annoyed an animal of any kind while being outside. Being respectful to animals in particular dogs is extremely important to me. My daughter has been taught that you never touch a dog that you don’t know well without first asking the owner for permission and instructions on how the dog likes to be petted. If no owner is within sight the dog is off limits. If you think a dog is cute you can wave to it and say hi but we do not touch it. I have had dog owners who have almost wanted to hug me for being such a responsible parent but to me it is just common sense and respect for the dog because who likes to be constantly touched by strangers?

    Free range parenting is in some ways easy but in some ways not. It does require active parenting and preparation for handling the world but once you have reached a certain level you will also have a child that can make assessments and decisions on their own. Just opening the door and let them run free is not responsible parenting (although some kids will naturally behave well regardless of what you do). Once the child is let out for the first time that child need to be ready. My soon to be 4 year old is starting to ask me to let her play outside without me and we will soon have a test run where I will sit on the balcony and she will go down herself to play but know she can call for me anytime. I that works out she will be able to play outside on her own perhaps by this autumn.

  40. Donna May 11, 2016 at 7:51 am #

    I would immediately tell your neighbors, in writing if you wish, that their children are no longer allowed in your yard at any time. I am not sure why you ever allowed this to begin with. If you see kids in your yard, tell them they are not allowed there and send them out. If that doesn’t stop them, I would install a privacy fence, at least on that side of your property.

    As for the other things, such is life. 9am is not an unreasonable time to make noise and it is none of your business what is happening in your neighbor’s yard unless it enters your property (eg kids are throwing rocks through your fence at your dogs). The number of kids playing there is outside your control. You can inform the neighbors that kids are playing in their yard when they are not home, but you can’t force them to stop this if they don’t care. You can try to make friends with the neighbors so that they may want to make friendly concessions, but that is all you can do.

  41. Donna May 11, 2016 at 8:42 am #

    Also, I would not assume that the kids are psychopaths out to intentionally hurt your dogs as many here have. It is far, far more likely that they want to play with the dogs, but have no idea how. It doesn’t appear that their parents care much for dogs (people who like dogs don’t generally call animal control unless absolutely necessary), so it is very possible that these kids have had limited interactions with dogs. Spending time teaching them what dogs like and how to interact with them might save your dogs a lot of misery as time goes on. I’d the kids aren’t receptive and really are just bad seeds, install a privacy fence to protect your dogs.

  42. CrazyCatLady May 11, 2016 at 9:28 am #

    I think that I would revoke the “go get your things” permission. I would do this in front of the parents, or explain to them at a different time. The kids cannot use the gate, they are not being responsible, they can wait until you get home. Do not post a “beware of dog” sign unless your insurance agrees. Often that is considered by insurance as acknowledgement that you have dangerous dogs. Look up the quiet hours for your town. You might feel better knowing that the neighbor on the other side is allowed to mow their lawn at the same time that the kids are playing.

  43. lollipoplover May 11, 2016 at 10:27 am #


    I also wouldn’t assume that neighbors who call animal control (like calling CPS on your pets) then talks about *community living* when concerns are expressed would be super receptive to the How to Interact Properly with Dogs lecture. Some dogs scare people and have bad reputations…kind of like the sight of kids playing outside without an adult scares people to call 911 immediately. Look at the crapstorm over this stupid sign:


    How about a visit from an ASPCA volunteer or police to proactively teach them not to taunt dogs and how to avoid a dog bite, never to run from a charging dog, etc.? No one wants to see either the kids or the dogs get hurt. Yet behaviors that parents don’t address or feel are *exaggerated* under the “community living” pretense can lead to serious accidents that ARE in fact preventable. Look up dog bites and their prevalence among children. I can only imagine how traumatizing it would be to be bitten by a dog. Kids need tools and knowledge to read and interact with animals. It’s not acceptable to say, “Oh, they really just wanted to play with the dogs” just like a young girl that gets hit by a classmate is told, “It’s only because he likes you”.

  44. Donna May 11, 2016 at 11:22 am #

    “I also wouldn’t assume that neighbors who call animal control (like calling CPS on your pets) then talks about *community living* when concerns are expressed would be super receptive to the How to Interact Properly with Dogs lecture.”

    I wasn’t talking about giving anyone a lecture or dealing with the adults at all. The kids seem to be expressing interest in the dogs, so she should take the time to SHOW the kids how to properly interact with the dogs. It isn’t difficult if the dogs are friendly (if they are not, then most likely the letter writer’s dogs are part of the problem here) and the kids aren’t complete undisciplined brats.

    “How about a visit from an ASPCA volunteer or police to proactively teach them not to taunt dogs and how to avoid a dog bite, never to run from a charging dog, etc.?”

    I can’t imagine that anyone here would be more receptive to a lecture from the ASPCA or police, but if the dogs are unfriendly or the letter writer is unwilling to engage the kids, that would be the next best choice.

  45. marie May 11, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Spending time teaching them what dogs like and how to interact with them might save your dogs a lot of misery as time goes on.


    Sometimes to get good neighbors, you have to be a good neighbor. Teaching the kids what you want from them, whether it is how to treat your dogs or how to be friendly, is being a good neighbor. As I said before, these kids will grow up and their behavior will change. Maybe better, maybe worse…and maybe all in the same day. They are kids.

    Of course, sometimes you just need a better fence.

  46. lollipoplover May 11, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

    I guess we can differ on what you call “kids expressing an interest in dogs”. Honestly, all of the complaints from this OP about the neighborhood kids (size, noise, no parents) are really no big deal. The deal breaker is how they are treating the dogs. Yes, they need to be spoken with and taught because this IS a very real risk, unlike breaking an ankle in a fence, which I don’t even consider a real risk.

    On dogs and kids:

    “Approximately 1/2 of all children in the U.S. are bitten by a dog before they hit the teenage years. In many cases, teasing or an unintentional provocation, such as approaching a dog while its eating or sleeping, can lead to a dog bite or even worse, an attack. The vast majority of dog bites are from a dog that the child is acquainted with – his or her own, a neighbor’s, or a friend’s dog. Seventy nine percent of all fatal dog attacks are on children.”

    So that’s why I think that this is a big deal, not that these young, learning kids are psychopaths. I know they are “just kids being kids” yet I’ve also fostered dogs and have seen what abuse and cruelty do to dogs. It’s a learned behavior. It can and will can harm kids if not addressed. He should talk to these kids to teach them how to be around dogs, right from wrong. We are doing our kids no favors- SEVENTY NINE PERCENT of FATAL dog attacks are on CHILDREN- by not correcting a wrong behavior.
    That was my point.

  47. acm May 11, 2016 at 1:37 pm #

    I also think that the Scary Neighbor is a fixture of many a free-range childhood of yore. Kids can learn to be polite to or careful around some people (if not all people), in the same way they can code-switch between their friends and their teachers. Another life skill. Let them get in trouble occasionally.

  48. Donna May 11, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

    “The deal breaker is how they are treating the dogs.”

    We don’t actually know how they are treating the dogs. The writer didn’t give any examples of what their behavior is, just that she views it as “tormenting” and “scaring.” My kid scares our dogs, particularly the timid puppy, sometimes by just being a kid. She doesn’t mean to scare them and is not doing anything any other kid doesn’t do, but the dogs, particularly the baby, don’t always understand what is happening because they have brains the size of a small strawberry. And torment is a pretty open word. I accuse my kid of tormenting the dogs all the time (use that exact word) when all she is doing is sitting on the couch eating a snack, but they really want a bite and she isn’t sharing. I find many people are as helicopter about their dogs as some people are about their kids so I am not going to say that the kids are being abusive and cruel without direct examples of abusive and cruel behavior. It is clearly behavior that the owners don’t like so they need to take the initiative to make it stop, but I am not going to say it is abusive or cruel or even anything other than normal kid behavior.

    The most likely scenario as to what is happening based on what little is written is that the kids come into the yard to retrieve a toy (maybe not seeing the dogs initially and maybe knowing the dogs are there), the dogs run toward the kids, likely barking, (as dogs will do when someone comes into their yard), the kids get scared and react which results in scaring the dogs, intentionally or unintentionally. This is inappropriate, but is not either cruel or abusive. It will also end by stopping the kids from coming into the yard unless the owners are home and give them permission to enter.

    However, I do worry about the kids viewing the dogs as mean, which could result in negative behavior towards the dogs, and think that letting the kids and dogs get to know each other and become friends is a good idea.

  49. Steve May 11, 2016 at 4:36 pm #

    Ah, kids and dogs.

    Back in Mongolia I used to walk to the supermarket sometimes with our 7 year old neighbor girl. Along the way there was a place where there were some cute puppies. My first thought was ‘cute puppies’ and that the girl would like them. No. Her first response to seeing puppies was to run up and kick them.

    I learned that this was actually probably a good thing. There are quite a lot of stray dogs in Ulaanbaatar and they are not at all threatening to people. They don’t attack people, they stay away from people; probably because they are conditioned from puppyhood to see humans, even little girls, as ‘the boss’. She was just asserting herself over the dogs, essentially for her own protection.

  50. NY Mom May 11, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

    If the kids come in the yard, start asking where they live and their names. Be kind. Be friendly. Be be prepared to introduce yourself and your dogs. Do you take the dogs for walks in the neighborhood? You’ll see the kids and where they live. Sooner or later you’ll start connecting kids with parents and domiciles and then the fun begins! Conversations!
    Be patient. You can become a positive force for good in the community.

  51. JP Merzetti May 12, 2016 at 1:18 am #

    Free range is freedom….not license to torment, terrorize or otherwise become public nuisances. The elephant missing in this picture is direct involvement by the other parents in ensuring that their children don’t go beyond neighborly good manners.
    Perhaps, ironically – this is a good example of a situation where a little bit of adult supervision (at least at first, or once in awhile) would have a positive outcome all around.

    And complete and total for shame – that parents of young children would not take the matter in hand and teach them proper behavior around dogs. This is a necessary thing for the sake of all involved. (Not to mention health and safety.)

    If you, living next door, are the only ones looking out at and for these kids on an ongoing basis – then you’ve kind of been roped into becoming sort of reluctant babysitters.

    And finally – in my long and illustrious career as a Super Free Ranger (accomplished long before such a concept was coined) it was an absolute given, that my freedom only came with my understanding of the responsibility that went along with it.
    (Not that I didn’t mess up a goodish bit like the young Mark Twain hero I had fantasies of being) – but parental intervention always drew me back to that pesky accountability thing. I always knew that my freedom could be whisked away lickety-split – if I behaved like public enemy #1.
    And that’s a thing that can be learned pretty young.