Question: We seem to have stricter rules than most parents on our street about where our grade-school children are allowed to go. As a result, it seems like the whole neighborhood plays in our yard. What boundaries do you think would be appropriate in this situation?


This issue has more to do with the parents in your neighbourhood than with the kids. On the one hand, it’s great that these children feel so welcome at your house that it’s become the neighbourhood hang-out – some moms and dads would give anything to be in your shoes. On the other hand, it’s apparent that you're beginning to resent some of the expectations and responsibilities that come with this arrangement. That’s completely understandable.

Setting some ground rules

So what should you do? Uncomfortable as it sounds, you need to initiate some friendly, straightforward conversations with the other parents on your street. Explain that while you love having their kids at your home, it would be helpful if everyone could agree on a few simple ground rules. For example, it would be a good idea if the kids brought along their own snacks rather than raiding your refrigerator every time they get hungry – you shouldn’t be expected to provide meals for the entire neighborhood. You can also avoid a lot of bathroom clean-up and maintenance by suggesting that they visit the restroom at home before coming over to play. Naturally, you’ll want to sit down with your own kids first and make sure that they’re on board with this plan.

Spreading the responsibility

When you’re talking with the parents of the other kids, bear in mind that this can be a great time to learn more about them, their background, their perspective on life and their basic values. Discuss the types of limits you set for your kids’ behaviour and find out if they’re on the same page. If they are, and if you feel confident that they supervise their own children adequately, there’s no reason why you can’t allow your kids to spend some time playing at their homes. That way, you can begin to spread this responsibility around the neighbourhood a little more evenly. While you want to protect your children from dangers and negative influences, it’s important to remember that you can't keep them cloistered at home until they’re thirty years old.

Your backyard mission field

If you’re a Christian, you can turn this situation into a marvellous opportunity for evangelism. The neighbourhood kids obviously like you and your children, and it’s plain that their parents feel comfortable allowing their kids to play at your house. Therein lie the seeds of an extremely effective witness. If these children aren’t believers, your kindness and hospitality will make a lasting impression on them and their families. This in turn may open a door for you to share Christ with them.

© 2010 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

If you liked this article and would like to go deeper, we have some helpful resources below.

Our recommended resources

Join our newsletter

Advice for every stage of life delivered straight to your inbox