How to yell at other people's kids

Be careful what you wish for. In a previous post, I lamented about how I feel like we need to get involved with the neighborhood kids more, that my only child is languishing at home with only his crazy mother to entertain him. Well, spring is here, and the kids are coming out in droves. Seriously. We live on a dead-end, so from about 3 o'clock on, the street, and usually my house, is filled with children running, jumping, playing, and yelling. Ah yes, the yelling. I don't mind yelling when it's "Hey, watch this!" or "Follow me!" or "Hey, I just ran over a frog!" I don't even mind the "Hey, let go, that's mine! MOOMMYYY! He's trying to take my toy!" These are all the sounds of children playing, and even the grumpy, bratty sounds count. But I do mind when the yelling turns into things like, "Hey, that's bulls***!" "What the f*** are you doing to my bike?" "Don't touch me, d*** it!" Yes, some of these sounds get mixed into the fray, and as my son loves to mimic stuff, I'd like to limit exposure to this kind of language as much as possible. But I'm just not sure how to do it. When one kid in particular was yelling obscenity after obscenity, I said, "Hey, there are 3 year olds around. Can you tone down the swearing a little?" He gave me a withering, pre-teen "you are SO lame" look, and stalked off. And he wasn't in my house, he was standing on the street, fighting with another kid, so I couldn't just ask him to adhere to my house rules of no bad language. So any suggestions how to yell at other people's kids to be talk nice? I don't really want to take it to their parents, and as DH pointed out, in at least one case the mother doesn't speak English. She clearly can't regulate or monitor her son's swearing in English particularly effectively. I also see other non-mothers lecturing kids about stuff, mostly safety stuff, or staying off their property while they ride their stunt bikes so their fathers won't sue when they break their necks, and really, the kids roll their eyes and move on. They seemed bugged, and I can't blame them. Yet another adult is telling them what to do. So while I don't want to make an enemy out of these kids, I also do not want my 3 year old saying stuff like, "Dammit, that's a bunch of bull****" either. I mean, can't we at least wait until he's watching something more sophisticated than "Clifford's Big Red Movie" to introduce him to this kind of language?" Ah, it seems that my small son has started something of a brawl with the neighbor kids that are currently in my basement, so, gotta go.


Blogger Melissa said...

I've never been in a neighborhood with lots of kids playing around (my dream someday is to be in one -- nice to know they exist outside of Utah :) but I think you're perfectly within your right to insist upon decent language from the other kids. I'd just tell them up front that the public space (your court) is not a place to use that kind of language.

I think I'd get your neighbors involved. Not in a blame situation; don't go and say so-and-so's kid's is swearing in front of mine. But in a general community-oriented kind of way: is this something other neighbors would want, and could you help enforce it? That way it's not you-against-their kids kind of thing.

4/13/2005 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger Ana said...

Just because they give you withering looks and think you're a boring dumb lame grownup doesn't mean they're not listening. Keep doing what you're doing -- you may still have a good effect.

4/13/2005 08:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"May have a good effect?" Sounds like you did have a good effect. The kid shut up and walked away. Don't know how you could expect a much better response than that.

4/13/2005 09:50:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

Get your husband to go outside and play sports with them. There are only boys on our street. 2 13 yr olds, 9 year old and 7 year old. Plus my 7 year old girl and 5 year old boy.
I feel like they are a little vulnerable out there.
My husband goes out sometimes and throws a football to them. He spent the whole snowday sledding with them.
I can definitely see they respect him now. I swear the 9 year old accross the street barely acknowledges me, but when my husband is outside he kind of stops in front of the yard....kinda looking like he wants to be noticed.
Now the 13 year olds I still wouldn't trust with my kids alone, but I think that they will respect our kids a little more because they know the father.
Let's see. Boys like food. Bake? Hand out icecream sandwiches? Or money. Hire them to do a small job?
Kids respond to attention, positive or negative. I think that maybe then they would respect your no nonsense (don't ask, just tell).
"Harvey, when my son is outside playing, you can't swear around here. Got it? Thanks, I really appreciate it."
Also, I think that talking to them one on one might be better. Teenagers love to rebel in front of their peers. Proving that they are cool. Appealing to them one on one, saying you appreciate how careful they are around your son so he doesn't get hurt by XXXX and this is such a great neighborhood because kids like him are there to watch out for the younger ones or maybe that your son loves watching their bike stunts, etc. Then say that your son is only 3, so there's a no swearing rule when he's in earshot.
So, there are some ideas. I'm not sure I could finesse all of them, but maybe you can!

4/14/2005 12:42:00 AM  
Anonymous JKS said...

Oh, I just reread the post. Maybe you should approach the one kid and thank him for understanding the no swearing around your son rule. And start giving him positive attention each time you see him.
Has anyone read POSITIVE PARENTING. I haven't read it all but it seems amazing.
They say that you'll have less discipline problems if you give positive attention every 5 minutes that your kid is doing something right. Either smile at them, pat them on the shoulder, say something.....on the whole just NOTICE them when they are being good.
I don't think I would do that. If your kids are good and quiet, you want to leave them alone!!!! You can actually think!!! But if they are actually NOT fighting in the car, reward them by noticing. If they are playing quietly and not bugging you, go say "I love you" or kiss the top of their head.
Anyway, I thought that was an amazing strategy and I think it works. So maybe it could work with the neighbor kids too.

4/14/2005 12:47:00 AM  
Blogger fMhLisa said...

I love the stuff from JKS. I'll also agree with the stuff said about being a lame adult. Sometimes you just have to be the lame adult. They need to learn the appropriate (sp?) places to keep their language clean, and around little kids and grandmas and the boss and teachers and you know . . . people who aren't 13. It's a skill that will be useful to them forever.

Otter pops are great, cheap and kids love them. I love the idea of some male bonding with your husband, so many boys need that kind of attention so much. A little good will like that can go a long long way.

4/14/2005 01:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who cares if they are annoyed? Most kids don't like to be reprimanded, but as adults, we have to do it. Do you want to win a popularity contest, or do you want to be a responsible adult in the neighborhood?

4/14/2005 11:13:00 AM  
Anonymous JKS said...

Have you seen some 13 year olds? They aren't scared of lame adults. Kids are openly rude. Obviously, they think nothing of swearing in front of an adult with small children.
Even though they seem like delinquents, though, they might still crave attention. And they can learn respect for others.
Unfortunately, since these are neighbors, these kids will always be there. When they are 15, 17, etc. These kids will be driving on the street--either fast, or carefully looking out for your kids on bikes. Probabbly smoking and drinking but hopefully not stealing from you or vandalizing.

Start as you mean to go on. Don't let them get away with poor behavior. But if you become their enemy you will probably regret it.
Mutual respect is what you are looking for. You can't actually MAKE them do anything.

4/14/2005 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

I like the idea of my husband bonding with the kids. I do think the particular kid I'm talking about just craves attention--he's not only swearing a lot, but he whines, too, and also tattles. But he did resond well when I had him one-on one, and he was sort of "in charge" of the smaller kids. I noticed that he gets yelled at the most in the neighborhood, so maybe he really does just need a little extra TLC with some clear guidelines about expectations of behavior.

4/14/2005 03:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Carrie W. said...

I work at an elementary school (another speech language pathologist here) and have to tell you that some kids really don't know that d*** and s*** are bad words. So I tell them. Of course they all know that the f-bomb is bad. But my point is that kids here the bad words A LOT and it becomes part of their vocabulary. So you have to reteach them and give the alternatives. Consarn it! Dagnab it! Golly gee! The older ones will roll their eyes and think you're a geek, but they'll know what you expect. And the younger ones laugh at your silly words.

4/15/2005 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


I think you're right about the younger kids not knowing which words are bad. I've taught my son that saying "stupid" and "shut-up" are bad, but I haven't broached any other words because he hasn't said any other words. But I do give him the alternatives to shut up, etc, and he seems to respond pretty well.

Also, a neighbor kid swore at my house, and I gently told him that we don't say those words in my house, and he shrugged and said, "Ok." I haven't heard the word since. I guess it's all about expectations and clear guidelines.

4/15/2005 11:24:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

Hi guys, did you miss me? I have been to the city. Heather, Senator Bennett's aide had arranged for us to tour the White House and another friend was going to get us into the Pentagon tour and we had to cancel it all because my daughter got very sick with some strange illness. She still is. Long story. We spent that day sleeping at the hotel. Nothing like having a sick child in a huge city 2000 miles from home.

There used to be, sincerely, really, about about 50 kids just in the south part of our small subdivision--that's about what--10 houses, no lie. We really gave out the candy at Halloween. Sometimes I wanted to kill those kids. Honestly, they drove me crazy, somebody was always fighting, they were building underground huts, or whispering or leaving somebody out.

I was probably the one cussing. Did I tell you guys about the time I chased Douglas off with a baseball bat? He was this monster across the street who had actually been charged with assault on two, not one, but two, adult teachers at the school. I knew I needed a weapon when he started calling me names and throwing rocks at my window (he'd broken his own windows).

That got my blood really circulating well. Sarah said, with awe, "Mom, you are so bwave." But, you know, I apologized to Douglas and he apologized to me and we are friends today. He's all grown up and sometimes we laugh about the time I took a baseball bat to him. Thank God he could run faster than me.

Now we are a neighborhood of grandmas. My neighbor next door sold her house to a family with four kids. This woman drives me crazy for a variety of reasons, but I really love it when I hear her kids playing and yelling outside. They like to play in our yard, to hide in the space between the lilac bushes and the house. Sometimes they make fairy lands at the neighbor across the street.

But, let me tell you, heaven it sure was always not. I cussed at some of them and some of them cussed at me. Now I buy gifts for their babies and they are my friends and we hug when they come home to see their moms.

Go for that, if you can. Time passes REALLY fast. And in the end, it's really important to love others. Well, that sounds hokey, it's not like I do it. I just wish I did.

4/18/2005 12:17:00 PM  

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