My neighbour came over yesterday and addressed me in a rather aggressive tone, he complained that 'kids will be kids' and that 'my bins shouldn't be where they are'. He has never mentioned the bins before so I'm treating that separately.

With the kids though, he was unhappy that once again I had asked them to return a toy that they had taken from behind my wall. Now it's a low wall, and I have no gate. But I don't think it's unreasonable to insist that they can't take things from behind it. I'm perfectly happy for his kids to play with any toys we leave out, but I feel that if they are behind our wall, they are not 'out'.

In this particular case his second youngest (3) was playing with our trike and I asked him to return it, his sister(9) and some other children asked if he could continue playing with it, I said no as it had been taken from behind the wall without my permission. At which point they insisted it was already out. Now I had only let my son out 5 minutes before, he was on his bike and I'm 99.9% sure he didn't take it out and 100% sure it wasn't already out. But I do feel I made a mistake by saying 'I don't think it was out and I don't appreciate the lie'.

I think I could have worded that better as I think the child was upset that I was calling her a liar. I would like talk to my neighbour, make an apology for saying she lied when I'm not 100% sure she did. And try and address his other concerns.

But due to the way he reacted yesterday, my wife was scared it might escalate to violence. But I'm worried if I leave it it will escalate anyway. When I waved at him a few hours later on my way out with the dog he said 'I'm not waving I don't have any respect for you'. Which I thought was a very odd way to behave. But he had drank a few cans by that point it seems.

I was thinking of either a letter or to go over on Saturday, first apologise for the remark about his daughter lying but I also want to defend my point about his kids not entering my property.

One of his points was that my son has entered his property. But a.) to my knowledge he never has, other than to return one of their toys that had been left out or retrieve one of his own b. ) he has no wall or fence c.) I don't think it's relevant, if my son enters his garden I would expect him to tell him not too, just like I would. I want my son to understand boundaries and I can only teach him to respect other peoples boundaries if other people respect ours. One of theirs even took something from our porch...

Does anyone have any advice on how to approach this without simply caving in to letting his children take our things or having to put our things inside? I'd really like to avoid any further aggressive reactions against me or my family.

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    Hello! This reads a lot like you're asking us to decide for you what you should do (letter or face to face) and what to say... both have been decided to be off-topic (See our help center). What exactly are you struggling with? What are you afraid might go wrong if you just use your own words?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 6:12
  • Hi Tinkeringbell, that wasn't my intention, I was offering what I have already though of but I was hoping for general advice on how to approach this problem with the aim to prevent a further problem (specifically violence against myself or family) which I feel fits within the topics of interpersonal interactions? Would you like me to remove or reword? Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 7:24
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    Okay. Then I'd like to know a little bit more about the way your neighbour reacted/complained... What did they say, how did they say it? Were they upset you told their daughter that they lied? Did they threaten you?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 7:41
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    They were quite aggressive in their manner, and the words that bothered the most where "I have held onto it till now but there is only so much I can take". Which could mean either "ive been not saying theses things" or "i'm going to snap". My impression of his character (the police have been called due to disturbances he has caused) and the manner he spoke in, his tendency for alcohol most days, do make me feel violence isnt as unlikely as it usually is Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 10:11

1 Answer 1


From your perspective you feel that your neighbour ranting about the bins is his reaction to your asking for a toy back - and in a way it is, but likely the bins have been an issue for him for some time and your reasonable request to have your child's toy back has just opened the floodgates.

You need to have a conversation with your neighbour to try and resolve all of the issues you have so that you can live peaceably.

Although you don't give the complete history of your relationship as neighbours, you do seem surprised at this outburst. That you normally let his kids play with your kids toys that are "out" suggests that you have had no previous concerns about aggression. So there is good reason to believe that if you approach him with the figurative olive-branch you will be able to calm these things down.

In preparation for confronting him, have a think about any possible issues that may come up. He has mentioned your bins - what could his issue be? Are they placed on shared land? On his land? Making access difficult? Or just in a place that could be unpleasant for him? And most importantly, could you reasonably make an adjustment?

Go and speak to him. Knock on his door rather than collar him in the street where he may see you coming and misinterpret it as an aggressive act. Knock on his door nicely too.

Perhaps say:

Hi [name if you know it]. I regret our argument the other day and I've come to see if we can talk any problems out and move on from it.

Saying you regret an argument isn't the same as saying you were wrong. You may not feel like you should doing the apologising, but you're really just making peace and opening up the floor for a discussion. What you want is for him to calmly say what is wrong with your bins, and agree on a resolution if possible. Likewise, you need to have in your mind your expectations regarding the toys.

Perhaps go on to say:

You mentioned a problem with the location of my bins. Can you tell me what is wrong so I can see if I can do anything about it?

If his request is reasonable, why wouldn't you grant it for the sake of peace? If what he wants is "a big ask" then you could offer a compromise that was more in line with what you were willing to do; or, if you can't think on the spot, just say you'll have a think about it and come back to him soon.

When it comes to your own request, perhaps begin by saying:

I'd just like to clear up my point about our toys. You know that I've been happy for your kids to play with some of my kids toys when they are out and playing together.

I think this, or something like it makes it clear you don't have a problem with their kids. And you shouldn't. Kids are kids. You're right to want to protect your property and your kid's property! But parents are responsible for their own kids, and that is why you need your neighbour on your side. Criticising his kids or his parenting won't win him over.

Also, avoid any moral highground. Definitely do not tell him that you are "teaching your son to understand boundaries", because that implies your neighbour does not do that. In fact, on that point, I disagree with the idea you cannot teach your kids to respect boundaries if your neighbour's kids do not. Bad examples can be as useful when teaching our kids as good examples, and your kids are going to be exposed to a lot more bad examples throughout their lives.

I'm reluctant to put words into your mouth on this point because you understand better than anyone what your expectations are, but one line of reasoning I might use myself is:

When my kids aren't out playing themselves I am not watching over what happens outside, and if one of your kids got hurt playing with our toys or on our property I couldn't be responsible for that. So for that reason I'd ask that your kids don't play on our property or with our toys when our kids aren't out themselves.

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    This is an excellent answer, There is some more background to this parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/31620/… and our neighbour has been known to get in fights but I don't know what over or what context. I think the words you have put here are a brilliant starting point. My worry would be, being unable to stick to the script in the event of his aggression, and if I decide its unproductive/could get dangerous half way through, how do i politely end it? Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 9:41
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    @chrispepper1989 Your link is useful from a parenting perspective. Here on IPS I think it goes without saying that any interpersonal solution requires cooperation from both parties. And I think it equally goes without saying that if someone gets aggressive you back away, otherwise every single answer on this site would need the same disclaimer. This isn't a script, feel free to use the words you prefer. The important point is to think first, go over peaceably, clear up his issue first and then state your own expectations.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 10:16

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