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We have just got a new car on a lease, so are liable for any repairs that go above and beyond the usual wear and tear.

I noticed two deep big scratches within the first week. After the first scratch, I was actively checking the car for scratches, and after the second scratch appeared, I concluded that both scratches were caused by one of the children playing in the street.

Neighbourhood children regularly play in the street. I have seen them play hide and seek and duck behind the car, obviously holding it when they do. They also whizz past on bikes, etc. I know kids are just having fun, and more than likely the scratches are completely accidental, but kids can also just recklessly damage other people's property because they think it's fun.

We have to park in the street since our driveway is very narrow. We also parked our previous car in the street, but it had the odd scratch and bump, so it wasn't as easy to notice when a fresh one had been made, nor was it that much of a concern since we owned the car.

How can I try and get the children to take more care? I have doubts about whether speaking to the neighbours would be useful or would only create further problems.

  • Is this your first car, or did you used to have a different car. If different was it also parked on the road? – Phil Aug 31 '17 at 14:36
  • Previous car also parked on road, much older though, had the odd scratch and bump so not as easy to notice when a fresh one has been made. Also as owner of those cars, and with them being older, the odd scratch was not as much of a concern. – R_Avery_17 Aug 31 '17 at 14:39
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This is also dependent on your neighborhood, and the amount of contact you have with your neighbors. I come from one where there is a lot of talking, and I know at least 15 of my neighbors by name.

In my neighborhood, there are also cars parked on the street, since there are no private driveways. And it is also a quiet neighborhood, so as a kid I played in the streets a lot, and there are still very often children playing in the street. What would happen when one of our neighbors thought somebody had damaged something/was bothered by a particular behavior was a two-step process.

The first step was (and still is) always to confront the kids themselves, at the moment they were doing 'the wrong thing'. Just tell them the truth, that your car is parked there because you can not put the baby in it if it is in your driveway, and that you noticed some scratches you can't explain. But now you noticed they are playing very near your car and would they please remember that cars are expensive and not to damage yours. Always remember to stay calm, and avoid an accusatory tone of voice. The kids are just playing, and are probably not even noticing that their behavior might (have) cause(d) damage to your car.

The second step is to inform the parents when the kids are clearly not listening to you and your request. Just tell them what you asked their kids, and ask them if they could try to work with their kids so your car does not get more scratches. As always, be careful to be respectful, use a respectful tone of voice. Ask the parent to parent, do not go there telling them how they should parent. Asking them to punish their kids, or directly accusing their kids of the having made the scratches that are there already will probably do more harm than good. Same as above: Explain that you noticed their kids playing in the vicinity of your car, and that you noticed some scratches. You asked their kids to not play so near to your car again, but have seen no improvement, and would they please talk to their kids about it?

Also explain to them that with your baby, it is not really feasible for you to have your car in the driveway at all times. A great first step for you to take would be to park in your driveway whenever it is possible, this may create a certain amount of goodwill with your neighbors. It shows that you are willing to use your driveway whenever possible, and adds value to your argument that you can not always use it because of the baby.

Where I come from, it is definitely OK to go and have a talk with the parents, but only after you have tried to explain to the kids yourself. This might be different in other neighborhoods and cultures. But a respectful conversation with neighbors should in my experience never make an issue worse.

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    In some areas people think that others reprimanding their kids is about the worst thing you can do to someone. I don't agree with it at all, but some people have a very strong "don't talk to my kids, or tell me how to be a parent" view. If you've never spoken to or introduced yourself to your neighbors (the parents), do that first. – JPhi1618 Aug 31 '17 at 13:24
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    @JPhi1618 if you let your kids run amok in the streets and they are damaging property, imo you forego any right to expect people not to talk to them. As in, I would not be concerned if people didn't want me talking to their child who had just damaged my car. If talking to the kids first is my best chance of getting my car fixed, it is what I will do. – ESR Sep 1 '17 at 0:10
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    Good to see an answer that describes the source of their experience ("In my neighborhood"). Hope to see more of these answers. If I may make a suggestion: I think your answer would be improved if you added some more detail in the paragraph about talking to the parents. Maybe add an explanation of what tone of voice one should use, maybe add a bit of an explanation of what you mean when you say "A great first step for you to take would be to park in your driveway whenever it is possible, this may create a certain amount of goodwill with your neighbors" etc. – user288 Sep 1 '17 at 4:48
  • @NealS: I wanted to notify you the top answer has been edited, according to Hamlets comment above. Can you please review and see if you still think it is the accepted answer or if you would like to vote on it or otherwise change your vote. – Tinkeringbell Sep 1 '17 at 5:15
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Get a car-cover.

You don't know for sure that it was the children, a drunken person stumbling home on a Friday night holds just as much merit. Unless you put up CCTV, you won't ever have sufficient evidence to go to the neighbours for them to believe you, which down the line could create animosity between you both, thus causing extra hassle for yourself (if they believe that the children truly didn't do it). A civil solution before finger pointing at anyone could be to get a tarp or car-cover on the car. It's waterproof (which will help hinder the rust problem), it'll also cover the car in case they do play around it when you're indoors, including other benefits. As @SQB notes in the comments, using a car-cover signals that you value your car and care should be taken around it.

If in the future, now you've taken measures to avoid the problem and the children are caught red-handed, approach the neighbours and notify them of what you have just witnessed in a mild manner and if they're reasonable people you can both come up with a viable solution.

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    Unless you're really careful with the cover, they can end up creating more scratches than they prevent. If you get any dirt caught under the cover, you're just going to drag it all over the car (it's really hard to take a cover off without some of it hitting the ground and picking up dirt). – user1722 Aug 31 '17 at 9:12
  • @Pete, a very valid point. I think any solution to this problem with requires extra effort regardless. It just depends on how much effort you want to go through I guess. – Bradley Wilson Aug 31 '17 at 9:25
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    A useful addition is that a car cover signals "I value this car" / "this car is of value, be careful around it". Communication is an interpersonal skill. – SQB Aug 31 '17 at 10:54
  • Here in the UK, some kids might view a protected asset as being more of a target than something to be careful about.... – user1722 Aug 31 '17 at 13:58
  • @Pete Some kids would do that anywhere, I'm not sure that's grounds to assume any kids would. Even some adults would, too. – Bradley Wilson Aug 31 '17 at 14:00
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Speaking with your neighbours might make things worse. Parents might put it down to "the kids are just playing", or the kids might decide to intentionally damage your car because you got them into trouble.

You might want to think about loading/unloading the car on the street, but parking it on your driveway when you're not using it (and therefore taking it off the street and away from the kids).

Yes, it's more effort, but at least you know it's safe and you're limiting the scope for accidental damage.

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If it was MY car/neighbors/neighborhood, I would avoid wrongly accusing anybody (or even correctly accusing someone and starting a "my angel would NEVER..." war) as best I could by asking the kids in question for help. Something along the lines of:

"I just got this nice, new car, so I was really sad to find scratches on it the other day. I know you guys are out here a LOT, so you probably see and hear just about EVERYTHING! Sooooo....

Would you help keep an eye on my car for me? And if you see it getting scratched, would you let me know? Even if it was an accident, it would really help me to know what happened, so I could make sure it doesn't happen again.

It would REALLY, REALLY help me out, and it would also be super cool to think that even kids can help to keep our neighborhood nice!"

This gives the kids agency in their own neighborhood, as well as allowing them the pride of helping out/being treated like an adult. It also doesn't hurt that it lets possible offenders know that their actions have been noticed, that their buddies might well tell on them, and that there will likely be consequences (especially the worst consequence, shaming in front of one's peers) if the behavior doesn't stop. Finally, keep in mind that it is easier for someone to harm a stranger, or damage a stranger's belongings than it is to harm/damage a friend('s).

Make a point of introducing yourself to neighbors you run into while outside, even the kids, and try to remember their names. While "those kids" might scratch up the car belonging to "that lady," its a lot less likely that "Jeffy! and Ryan! and Becky! How is your day going?" will scratch Misses Smith's new car. If you DO get told about something going on around your car (even if it isn't really useful information to you) make a point of giving BIG thanks and praise.

It reinforces the behavior, and it may also be the only strokes that kid gets all week. Kids will go to amazing lengths for a little positive adult attention, including the protection of your car's shiny skin. Besides, its just the nice thing to do, and feeling good about your own behavior might help take the sting out of those scratches.

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    Consider breaking this into paragraphs for easier reading. Personally, I think this could be a really great answer, though I'm not sure how to further improve it. This is a solution that, depending on the ages of the children, could definitely work well. Of course, for older kids... They would likely just target the car more for being "talked to like a child". – Kendra Dec 14 '17 at 17:55
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This is my experience from the various places I have lived - before and since having my own kids.

If you have taken sensible steps to keep your car safe, parking in the driveway when you can or overnight or away from where kids play or busy walking routes, then it is okay to politely speak to anyone who might have accidentally damaged your car to ask them to be careful near it. Do not accuse them of damaging it and be clear you are not looking for them to repair it!

I find that speaking to parents needs to be handled very carefully - best done when you meet them in the street or garden rather than making a house call. Best also to keep it generally about kids rather than their kid.

I also find it helps not to be too precious about my car - yes it's expensive, but only metal and plastic after all. Parents like cakes and beer - but don't be too obvious it was a prelude to a chat about your car!

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