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 | By Sheri Wohlfert

Lovingly establishing boundaries with neighborhood kids

Scripture very clearly tells us to “love our neighbor,” but what happens when the neighbor in question is a child who appears on your doorstep at all hours? We are always called to lead with love, but here are some ideas for setting clear and loving boundaries when it comes to neighborhood visits and playtime.

Priority one

You are the keeper of your family and that includes schedules, relationships and influences. Since our lives are packed with noise and motion, it is necessary for our spiritual, physical and mental health to have family time, down time and quiet prayer time. We have to be willing to fight for that and set boundaries that protect it. It’s absolutely OK to say to the kids ringing your doorbell, “I’m sorry it’s not a good time, let's try again tomorrow.”

Know the goal

Be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish. Family comes first and that includes chores and responsibilities that might need to be finished up before playing. It’s good practice for our kids to know they can’t play with the neighbors before their room is clean or homework is finished, and it’s OK to say, “I’m sorry, Johnny can’t come out to play until his chores are finished up.” Be aware of the friendships you want to foster and the ones you need to pay attention to carefully.

Make the plan

Pick the times friends are welcome to come over. Set a window and stick to it. Work around snack and meal times if you don’t want to feed the neighborhood. If you have guests who pop over outside that window, you can kindly invite them to come again during the window you chose. This avoids early-morning doorbell ringers or lingering friends. You’ll just need to say, “You’re welcome to come back at 3” or “Alright, it’s 5, time for you to head home, Susie has family things to take care of.”

Share the plan

Your own kids need to be aware of the boundaries with regard to time and activities. Kids will meet expectations when they are clear; don’t make them guess or make them up as you go. The second step is to share the plan with the neighborhood kids who are “frequent fliers” at your house. If you deliver the rules, this gives your kids permission to “blame it on you” if there are problems.

Include Jesus

Share your faith! Pray before meals and snacks even with the neighborhood kids. If friends are over during family prayer time, you can invite them to join in the Angelus at noon or the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 if those are part of your routine; be sure to include them in bedtime prayers if they are there for a sleepover. You set the limits … you manage the time … you choose the kids who help your kids be better disciples. Sometimes God puts people in our lives to lead us to him, but if a child continues to be a negative influence even after you have included them in prayer and frank conversation about what is acceptable in your home, it’s OK to lovingly invite them to take a break until they can act or speak in ways that are acceptable in your home.

Sheri Wohlfert is a Catholic school teacher, speaker, writer and founder of Joyful Words Ministries. Sheri blogs at

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