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Neighbors Archives

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Dear Mrs. Web,

I asked my neighbor to please mow her grass; it was way too long. She said she didn't have to mow grass within 2 feet of the property line. I told her that wasnít true and that I would call the city code enforcers.

Later that day, four policemen showed up at my door with a complaint signed by her. It said that our 8-year-old son had kicked her car door. This was an outright lie but the police didn't believe our denials and wrote up a report saying my son was involved in criminal mischief. 

We have had problems with this woman for 13 years. What recourse do we have with a woman who exaggerates and lies? Please help us deal with this terrible neighbor.

When you threaten an unpleasant person, you usually get a load of unpleasantness back. When you have a difficult neighbor, donít go asking for more trouble by telling her what to do and then threatening her with public enforcers.

The best thing you can do with this unpleasant neighbor is to ignore her and give her a wide berth. There are people you only greet politely. No other conversation should take place. If her property is in code violations, call it in if you wish, but donít start power plays with her. It sounds like she is willing to ace you every single time.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I live on a small lake surrounded by thirty-six homes. Last spring a group of 2/3 of the residents pooled their money and purchased a pair of adult swans for the lake. Some residents chose not to contribute.

This spring during the mating season, the male swan has become somewhat aggressive. The mating season lasts about two months. An aggressive swan at worst will rush at a perceived intruder, wings flapping (they cannot fly), and mouth open as to bite (they have no teeth). Their only weapon is intimidation. The only response needed is to stand up to him and not run. Shoo him back into the water and it's finished.

Most of the neighbors use this method. However, we have two residents who think that the only way to deal with him is with an instrument of some sort, a leaf rake, a broom, a fishing pole, and even a metal pole of some sort. They don't shoo him back; they hit him repeatedly with what they have. One even taught his children to do this.

I have videotape of both of these neighbors mistreating the swans. We have had the authorities talk with them on three occasions to no avail. The warden says that the next step is court action. Would going to court be the right thing to do to neighbors that we must live with on a daily basis?

The thought of being confronted and chased by an amorous, protective swan certainly gives Dear Mrs. Web a long pause. Although I do not agree with your neighborís solution, I understand that people sometimes become upset or riled by an out-of-control attacking animal. Not everyone can face these sorts of situations with grace and coolness.

I donít think I would take legal action. It would be difficult for the entire lake association. It would turn what must be a pleasant neighborhood into a bickering, angry, and uncomfortable place. Sometimes excellent ideas just donít work with certain groups of people. I donít think having the swans there is worth this sort of alienation.

Instead, I would address the problem. You have an animal that comes onto different residentís properties and sometimes attacks the owners and their families. Small children may be at risk. Moreover, some of the people in the neighborhood actually got together to pay for this privilege.

Perhaps another female can replace the male. Your local wildlife biologist or swan hatchery may be able to help you make this decision. If two females would not work, this may not be the time, or the right group of people for swans in the lake. I know there are just one or two problem people, but they are part of the group that lives around the lake, and it isnít working for them, so the group, in my opinion, needs to find an alternative.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I have recently ended a "friendship" with our next-door neighbor over an ongoing dispute regarding our children who played together. We are of differing opinions on resolving the children's conflict. She interferes with their arguments and blames my child. I, on the other hand, let them resolve their own problems.

We have been keeping our distance from this woman. She has treated my child poorly on two occasions, once when my child telephoned to speak to her child, and once outside our local elementary school. Both times, my child was emotionally shaken. After the second incident, I telephoned this woman and asked her not to confront my child. I was very serious and no-nonsense about it. She was disrespectful. I ended our relationship.

I know these incidents have nothing to do with our children and everything to do with this insecure, rage-full woman. I have tried to explain to my child that adults shouldn't act this way - that it is wrong for any adult to behave this way towards her and that she has my support. I have said: "be polite and move on."  Today, my child ran in to her child at a neighbor's house. My child said hello to both the mother and child and was obviously and deliberately snubbed.

This chronologically forty-year-old woman ignored my child's hello and intentionally greeted the other child present. My child came home very hurt. She cognitively understands what is going on but emotionally is stressed. I have advised her to avoid them as much as possible, and say hello only if they offer it first. Any other wisdom about this situation would be greatly appreciated.

I think you are doing a wonderful job teaching your daughter how to protect herself around this woman and her child. There are difficult people in this world and you have the misfortune of living next door to one of them. I would continue your explanations and support.  

As an adult I would cheerfully offer my greetings to your neighbor when you encounter them but would avoid any other contact with her or her child. Always be polite and distant to the child, and remove yourself from its presence. They are not safe people.

You didnít say how old your child is, I would tell her to greet these people quietly and politely. It is a good skill to learn that some relationship end at greeting levels. I would turn this all into a rueful joke, quite frankly, and not load it so much. Letís face, your neighborís behavior is pathetic and silly. 

When she comes home with a story of a snub, smile and shake your head and point out how sad and silly the behavior is, to snub a little child. This is a way to defuse the hurt and minimize the interaction. Continue to assure her that it is they and not she. Eventually, these people will turn into a family joke.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I have recently moved into a townhouse. It is lovely except for my next door neighbors. They are a pair of lawyers who are savvy about staying within the letter of the law and pushing the townhouse associationís rules. They have annoying behaviors such as claiming unassigned parking spaces in such a way that puts the rest of us at a disadvantage. They drive their motorcycles off their patios, filling our homes with exhaust and noise, and leave on bright floodlights for nights on end, which lights up my window and is annoying.

The other neighbors have adjusted to this pairís limit bending. I seem to be the neighbor most affected by their behaviors. Is there anything I can do? I'm about ready to lose my mind, it just isnít fair.

Now you know why the condominium next to these people was empty. If the condominium association is not able to back you and your neighbors are technically with in the rules of the association, I donít think you have much of a leg to stand on. 

I would buy a room-blackening shade and attractive drapes for my bedroom to block the light and I would stop expecting these people to behave differently. They are arrogant and self centered and they will not change. So, donít get yourself wrapped up in waiting for them to change and expecting them to do the right thing. They wonít.

Wait until the property appreciates enough, then sell and move.


Dear Mrs. Web, 

I am having problems with my next door neighbor who called me several months ago to tell me that my son was "forcing" her son (both 6 years old) to "play doctor." My son said this was something they both decided to do and that he did not force the boy. She refused to discuss it with me and my children were barred from playing with hers. She also told my children they could no longer play with hers.

I sent her a book about the topic, hoping to open discussion about teaching boundaries and appropriate behaviors.  In our next conversation, she said it was a non-issue. 

However, she did not lift the ban. She told me that she told her children to be polite to mine but to continue not to play with them. She then said, very matter-of-factly that my son has displayed numerous aggressive behaviors that sent up "red flags" to her. She claimed to have spoken to her friends, her pediatrician & a child psychologist about this & all agreed!

I was floored, since I have never heard anything but very positive feedback from other parents & teachers about my children's behavior, much less any "red-flag" type behavior! When I asked her to clarify she twisted stories and actually made no sense.

She has been spreading stories in the neighborhood that there is something bad about my children.  Some of the other neighborhood children have been avoiding our family.

Our children are in the same classes in school and we have mutual friends. This is a small town. It is awkward for everyone. How should I act around her?

How difficult for you! I think this woman has a problem and you and your family are where she is putting her emotions about it. I would not confront her at all. I would be kind, considerate, and distant when thrown together.

I am not one to suffer silently while my reputation is being damaged. I would discuss the situation over coffee individually with a few selected friends within the neighborhood, the school, and the community. I would also mention it to the childís teacher and your own family doctor. I would also say to people that it is a tough situation and you are protecting your family by pulling back from her. Be clear with everyone that the things she is saying are untrue and that her unfounded gossip is hurting your family.




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