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Section: children, mental-health, manners

Dear Ann Landers,
I live in a nice suburb and have two well-adjusted children, a 6-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl. The problem is the 12-year-old boy who lives three doors away. He really is strange. I rarely see him with children his own age. He often plays with kids who are much younger than he is, including my own. Other neighbors have mentioned this boy's peculiar and unpredictable nature. They do not trust him. He once bit a child and knocked another boy off his bicycle. Recently, I had a basketball hoop installed in our driveway. As soon as the hoop went up, the boy started to play there. After a week of showing up in our driveway, I told him he had to ring our bell and ask permission. After repeated attempts to get permission, with little success, he finally got the message. He then began peering in our windows like a Peeping Tom to see whether anyone was home so he could ring our bell. This spooked my wife. Frankly, I don't want this boy around my house or my children. His father is a friendly guy but travels three weeks out of the month. His mother is cold and distant. Meanwhile, the boy continues to hang around our property. Should I discuss my concern with the boy's father or simply continue to discourage his presence around our house? Please help. -- Worried Parent in Illinois

Dear Worried Parent,
That child needs to be seen by a professional for evaluation. His behavior suggests that he has some problems that need attention. You should talk to the boy's father about your concerns, which sound legitimate to me. Meanwhile, make sure that an adult is present whenever he plays with your children.

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Reader Comment
Sounds like is has a form of Autism.

Hope's Comment
An only child, who has a father who is mostly absent and a mother who is in the house, but cold and distant is probably seeking some sort of human connection. If his home life was like that early on, then he never learned to socialize normally.. He’s probably more comfortable with younger children because they are at the same emotional level. Rather than making him more isolated, why not talk to the father when he is in town about signing his son up for a Big Brother program, so the child has a mentor who can help guide his social skills and give him the attention he is seeking. If a child doesn’t get positive attention, they will eventually seek negative attention. If several neighbors are calling the kid is weird and everyone is rumor mongering and ostracizing him, I think they need to reasses what is truth and what is rumor. They also need to think about how it feels to be a child with no friends, a distant mother, an absent father and live in a neighborhood where a bunch of adults refer to you as weird and are probably sending that message to all their kids. How old was he when he bit the other child, did the other child instigate or hurt him first? Was it self defense? Did anyone find out why he pushed the other kid off the bike- sometimes kids use their bike as a weapon to clip other kids as they ride by and then say they weren’t doing anything when the other kid retaliates or defend themselves. Who witnessed this child doing those things? I know he’s not the worried parent’s child, but how worried parent reacts to this child will teach his own children how to treat others who struggle socially. Worried parent says that the child respected his wishes when he told him he had to get permission to play ball. The child is teachable. Talk to the father about helping him put a hoop up in his own driveway and have the child help with that project. Since all the adults have the time to spend having conversations about how weird this kid is, maybe have some conversations with the kid himself- not in a creepy one on one situation, but something like what used to happen on my block growing up... the parents would have a Saturday where they would teach the kids how to fix a bike, or everyone build or get out your kite and fly it for a few hours. All kids were invited and there were plenty of adults to make sure kids were included. Kindness and modeling good social skills in front of this child would probably go a long way. I frankly worry about the worried parent in all of this. He admits that he has seen the child play with kids his own age and seems confused that a child of 12 is capable of peacefully playing with children of all ages, including young ones most of the time. He mentions 2 instances in a 12 year olds life where the 12 year old was aggressive. That to me is an extraordinary 12 year old. The ones around here argue, wrestle, taunt each other, sometimes gang up on younger kids- usually their own siblings and jump fences and run through neighbors yards. He doesn’t mention that the boy is aggressive with small children or has done anything to worried parents children, just that he likes to come over to play basketball. What 12 year old doesn’t? As far as the looking in windows to see if they are home so he knows when to ring the sort of depends on how he’s doing that? Does the front door have a window or is the front window right by the door? There’s not a single person who rings my front doorbell who doesn’t also crane their neck a little bit to peep in the windows at the top. When they spot me inside, they usually tap the glass, wave and ring again. I wouldn’t label them peeing toms for something like that, but if they were going around my house and popping up in the kitchen window or one of the bedroom windows, my opinion would change. There just isn’t enough information to label the kid weird.

Rod Munch's Comment
Wow Hope is a bitch!!! She'got everything figured out!!! It' s not the writer's job to fix this little prick. Tell him he is no longer welcome at your house and let his parents deal with the rest

Reader Comment
When you live in the Burbs that is what you will deal with. Hope had some good pointers. The child obviously is reaching out for decent human contact. Rod don't be such a DOLT. As for us we will ALWAYS live in the country.

Mary's Comment
Hope's comments are on point. My 18 y.o. grandson is autistic. He too likes playing with young children as they seem to be at the same emotional level. They enjoy his company and do not tease or taunt him like some older kids do. They always hang out in the open. He does not read or write and his communication skills are limited. He is kind and thoughtful. However, if he is mistreated, he will cuss at the offender and/or flip them the bird. He once used his phone to video a couple teens who were being offensive towards him. They were consequently reprimanded. He is currently in a worker trainee program, with the expectation that he will get a job that is suitable for him. BTW, we should all try opening our hearts to those that aren't perfect. We ALL want to feel needed and wanted. Mary

EMH's Comment
Immediate impression, some degree of ASD, suggests the parents have the boy evaluated (his mother might be undiagnosed on the spectrum as well).
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"Sensual pleasures have the fleeting brilliance of a comet; a happy marriage has the tranquillity of a lovely sunset."
-Ann Landers