Parenting In Focus: Be a good neighbor

Most of us want to be good neighbors but few of us put the effort into becoming one. What does it really take? Is it worth it? What should you do to begin?

You really can make it happen. It begins with your behavior.

Wave to your neighbor. Have you ever noticed that in friendly neighborhood, everyone waves to most everyone else? This friendly gesture says you are open to having a friendship with this other person. It is usually the first step in the beginning of a friendship.

Ask for a bow for your dog the next time you take her to be groomed. This gesture in itself shows your neighbors that your dog is friendly. Look for bows on the dogs you meet while you are out walking.

Ask what your neighbor’s dog’s name is.

It is amazing how many people have dogs these days. Maybe it was the pandemic or maybe it is just that older people want the companionship of an animal. But look around; they are everywhere. Most of them are eager to have you pet them and talk with them. Do both, but don’t be hesitant to ask the owner if you can pet their dog before you do it.

This also opens up conversations. Having a subject like a cute dog or one that is very friendly is an easy way to start talking to someone. After the dog knows you are friendly, he is likely to remember you the next time you meet. The same information is true of someone who has a baby with them. We don’t want to forget the children.

Plant the flowers during the right time of day. If you are planting your flowers before 7 a.m. or after 4:30 p.m. you will probably not be seen by most people taking a walk. Someone can stop and say how pretty they will look when they bloom and then talk about other things. If you are in your front yard planting during the right time of the day, it is an invitation to talk.

When doing yard work, be open to talking and getting to know the people who are your neighbors. All the work you do helps make you a good neighbor, so keep it up.

If your neighbor is somewhat older, put their newspaper on their porch instead of leaving it on their driveway. This is very friendly and much appreciated by older people who have difficulty getting all the way out to their driveway to pick up the paper.

Make sure you exchange names. Write down your neighbor’s name, phone number, email and something to identify their home. Remembering neighbors by their names — and their dogs, by name — is a friendly way to say you really remember them.

You are on your way now to becoming a good neighbor. Next comes the cup of coffee and the visit inside your home. You are on your way to becoming a friendly neighbor and you will enjoy it. So will your neighbors.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which published newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents.