Threatening language is not acceptable, especially then the person issuing the threat is in a position of power, like an adult in relation to a child. If your child is being threatened by a neighbor, your first priority should be to protect your child's physical and emotional well being. Consider the nature and severity of the threat. You may want to tell the police, talk with the neighbor or contact a lawyer.
Listen to Your Child's Experience
Whether you witnessed the threat or not, take time to listen to your child talk about how he experienced the threat. Pay attention to the ideas and feelings that your child expresses about the incident. Remain calm, loving, supportive and reassuring. Convey to your child that his security and well being is your top priority and that neither violence nor violent language are acceptable or tolerated.
Contact the Police
Contact the police if you believe that your child is in danger or that the neighbor might perpetrate a crime of any sort. It is fine to report any unusual or suspicious incident to the police. Prepare to tell them what happened, when, where, if anyone was injured and descriptions of who was involved. Don't worry about bothering them with your call, but recognize that they may not chose to take action. Their response is likely to depend on factors beyond your knowledge, such as whether the neighbor has a criminal history and whether reports have been made about him in the past.
Talk with your Neighbor
If the threat seems minor enough that you are not worried about your own or your child's immediate safety, then try talking with your neighbor. Wait until you are no longer feeling extremely emotional or angry about the incident so that you can approach your neighbor calmly and confidently. Visualize the kind of relationship with your neighbor that you would ideally like to have. Keeping this relationship in mind as the goal, politely inquire about the incident in a neutral way. Try to understand what happened from your neighbor's perspective so that you can then think about a potential solution to the underlying problem. Remain respectful and curious instead of argumentative.
Read More: How to File a Complaint Against a Neighbor
Hire a Lawyer
You have the option of hiring a lawyer to go after your neighbor for criminal threatening. In states like California and Connecticut, it is illegal to threaten to commit a crime that could result in another person's bodily injuries or death. However, hiring a lawyer might escalate the scale of conflict with your neighbor and could stress your child and make harm her more likely. A conviction, if it happened, would not likely resolve any underlying issues.
Karen Smith has been writing professionally since 2008. Her articles are published in the "Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History" and the upcoming "Dictionary of African Biography," as well as on Patheos.com and in volumes of "Anthropology News," "Contemporary Islam," "Islamic Africa" and "American Ethnologist." She has a Doctor of Philosophy in anthropology.