Problem With Your Neighbours And Your Kids: How To Fix Things

When things turn sour with your kids and problem neighbours, going home or passing them in the hallway or on the street can be stressful.

Imagine one of the first days of the summer school holidays this year.

A hot airless kind of day, the kind where you open all your windows and doors and let the kids play a hide-and-seek noisy game with one of their friends.

I was frankly too busy rearranging some furniture to take them to the park when I met a new neighbour standing at the top of our stairs.

I hadn’t seen him before, and didn’t know what he wanted, so put down my boxes and asked him if I could be of any help.

He said yes.

“Could you stop your kids from making noise? Some of us are trying to rest; all I can hear are their loud voices and some screaming.”

Now, once upon a time, this sort of thing might well have seen me apologise and usher the kids into one room, closing the windows and doors behind me and pleading with them to keep it down by way of a silent Lego-building session, perhaps buying the guy some Tesco flowers for the aural inconvenience he had so clearly suffered.

But I’ve been a fierce crabby mother for too many years as well as being a bit pregnant and therefore too buoyed up by alien hormones to take this kind of thing lying down.

I leant back against my door frame and smiled, and told him that I was sorry but it was perfectly normal for kids playing at home in the early afternoon, with their friends on school holidays, on a warm day, to be audible.

ho to mend bridges with a problem neighbour

I told him that, additionally, he would most likely continue to hear my children at some times of the day all through summer, but that because they all go to bed early and that winter and school would eventually return to our Fair Isle, it wouldn’t last forever.

He asked me why they weren’t out in the park, and I told him it was none of his business.

I bid him goodbye and closed the door, triumphantly sweaty and shaky from the adrenaline which turned quickly into fury, humiliation, and finally into morally-outraged crying at the unreasonableness of it all.

Because we live in London, right? It’s a hive of high-density housing, filled from borough to borough with families and single people and night-shift workers and the young and the old, small families and large, the poor and the rich, the quiet and the less-so.

Living like this means all sorts of things, and one of those things is that you’ll have to deal with some noise.

It’s just a city thing – a consequence of summer and lots of people living near each other, and you come to understand this trade-off pretty soon.

There is a family with teenagers who live above us and we hear them stomp through their flat like some sort of elephantine stampede as well as the occasional 3 am music session – but you learn to shrug it off and shove in some earplugs.

This new neighbour guy clearly hadn’t gotten the memo.

Over the years we’ve seen other neighbours complaining about children’s noise.

We got asked to vacate a basement flat by an odd bachelor landlord who lived above us when I was first pregnant – we suspect he had noticed my swelling belly and wanted us out before a baby could interrupt his night’s sleep.

Two flats later, we battled with problem neighbours because of our buggy being folded up and left in the communal hallway.

They cited their worry about it blocking their path in an emergency, but we think they were just not up for living next door to an unpredictable toddler and a new baby.

Our next flat – our current one – has been trouble-free until a few years ago when we had a young woman launch a campaign to get the boys silenced.

She went from door to door asking other neighbours to help her get us out because she could hear the boys playing (summer again).

She didn’t like the way they played with a soft football near parked cars, she didn’t like them running around in our communal garden.

She hissed at them to shut up as she walked passed them on our street and wrote letters to our managing agents about the horror of it all.

She shouted at me from the top of my staircase that I was the most irresponsible mother she’d ever come across in all her years as a paediatric dentist (gulp) and that my kids were the most revoltingly behaved.

We finally called the police about the harassment campaign – and we never saw her again.

So what do you do when your kid’s reasonable kiddish behaviour gets Her Upstairs’ knickers in a twist? What can be done about constant moans regarding the ‘noise from neighbour’s child’ when said child belongs to you?

Should you just move to a farmhouse in Wales and deal with it that way?How much of your normal family life should you attempt to shield the neighbours from?

How apologetic should you be when someone does complain?

The stakes here are high because everyone has the right to feel comfortable and safe in their own homes; housing is at the heart of what constitutes a healthy and happy private existence.

In May 2018, a judge at the Central London County Court ordered a family to pay their complaining downstairs neighbour compensation of £100,000 for noise caused by bare floors.

what to do with a noisy problem neighbour

The answer in that case could well have been mitigation and compromise between the two parties before things got to litigation – a respectful chat, some mutually-agreed shifts in behaviours, (and some IKEA rugs) might have saved everyone a lot of time, money and stress.

Each council deals with things in slightly different ways, but generally ‘night time hours’ are between 11 pm and 7 am, during which noise should be minimal – which seems fair enough.

Though if you have a crying baby at night – as much as it adds another layer of anxiety to new parents and can be hard to deal with for everyone – it’s the kind of noise that no authority will consider doing anything about.

The current advice when you have problem neighbours is that you should try to resolve things by talking things through reasonably (as my new neighbour did in summer) with the next step being mediation if things break down.

Complaints can be made to the council but in order for them to get involved, the noise must be more than an annoyance or irritation – so that cuts out my guy and won’t include things like a fussing baby or children playing within the daytime hours.

Weekends are a little different – it’s worth it to insist on your kids minimising their noise into the later morning to allow for your neighbours to sleep in.

Get to know your neighbours so they grow a soft spot for you and your family rather than a raging hatred.

And it’s a good idea to instil in your kids a sense that other people living nearby mightn’t want to hear them – self-awareness and respect for others is a winning idea.

So is ‘shoes off at the door’ and a clear distinction made between inside and outside voices.

Being polite but firm and sticking to the right side of reasonable is the kind of behaviour that will count if things get to the council-interference stage.

But beyond duct-taping your kids’ mouths and banishing them to the carpeted room to play in socks, there’s a limit to how much you should curtail normal domestic life.

The problem neighbours could always try out that Welsh cottage, right?

Have you ever had to deal with neighbours complaining about your child?

  1. Henna
    27th November 2019

    Inside voices in detached houses can be loud but outside you should be quiet ,respect other people, when you have a choice between ruining other people’s lives or not. Cryiing babies are ok but you should take screaming toddlers and children to places where they don’t harm other people but their parents because no-one minds their own children’s voices.

    It is evil what parents do to people who are in no way responsible for their selfish odffspring, even mean.

    Please take them ball playing and screaming away from people who are entitled to peace and quiet. It is hprrible to listen to screaming and shouting when you are past 40. You are evil to not tell them go screaming somewhere where they don’t disturb anybody.

  2. Henna
    27th November 2019

    “I was frankly too busy rearranging some furniture to take them to the park when I met a new neighbour standing at the top of our stairs.”

    You wanted to have these people that are disrupting their neighbour from enjoyimg their home. You neighbours can’t read, etc do anything that needs concentrating becayse of you and your brats.

    Still you think it is ok that you don’t take them somewhee away from your neughbours ears. Really, it should be you who gets exhausted because of your kids. Not your neighbour.

    egiistic people , egoistic brats.
    No-one was ever bothered by the sounds of their own kids.

  3. Silentium
    31st December 2019

    Some people believe that the closer you live together, the more tolerant you should be and thus, the more noise you are entitled to make.

    Some people believe that the closer you live together, the more considerate you should be and thus, the more silent you should try to be.

    There doesn’t really seem to be much of a middle ground.

    The problem is that just ONE person from the first group can absolutely ruin the life of 20 people from the other group, because people who make noise are not bothered by other people’s silence.

    I for one have lived with so much noise over the last 10 years that I have slowly started to literally hate people in general. In spite of all efforts to talk with my neighbours on both sides about how my life can be tolerable too, the answer generally is: “When you live in the city, you have to accept noise, oh, and kids will be kids, and kids have to stomp the floors and kick the walls, oh, and I MUST vacuum every day, ALSO under the furniture that I have to drag across the floor in the morning and back in the evening, and it HAS to be when you sleep, because people working night shifts, screw them, right.

    So, in a month I move to a house on a large parcel, at least there, I can buy better windows if the neighbour has a dog and a lot of power tools. And to all you people making noise downtown, you have lived well, never having to deal with noise from my unit. I sincerely hope that whomever moves in after me has the world’s largest surround stereo and likes to use it. A lot.

    Good riddance.

  4. Fal
    15th May 2020

    I agree with other commenters, subjecting people to the misery of living next to screaming kids is very inconsiderate. Sure kids can be loud indoors, at least the sound will be a bit muffled. Its the screaming, shouting and booting footballs against things outside that need putting in order. You may not mind the racket from your own kids, you chose to have them. Your neighbours did not. Everyone deserves the right to quiet enjoyment of their own property.

  5. Community stalking victim
    21st May 2020

    Back ground:
    My neighbours say they don’t mind noise but they drag their many offspring in front of my home in the street. The thing is systematic: when they get company, their nephews and other mothers and fathers with noisy brats close by which was all the time, 8-23, they leave their gardens across the street and come and hang around my garden, next to the fence or scream and play in the street, which is about ten feet from my windows. That was 2006-2009.

    I was silly and mentioned about their behavior, asked whats wrong with their gardens. I figured if you have to put up with your own ears and your own real estate taking the noise and harm they just might limit the number of visitors and ball games and yelling and other disusting noise as they were much closer to my Windows than their own, in the street. I should have understood that no-one who is a decent human being would being their brats to other people in the first place. These neighbours started to go around the neighborhoods slandering me and targeted me to a noise campaign. There hasnot been a quiet day since, they enjoy this hame, dozens of families being their screaming and yelling here. This has been going on from 2006 and I have lost my memory my blood pressure is high and I worry about long term effects of all this on my innocent children. Dozens of adults have participated in harassment of my family with power tools etc. There are about 10 dogs kept outside very close by barking if no other noise is to be heard. This couple that targeted me looks like the Ohio couple that started the honking campaign (Google Krlich family, small town terrorism).

    I hate people and kids in general because of these people who pretend they enjoy noise. Well actyally they hate noise just as much as I, if it is not by their or their brats making. Yes I phantasize about things and even pray, I wouldn’t have liked to k ow any of these. Everubody knows other children noise is hortible and you should respect Everybody, not just some neighbours.

    They pretend to be my victims and their sadistic brats since 2009 so that is how they manipulated Flying monkeys but many families are lonely and find life boring and never needed any persuading at all.

    They have filed law suits against me and won, when I screamed. Other neighbours threaten me all the time, like go inside or I call the police, while they bring their screaming brats as close as they can.

    These families are evil but I am just saying, it should be you who suffers, because no one else wanted your brats, only you.

  6. Marie
    22nd May 2020

    What bugs me is that you are saying you want to be free to do what you want decorating moving furniture etc but at the same time you are preventing your innocent neighbours from doing what they want eg reading working etc by allowing your kids out and that is not right. At least it should not be a secret or a tabu that everybody suffers from other kids noise so you should always make sure they are next to their parents windows and check that at times so you may be motivated to make them respect other people and their homes regardless what your excuse for ruining other people’s lives. There are no.

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