Is this mom 's discipline lacking? That's not the issue

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  March 5, 2012 06:00 AM

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Would you please write something on the permissibility of parents letting their children run in the house? I have lived in a second-floor condominium for twenty-three and a half years, and in the last seven months I have had to deal with a new third-floor neighbor, a single mother with two boys, ages 3 and 1. She lets the 3-year-old run around, and the heavy pounding of his feet makes my unit shake, and I feel the vibrations through my body. My repeated requests to her have led to a lessening of the problem but not its elimination. The trustees and property manager say it is an issue between owners and will not tell her that such running is prohibited. I believe it is not part of the normal sounds of living, like walking; it is more like playing ball in the house, which should also be totally prohibited. I am also aware that her second child is not yet running, so in another six months to a year, I will probably have two pairs of pounding feet over my head! What do you think about parents who are lax in disciplining their children this way, especially when it affects other people? (If she lived in a first-floor unit or in a house it would be a different matter.) Thank you.

From: Judith, Brookline, MA

Dear Judith,

The "permissibility" of parents letting their children run in the house? Not only do I think it's permissible, I think it's unreasonable to expect it to stop, and I think you're out of touch to suggest that this mom is "lax" in discipline.

It's not that I'm insensitive to your sensitivity. It probably would bother me, too. I think you've been lucky in the 23 1/2 years not to have had a family with children above you. So let me suggest a different tactic: invite the family in for lemonade and cookies. Get to know the kids. (You might like them.) Ask them to show you how they run! Once they know you as a person rather than just "that lady downstairs," they're likely to be more responsive to, say, playing more quietly before a certain hour in the morning. In fact, they will -- over time -- learn the difference between indoor play and outdoor play.

I know that to you this is a 'why-can't -this-generation-of-parents-control-their-kids problem. To me, it's about common sense. As my grandmother used to say, you catch more flies with sugar.

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12 comments so far...
  1. LW, 2 and 3 year olds are noisy walkers. They stomp and run because they don't have the physical control over their bodies that we do. This isn't a discipline issue. It's a physical development issue. Unfortunately, what you need is patience.

    Posted by jjlen March 5, 12 07:11 AM
  1. Good Advice Barbara.

    LW; You really don't know what this parent is doing for discipline based on stomping feet. That is the risk that is made when you initially moved into a multi family condo or apartment units. You knew that going into the deal. While I sympathize with you for annoyance. Remember these kids don't have a "real" backyard to play in and I am guessing the unit is not extremely spacious. While I don't condone the running around and lack of courtesy, you cannot say she doesn't parent her kids without any other information to go by.
    I think Barbara's advice is good. Get to know them and then you can explain to her what it sounds like below her. You never know, you may just gain a new friend in this situation.

    Posted by jd March 5, 12 07:41 AM
  1. Judith: You could suggest that your neighbor add large area rugs to her apartment, though of course, not everyone can afford to make that kind of non-essential purchase. You can also suggest, now that spring is coming, that they burn up more of that toddler energy outside. Winter cabin fever is always tough on our energetic little ones.

    I agree with Barbara that you've been lucky so far in your upstairs neighbors. It's really not reasonable to ask a child -- or even an adult -- to never move quickly through their own home. Three-years-olds really only have two speeds: 1) fast and 2) napping. I think you can get to know your neighbors better, and you can request certain times of day that the kids are quiet, but 24 hours a day is just not realistic. And a parent who keeps their toddlers squashed 100% of the time is really not the good parent you think they are, IMO.

    You've been in this apartment a long time, which makes me wonder if perhaps now you are retired -- ie: home all day -- when earlier you were not? Perhaps the difference with These Kids Today is that you're home to hear them when 20 years ago you were not? And, one last gentle suggestion: perhaps it would benefit you to get out of the house, too. A change of scenery and some fresh air might help you as well.

    Posted by SandEE March 5, 12 08:58 AM
  1. Perfect response Barbara! Little kids are like puppies. You can't control their energy unless you put them in a cage. (Not that I'm suggesting one cage a child!)

    Posted by teachermom March 5, 12 09:05 AM
  1. Or offer to buy them a thick rug with a thick rug pad if they don't have that already.

    Posted by ReadingMom March 5, 12 09:07 AM
  1. As the mother of a darling sweet kind and sensitive 4-year-old, I can tell you: kids only walk when they're depressed or sad. A happy kid is excited about whatever she is about to do next, so she will skip or run into the playroom or up to her room or to the table for a meal or into the bathroom for a bath. They're kids, they're full of energy, and that's how they move. That is a wonderful perspective to have on life.

    Posted by katemc March 5, 12 09:25 AM
  1. What @katemc says. My almost 4 year old never walks unless she's extremely tired or very sad - and it's not for lack of being outside, running around, "burning off" energy. It's because she's 3 and this is perfectly normal behavior for a 3 year old.

    We're very close to our landlords, an elderly couple who live below us - and they LOVE the sound of kids in the house, so we're also very lucky. BUT, we still emphasize playing quietly and respect for "Nonna y Nonno" downstairs. She's getting better, but it's a learning process.

    My advice to the LW is to take barbara's advice. It's a lot easier to help small children understand that they're being too noisdy if they get to know the people who live around them and can put a face to "the lady downstairs:. Barring that, maybe it's time to look in to child-free living elsewhere.

    Posted by Phe March 5, 12 11:10 AM
  1. LW, you said you mentioned it to the mother, and the noise lessened, so she is trying. However, I feel bad for children who can't be kids because of the downstairs neighbor. This is life in the real world. Children run because they have lots of energy. Accept that and get some earplugs.

    Posted by patches2 March 5, 12 12:15 PM
  1. Children run. And laugh and cry loudly. And play with noisy toys.

    I understand and sympathize totally that you want your quiet environment back but unfortunately, apartment/condo living comes with no guarantees.

    You may want to talk to a contractor about having a second ceiling installed above the noisiest area. It will help to decrease the vibrations and muffle the sound. I suggest this because it's something that YOU can control.

    You may also want to realize that your letter comes off as somewhat harsh. Do the child's footsteps really vibrate into the core of your being? And why did you feel it necessary to note that she is a "single" mother.

    I always find that doing volunteer work helps me get calmer and more appreciative of what I do have.

    Posted by just cause March 5, 12 12:20 PM
  1. Dear LW, you are in for a LONG decade. These kids will probably get noisier before they get quieter. Playing ball inside probably isn't against the association agreement, and even if it were that wouldn't stop a three year old from running.

    You need to sell your condo and find a nice retirement home to move into. No kids there to trouble you.

    Posted by TF March 6, 12 02:34 PM
  1. Phe wrote "BUT, we still emphasize playing quietly and respect for "Nonna y Nonno" downstairs.". This is the best comment here. Yes, you cannot expect children to not run but this mom could also instill respect for others into her children by making them aware that their behavior affects others. I'm sure to get a lashing from other commenters but it's not an unreasonable piece of advice. It's never to early to instill manners and common courtesy in your children. I grew up in apartments and my siblings and I were always told to not jump or run so as not to disturb those living below us. I don't see a problem with this and I'm surprised so many other commenters do. I agree, there is not much the LW can do about the mom's parenting but all parents should be trying to instill respect for others into their children.

    Posted by whm March 10, 12 10:30 AM
  1. @whm: I don't see why you'd get a ration from anyone. I do think that the LW needs to be more patient and understanding when it comes to children and we are so fortunate that "Nonna y Nonno" *are* patient and understanding. Nevertheless, anyone who resides in multi-family homes should instill a sense of respect for those around them in their children. It won't happen overnight. Exuberance at this age comes before thinking of others.

    On the other hand, our daughter shocks us routinely by her gratefulness and her acknowledgement of others. She gets excited over clothes; doesn't pick toys for herself but selects items for her dolls that they "need" - and at Christmas, only asked for one toy for herself and a "new bed for my dollies so they have someplace warm to sleep". She got that and then proceeded to give each of her dolls one of the toys she got as well. I was blown away. We had to draw the line at her giving the cat a Barbie though. :) She also *thanks us*, meaningfully, and without being prompted, for cleaning (which we do regularly - it's not like it's a rare or remarkable occurrence!). She's 3. So we're lucky. Very lucky. It's easier for her than for other kids her age to think of others I guess. ;)

    Posted by Phe March 12, 12 08:32 AM
 
12 comments so far...
  1. LW, 2 and 3 year olds are noisy walkers. They stomp and run because they don't have the physical control over their bodies that we do. This isn't a discipline issue. It's a physical development issue. Unfortunately, what you need is patience.

    Posted by jjlen March 5, 12 07:11 AM
  1. Good Advice Barbara.

    LW; You really don't know what this parent is doing for discipline based on stomping feet. That is the risk that is made when you initially moved into a multi family condo or apartment units. You knew that going into the deal. While I sympathize with you for annoyance. Remember these kids don't have a "real" backyard to play in and I am guessing the unit is not extremely spacious. While I don't condone the running around and lack of courtesy, you cannot say she doesn't parent her kids without any other information to go by.
    I think Barbara's advice is good. Get to know them and then you can explain to her what it sounds like below her. You never know, you may just gain a new friend in this situation.

    Posted by jd March 5, 12 07:41 AM
  1. Judith: You could suggest that your neighbor add large area rugs to her apartment, though of course, not everyone can afford to make that kind of non-essential purchase. You can also suggest, now that spring is coming, that they burn up more of that toddler energy outside. Winter cabin fever is always tough on our energetic little ones.

    I agree with Barbara that you've been lucky so far in your upstairs neighbors. It's really not reasonable to ask a child -- or even an adult -- to never move quickly through their own home. Three-years-olds really only have two speeds: 1) fast and 2) napping. I think you can get to know your neighbors better, and you can request certain times of day that the kids are quiet, but 24 hours a day is just not realistic. And a parent who keeps their toddlers squashed 100% of the time is really not the good parent you think they are, IMO.

    You've been in this apartment a long time, which makes me wonder if perhaps now you are retired -- ie: home all day -- when earlier you were not? Perhaps the difference with These Kids Today is that you're home to hear them when 20 years ago you were not? And, one last gentle suggestion: perhaps it would benefit you to get out of the house, too. A change of scenery and some fresh air might help you as well.

    Posted by SandEE March 5, 12 08:58 AM
  1. Perfect response Barbara! Little kids are like puppies. You can't control their energy unless you put them in a cage. (Not that I'm suggesting one cage a child!)

    Posted by teachermom March 5, 12 09:05 AM
  1. Or offer to buy them a thick rug with a thick rug pad if they don't have that already.

    Posted by ReadingMom March 5, 12 09:07 AM
  1. As the mother of a darling sweet kind and sensitive 4-year-old, I can tell you: kids only walk when they're depressed or sad. A happy kid is excited about whatever she is about to do next, so she will skip or run into the playroom or up to her room or to the table for a meal or into the bathroom for a bath. They're kids, they're full of energy, and that's how they move. That is a wonderful perspective to have on life.

    Posted by katemc March 5, 12 09:25 AM
  1. What @katemc says. My almost 4 year old never walks unless she's extremely tired or very sad - and it's not for lack of being outside, running around, "burning off" energy. It's because she's 3 and this is perfectly normal behavior for a 3 year old.

    We're very close to our landlords, an elderly couple who live below us - and they LOVE the sound of kids in the house, so we're also very lucky. BUT, we still emphasize playing quietly and respect for "Nonna y Nonno" downstairs. She's getting better, but it's a learning process.

    My advice to the LW is to take barbara's advice. It's a lot easier to help small children understand that they're being too noisdy if they get to know the people who live around them and can put a face to "the lady downstairs:. Barring that, maybe it's time to look in to child-free living elsewhere.

    Posted by Phe March 5, 12 11:10 AM
  1. LW, you said you mentioned it to the mother, and the noise lessened, so she is trying. However, I feel bad for children who can't be kids because of the downstairs neighbor. This is life in the real world. Children run because they have lots of energy. Accept that and get some earplugs.

    Posted by patches2 March 5, 12 12:15 PM
  1. Children run. And laugh and cry loudly. And play with noisy toys.

    I understand and sympathize totally that you want your quiet environment back but unfortunately, apartment/condo living comes with no guarantees.

    You may want to talk to a contractor about having a second ceiling installed above the noisiest area. It will help to decrease the vibrations and muffle the sound. I suggest this because it's something that YOU can control.

    You may also want to realize that your letter comes off as somewhat harsh. Do the child's footsteps really vibrate into the core of your being? And why did you feel it necessary to note that she is a "single" mother.

    I always find that doing volunteer work helps me get calmer and more appreciative of what I do have.

    Posted by just cause March 5, 12 12:20 PM
  1. Dear LW, you are in for a LONG decade. These kids will probably get noisier before they get quieter. Playing ball inside probably isn't against the association agreement, and even if it were that wouldn't stop a three year old from running.

    You need to sell your condo and find a nice retirement home to move into. No kids there to trouble you.

    Posted by TF March 6, 12 02:34 PM
  1. Phe wrote "BUT, we still emphasize playing quietly and respect for "Nonna y Nonno" downstairs.". This is the best comment here. Yes, you cannot expect children to not run but this mom could also instill respect for others into her children by making them aware that their behavior affects others. I'm sure to get a lashing from other commenters but it's not an unreasonable piece of advice. It's never to early to instill manners and common courtesy in your children. I grew up in apartments and my siblings and I were always told to not jump or run so as not to disturb those living below us. I don't see a problem with this and I'm surprised so many other commenters do. I agree, there is not much the LW can do about the mom's parenting but all parents should be trying to instill respect for others into their children.

    Posted by whm March 10, 12 10:30 AM
  1. @whm: I don't see why you'd get a ration from anyone. I do think that the LW needs to be more patient and understanding when it comes to children and we are so fortunate that "Nonna y Nonno" *are* patient and understanding. Nevertheless, anyone who resides in multi-family homes should instill a sense of respect for those around them in their children. It won't happen overnight. Exuberance at this age comes before thinking of others.

    On the other hand, our daughter shocks us routinely by her gratefulness and her acknowledgement of others. She gets excited over clothes; doesn't pick toys for herself but selects items for her dolls that they "need" - and at Christmas, only asked for one toy for herself and a "new bed for my dollies so they have someplace warm to sleep". She got that and then proceeded to give each of her dolls one of the toys she got as well. I was blown away. We had to draw the line at her giving the cat a Barbie though. :) She also *thanks us*, meaningfully, and without being prompted, for cleaning (which we do regularly - it's not like it's a rare or remarkable occurrence!). She's 3. So we're lucky. Very lucky. It's easier for her than for other kids her age to think of others I guess. ;)

    Posted by Phe March 12, 12 08:32 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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