Condo Won’t Let Kids Play Outside

Hi Folks — Sometimes the inbox brings a little symmetry. Here’s a story one of you sent in about a condo association that can’t stand kids running around “from yard to yard” making “unacceptable noise.” Perhaps children should be taught to use their “indoor voices” outdoors.

But then here’s a story, also just in, about how Berlin is now officially allowing children to run around and MAKE noise (just not on Sundays).  So there’s hope. Far away. On weekdays.

Finally, I didn’t alert you to my current piece on ParentDish, “If You Don’t Have Kids, Can You Give Parents Advice?” So — here it is! Enjoy! — Lenore

39 Responses

  1. About Berlin, the reason for the new law is a decision by the federal court that noise from kids is OK. This is a new development as in the past daycare centres had to be closed down when neighbours complained about them. Germany is currently trying to find a nation-wide regulation to deal with it. It won’t come very soon, though, as it is much debated – of course. It is very likely that other states will follow suit and draw up state laws if no federal law comes into force soon.
    And I, of course, don’t think that the poster of your story is right when he says that “noisy children will become noisy adults”. No. I don’t think so.

  2. That post about non-parents giving advice really, really bugs me. The brother completely over-reacted. Unless she was being snippy, or misrepresented her “suggestion,” the sister was making a suggestion about a one-time action that might be a good idea, not “giving parenting advice.” “Giving parenting advice” is, “My goodness, bro, do you really let him stay up this late?” Or “don’t you think children that age should be in bed by X o’clock?” That would be “parenting advice.” “He’s tired, why don’t you put him to bed so all four of us can have some peace” is not “parenting advice,” it’s a request or a suggestion in a particular situation.

    If his vast parenting experience caused him to believe that he had good reasons for his choice, he could calmly have said something like, “We’ve realized it’s always a problem if he doesn’t get to stay up longer than his younger siblings.” Not, HOW DARE YOU GIVE ME ADVICE? That response is for people who act like they know more than you, not for people who make a suggestion.

    So ISTM that unless the sister’s request was formed snarkily, bossily, or inappropriately, the guy was being a jerk, not for not putting his kid to bed, but for treating her like she was WAAAAY out of line for making a suggestion in the absence of being an authority on a subject.

  3. Wow – that condo association sounds really kid-unfriendly. Oddly though, they don’t seem anti-free range. They set aside a field for the kids that the parents don’t like because it’s *next to woods* and they *can’t watch the kids*. Which might be an issue for the littler ones but I’m thinking the issue is probably older kids if it’s organized sports that are the problem.

    Pentamom – I agree! I do think though that it’s probably the case that a) the brother and his wife have second guessed themselves over their own decision a hundred times already and are particularly sensitive about it. And b) the politics of sibling rivalry don’t always stop when the siblings become adults 🙂

  4. Or the adults were tired, too. 😀

    Pentamom, ISTM?

    While on one hand, the rules were in place for the condos and it is buyer beware, the rules are dumb. Thanks to Lenore, more and more people are recognizing the dangers of A) lack of exercise for children; and B) too much hovering and keeping children essentially prisoner inside for no good reason.

    Both apply here. Common sense attitudes change. What used to be common sense about letting kids go play changed to common sense about keeping them in sight at all times and now swinging back to common sense about letting kids be kids.

    It’s reasonable to perhaps set time limits. In the winter, no more playing loudly outside after dark, and in the summer, some set time so adults who need to go to work have some quiet time too. It’s called compromise. Setting aside an area away from the condos wasn’t a bad solution, but again, The Boogeyman could be out in the woods and the parents haven’t quite heard of Lenore yet and allowing their kids – in a pack, no less! – go play there without worry.

    It’ll all shake out, but people, people…CHILDREN EXIST, and if you think for one moment that you, as a child, never yelled or cried or shrieked or any of the things children do while they LEARN to be adults, you are sadly, sadly mistaken. And yet here you are, an adult…

  5. Oh no! Children making noise as they play outside in the condo complex they live in? What is this world coming to? Don’t you know that not only should children be seen and not heard, they shouldn’t even be seen? Keep them inside playing video games where no one will be bothered.

    Seriously, this is why I would hate to live in a condo complex or other area where everyone gets to set the rules for the whole area. They may start out sane but I’ve seen too many associations start in with the crazy rules once someone decides something new needs to be controlled.

  6. Sometimes I get frustrated with home ownership and having to maintain a yard and such, but then I read articles like these and thank God I can do what I want with my own property (more or less!).

    Since when is five kids playign wiffle ball an “organized sport” anyway?

  7. Sorry, LauraL, you’re the second person to ask me that recently! It’s widely used on some other sites I frequent so I forget it’s not common everywhere.

    It Seems To Me. I find it quite useful. 🙂

  8. Thanks! I work online at a parenting site and I see a lot of acronyms but that was one I really hadn’t come across! 😀

  9. Lenore, I enjoyed your article on non parents giving advice. It reminds me of something my pastor says: ” I used to have all these great sermons on parenting, and then I had kids.”

  10. I have mixed feelings about this. I completely agree that the kids need a place to play outside, and that rules should be enforced fairly. Of course children run around and shout when they play. A certain amount of noise is expected and should be tolerated, even by those who don’t love the sounds of playing children.

    However, I get concerned when kids (and parents) think that just because they’re outside they can be as loud as they want and don’t have to follow basic rules about not disturbing others. There are a couple kids in our neighborhood who are so loud I am amazed children can make so much noise. It sounds like they are holding a contest to see who can scream the loudest. My family cannot work, sleep, or relax because of the noise, and the screaming is so extreme I’ve gone over a couple times to see if someone is hurt (and asked for a little more quiet please, which only works until I’m out of sight). I would think these kids would lose their voices after a while, but they seem to have incredible stamina!

    My own kids are outside playing a lot, particularly in good weather. I tell them to be considerate of others when it comes to noise levels. And I ask them to not scream, since I (and others) cannot necessarily tell if they are hurt or not when they scream. And if they ARE ever hurt, I want to know right away, and not ignore screams for help because they sound like ordinary play. They run and jump and raise their voices, but it’s kept at a reasonable level.

  11. Wow, all I can say is that every time I hear about crazy housing board rules in the US, I’m extra glad to be Canadian. I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous up here – I’m not sure that’s because our housing rights are better legislated, or if we’re just nicer to our neighbours!

  12. How can kids be kids if they cannot play outside? Sad. Sad. Criminalizing play is just wrong. Thank you for your vigilance in pointing out the stupid laws and rules found in our country.

  13. Okay, I live in a co-op. I have a child. There’s a playground on the premises, brand new and built with suggestions fromt he residents who have children. There is also a big town park at the end of our street.
    That said, I work at home and don’t want to hear kids playing outside my window – not when there is a playground & park nearby. Not everyone works during the day either, some work at night and need to sleep during the day.
    We are having an issue with a little girl who lives downstairs from us who screams VERY loudly from 3 to 6 almost every day. Apparently her babysitter doesn’t care or she can’t discipline her. I have called the management company several times. Once I even called them WHILE SHE WAS SCREAMING and they agreed it was loud.
    Parents who can’t discipline ther children to use their inside voices may not grow up to be noisy adults, but they MIGHT grow up to feel that they can do what they want, without considering the needs of others around them.
    My daughter was taught to be considerate of other people we live around. So should they – and so should the parents of the kids who play outside my window while I am trying to work to earn a living – or hey, even relax.
    Just sayin’

  14. Oh, and by the way, the mother is not talking to me now and gives me the evil eye every time she sees me. One day this kid was screaming so loud and so long I thought something had to be wrong. So I called the police.
    The neighbor who lives above them is never home and the people who live next to them say they don’t hear her. How can they not?!

  15. Aliza, I gotta ask:

    What, exactly, do you want the parents or babysitter to do while the child is screaming to make her stop? Don’t just say “discipline her”, I’m really curious as to what your advice is.

  16. Ask the child to use her inside voice, maybe? Maybe get her to play with something so she isn’t screaming constantly. Maybe ask her to read a book – or gee, maybe DO something with the child and not (obviously) be ignoring her.
    I have a child myself and I would never let her make as much noise as this girl does.

  17. AlizaG: Is it possible the child has mental health issues, such as Autism? There are several things both physical and mental that could be causing this child to scream that has nothing to do with poor discipline or lack of attention.

  18. No, that’s what management asked me too. No, she is “normal”, except for the screaming.
    But, after I made the management hear her over the phone I haven’t heard her scream since (knock on wood)

  19. @Uly My kids learned very quickly to not scream (unless they were really hurt) when I made them go sit in the corner every time they did it. It was more fun to play with reasonable voice levels than to sit in a corner. It really wasn’t a very long or difficult learning process.

    Obviously there are some kids with disabilities who have issues that would make this much harder, and I would have extra sympathy in that case. But the screaming kids I know don’t have that excuse.

  20. Jennifer, that’s great.

    What if the kid screams louder just because she can, as my beloved older niece tries from time to time? Or she use to start screaming (and hitting and biting….) at naptime specifically so she could get a time-out instead of a nap. (I caught on to this trick after a while, it was right up there with “I need to pee! Now! Uh… and ten minutes from now too!) She outgrew it eventually, but in the interim she screamed the house down.

    Aliza, I’m serious – HOW do you know she’s ignoring her? How do you know she’s not, say, trying to get this girl to take her nap (which she thinks is pointless but the parents insist upon) or trying to enforce a basic bit of discipline that the kid won’t listen to?

    What if your time-out doesn’t work, and your coddling the kid doesn’t work, and your asking the kid to be quiet doesn’t work, then what do you do? Tape her mouth shut? Beat her til she shuts up? You know what you hear (which the other neighbors don’t, so maybe it’s actually just you, I don’t know), but you don’t know what’s actually going on in there.

    I mean, it could also be that the babysitter is burning the child with lit cigarettes all day, in which case she’s abusive and it’s not the kid’s fault, I don’t know. But neither do you.

  21. To be honest, I don’t CARE why she screams and carries on. I just want her to either do it outside in the playground and not inside the house. How do I know the babysitter is ignoring her? I don’t. I know the babysitter doesn;t speak English though, so there could be a communication problem there. The babaysitter is also their housekeeper and the girl is 6 or 7 and probably isn’t taking naps anymore.
    Six or seven is old enough to learn how to behave in an apartment building with other people around you.
    My daughter isn’t perfect, but she did learn that. You just have to repeat yourself over and over that screaming isn’t okay when you are inside. But it seems as if no-one is doing that and allowing her to do what she wishes.
    Good luck when this kid gets to be a teenager, if no-one has taught her how to behave by then.

  22. @Uly Of course a parent cannot always instantly make a child stop screaming. However, a parent can create consequences for screaming that make the child a lot less likely to do it in the long run. It is possible to change children’s behavior. That’s part of my job as a parent.

    I would also assume that, unless a child had some developmental or other disability, that a 6 or 7 year old who still screamed all the time (rather than just occasionally) had not been disciplined or taught not to do it. There might be some exceptions to this, but I think they are probably exceptions rather than the rule.

  23. Honestly, Jennifer, I’m not sure I believe this girl screams as much as she says. If she did, why don’t the other neighbors hear it?

  24. Maybe because they aren’t home at 3 when she starts until 6 when her parents seem to arrive home.

  25. And, if the management agent could hear her over the phone – and I knew if I called him that she would still be screaming when I did – it’s too much.
    What do you suggest I do Uly? Ignore it somehow? Get earplugs? Or say something to someone who can actually talk to the parents about it and get them to think how their daughter’s behavior is affecting others?
    Honestly, what would you have me do?

  26. Nice blog, so sweet article. Thanks 🙂

  27. My son, now 23 mos., has entered his “terrible 2s.” Lately,he seems to save up all his frustrations during the day (nursery school) until he’s back home with ima, and then has his tantrums. Yeah, he’s LOUD. NO, there isn’t anything I can really do about much of it– he seems to look for things to have a meltdown over. Talking to him isn’t any use until he can calm *himself* down. Which he does. He’s learning control. He’s a toddler. NO, this won’t be acceptable when he’s old enough to have control and understand “inside voice.” (We’re working on it.)

    My new downstairs neighbor doesn’t get it. There is a family with 2 little ones beside her and us above her, and she’s complained to management and nastily in an anonymous note slipped under my door. After that– TOUGH. If kids bother you that much (and we are talking toddlers and infants in this case)– MOVE to a 55+ building. But in this community with lots of young families, there is going to be noise within hours. If this was going on after hours, I could see her complaining, but the answer would still be, the kid is having sleep issues, we’re trying to get through this, sorry for the noise. I’m NOT tiptoeing around my own house because of this (we don’t wear shoes in the house). Yeah, I hear my neighbors, but within hours, one is going to hear people! (Mornings are good for him, and he’s in bed & asleep by 6:30pm.)

    The amount of hostility shown towards children these days is really out of control– whether they are well-behaved or not. (Don’t even start on ‘adults’ on planes when they see the kid.) I’m glad I sold my condo– that HOA was similar in their uneven application of rules and even trying to make up new ones as they went along.

  28. Uly, I’m not sure why you’re more skeptical about Aliza’s honesty or grip on reality, than about the possibility that a child is neglected or poorly disciplined by her caregiver. The world is FULL of people who do a lousy job of dealing with their kids’ behavior. I’m thinking there are probably more people who don’t handle situations like this with children well, than people who imagine relentlessly screaming children and write about it on blogs.

  29. When I was a teenager, I was heavily involved in my church, especially with the children. I wanted to be more involved, but the adults in charge assumed I was up to no good because I was a teenager. Anyway, I remember being in a planning meeting for something (I was amazingly allowed to participate after my mom begged them), and there were some kids outside the window, having a great time on the playground. I have always found it joyful to listen to children having fun, and I was really amazed when one of the adult women complained about it. At the time I figured that since she had kids of her own, she had just had too much of it. But no matter how often I hear kids playing, I never get tired of it.

  30. Sounds like these kids at the condos were being obnoxious.

    Kids should be able to figure out how to do their thing without bothering everyone else within earshot. Part of “free range” parenting, I would think, would be teaching your kids how to get along with other people. Running up and down the street screaming isn’t going to cut it.

  31. @ dahozho:

    Of course that doesn’t go for babies/toddlers, especially in their own homes. There’s really not much anyone can do about a crying baby or cranky toddler. You’re right about that.

  32. @AlizaG: They sell sound-proofing panels at Home Depot now. Saw them just the other day. I’d screw them over my drywall, caulk and tape the seams, then put new drywall over top.

    Overkill? Maybe. But that’s what I’d do.

  33. Thanks Vanyali, but my co-op most likely wouldn’t let me do that. And the sound comes up the stairs anyway (it’s a 4 apartment building.
    At any rate, after I let the management guy hear her over the phone that day I haven’t her scream since, knock on wood!

  34. I found it a tad ironic that it would be the Germans who “authorized” letting kids play outside, given that today’s Times carried a story about a German family granted political asylum in Minnesota because they’re not allowed to home-school their children there.

    I suppose it’s only OK to let the kids out after they get home from a state-approved school.

  35. @Ralphinjersey, now home-schooling is a very difficult issue here in Germany. It simply isn’t done and so there are no good examples of how it can be done successfully. There is just always the notion that once parents pull their kids out of school, these kids are lost. Not because their parents who really want to home-school them are not capable to do it but rather because every time a child was found dead in its parents house it was because it had somehow escaped the school system and nobody ever missed it. So, being in school – no matter what kind of school – means that there are people who would notice if something went wrong with the child…

  36. I think that parental advice should follow the same rules as ALL other advice:

    1) Offer only after asking if it’s wanted
    2) Offer in complete humility, e.g. “It seems to me that you could do X, but I may not fully grasp the situation.”

  37. Great post! Every once and a while you will hear about condominium associations have super strict rules, but for the most part condo associations will allow some type of leniency because you do own the condo.

  38. Thanks alot, its very useful, specially for foreigner….

  39. Sorry, LauraL, you’re the second person to ask me that recently! It’s widely used on some other sites I frequent so I forget it’s not common everywhere.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: