Real Simple etiquette expert, Catherine Newman on how to deal with noisy neighbors.
Q: I’ve lived in my condo for the last several years, and it’s always been quiet. Then, a few weeks ago, a family moved in across the way, and their baby never stops crying.
I wake up to him crying; I fall asleep to him crying. Sometimes he cries all day. The worst part is that his parents don’t seem to tend to him. I’m sure that they want him to learn to soothe himself, but this morning he started howling at 5 a.m. and continued for 45 minutes straight. Is there anything I can say or do to change the situation without causing offense?
A: First of all, I assume that you don’t suspect actual neglect or abuse. (If you do, stop reading right now and call 911 or your local police department.) Rather, it sounds as though your neighbors have an infant who’s going through a challenging phase and that they’re allowing him to “cry it out.” It’s understandable that they would adopt this very common parenting philosophy. It’s equally understandable that it would wreak havoc on your quality of life.
That being said, it’s tough to complain about a baby’s decibel level to his parents without sounding like an ogre. So try this: Instead of confronting your neighbors, commiserate. “Wow, it sounds like your baby is really having a rough time,” you might say, kindly (and truthfully). Your comment will offer them compassion, as well as a reality check. (Oh, right, the walls aren’t soundproof.) And perhaps it will give them an opportunity to explain their child’s unhappiness. After all, you might feel more tolerant if you learn that the baby is, say, teething. Also, the interaction may prompt your neighbors to make a change, such as moving the crib to a more remote part of their home.
Whether or not you do anything, though, the situation will probably resolve on its own. The sound track of misery should quiet down as the baby grows out of this phase. If all else fails, get some noise canceling headphones and wait it out.
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Submit your social conundrums to Catherine at realsimple.com/modernmanners. Selected letters will be featured on the website each month.