Ask Alice: Advice for Life at Home

Alice, My Child’s Crying is Disturbing Our Upstairs Neighbor

updated May 4, 2019
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Dear Alice,

I am living with my family in a high-rise apartment. I am new to this country, Germany. My child is three-years-old and I am having trouble getting him adjusted to this new environment, but he is doing much better than in the beginning. Our upstairs tenants have a problem with my kid crying as it is loud and echoing at times.

This happens especially when my son is inside the bathroom, as it is small and opposite to the bedroom. The guy who lives upstairs sleeps in the daytime as he works the night shift. I am having a tough time getting my kid ready for school without making any noise. My son doesn’t want to do anything willingly inside the bathroom and, at times, he cries. I am doing my best by closing my bedroom door or the bathroom door whenever I take my kid inside the bathroom.

What other simple solutions can I implement to avoid this disturbance? We are under pressure, though we don’t have any concerns from others staying on the same floor. We have not yet brought this concern to the apartment agency. But we are getting disturbed frequently regarding this, as I can’t make a three-year-old kid quiet immediately, once he starts crying.

It was tough to find a house here and I am really satisfied with this house, except for concern from the upstairs tenants. Your suggestion would be of great help for me.

Thanks in advance,
Mom to Crying Kid

Dear Mom,

In my experience there are three types of loud neighbors: 1) the oblivious neighbor who doesn’t realize he is a source of bother to others 2) the selfish, jerky neighbor who doesn’t care he is a source of bother to others 3) the considerate neighbor unable to control the source of bother to others. You fall into the third category. True, there are things you can do to mitigate the noise, but a crying child is not a radio or television that you can turn down or turn off.

The tricky part is that the noise is experienced in the same way by neighbors regardless of which type you are. I have sympathy for your neighbor. Outside noise can be annoying and disruptive. As a light sleeper myself, I’m particularly empathetic to sleep disturbances. That said, I don’t think your neighbor should have an expectation of quiet during the day and it’s unfortunate that this happens to be when he sleeps. I would hope that he’s taken measures (like a sound machine or ear plugs) to aid his daytime sleep. If he expects all his neighbors to tiptoe around their homes during the day, he should reconsider his living situation because that’s just not realistic.

But a crying child can be really loud and you should, of course, do what you can to lessen it. You’re already closing doors and trying to cajole your son out of crying. He is understandably having a tough time with this transition to a new country and a new home. For a three-year-old, crying is a valid means of expression. It’s not pleasant and it’s better for everyone if he would use language to work through his anxiety or protests, but this is pretty normal behavior for his age.

It sounds like you feel trapped between being a good neighbor and being a good mother. Keep doing what you can to make your son feel comfortable and happy in his new home. Children are super perceptive. If you are feeling anxious about your son’s crying and its impact on your neighbor, your son is no doubt picking up on this and learning that his crying elicits a strong reaction and gets your attention. Try downplaying your reaction to his tears, even if you’re faking feeling relaxed about it, and see if it helps. If the bathroom specifically is the prime locus of the crying – do as much “bathroom stuff” as you can somewhere else – like brushing teeth or washing hands in the kitchen.

When your neighbor complains again, you can apologize and say you’re doing your best (which you are), but don’t feel beholden to him to uproot yourself or take measures beyond the reasonable ones you are already taking. If the neighbor is approaching you in a calm manner, you might introduce your son to him to promote empathy for your situation.


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