Screaming Neighbor- Child Abuse or Just Plain Obnoxious?

I live in a pretty, suburban co-op apartment complex. I live in the lovely corner apartment on the first floor. I share ahallway with only one other neighbor. This is where the idyll comes apart.

My neighbor is a single mother of a (as far as I can see) quiet, well-mannered boy. He is about 8 or 9. H ealways says “Hello” in the halls and ont he sidewalks and I never hear him outside with his frineds nor inside playing music, making noise, etc.

My concern is that his mother screams at him almost every day. I do not mean that I can hear muffled voices from somewhere near their apartment. I mean I can clearly hear her deriding him at the top of her God-forasken lungs. A frequent fight is over homework. This morning, she screamed so loud and so long (about how he was a stupid moron for forgetting to put his pencil in his bookbag) that she woke me up! This is not an easy feat when you’re in the room with me, let alone across a whole apartment and across another hall through two metal doors!

So here’s the question. Is this child abuse? If so what do I do next time it happens? I don’t foresee moving in the near future and I don’t want this woman hating me for calling the cops, but I can’t stand idly by while this kid gets the bejeezus yelled out of him.

Any advice or insights most welcome.

Constant verbal abuse, directed at a child?

Oh yeah, that sounds like child abuse.

Of course, CPS/Family Services will have a clearer idea. Why don’t you ask them?

If you didn’t mention the hallway, I would have thought you were the girl living in the apartment beneath me talking about the woman across the street. I’ve been wavering on what to do about this, too.

The woman across the street has three kids - two girls and a boy with Downs Syndrome, all under about 6. She is constantly yelling at all three of them. I broke down crying the morning she was yelling at the boy as he was trailing her up the stairs. She went inside and let the screen door slam in his face. He stood there crying, “Mama, mama, mama…” for 10 minutes before she let him in (it was a nice day, so no physical harm was going on, just emotional harm).

I hesitate to call CPS because I’ve also seen them in happy moments, playing, and the kids seem well-taken care of and happy. I’ve never seen any sign of physical abuse. The father’s there most of the day and he seems pretty even-keeled. In addition, she’s given us dirty looks when our baby cries (he’s only 3 months old and he does that sometimes), so I don’t want any retaliation going on.

Obviously, I don’t have any good suggestions, but I can understand your frustration. Maybe befriend the boy and at least let him know there’s someone he can talk to?

Context is important. I have a sister-in-law whose preferred mode of communication is YELLING AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS. She talked to her son like this all his life (as she does to all family members) and the net result is that she gets ignored a lot. A typical conversation goes something like this:

Person A: Hey Bobbie (I call her Bobbie 'cuz that’s her name), can I make myself a sandwich?

I’m sure from the other side of the street it sounds abusive, but it’s just the way she talks. Also, mornings are stressfull times. Yelling was part of our morning routine for many years in my home.

Shutting the kid outside for 10 minutes, however, is just mean.

It’s amazingly stupid as well…that is how Bernardo got one of his victims. Her mother locked her outside because she was mad at the teen.

A lot of us here in the states are unfamiliar with the Bernardo case.

There’s a difference between loud communication or directives–something I have to resort to fairly often to get the attention of an easily distracted two-year-old–and cruel, nasty, hurtful comments said at high decible levels. The latter would be just as wrong if it were done in a conversational tone. And from what you’ve said about her calling the boy a “moron” or “stupid”, it seems to me that she is definitely out of line.

Are you in the position to make friends with the boy? Perhaps you could offer to help him with his homework a couple times, since that seems to be the root of many of their confrontations. If he’s an only child of a single mother, who doesn’t seem to have any friends of his own, he’d probably love some extra attention. And if you could become involved at all, you might get the story straight from him and it could help you decide whether or not his mother is being abusive or if she’s just easily frustrated.

It’s definitly an awkward situation, but I don’t think you should just look the other way. If you can’t get personally involved for some reason, then I do think you should call and report the verbal abuse. Best of luck.

From my experience, it doesn’t matter how someone raises their kids someone is always going to say there was Child Abuse of one form or another. I would have a chat with the woman & say I can hear what’s going on & could she be a bit quiter? (Of course, being deaf, if I can hear her she must be screaming pretty loud).

Someone called CPS on my friend once. They came over & took the kid away. They completely ignored the evidence cuz it clearly showed that the kid was hitting her, not the other way around. When I tried to talk to CPS they said the case was closed period.

The woman is definitely being abusive. Whether it qualifies as child abuse in the legal sense is a bit squiffy. When I was a child, my own father liked to slyly chide me in front of others about how stupid I was.

We haven’t talked in over ten years and he will never again hear my voice for the rest of his natural life.

Meaness has its price.

Do you know the mother well enough to just invite her over and talk to her about it? Not that it is justified but being a single mom she might be overly stressed and just need a sounding board?

Also, offering to help the boy with his homework if you feel comfortable sounds like a nice way to give Mom some time to herself and maybe get some input from the kid.

My mother was a horrible yeller when I was growing up. My teeth would rattle in my head and sometimes I almost wished she would hit me rather than the yelling. It was awful but I do not consider myself to have been abused as a child. My mother didn’t handle stressful situations well at all and had extremely low self esteem. She never laid a hand on us except for spanking we rightfully deserved. :slight_smile:

I would see if I could get some more details if I could.

Good luck!

And can I add that calling the kid a stupid moron is a very bad thing and that bothers me.

I will yell at my oldest son sometimes because he tunes me out and tries to ignore me but I would never call him a stupid moron.

I might ask him where his brain is or why he isn’t using the brain God gave him but more in a laughing manner than a hurtful, mean way.

biggirl, while she seems to yell quite a bit, it’s not an absolute contant. And she’s always telling him something that wrong with him or the way he’s doing something, not the world in general.

belladonna, they usually get home after me in the evenings, so I’m already in my apartment when they get home. I don’t actually see them face-to-face much, so I’m not sure I could just stroll across the hall and say “hey kid, need some help with your homework?” without raising a few eyebrows. My husband has helped this kid (and a couple of other kids from our neighborhood) with their pitching and catching, but it was only once or twice, not really a set thing.

handy, that’s why I’m worried. I don’t want to call CPS and have them come get the kid if it’s just the way the mom talks to him. I’m just afraid that it’s only going to get worse and I’ll lose more sleep (both from her yelling and from the guilt of not doing anything).

Thanks for all of your insights so far. They’re a great help.

Then the solution is to somehow, someway meet the young lad and develop a relationship.

If it is going to bother you that much, find a way.

Maybe if you politely asked the mother to keep the sound down, that might quiet her down a bit. She might be afraid of bothering the neighbors, but the quieting effect would be good for her boy.

Or what if you went to her and said something like “hey, I get the idea that you are stressed out a lot … I’m sure you’re under a lot of pressure, raising a child alone … I’m afraid I can hear your shouting sometimes … what can I do to help”?

Sometimes folks just don’t understand how to be effective parents. Yelling is not effective.

good luck!

You can always do like we used to in the old neighborhood, remove your shoe, pound repeatly on wall/ceiling/floor (whatever is separating you from the offending neighbor, and SCREAM at the top of your lungs "WOULD YOU PEOPLE SHUT UP OVER THERE !! I’M TRYING TO GET SOME SLEEP!!!

It might not make you any friends, but she’d realize how loud she’s being and its a somewhat neutral statement, you can be cordial then next time you run into her in the hall and apologize for yelling, if she doesn’t apologize first and explain that your just so sleep deprived or something.

Or, she could get even madder that her “troublesome” son is causing her to yell so loud that the neighbour complained. And then continue to berate him, only in a quieter voice.

I see two options here: calling CPS, explaining clearly you do NOT suspect physical abuse, only that there is a lot of yelling and what exactly you’ve heard. Anonymously, if you prefer (even though they prefer to have your identity.)

Or you can befriend the woman, and situate yourself into her life. Let her learn by your example. You can also offer to babysit or take over when she’s stressed (if you can do that), or bring her food so she doesn’t have to stress over what to make dinner, whatever. Ease her burden, show her a better way, and hope it sinks in. I did that for a family once. I hope it sank in.

But if it keeps up, call CPS. One of my neighbours was reported to the CPS because of his yelling. It was investigated, but the child was not removed.

Can you call the cops on suspicion of child abuse? I’m sorry if this was already posted.

Ah the joys of living with a screamer. I know them all too well. My father was one, and he would launch into horrifying rages and scream the house down on a regular basis. He is the sort of individual who would launch WW3 over a misplaced TV guide.

As an example which still irks me to this day if I think about it, when I was about seventeen or so he started up one night at about 11PM and started bellowing from the kitchen. JAMES! JAMES! GET HERE! GET HERE NOW! I was in bed at the time and hadn’t done anything so I knew it was going to be something ridiculous and I didnt want to get up so I yelled back that I was in bed. No matter to him, he bellowed back that I was a BLOODY USELESS BASTARD and to GET HERE NOW. My baby sister woke up with the noise and started crying. My mother came to my bedroom doorway and said please James, just shut him up, all the neighbours can hear, which was something she was always embarassed by when he was in his rages. So for her sake I got up and got dressed (I sleep in the nude and really didnt want a naked confrontation). I went to the kitchen, where he was holding a pen which he shook in my face and screamed WHATS THIS? It was a pen we kept by the phone for any messages. Someone had moved it about two feet away from the phone which had set him off. So I moved the pen all of two feet to its “correct” location and went back to bed.

We didnt have many days when something didn’t set him off like that, its just how it was at our place.

It was my mother with me. Not only verbal abuse but thats the stuff I remember most vividly, with her drooling as she was screaming in my face.

Report it. CPS generally doesnt just take children away, much as you hear stories. As a worker in community health the problem sadly is they’re usually overstretched resourcewise and can often only do something about the most horrendous cases. And a lot fo the time they’re the first chance for people to get linked into services to help them with whats going on, its not about punishment its about fixing a serious problem. Now this is in Australia so maybe its different there but I doubt its totally different.

Yes there are stuffups jsut like doctors can misdiagnose and the like, but they’re the ones to make the assessment about whether its something that needs intervention, dont try to do it yourself. Dont forget the yelling is only the stuff you know about.