Can You Leave Your Kids Alone?

Muppet Feet by irreverentwidow @ flickr.com

My mother left me alone in our house when I was in 4th grade. She would sometimes make a quick run to the grocery store and I would watch (torture?) my younger brother for about an hour before she came back home with the goods. By 6th grade, I was making pretty good money as a regular babysitter to several neighborhood families. (When I say “good money,” I mean I was making $1/hour to watch up to 3 children – and sometimes even a dog with a bladder problem.) I would typically arrive at 6 pm, make the kids dinner, entertain them, feed the dog, help them get into pajamas and brush their teeth, get everyone into bed and have them sound asleep by the time the parents came home around 11 pm or so! Pretty responsible for an 11-12 year old, right?

Last year, my husband and I started leaving our (then) 9-year old son alone in the house for little chunks of time. We didn’t leave him for very long. Maybe hubby and I wanted to take a walk around the block after dinner or stop and chat with some neighbors. That kind of thing.

Since things went so well, we gave our li’l monkey greater independence this year. Sometimes he comes home from school, and I’m not home. He knows how to get in, how to make his own snack, knows to get his homework done. He might (or might not) practice his piano. He knows not to let strangers in the house. He knows what to say if someone calls on the phone. I’ve been feeling mighty good about m’boy who has morphed into a pretty confident and competent little person.

That said, I’ve been catching a little grief from people who seem to think that age 10 is simply too young to leave a person “unattended” for any length of time.

Most people have heard of Lenore Skenazy. The author of Free Range Kids, she’s the chick who let her 9-year old son Izzy ride the train from Bloomingdales in the middle of Manhattan to their home in Queens without a cell phone (and she wasn’t even secretly following him or anything. She simply believed he could do it.) Was Izzy too young to take the Subway? Hell, he did it!

I’m not even putting my kid on a train or a bus! He’s happy to have a bit of time alone in the house. And I’m seriously wondering, what could happen to my kid in our home? Why is everyone so worried about him? About me? About my parenting skills? After all, my mother trusted me to stay at home and watch my 6-year old brother when I was 9 years old. Think about the first time you stayed home alone? How old were you? Chances are, if you are over 40, you were about the same age.

So I’m curious: When is it okay for a child to stay home alone for the first time? And would you hire a 6th grade babysitter these days?

62 responses to “Can You Leave Your Kids Alone?

  1. blake schifferstein

    I shouldn’t be left home alone now!….I really think the child is not the issue. My mother tells me stories about (her) being 9 and 10 and taking a bus down to Canal Street and buying candy. Can you imagine?! I would never let my child take a bus to Canal Street at 9 yrs old! But that is b/c times are a little bit different these days. It’s not that I wouldn’t trust my child, its everyone else that I’m worried about.

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  2. I think 19 or 20 is too soon!

    Seriously, it IS a different world than when us 40 – something’s were 10. Back then, we didn’t get ideas of how to commit crime by watching network TV. I recall watching Love Boat, Fantasy Island, etc. Now, 90% of the shows on TV have a title that contains the word “Crime”! I suppose if your child has never watched television (in their lives), 10 is okay. Absent of that….

    Wow, I sound like an old fart!

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  3. I’m 36 and I remember moving from VA to CT when I was 9, and I was a full latchkey kid in a new town. It was a huge difference from living with my grandparents in VA where there was always someone home. It was never made a big deal in my family, though… it was just something that had to be done.

    My daughter’s about to turn 9, and we’ve already discussed getting more privileges and responsibilities when she reaches that age, including not having to go to places that “bore” her, which includes grocery shopping. She’s showing more and more that she’s ready for staying home alone for a time, and I honestly don’t see the reason not to let her.

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  4. My 10th grade daughter just went on a class trip to NYC with a school group, and some of the parents were nervous that the kids would have no supervision while they wandered and shopped in the big city– My feeling was that the streets around Times Square are safer (ok, they were traveling in groups of 3+) than the streets of Brighton when she’s riding her bike home from school to an empty house.
    I was allowed to hop a city bus to Midtown when I was 13 or 14… But, I also did quite a number of stupid things that could have gotten me killed!

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  5. Why do people always say, “It’s a different world” now? Actually, crime is down from the 1970s, especially in NYC. I can’t remember when I was first left at home alone, but I certainly think it is fine to leave a 4th grader at home while you walk around the block!

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  6. It depends on your child I think. I know my mom let me do cross busy roads, walk home from school, etc. when I was as young as 6, but I was a seriously responsible kid.

    There are laws in some states that leaving your child alone under a certain age isn’t allowed. I think it’s 8 or 9 in our state. My son, who is 12 has been left alone many times for hours.

    He’s taking a babysitting course this summer so he can take care of his brother occasionally. I want him to have some training in first aid, and safety.

    I was babysitting at age 12, too. I think I made $3/hour for 3 kids. Sitters charge about 4 times as much now.

    My 8 year old (the next oldest) isn’t responsible enough to be left alone yet. She is too impulsive.

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  7. Connecticut does not have an age in a state law about being home alone but the DCF department has policies. If DCF is doing an investigation for parental neglect they have in writing that being alone under age 15 can be considered neglect and the parent can have the children removed from the home.

    I have been advised to stay within the DCF policy guidelines lest I risk having my children taken away from me and an investigation opened.

    At present in CT if a family is investigated for medical neglect, educational neglect or parent neglect (or abuses) it is permanent on their record (even if found not guilty or whatever the legal term is). Organizations like Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts will not allow volunteers to even have an INVESTIGATION on their history. Can you imagine a faithful and good volunteer losing their ability to continue over a false report and a claim that was found ‘not substantiated’?

    Odd thing is Red Cross still gives babysitting courses for kids starting at age 11 so funny the Red Cross thinks 11 year old’s are old enough to babysit even an INFANT. Frankly, I don’t know many 11 year old’s that I’d trust with a newborn baby of mine.

    For families who homeschool like mine this “being alone at home thing” is an issue if the child is under 14. It has been used against a homeschooling family to try to prove parental neglect. We have had numerous false claims of parental neglect or educational neglect investigated just because the anonymous caller doesn’t like the family’s choice to homeschool. Putting in false reports is illegal but the DCF takes anonymous phone calls.

    Homeschooling families like mine watch what we do carefully lest we don’t wind up the subject of a DCF investigation or being investigated by police.

    We have a state law in CT that a child cannot be alone in a CAR (such as when running into the dry cleaners to get an order) until they are 13.

    We have a state law in CT that kids under 14 cannot be alone in a public place. This includes a playground.

    Also I’ve noted that public pools such as town school pools and town park and rec pools won’t allow kids to be without a parent until over age 16. This is different than in the 1980s when I was 10 and 11 and my friends and I would ride our bikes to the town pool to have free swim by ourselves.

    Grade 7 (age 12/13) is the age most parents of schooled kids I know start leaving their kids alone. A couple tested the waters at age 11.

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    • Omigoodness. I am so very glad I do not live in Connecticut. On a million levels. Hey, there is a lovely house for sale down the street, and we all let our kids play outside and walk on trails. They zip along on scooters and bikes; one neighbor has a batting cage in her backyard and another has a trampoline. We’ve got a great bookclub! Maybe it’s time to consider a move to Rochester, NY! Hee hee.

      Seriously though, according to http://www.latchkey-kids.com/latchkey-kids-age-limits.htm, Connecticut doesn’t actually have an age where kids cannot stay home alone. Age 12 is simply a recommendation. Maybe you can breathe a little easier.

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  8. I must be one of the horrible mothers out there. I have been leaving my children home alone for chunks of time since my daughter was 9 and my son was 6. They are now 11 and 8, and I leave them home during the summer while I’m at work. I get asked what I do with them during the summer and when I tell them “nothing” I get some crazy looks and they hurry and change the subject. Have things really changed that much since we were younger, I think not, I think it’s just because we hear about the things a lot more now. I honestly think that it’s how you feel about your child(ren) at what age you would be able to leave them home alone.

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  9. I’m 27 now and I walked a mile home from school every day starting in 3rd grade and was home alone from 3:30 to 5:30 when my parents arrived from work. I played outside, watched (too much) TV, played with toys, ate a snack, etc. I knew not to open the door to strangers (it helped that our front door wasn’t properly framed so I had a hard time opening it anyway) and if a someone called asking for a parent, I was to say they he or she is in the shower.

    In my nearly 10 years of staying home by myself after school (from 3rd grade until after high school graduation when I moved out), the worst thing that happened was I ate an entire bag of Cheetos and watched TV for 2 hours straight.

    While I agree (and my parents do to in hindsight) that 3rd grade is too young for a child to stay home alone for two hours, I think 10-12 range is fine, depending on maturity. Obviously, some kids will never be mature enough to stay home alone and other kids might be ready to stay home alone at 8 or 9. It’s really up to the parents to decide, not society.

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  10. I don’t remember when I was left home alone for the first time, but at least when I started school at seven, I went home all by myself, opened the door with my own set of keys and stayed home alone until my mother came home from work. Could be ten minutes, or a few hours. Everything worked out totally fine.

    Don’t listen to paranoids like Craig above, the world IS NOT a totally different place.

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  11. Renee, did you ever hear the story about how my mother left my sister and I at the library and we got bored and left to go across the street to the convenience store to buy ice cream? She almost had the police looking for us because she couldn’t find us! And I was the responsible one! LOL.

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  12. I think it depends on the maturity level of the child more than the age of the child. Some kids can handle being left home alone for short periods of time when they are 9 or 10 and some cannot. It’s up to the parents to decide – no one else. Since there’s no way that anyone knows your child better than you do, you get to make the decisions. So don’t let others make you crazy or even call you crazy. I think our daughter was in 5th grade when I would leave her to run to the store quickly. But just because that’s what I did doesn’t make it right for anyone else.

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  13. I grew up in OKC and I was allowed to stay home alone for short periods when I was 6/7 and babysat sister by 9. I, too, was making pretty good money babysitting at 12 – and I actually mean good money. I was babysitting full time for the kids across the street that summer and made $100 a week just for them, not counting the other jobs.

    My oldest is 7 closely followed by a 6 year old and both have been allowed to stay here for 15-30 minutes here and there either alone or together. One time I did leave the baby with them to run to the country store near where we live to pick up the pizzas we had ordered. Our mailbox is a 3 minute drive from the house and they are left nearly every day when we go to get the mail; there is no need to shuttle three kids to run down there.

    By contrast I have a friend with 3 kids: 6, 11, 13 and this is the first year she has allowed her older two to stay alone. My boys are almost as mature as hers. I guess it depends on what you have taught them and how.

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  14. I think it depends on the maturity of the child. But if you have a normal kid, I’d say 10 is about right. I think it gives them a sense of independence & responsibility.

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  15. I think about this a lot. Our girls are 8 and 9 and haven’t stayed in the house alone yet. I think they could do it but they aren’t comfortable with it. I want them to know they would be fine – I’m not even really sure what their concerns are.

    Slightly different topic, we let our girls go around the block to their friends’ houses without us. I’m completely fine with it. But each time we do it, the parents end up walking them home when it is time and that makes me feel like they think I’m irresponsible for letting them walk there on their own.

    I remember the freedom of just getting on my bike and being gone for most of the day. I would like the same for them. Our neighborhood is different in terms of traffic and incredibly steep hills than when I grew up so that gets in the way a bit. I’m not convinced that society is actually all that much different from when we were young – we just hear about every single thing that happens in any town in the world and it makes it feel like there are more things to worry about. Although I’m intrigued by the media comment – that is pretty different from when we were young.

    We did have a 6th grade babysitter for our then 7 and 8 year olds – she would pick them up from their camp bus, walk them home and be there until I got home from work. She was the most diligent babysitter we ever had – she showed up for the first visit with a babysitter handbook and a notebook to take notes on what I told her about our house, the rules and the schedule.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking topic.

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  16. I hate the line “times have changed”. If they have, it’s for the better! Crime is lower than it was when I was growing up and the world is safer. But people keep bleating that line like they’re right.

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  17. I was coming home alone in 3rd grade. I was definitely watching my sister by 4th grade (she would be been about 4 at the time herself)

    Here is a website with some guidelines and some laws: http://www.latchkey-kids.com/latchkey-kids-age-limits.htm

    I looked it up because when the time comes for my own kids to be left alone, I am more worried about neighbors calling, than any sort of “real” danger.

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  18. I did try to hire my sixth grade next-door neighbor to babysit my (then) three-year-old, and her mother said, “Oh, no, she’s only in sixth grade. She doesn’t babysit!” I was thoroughly confused, it was only when they told me some months later that she was available that I realized they thought she was too young before.

    I was first left alone (sometimes with my younger brother, sometimes not) at about the same age — fourth or at latest fifth grade. I was terrified. I was a newspaper reader from an early age, but I had a big imagination and little discernment as to what was likely to happen. Based on what I “learned” at the time, I was in constant danger of my house being robbed (in the middle of the day), or I could be kidnapped for ransom (a popular theme in movies and cartoons), or the Mexican immigrants (we lived in San Diego) might sneak out of our attic and look around our kitchen for Chips Ahoy and peanut butter. I played records really loud and after every song said (to the band) “that was great, guys, play another one!” Needless to say, I was never abducted or even pestered by hungry immigrants. I did have phone numbers for the neighbors if something came up that I/we needed help with, but I don’t recall ever calling anyone to ask for help.

    The biggest difference between 1977 and now is that now there aren’t as many neighbors home (though in my neighborhood there are still plenty, it’s just taken me 4 years to realize which houses have people in during the day and which don’t), we don’t know the neighbors by name, and we don’t see kids playing outside in their (and each other’s) front yards anymore. I feel really bad for the kids of today if the comments on here reflect how most parents feel about their kids — that they are helpless and in danger, either from predators or their own foolishness. Yes, I did plenty of stupid things as a kid (and especially as a teen) that could have ended badly, but by college I had some life experiences behind me that others didn’t, and I saw how stupid some other kids behaved in college because they finally had a chance to test their limits.

    I think in order to raise responsible, trustworthy kids, you have to give them responsibility and then trust them.

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    • Kristina: I love everything about this entry. You are funny and a great writer, too. Truth be told, my mother scared the piss out of me the first time I stayed home alone. She was trying to test me to see how I would react when she pretended to be a stranger. I did all the right things and passed her little test . . . but when I saw the doorknob turning a few moments later, I freaked out! I thought my brother and I were going to be bludgeoned!

      I still get to abuse her over that one! Right, mom?😉

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  19. Times ARE different in NYC – it’s a lot safer than when I was in high school and with a group of friends would take the bus from our leafy NJ suburb to go to Times Square! LOL

    Nowadays, I would prefer that my kids take the bus to Boston (or nearest big city) than stay home watching TV – in front of the TV is the most dangerous place for them.

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  20. I think it’s completely fine to leave your son home alone for short bits of time. If he’s comfortable with it, and you are confident that he won’t go play outside or answer the door, etc, and would leave the house in case of fire, than there is no danger. You are not a bad parent! In fact, you are instilling in him the confidence he will need to grow up. He probably feels good that you trust him, and his lack of fear about it is a great thing.

    Our older daughter didn’t want to be left alone at all until she was probably 11, and felt it was “unsafe” for her to walk to school (just under a mile) by herself without a cell phone. But our younger daughter has been just fine with being left for 10-15 minutes while I shuttle the older one to school, a friend’s house, gymnastics, etc. since she was 8. My cell number is right next to the phone if she needs it.

    I, too, used to roam the streets (in the city of Rochester, no less!) on my bike for long stretches of time when I was 7 or 8. I took the RTS bus from Brighton to midtown (probably with a friend) when I was 12. I babysat for younger children by the time I was 12. I lived to tell about it, and I think I turned out okay!

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  21. I think ten is too young – people are always going to say, “Well, when we were this age, we did __ and __” – but things have changed a lot – and people took a lot of risks in the 70’s and 80’s that they wouldn’t today.

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    • Okay Steve, like Craig, you say things have changed in such a way that you no longer feel your children can be safe out in the world compared to the way you felt you were. Can you explain? I am being sincere, I’d like to know what is so different (besides perception and the crazy out of control media) because from where I stand, things seem much safer! And the statistics seem to support this.

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  22. I used to leave my son alone for a couple hours at a time at around 11 or 12. Now he’s 13 going on 25 (and prison!) and I wont leave him alone for 20 minutes! I think it’s the child. Mine is not responsible enough and has demonstrated a serious lack of intelligent decision making skills. My niece, however, was (and still is at 19) such a responsible child I’d have felt comfortable leaving her alone as early as 9.

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  23. If I remember right, I started staying home alone while my parents ran short errands and such around 7. While I definitely think it depends on the kid, it really concerns me that so many people are like “I would never ever leave my 12 year old home alone! The world is too scary!” Those are the kids who seem to grow up not having a clue how to think or at for themselves.

    I grew up in the late 80s/early 90s and my babysitters were always 16+, so I can’t imagine a 6th grade babysitter. But the Baby Sitters Club books that were all the rage in the early 90s had girls in 7th grade babysitting up a storm and no one seemed to think twice about that then??

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    • I guess babysitters had already aged up by the ’90s. I did most of my babysitting in the late 70s. By 1984, I had my first job – watching other people’s children at overnight camp. And I got paid! I was 16 years old!

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  24. I think it depends on the child. As a parent, I am sure that you know your child better than anyone. There are some kids that I would have a hard time leaving alone as teenagers, worried about what havoc they could dream up. I want to say I was probably 10-12 being left home alone or coming home from school to an empty house. My brother, on the other hand, was hardly ever allowed to be home alone and always had to go to my grandparents until he was about 14-15. I always remember having babysitters that were in their mid-teens for my younger brothers and I, and my grandparents lived about 3 houses away to keep things in check.

    That said, thinking about hiring a sixth grader for my kids makes me sweat a little, they are pretty young…

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  25. The world is not different. The chances of stranger abducting your child is the same at it was when we were kids and has been the same for a long time. So why do we PERCEIVE the world as being different?

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    • Leonard,

      Statistically that is true, but as far as I am concerned and for the benefits of my children, the world has changed. I was allowed to walk blocks to the neighborhood market at a very young age. Unless you live in a bubble, I don’t know many parents that would allow their young child to do what I (and apparently many others reading this) was allowed to do. That my friend is all the reasoning I need….

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      • Statistically something is true, but even in the face of evidence you perceive it to be different. This is what doesn’t make sense about people’s behavior.

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  26. Well, for one thing, how many kids brought weapons to school in the 70’s and 80’s? It may not be totally relevant to the topic of leaving kids at home, but it’s a pretty definitive example of something that’s clearly gotten worse in the last 20 years.

    And I don’t think people can say, “Oh no, it’s not happening any more now – you’re just hearing about it more” because something like that is too big to have not made at least the local/regional news when it happened.

    I don’t have statistics at hand – I’ve looked them up – some say child abductions are up 40% over the last 30-40 years (since they first began compiling those stats, apparently) but statistics can always be rebuffed.

    I know around the corner from me, in Cherry Hill, there were some attempted abductions earlier this year – in the neighborhood I drive my son through on the way to day care every day.

    When my wife and I lived in Marlton a few years ago, we lived next to a condo complex where a woman went missing. Eventually they found her body – the guy who killed her worked in her complex. He didn’t know her – when they caught him he said he just kept trying doors to find one that was unlocked. Just a random guy going door to door, looking for someone to murder.

    I think it comes down to, on a personal level, is that some people want to believe they’re safe, and others (while they would like to be safe, of course) don’t try to convince themselves of that. So I can give real examples, and statistics, but people will still do what they want to do.

    One more thought, though, and I’m not trying to attack anyone here who said anything along these lines, but whenever someone uses the “we did this back when we were young, and we turned out okay” – I always think – “Yes – and you’re here, and alive, able to say that.” But there are plenty of people who had bad things happen to them 30-40 years ago who aren’t here to tell their stories, so it’s not a balanced view. It’s not a great thing that some of use feel more fear now, and feel the need to be more cautious, but if don’t learn from the past and improve the situation, you might have some big regrets coming your way.

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  27. I think it’s interesting that in Illinois, the legal age at which children can be home alone is 14, but they are not eligible for state-accredited after school childcare after they turn 12. As in, the day they turn 12!

    Illinois has about 15 broad guidelines for this, and they seem reasonable. I have certainly begun experimenting with my children for quick trips around town (dropping off books at the library, picking up milk at the grocery store, etc.) I will also let my two (11 and 7) walk into town together to get ice cream. But I live in a fairly small village, where there are plenty of neighbors around especially during the day.

    I don’t think my children will magically turn responsible at age 14 if they don’t have any practice being responsible.

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  28. Depends on the kid. Their level of maturity, smarts, ability to be over-powered by temptation…and only the parents can judge that. And then, it is wise parents that don’t go out for 5 hours the first time…small steps at first. gradually going out for longer periods of time or further distance.

    I also started when my kid was 9…trips for milk to the corner store. Literally 2 blocks away.

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  29. Great post, Renee. We started leaving our boys for short stints when Brooks was 9 and Will, 6. We are gradually increasing the time alone as we see how they react. They know who to call when there is an emergency, how to prepare their own snacks, not to answer the door, etc.

    Like Betsy said, it is up to the parent and the child’s comfort level whether or not they are ready to be alone. Start small, walks (or runs) around the block, let them ride their bike to friends house, etc. No one should tell you how to raise your child. The story about about the child protection agency in CT is downright scary. Government has a responsibility to protect the citizens, but not take the place of the parent. And no, I don’t think the world is much different today then it was in the 70’s. These things are just better covered in the media and in turn scares the crap out of parents. Kids need to learn how to be responsible and prove that they are capable of handling themselves on their own for short periods of time.

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  30. and…I don’t think the dangers are any different now (in and of themselves). What’s different is how we interact with the world and our community and the amount of knowledge that is out there now.

    Used to be that the neighbor kids’ mom watched out for us (the “block mom”) when my mom was sleeping off her night shift. She yelled at me for riding my bike in the street and washed out my brothers’ mouths when they cursed(teehee). So we WERE living in that proverbial village raising a child then.

    And, this kind of thing never got talked about and didn’t get reported on TV news like it is now. The culture was ‘stiff’ and proper and some things weren’t talked about…they were whispered about.

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  31. Isn’t it a shame! Life was simple and safe when I grew up. We walked to school without fear. Our parents did not worry. Our parents were happy for us to be self sufficient. Everyone knew each other and we watched over each other. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that again? Our society has changed. Why?

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  32. My kids have been staying home alone since 9-10 for small stretches and since have moved to longer times including all day while we work in summer. We try not to do that for too many days since they have zero idea how to clean up. I wonder how many people who are not in favor of this have not had the second kid yet thus allowing the uptight quotient to decline. I hope no one think I am pointing at them since I do not know them but the people I do including my family where there is only one kid or the first kids are twins there is a different mentality on this stuff.

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  33. Since the 70s crime is down, not up (to answer Leonard’s question, I believe we perceive it differently mostly because the media is constantly stoking our fears and insecurities). One “difference” is there are people with cell phones willing to call authorities/CPS pretty quickly based on paranoia. That’s the “stranger danger” that gives me the largest irritation.

    To answer your query I leave my 6 and 8 year old home alone sometimes, and they do wonderfully. Much like bus-riding, I didn’t up and one day leave them to it. I’m proud of their independence, problem-solving skills, and their composure. Very few parents don’t worry about their children, but I do feel confident in their abilities and I see how allowing them freedoms and responsibilities helps them grow as people (and have a lot of fun doing so!).

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  34. Check your local laws, here it is 12 to leave a child home alone. Anything younger than that, regardless of maturity, instructions, lessons, etc and it is not only a bad idea but illegal.

    My son is 8. He is in no way ready to be left alone. I’m not sure he would ready in 4 years either (a lot could happen in that time so who knows, but at the rate he is going, I’m not holding my breath). I know that in 4 years, he would in no way be ready to be in charge of his younger sister either. Of course, I’m of the opinion that older children, unless they are getting paid for it, shouldn’t be babysitting younger kids. I feel like, it wasn’t their idea or choice to have additional children. The people that made the choice to have the kids need to be the people taking care of them.

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    • Carrie, I’m not sure where “here” is, but in NYS there is no minimum age with regard to when a child can be left alone. Twelve is “recommended”. See this link: http://www.latchkey-kids.com/latchkey-kids-age-limits.htm

      I am intrigued by your idea of the sibling relationship. Do you always have to watch over your children? Could you never imagine a time where they might enjoy being together without parents nearby? Watching a younger sibling can be a wonderful way to make the older child feel responsible. I never viewed watching my younger brother as “punishment.” I thought it meant my parents trusted me. And, yes, sometimes we fought, and sometimes we ate a whole box of Ho-Ho’s, but we also played games and generally enjoyed our own unsupervised time. It also allowed my mother some time to do what she needed to do instead of dragging us along with her. My mother never worried. I think a lot of mothers simply cannot breathe these days for fear of something going wrong.

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  35. I stand corrected. Here it is 14. Interesting to know.

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  36. Watch over them, not necessarily but be around, mostly. I leave them alone in the house while I cook dinner outside. I have been know to leave them alone in the car for a minute while running in the house to pick up something I forgot or to run in to pay for gas, etc.

    Honestly, I simply can’t imagine a time when they would enjoy being together, at least not while they are still young enough to need watched. My brother and I hated each other. Watching him was not only a punishment, it was barely a step below sheer torture! I hated every single second and always wondered why my parents had bothered to have a second child when they couldn’t be bothered to watch him (and it was only a couple of hours a day a couple of times a week, it wasn’t like I was on 24/7 little brother duty). Even after I moved out, was married and had a kid of my own, we could barely tolerate each other for more than a few minutes at a time. It wasn’t until he had moved out at 21 that we can get along with each other the 6 or 7 times a year that we see each other.

    In reality, I have less fear of something going wrong and more fear of my children killing each other. They aren’t exactly friends.

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  37. New question – When is it ok to leave my daughter home alone with her boyfriend? They are 14 right now.

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    • Dude, that’s a whole other blog! Hold on.😉

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      • I leave my 5 yr old at home almost daily for about 20 minutes in the morning while I walk the dog. He’s quite capable of entertaining himself and behaving like a decent human being for that long. He isn’t scared. Sometimes he decides he misses the dog and comes after us. Then he’s walking outside alone for a few minutes – (I never go far away). This bothers his dad, but not me.

        @Leonard- When your girl is moved out and on her own, she can make her own rules about boyfriends and alone time. Until then, the rule should be at least one adult keeping them company at all times, and no boys in bedrooms, or at least not behind closed doors. The world really hasn’t changed that much!

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  38. WOW! Renee!!! You certainly stirred up a hornets’ nest! LOL! I didn’t have time to read all the entries, but I do know this, people say, “times were different back then” because, a) we didn’t have media coverage (FB, Twitter, MySpace… yadda, yadda) that allowed news to travel within seconds, so we are just more aware of what is going on now, not that what’s going on now, is any worse. Which I don’t know, was ignorance bliss back in the day, or have we become more paranoid now? Now, there’s a whole other topic to write about! B) We now view the world through “parent eyes” instead of “child eyes”. When we were little we didn’t think of “danger” too much, we’re invincible. When we become parents, we started to view the world differently; after all, “It’s your heart walking out the door every morning.” So, I think that’s why some people view things more passionately now (plus, memories start to fade, and we always seem to forget the horrible stuff).
    I too watched my brother, sister and was babysitting at 12 (even younger I think). My son was 16 before I left him alone (he was my first). My youngest, was 12. It all depends on the kids, how mature they are, how responsible they seem. I have snuck up and rang the door bell just to test them…Joshua opened the door, Hannah did not, hence Josh was 16 when I left him alone. LOL! All 5 kids were different ages when left home alone, but with 4 other siblings, they were never really alone! Great topic & great conversation!

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  39. @Leonard – I think its a great idea for your 14 yo and her boyfriend to be home alone…each in their own home🙂

    I am leaving my 12 yo home alone (she is babysitter certified BTW) for longer and longer periods. She is not allowed to have anyone over, though, while I am gone.

    @Tana…I wasn’t able to leave my kid alone in the house at five…she might have been fine but I wasn’t.

    Renee, WHAT’S NEXT???

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  40. You sound like a great mother who is very responsible, and your child is just fine. My child is 11, and she has been staying home alone for chunks of time since about 9. She does have some timidity issues that I am currently trying to work on, but she’s perfectly fine alone in the house for an hour or so.

    I get irritated when I hear about these “laws” where other people make decisions for me about what is ok for my kids or not ok. Why should anyone else decide that my daughter can’t stay home alone until she is 12?

    Here is a true story of something that happened about 5 years ago. I had gotten a clearance magazine from LLBean. Thumbing through it, I found some swim trunks at an unbelievably great price for my son…who really needed some. He was about 9 at the time. I call the 1-800 # to order the trunks. Here’s the conversation.

    Me: I’d like to place an order. (I proceed to tell the phone operator what I want.)
    Operator: Ok. May I have your address please?
    Me: I live at…….street, Canandaigua, NY.
    Operator: Oh, I’m sorry ma’am, I can’t send you those trunks.
    Me: Why not?
    Operator: We are not allowed to send these particular shorts to anyone who lives in the state of NY.
    Me: What? Are your kidding me? Why on earth not?
    Operator: These particular shorts have a drawstring. NY state has just recently mandated that no clothing for children with drawstrings are allowed to be sold in that state. That is why it is on clearance. We are coming out with a new design that does not include a drawstring.
    Me: (I am incredulous at this point) You mean to tell me that I can’t buy these shorts because someone in Albany has decided that I am not intelligent enough to pick out clothing for my child?!!!?
    Operator: Um……yes, that’s right, Ma’am.
    Me: (Having just thought of the fact that we will be visiting friends in Pennsylvania in 2 weeks) Oh, I’m sorry! I just remembered that we moved!
    Operator: Huh?…
    Me: Yes….I forgot. How silly of me. I don’t live in Canandaigua, NY. I live in Hershey, PA! (I proceed to give her our “new” address.)
    Operator: (With smirk in her voice) Ok, ma’am. Your shorts will arrive at your “new” address between 5-7 days from now. Thank you!

    Lenore Skenazy is right! The USA has gone crazy with all of this fear for our children!

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  41. Don’t listen to people. They LOVE to criticize, especially when it comes to someone else’s parenting……as if they know your child’s capabilities better than you do. MY daughter is in the fourth grade, and we live about a block away from the grocery store. I let her stay home while I run over for a few thing. She loves the independence and the fact that I trust her that much, and she is on her best behavior so as not to damage that trust. We’ve gone over all of the safety issues, and she knows not to answer the door unless it is a member of my family our our upstairs neighbor. Kids learn best with baby-steps. It’s best to start with just 30 minutes or so, and then allow them to stay home longer each year. That way, you can use it as a way to demonstrate your increasing trust in them, thereby motivating them to be responsible little people. Ask your friends if they think it would be better to wait until he’s 13 and then leave him for several hours. A kid like that is likely to go crazy when they finally get a little freedom!

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  42. Mary described the whole, “The world is different now” perception perfectly:

    “….I do know this, people say, “times were different back then” because, a) we didn’t have media coverage (FB, Twitter, MySpace… yadda, yadda) that allowed news to travel within seconds, so we are just more aware of what is going on now, not that what’s going on now, is any worse. Which I don’t know, was ignorance bliss back in the day, or have we become more paranoid now? Now, there’s a whole other topic to write about! B) We now view the world through “parent eyes” instead of “child eyes”. When we were little we didn’t think of “danger” too much, we’re invincible. When we become parents, we started to view the world differently; after all, “It’s your heart walking out the door every morning.” So, I think that’s why some people view things more passionately now (plus, memories start to fade, and we always seem to forget the horrible stuff)….”

    Funny thing is, I remember my grandmother saying the same thing in the 1970’s in reference to the 1950’s, and my parents in the 1990’s in reference to the 1970’s. Stats regarding crime rates disprove this perception. People are people. The media bombards us daily with the sensational b/c it sells! This, as well as age, changes perceptions.

    At what age a child can be left alone is dependent on multiple factors that are best assessed and judged by a responsible parent, not some blanket law (which are often crafted for alternative purposes with unintended consequences). These factors can include: age of child, maturity of child, responsibility level of child, location, surroundings, other people in vicinity, availability and access to help if needed, safety of the area or situation, time span child is left alone, child’s ability to summon help, among others.

    You may decide that it is okay to leave your 9 year old alone for 10 mins in a quaint restaurant while you run next door to the ATM, but not think it is okay to leave the same child at home for 14 hours. Some children can do fine at 8 or 9 (again, given the circumstances), others not until they are in their teens. Heck, I know some adults who shouldn’t be left alone.

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    • So great to continue to receive new responses to this nearly 2 years after I first posted it. But each time I re-read the original post I think to myself: I STILL feel this way.

      And I’m with you… some adults should not be left alone.

      Some adults shouldn’t even be called adults.😉

      Nice to meet you, Colin.

      Like

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