Episode #45 – Independance

When is your child old enough to stay home alone?  When is your child old enough to babysit?  We discuss these and other issues relating to children and independence.  Sort of a fourth or July special… This is Mark’s topic.  Alex (age 12) stays alone after school sometimes and now that the summer has started up, he can go to the pool on his own with his friends.  We know all this depends on the maturity of your child, but we discussed it in depth anyway.  Here was the breakdown by ‘milestone’ –

  • Going to a public bathroom on their own – I suppose this depends on where the bathroom is.  A bathroom at the airport – no way!  At you favorite restaurant with you standing outside?  Maybe.  I suppose this is in the age of 6-10 yrs
  • Staying home alone – They need to know your cell number and be able to use the phone certainly.  Also, there is a difference between leaving them for an hour in the afternoon and leaving them alone at night.  I think we pegged this one at 10-12 yrs.
  • Babysitting – It is easier if they are simply watching a younger sibling.  They are in their own house and they know the routine.  Watching another person’s child is a whole different ball game.  We found references to children as young as 11 babysitting.  The Red Cross class is open to kids starting at age 12.  I think age 12 is too young.  Maybe 13-14 is a good age to start under favorable circumstances.
  • Staying in the car while you run into a store – This is tough one.  Matt had a situation with a sleeping baby.  We all know you are never supposed to wake a sleeping baby.  We had differing views on this one, but we all decided that society definitely frowns on young children left in a car.  We all agreed that it should be locked and the keys should not be in it.  The controversy came up when mark read some guidelines on the internet that said it was illegal to leave children under the age of 16 in a motor vehicle.  This seemed ridiculous to all of us.  If a child is old enough to babysit another human being, they should be able to sit in a car safely.

So there you go.  Three real life dads giving another wise opinion on something they know very little about.  Independence is good for a child.  If you shelter them too much they will have no idea how to act when they leave the nest.  This is why kids have so much trouble going off to college if they have never had any independence before.  No one wants to take risks, but at some point you need to trust your child. Moments are include but no rants.  We will bring them back soon though. Enjoy! Mark

Engineering Fatherhood Episode 45