WHEN Are Your Children Old Enough to Be Left Home Alone?

Rodger, 16 with baby Tennessee fainting goat.
Rodger, 16 with baby Tennessee fainting goat. | Source


I was reading the news today and stumbled into the Dear Abby section. I read a few and found one that I really felt she dropped the ball on. She was asked for advice on how to know when children are old enough to be left home alone. Abby's response was that they are never old enough.

OOPS!!! At 17 years old, you are going to be hiring a babysitter because you don't trust your baby to be able to take care of themselves. I don't think so. The lady wanted some good ground rules for knowing. They are capable of staying home at some point in time, most of them anyway. I have decided that I will answer the lady's question and help us all out.

Starting off, most states have a legal age where they do not want children home alone. Find out what it is. In TN, it is 12. That is also the legal age for most states. Do not leave your child home before the legal age or you could be in trouble. But do not believe that all children are capable at this point. Some are born ready and responsible and some are not. Talk to them about different situations. Give them a scenario and ask them what they would do.

If they hesitate don't give up, but they aren't quite ready. Drill them. If the house catches fire, what are you going to do? If someone breaks in, what do you do? If you get scared, what do you do? If you need advice, who do you go to? Do you answer the phone and tell a stranger that you are home alone? Are your friends allowed over when an adult is not home? They should be able to come up with an answer fairly quickly.

I have a close, older neighbor (across a patio), that my daughter goes to if she gets scared or nervous. She has a vivid imagination and ideas turn into a certainty that there is a problem. She is welcome over there any time. Check with a neighbor to make sure they have a person to go to if they need help or get nervous.

They should have phone numbers to contact for emergencies. They should have numbers to contact you at any time. Cell phone, work number, whatever. They should know where you are and when you will be home. They should have their list of rules memorized. Friends allowed? Outside allowed? Whatever rules you think are necessary.

Make a list that they can refer to. It helps to jog their memories. We got our daughter a cell phone so that if she had to take the dog out for his walk we would know where she was. She doesn't need to call us for that but she needs to have her phone with her any time she leaves the house. I like to know where my kids are at all times. The more you know, the less likely they are to get into trouble.

Finally, you decide they might be ready. Leave them alone for a short time at first. Give it a few dry runs. Go to the grocery store without them. Half an hour to an hour should be enough to start. Then, you are free to try more time. They are still not ready for the entire day while you are at work. Go out to dinner with your spouse or a friend. Get them some McDonald's food before you go and they will love you. Go to the flea market for a couple of hours. Do some Christmas shopping and enjoy buying something without having to hide it from them in the shopping cart.

Okay, you have decided that they are old enough, when they come home from school they will not go to a babysitter. They invite all their friends home and have a party while you are at work. Ground them and make sure they know this is a privilege that they have to earn. Otherwise, you will be forced to treat them like the irresponsible child that they just showed you they can be. If they do it again, send them back to the babysitter. You are responsible for making sure that they earn this privilege.

If you have no problems, or minor ones, your child has proven that they are responsible enough to be left alone. You did your best to find out if they are and made sure that they knew what it entailed. You have succeeded in another step of parenting. Congratulations, they have turned out well and you won another small step.

Please remember to vote. I really appreciate the comments that I get on my hubs. They help me see if I am writing useful, interesting, informative hubs. If you would like to use information on these, please ask and please attribute. This is copyrighted work.

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Comments 86 comments

ALUR profile image

ALUR 4 years ago from USA

Good insight. My kids are under 13 and it's not so much I worry about them getting out of hand, but rather what will happen TO them. Yes, it's a paranoia I have and

a maternal worry wart instinct.

I think based on their rearing and behavior, maybe 14-15


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

ALUR, I tried to bee responsible when raising my children and found that this works. Push them to start learning the responsibility now. If you don't, you may end up supporting them when they are 30. Good luck.


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco

In California there isn't a legal age for kids to be left at home alone; they just have to have the mental and physical ability to take care of themselves. It really should be determined child-by-child. There are such wide ranges of capabilities. Usually your parental instinct is right. Great Hub!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

I did not realize that there was no age in CA. In NV, it is also 12. At least it was when I was a kid. I was raised in Reno. I do like the legal age. It gives the Police a law to use on stupid people. 8 year olds do not need to be home alone. Glad you enjoyed this.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

I am not looking forward to that day. Just knowing he is at school and away from me makes me sad. Zoning out now. Thanks for the information Becky. I will bookmark it and pull it out in about 20 years!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Many parents do not look forward to that day. But it is nice to have the ability if the need arises. Dennis and I got delayed by a traffic accident between kids and us. Made us late and we weren't there when the school bus brought them home from school. We were 45 min. late. We called and told them what had happened and we would be there as soon as possible. We knew they would be fine because they already had the rules memorized.


Sunnie Day 4 years ago

Great information Becky..I am surprised how many children are lock key kids and way below the legal age..I use to hear about it at school..Wonderful hub..thanks for sharing..hugs

Sunnie


aygabtu profile image

aygabtu 4 years ago

Most state I believe it is 12, but you're right, many are not ready to be left alone. Parents need to evaluate the maturity of their children, and hopefully do it objectively.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Sunnie, I thought you would know of some of the stupid parents. I don't like using that word but I do not know what else to call them. They leave their children home alone and the children are just not ready. I really like a legal age to stay home alone. It helps to stop some of the parents from leaving their babies home before they are mature enough to handle it. So many get into major problems.

aygabtu, I had one that could not be trusted. He took the keys from my purse while I was getting ready to take his father to the VA. He walked down to the bus stop and then hid until he saw us leaving. When school let out, he went running around with his friends in my pick-up. He wrecked it and almost killed himself. He spent a month in the hospital. He was not ready and we found it out too late. He knew better but thought he was a hotshot. He found out differently. I took his license and he didn't get it back for 2 years. I could not trust him to behave responsibly.


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Love this hub. My style of determining when my kids were ready and for preparing the way was very similar to your own. My kids range in age from 16 to 12 and they have all proven themselves capable of taking care of themselves and of watching out for each other as the 12 year old still only stays home for very short periods on his own for the most part. Great hub Becky. It needs to be read by so many on both ends of the spectrum!


Katy Katz profile image

Katy Katz 4 years ago

Bring them McDonald's and they'll love you, bring Quiznos and I'll worship you.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Teresa, I figured you would have a similar method. You seem to do a lot of thing similar, from the evidence of your hubs. Some people can't figure out how to determine and this was pretty much for them. I do appreciate your coming by and leaving your wonderful comment.

I know Katy, but you are discerning.


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

Keep them at home until they're ready to go out and be part of the sex industry.

You'll know when they're ready.

Mothers know things like that.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Ian, you are a sick old coot. I am glad no one takes that seriously. You could end up in jail for talking like that. I am really glad you came by.


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

Why am I not surprised at your reaction? You know me, Becky. I am as shallow as they make them, but you, dear friend, can see through the statement to the humour.

Attagirl!

(But if you know a couple of little thirteen year olds, of either sex, tell them that I have some lovely little puppies they can come and pet. It will be our secret.)

Ha ha!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Ian, most of the thirteen year olds that I know, probably are more experienced than you are. Their parents allow them to run amok. And my 14 year old would probably take you apart at the suggestion of impropriety. I AM proud of that girl.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

Times have changed so much.When I was ten or 12 I babysat my sister kids. It was kind of a natural thing to do.Also I took transportation across the city to do so.I am not sure my children would allow their kids to do that at the age of 12.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

I was 13, when I first babysat. It was at a neighbor's house. One month old baby, I was always over there and since mom was right next door, they figured I could handle it. I was babysitting everywhere after that. The only time I ever had a problem was when I babysat my cousin's kids and she didn't come home from work. She went out and partied. I called my aunt the next day and she came and got the kids and took me home. I would never babysit her kids again.


Katy Katz profile image

Katy Katz 4 years ago

I was just going to leave a smiley face at your remark, but Hubpages said that comment was "rather short".

:)


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

Good, solid advice Becky. A two yead old boy was wandering outside in a town near me, he was naked. The temp was in the 30's. His Mother was asleep on the couch when the police arrived. She tested positive for drugs. Thank's for an informative article....


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Ruby, she probably did not think of him as home alone. We do, but everyone does not have common sense. I have had my oldest, when he was 2, take off out the door when I went to the bathroom. I heard the door open and yelled at him but as soon as I got out of there, I took off after him. The police had already picked him up. The officer was a friend and laughed when I grabbed Rodger and spanked him. He did not take off out the door again when my back was turned. I didn't normally spank him but that time he needed one.


DonnaCosmato profile image

DonnaCosmato 4 years ago from USA

Good advice and good hub. We've worked our way through 4 kids and numerous foster kids and now we are raising our grandson. I'm not really looking forward to doing this all over again, but at least your hub gave me some current day guidelines to go by. Voted up.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Donna, these aren't current day. These are old school. Current day is just as soon as they are old enough legally, let them run wild. Do whatever you want and you child will either live through it or not. lol


Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

hey good advice ... I hope everyone listens to you with small children.. any children I think under 13 do not leave alone or in a car.. I say use common sense.. like you said some kids are ready and some are not.. I voted up...


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Some 12 year olds have sense and some don't. My daughter isn't doing bad. Too opinionated sometimes but they all end up with that. I am glad that you liked this and am happy that you came by to visit.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

Becky Katz a very good Hub.. although when we were growing up.. after 21.. then we could be alone.. LOL great hub again


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Frank, I appreciate you coming by and leaving this lovely comment. Life has changed. We used to just have to worry about what they were going to get into. Now we have to worry about home invasions. It is more to worry about.


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

Some great advice here Becky especially testing them until you know they are ready, because each child is different.

Whenever we were going to friends we would leave the phone number, my son ALWAYS rang just to check he had dialed the correct number. On one occasion he rang before we'd even arrived at our friends, they thought it was quite funny.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Rosemary, my daughter calls me on my cell to see if I am there. She is almost 15 now. Still keeps checking to see if I will answer. Each child is different. Some can be trusted and some can't, as we found out when our oldest was 16. He took my pick-up for a joy ride and totaled it. He almost killed himself. He still didn't learn but we guarded the keys better. I checked that they were in my purse as I was getting ready to go out the door. My husband checked his also.


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

Oh boy Becky I guess the insurance wouldn't pay out either, him being your son.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Yes, the auto insurance paid. We didn't have socialized medicine then though. Our health insurance paid 80%. Good pay rate, but when the hospital bill was almost $100 thousand, 80% leaves a lot. Luckily, it was a teaching hospital and they had programs that helped. My husband still wasn't getting his VA disability then, just S.S. disability so we qualified for the low income program. It paid most of the rest. Only left hundreds, instead of tens of thousands.


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

How sad. In the UK it would have been completely free.

Not even means tested.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Ah, but you pay a lot more in taxes. I would rather pay less in taxes and pay for some of my medical.


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

I've always thought that the health system in the US was unfair, so many can't afford to pay medical bills, or even visit a doctor.

Tax rates in NZ are about on a par with the UK but we have to pay doctors visits too. But hospital is free but waiting lists are long.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Rosemary, There are clinics that will see you and they charge on a % of your income. Before Dennis got his disability, when it was me supporting us, we would pay $5 and that covered any antibiotics and required pain medicine. Maintenance medicine, such as blood pressure, can be gotten through programs that the pharmaceutical co. run. County (public) hospitals are required to take care of people who are low income without insurance. The private ones have to accept a %. Life threatening problems are taken care of immediately, before they even find out that you can't pay. People who do not get health care here, just do not want to bother, they want to complain.


Peter Leeper profile image

Peter Leeper 4 years ago from Londonderry, New Hampshire

very nice hub! I have a 2.5 year old boy and haven't even began to think about this topic yet but I always wondered how people determine when it is ok to leave their child at home.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Glad you enjoyed this. I have grandchildren older than your child, I have a little experience on you. My oldest also tried to ruin it for the other two. He pushed the limits and almost changed our minds on ever leaving any of them home alone. I hope this helps you. on the future. I also hope you don't have one that pushes the limits.


kelleyward 4 years ago

As the mom of 3 young boys I really enjoyed reading this hub. Thanks for sharing!!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Kelley, 3 boys, you will have lots of fun. Keep your sanity close, so you don't lose it. I had 3 boys and 2 girls. The youngest girl is the most trustworthy of the bunch. Maybe because she is 10 years younger than the next youngest. She has been like an only child. I am glad that you enjoyed this and hope it helps deciding if yours are old enough.


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

Becky when I was a foster mother, we were knocked up at 2am. A social worker at the door with 2 little boys aged 3 and the other 9 months, they had been found home alone left by irrisponsible and uncaring parents, not just a night out, they had gone on holiday. The aunty was with her and she took the 5 yr old.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Some people do not have sense. No one should ever leave children that age home alone for even 10 minutes. Those were not parents, they were breeders. I am assuming that the aunty turned the parents in. This is for people to know if their child is responsible enough to handle being left alone for a few hours, not for a holiday or even an extended night out. I would never advocate leaving any child under 12 no matter how mature they are. They can not handle the responsibility of a problem coming up.

I know, you didn't think I would but have been thinking about that, haven't you? Good point to bring up.


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

I really didn't mean to post that Becky, the topic just brought back memories. You giving some rally good advice to mums who want to know how to decide when their children are old enough. Just reminded me that not all mums and dads are good parents.

The aunty did exactly the right thing, but she was too old to cope with the little ones. And you know it was so hard to let them go when the time came.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Rosemary, there is nothing wrong with posting something like that but I will take it off if you want me to. I feel we should be able to speak of any subject you want to. I am not picky like some people. This was on topic.


algarveview profile image

algarveview 4 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

Great advices. My children are still too little to worry about this right away, but apparently, since they were born, I worry about everything... And I had wondered about this already. So, when the time comes, this Hub was quite helpful. Voted up.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

algarveview, Yes, worry comes with children. Try not to let it take you over though. Bad for your health and their sanity. lol

I am glad that you found this to be helpful. Thank you for coming by to visit.


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

That's Fine becky I was just worrying in case I spoiled your hub, but if you are OK with it then so am I

Thank you. Hope you are having a great Christmas day.

See you soon, love and hugs


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Rosemary, How can a friend talking to me spoil my hub? You are always welcome to talk to me on any of my hubs, on any subject you wish to. It is fine with me. I hope you enjoyed your Christmas. My daughter just got me up and gave me 15 minutes to wake up before presenting myself in the living room to open presents. It is time for me to go now. Love you.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

A well written hub which leaves much food for thought.

Take care

Eddy.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Hi Eddy, I am sure you have your own methods, you are so child savvy. I am happy that you liked this. I am so happy that you came by for a visit.


Ghost32 4 years ago

Had to grin a bit, reading this.

I was considered by my parents (as the eldest child of 3) to be home alone AND responsible for my sisters on the ranch. After dark. No phone, and no neighbors within line of sight. I remember sitting up, wrapped in a blanket (must have been winter) in front of the kitchen stove, reading a book (always, duh) till the folks got back from town--my sibs were in bed asleep.

When I was thirteen, I was not only home alone at times, but farm-sat a neighbor's place for two weeks while they went on an emergency vacation. Dad had a closer neighbor check in on me the first day or two, but after that I had them convinced to leave me the H*ll alone and let me do my job...which included milking their cows and having it ready for the route driver who picked it up every so often.

However, I definitely don't hold the "home alone" record for our family. That goes to my nephew Justin, my kid sister's son. His Mom was at work (50 miles away), and his Dad left him alone on their ranch one day--ran to town for parts or to drink coffee at the cafe or something.

Justin finally decided it had been a tad too long...and dialed 911.

Yep, his Dad had some explaining to do over that one. I never knew whether the authorities were busier giving him a hard time or laughing their tails off about it.

See, it's not like Daddy shouldn't have known better. My sister is a lifetime Registered Nurse, and her husband is both a volunteer firefighter and an EMT. If anybody had enough exposure to know "the rules", he was it.

We were all pretty proud of Justin, though, and he continued to take on responsibility as he grew. Ended up serving three tours in Iraq as a Marine AND being the only member of his outfit to take it upon himself to learn the local language.

Early responsibility is good as long as it doesn't kill ya! :)


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Times have changed quite a bit since you were a kid. They didn't have home invasions then, like they do now. Five in the last month in a 60 mile radius of here. I believe that ranching kids also, are given more responsibility as they are growing up. Since they have it earlier, they display a better understanding of it. I think that all kids should be evaluated individually and given the responsibility that they are capable of showing. Then, no one can complain that their kids are ready earlier or not ready yet.

I imagine that it would be pretty humorous to you but some people have no idea how to figure out if their child is old enough. They do not have the parenting or logic skills to figure out when their children ARE old enough.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Great hub! I was a nervous wreck the first time I left my daughters home alone...I took baby steps...30 minutes at first, then one hour, two hours and then I left for the weekend a month later! JOKE!!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

I think baby steps are good. I am also of the opinion that laughter is great. Good thing, because I am definitely laughing. Weekends are good but I would suggest getting a babysitter for that. Thanks for coming by and making my day. I needed that laugh.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Like Ghost32, I come from a time when responsibility at an early age was expected. Although I didn't have siblings to care for, I was responsible for myself, after school, until my mother came home from work, from the time I was 10. After reading your excellent hub, I find the thing about those years that I'm enormously grateful for is that my mother was not subject to any state law about the legal age for a child to be home alone. She exercised her good judgment, instructed me clearly (with understood consequences for having boys in the house when she wasn't home, for not doing my homework, and for violating many more rules), and provided for backup. I was a latchkey kid before the term was invented. I think she did a good job in preparing me for this kind of responsibility and for following through to see that I lived up to what was expected of me...just as you have done with your daughter.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Sally's Trove, I also was home alone but too many children were left at too young an age. They were not ready and the States put ages on. Now people are not preparing their kids or have no idea how to. This is for those parents, hopefully to give them a clue.


bethperry profile image

bethperry 4 years ago from Tennesee

Becky, good Hub and a great question. My husband and I just recently decided to drop plans to get a fancy hotel room for a night because I just couldn't bear the idea of leaving the kids overnight. They are 15 and 14. The 15 year old is very responsible, but the younger one is a little free with the snacks if we're not here to make him walk the line.

Thanks for sharing and voted up!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

I am still not sure on that age with leaving a teenager home. See if they can spend the night with a friend. That is what I did. They all went to spend the night with friends. The same family, it was nice. We did the same for them a couple of times. I am glad you came by to visit.


ThomasBaker profile image

ThomasBaker 4 years ago from Florida

I discovered a big difference between my three children as respects alone at home. My daughter was an angel, my older son behaved, but went off on the wrong tack a couple of times. With my younger son, he's now 21 and I still need to keep a very close eye on him. Thanks for sharing. Good Advice!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Mine go the opposite of yours. My oldest, we had to really watch. The youngest boy did fine as long as his older brother was not around. The youngest, a girl who is 15, we can trust totally. She never gets into trouble.


Thundermama profile image

Thundermama 4 years ago from Canada

Great hub, my oldest just turned 12 and we have been wondering if she was ready to be home alone for short periods of time. This hub gave me great tips to get her prepared.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Thundermama, I guess this is timely advice for you then. I am happy that I can give you some guidelines to get her ready. Most can handle the short time but when we leave them longer is when they blow it. Good luck and thank you for coming by to visit.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

My daughter-in-law is dealing with this issue as her kids are now entering teen years. It's hard to make the decision on when a babysitter is not needed. I love your suggestions, especially to try it a half hour at a time. Voted up.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

teaches, we can never know they can be trusted until we let them try. I ended up waiting on one of mine and another could have been left sooner. They all have their point where they finally grow up, as you know. Letting them try it half an hour at a time helps both gain confidence without being stuck for a long period if it isn't going to work. I appreciate your coming to visit and sharing.


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 3 years ago

I know I was Babysitting at 12 and a "Mother's Helper" when I was 13. I lived with a family over the summer, at their Summer place, and took care of their young Sons, I look back now, and realize I was young, and I made some mistakes, but in general the parents were happy with how I handled things.

My own Sons were about 14 when they babysat.

Becky, you've made some Wonderful suggestions for parents to follow. I am sure your tips will be helpful to them.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 3 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Hi b., I also babysat at 12. Of course, it was right next door to my mom in her house. It was a 2 week old baby and I was just thrilled to death. The mother had an appointment to go to and could not take the baby with her. I also helped with several cousin's kids. My daughter has been helping with her brother's children for 7 years now, and she is only 16. They lived right next door to us and she was always over there.

I am pleased that you found my suggestions good and really appreciate you coming by to visit.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

what an interesting hub, i say that because when I was ten I was usually home alone.. never thoug ht of it being illegal.. hmm maybe i can blackmail my mother and father.. after all these years :)


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 3 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Hahaha Frank, very funny. I think that they had to start putting the rules into place because too many idiots were leaving their toddlers home alone. I was home alone at that age also. I think kids were more responsible then. Mine surely weren't as responsible as I was at their age. I appreciate you coming by to visit.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

Perfect advice. You included all the key decision factors. When I was a child, I now can't believe my parents left me in charge of my two younger siblings. I was 10 and they were 7 & 8. Latch key kids. Different era, but it really bred responsibility.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 3 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

FlourishAnyway, Things have changed in the last several decades. I think that children are not raised to be as reliable, responsible, or to grow up. We are dumbing down our children to the point that we are going to have to raise the age of responsibility or get busy educating our children on being responsible. They think they can play their whole life through and still be taken care of. Many children started being allowed to be home alone at younger years several decades ago but now we need to keep a better eye on them. I totally agree with you on it breeding responsibility. Thank you for the wonderful comment and for coming to visit.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Hi Becky, These are great guidelines for making that important decision on whether a child is ready to be left alone. It is a frightening thought and at first, like you said, baby steps until you gain the confidence in your child's level of responsibility. Also, like you said, it varies with the child. I believe that in our time, we had more accountability and handled the responsibility earlier for a lot of reasons. My parents always knew where we were and if we weren't where we said, or didn't call as promised, there would definitely be consequences. Great hub.


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 3 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

Such a sensible and clear comment, Peg. My mother never knew where I was and if her friends would worry about it and ask her why, her response was always, "He'll come home when he's hungry."

Safer days, happier times.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 3 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Peg, I hear about people that have no idea where their children are and wonder why not. It is scary to start and you want to not only ease yourself into the thought but also your child. And you can still be surprised by their behavior sometimes. Consequences seem to be something of the past, kids don't find out about them until way to late for the lesson to sink in. They need to be taught early to make them work well.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 3 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Ian, good to see you here. My mother knew the general area where we were, and when she blew on her horn, we had better show up. Most of the mothers in our area would go to my mom when they couldn't find their kids. My mom would blow her horn and every kid in the neighborhood would show up. She had them all trained to come to that horn.


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 3 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

I'm actually laughing out loud.

Attagirl!

x


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 3 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

What can I say Ian, my mother was an original. It was an air horn off a boat. It was also loud.


DrJez profile image

DrJez 3 years ago from Narara NSW Australia

I don't have to worry about this yet, as my children are still quite little. We still have babysitters in the form of Grandmothers. This day will come. I myself was left home as young as six, but it's not as bad as it sounds as I had older brothers and sisters. Thanks Becky


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 3 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Dr. Jez, Good to see you here. I was left with older sister a time or two but we were really close in age. Our brother was sent to a sitter after we were allowed to stay home because we behaved and he didn't. He also wouldn't mind us so he lost out. We have to decide on each child by how mature they are. I appreciate you stopping by to visit.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 3 years ago from South Africa

Hi Becky, I am not aware of a legal age to be home alone down here. But I am quite sure that if something happens to children left alone - not under the supervision of a person 18 year or older - parents would be in trouble and charged with one or the other offence. Nowadays it is in any case dangerous for parents and children to be anywhere, whether alone or not. Only extremely irresponsible parents will leave their children alone at home, or even send them to the shops or to school alone.

But when I was a child of 12, or rather since the age of 12, I occasionally had to take care of my 4 younger siblings while my parents went out to take care of one or the other obligation. I still remember the angst I felt, while waiting for my parents to return, knowing that if anything happens to one of my siblings, I would be in serious trouble. When I was 12, they were 10, 6, 4 and 2. Gosh, and the 4 year old was such a pester. If she was not pestering the 10 year old, she had her nails in for the 4 year old, and all over the baby, playing with him, though too careless.... Oh boy, while I am writing this to you, I feel the angst growing in me. Anyway, I/we have survived :)

I am curious about the law aspect. Will have to ask my boss - an attorney.

Interesting hub, thank you, Becky :)


Ghost32 3 years ago

This topic always drives me nuts--not because it doesn't deserve discussion, which it does, but because most of the answers from all sources combined are SO different from my own experience growing up.

At age eleven, I was (at least once) left home alone to care for my two younger sisters while my parents drove to town (6 miles) to attend a PTA meeting. It was pretty late--before midnight, but relatively late--when they got back, to find me sitting up on one chair, feet up on another, blanket over my legs, reading a book. The doors were locked (until I unlocked the front door to let them in), and I knew where the weapons were in the house and how to use them as well as when and when not to use them. There were no neighbors who lived within sight of our ranch home. There was no telephone.

Then, at 13, I was not only home alone twice FOR A WEEK AT A TIME, but I was taking care of homes (once a dairy farm, including the milking and getting the milk ready for the route truck to pick up) for other families altogether.

However, and this is the part that has me admitting that most of the cautionary tales we hear really do have a point, I do NOT remember meeting many (if any) OTHER 11-to-13-year-olds I'd confidently trust with that level of responsibility.

Oh well. One way or the other, this is a great Hub on a topic that generates a lot of interest.

Voted Up and More.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 3 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Fred, I don't think that kids are raised to be responsible any more. I tried, but we are not allowed to instill the fear of the parents that you had and that I had. We KNEW that we would die if we screwed up badly and did not act responsibly. We behaved out of fear, if for no other reason. Kids now know we can not 'kill' them and act accordingly. I was also allowed to stay home for hours by the time that I was 11, but my brother was not.

He had done stupid things like playing with the lighter fluid and setting the carpet on fire and my parents knew he could not be trusted. He had to have a sitter, but my sister and I did not. That really frosted him but he misbehaved and we did not. He would not listen to us either. He also tried to bully us.

I remember more than once that my mom came back and one of us would be sitting on him because he tried to beat us. We would gang up on him and take turns sitting on him until they came home to rescue us. We were afraid to get off of him because he would be threatening us. We were only a couple of years older and he was bigger than I was. He was also a lot meaner and a lot stronger than my older sister. We had to work together to be safe. Mom had to start leaving him with a neighbor after school until she got off work. Dad usually worked from just before we got out of school until about midnight. He probably would have had counseling over his anger issues now. He still has problems and is not as stable as we are.

We also have problems now with home invasions that never would have happened when we were growing up. Taking prayer out of schools has had the added benefit of not teaching people about moral right and wrong. Everyone may not have been religious, but we did get some moral education from it.


Ghost32 3 years ago

I agree with everything you said...with one exception: When I was parenting (not group home house parenting, which was a bit different), I DID instill the "fear of the Dad" into at least one stepson DESPITE the law being down on such things by then. This was in 1982, winter, 15 year old adopted son (wife's birth son) was into drugs and alcohol and bullying his Mom. I once (long story, likely Hub, except maybe too gritty for HP unless fictionalized) warned him he'd best "Stay away from me for a while, 'cause right now, you're not safe around me."

He snarled back, "F--- YOU! HIT ME!"

Note: He'd been threatening me with Social Services and Law Enforcement for YEARS by then "if I ever hit him"...

...so I blasted him one, a good shot, too, and the fight was on. He fancied himself a scrapper, though more of a hearing impaired bully really, had no more chance against me than I did against my Dad when I was 16.

Finally (wife #3, Mom, was hanging on my neck screaming in my ear & I hadn't even noticed she was there) cooled down a notch, enough to put a chicken wing on him, get him "deactivated", then when he went to his room, I called the cops.

"Not my habit to punch him out," I explained calmly to the dispatcher, "but we could maybe use a sergeant or some such out here to counsel a bit."

They knew him--he'd been in jail that night, and his Mom had had to bail him out while I was off on a 36 hour Halliburton trucking job.

The ossifers did just what you'd expect: Sent THREE squad cars. You know, domestic disputes being sometimes the nastiest calls that cops ever face.

He never challenged me like that again, though--not quite--and today we're extremely good friends.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 3 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

I had the fear of the step-mom in my step-son. He thanked me for it when he was 23. He was 6'5" when he came to stay with us and his mother hid behind the couch while he threw things at her from the time he was 10. I backed him up the stairs on his butt, slapping him every step and lecturing him. He only picked the times when his dad was not feeling well to act up and scream at us. Another time, his dad picked all 6'5" of him up by the front of his shirt and pinned him to the wall with his feet a foot in the air and he was definitely in fear at that point. We also DID call for him when he threatened to call the cops. Living in TN in 1995 had advantages. They backed us up and told him that if he did not behave and we smacked him, he was going in and not us. He was bigger than both of us by then. He knew he better behave by that.

My sons were properly fearful of me when I lost it, but they chose not to make me lose it. They backed down when I started to. By then, Dennis was too sick to fight them. He would start it and I had to finish it. I could just say a few words and they would stop but Dennis is very good at making someone lose it with his mouth. They have tried to walk away and he would goad them into coming back and get physical. With his PTSD, I sometimes feel like I have an extra child to teach self-control to. I believe that is a bit of what you and your dad went through.


CraftytotheCore profile image

CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

Becky, this is a well needed article. There was a car at a store parking lot with three children in it, running, no adults inside. The car was parked in front of the store. I was standing there waiting for my ride to come back to get me after dropping me off and then running a quick errand.

So, 15 minutes later, a woman comes out of the store. The children were about 5, 7 and 6 months old. Plus, it was the middle of winter and freezing out.

The woman saw me standing on the sidewalk and started mouthing some words...and I looked over and asked if she was ok? She flipped out, started threatening me, so I called the police. They came and said they didn't witness anything so there was nothing to be done.

When I got home, I called the state dept of families to find out what exactly is the rule for leaving your children unattended in a car for 15 minutes, running, with no adult supervision, while it's freezing outside. They told me there are no laws at all in this state. It's discretionary and up to the parents.

If that's not pathetic, I don't know what the world is coming to.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 3 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

CraftytotheCore, I have found that many people do not have common sense. It sounds like the woman thought you were watching for her. She has probably had people yell at her before and with good reason. I have seen several stories about women leaving their kids in the car running and when they come out someone has taken the car with the kids inside or there was a carbon leak in the muffler, killing all the occupants. I would share your concern.

I had a woman ask me to watch her kids in her car, not knowing me from Adam. I thought that was strange and I did not care for it. She needed to run inside and use the restroom and was waiting for someone. Leaving them with no one to even watch them is ridiculously stupid. I appreciate your comment and visit.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM

Great article Becky and full of common sense advice. I think teenage children need to learn to be alone for a while and take care of themselves. I agree, with you, Abby dropped the ball on this one. You give great tips on how to get your teenager ready to be self-reliant and not destroy the house in the process. Some great ideas.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 3 years ago from Hereford, AZ Author

Suzette, It is so nice to see you here. I nearly had an apoplexy when I saw Dear Abby's reply. I immediately started to write this to answer the ladies question in an appropriate manner. I figured if someone wrote Dear Abby about it, people needed some hints. I am happy that I did as it seems to be a good topic. My mother and father used most of the same things when my mom was working and wouldn't be there when we got home from school. She started working when my older sister was already babysitting, but still gave us the same rules. and made sure the younger kids knew them too. I really appreciate you coming to visit.

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