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Is Thirteen Too Young to Babysit?

My thirteen-year-old daughter. Is she too young to babysit?

My thirteen-year-old daughter. Is she too young to babysit?

In Bridgeport, CT a mother was arrested for leaving her three children, aged 13, 4 and 1, home alone so she could go out “clubbing.” So says the article at NBC Connecticut.

There are many issues with this scenario if the article is truthful and nothing is being omitted, which is common with any news report.

Obviously the main issue is that the woman was supposedly out all night partying while her kids were at home, hopefully sleeping. In many states it’s legal to leave kids that age home alone with the thirteen-year-old babysitting but not at night, and especially not overnight.

Issue two that came up was that a thirteen-year-old is too young to be left alone or responsible enough to watch his two younger siblings. This isn’t just concerning the late night scenario of the article but just in general. For many in today’s society, thirteen is just too young to be alone ever. People still get babysitters for their teens in many parts of the country.

As a follower of Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids website and philosophy (which I consider just normal parenting) I’m perfectly okay with a thirteen-year-old being home alone and babysitting. That was the norm just fifteen to twenty years ago, back when I was a teen.

My older children are 13, 12 and 11 and have been staying home on their own since they were around eight or nine. In a group I also leave my 7 and 3-year-olds with them. At least one of the older kids has to be there. And we do go out at night for dinner and movies, never overnight, though.

I think a main key to keep in mind is that my older kids know how to take care of the younger ones. Since they were toddlers themselves they were expected to look-out for and help each other. As the younger children came along they learned to feed, change diapers and how to deal with babies/toddlers. They have been changing diapers for the youngest since he was born in 2010 when they were 10, 8 and 7.

So is thirteen too young to babysit? I really think it depends on the kids involved, their personalities and how they were raised. There are many sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds I would not let stay home alone because they weren’t raised to be self-sufficient and self-reliant.

As for the article and what the Bridgeport mother did, I do consider it a bit negligent to go out all night to party while the kids are home, even if they were sleeping. Mostly because she could become impaired and not be able to help if a situation arose at home. My opinion would change if she had family, friends, or neighbors she trusted to help in a situation. Such as my grandmother who lived downstairs from us when I was a child allowing my mom to leave us home alone at eight and six. If anything went wrong we knew to get Gramma.

Do I think this woman deserves jail time and to lose her kids? Absolutely not. Unless this is a regular thing I think she should pay her fine, maybe take a parenting class, and learn from her experience. She was not a “bad” mom for want to go out on her own and have her own time. She was not selfish, she was just human. Every parent needs a break from the kids and if they tell you otherwise they are either lying or in denial.

Thoughts?

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