OUTRAGE OF THE WEEK: Mom Ticketed for Letting Son, 14, Watch Brother, 3, for 30 Mins

Hi Readers — Just as we were rejoicing about sanity across the sea (see below, bkdisbkhsa
regarding Britain’s re-evaluation of its excessive background checks), comes this story, from The Express:

A MOTHER who left her son of 14 to mind his three-year-old brother while she went to the shops was given a police caution for “cruelty” and was suspended from work.

…Although there was no “incident” and they were not believed to be in danger, the mother was cautioned by officers for “committing an act of cruelty on a child or young person.”

You want cruelty? How about the cruelty of treating a mom like a criminal for knowing her son is a responsible young man? How about the cruelty of making a mom unemployable? How about the cruelty to all her fellow citizens  who maybe even remember BABYSITTING at age 11 or 12, but now feel compelled to treat their own teens like imbeciles? Or the cruelty to young adults who want to do something in the world besides playing videogames, but are being told, “No! You are a baby yourself!”

This is positively stunting to children, and shackling to adults, who are apparently never allowed to leave their children’s side till the kids go off to college.

Remember when the rallying cry for a generation was, “Never trust anyone over 30”? Now it’s, “Never trust anyone UNDER 30.” Or at least under age 16 —  the minimum age England’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children recommends babysitters be. (It also says kids should be 14 before they are allowed to stay home alone!)

This idea that teens are unable to take care of kids for even half an hour flies smack in the face of evolution, which has spent the past 300,000 years or so making teenage homo sapiens into parents. And somehow the species arrived at today. Glorious today, when we treat young children as infinitely endangered, and older kids as dangerously inept. — Lenore

We only want babysitters who are old enough to drive!


128 Responses to OUTRAGE OF THE WEEK: Mom Ticketed for Letting Son, 14, Watch Brother, 3, for 30 Mins

  1. magnuminsp February 7, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    My parents would probably have been tossed in jail and the key thrown away! I watched my younger brothers and sister every other Saturday night or whenever the Parents had to go to a party or anything else, since I was 12.

    Then again, my Father also taught me how to drive, while placing me on his lap at a very young age and let me drive with him in the passenger seat, when I was 12. I am sure that would have landed him in jail today!

    I have said it before and I’ll say it again, for whatever reason, somehow, children have to be treated like an expensive, fragile glass vase these days. According to some, kids cannot do anything until they are 18 and constantly need to be coddled and protected from everything.

    I imagine that one day, the parents and the powers that be will realize that children are tough, smart little creatures who in a pinch, could probably survive, without any parenting whatsoever.

    Watching your siblings teaches responsibility, which is sorely lacking in some of the kids today. Perhaps it should be mandatory instead of being frowned upon.

  2. Not Sparta, just madness February 7, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    You have to wonder how they handle 14yo single mothers. Do they take the baby away or just save time and send them both to prison (separately of course)?

  3. WendyW February 7, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

    Which one was supposedly subjected to cruelty? My teens would claim that being forced to babysit young siblings is the ultimate in cruelty, and my youngers would claim that being babysat by older siblings earns that label. All have survived with bodies and relationships intact after innumerable instances of “cruelty”.

  4. Marlene February 7, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

    I think this is also an offshoot of the new premise that children can’t be trusted to have direct interaction with each other unmediated by an “adult.” Children are basically under house arrest until they are 14 and unable to go out of the house and interact with each other without being watched. In the past, in large families older siblings were often primary caregivers for younger siblings. Children also began to work as babysitters by 12 and often worked in the fields in the summer time to start to develop a sense of autonomy, work ethic, and familiarity with handling money. Today children are barred BY LAW from gaining competency in their own lives. I just don’t understand how this serves them in any functional way. All this mediation leaves them crippled. They are like the Chinese girls of the past whose feet were bound. Adults pass and enforce these regulations out of a misguided sense of relieving their own fear and anxiety but it does not fulfill the mission. Parents and adults in position of authority are ever more fearful and anxious. If they really cared about the well being of children they wouldn’t subject them to this kind of treatment just to try to relieve their own emotional distress. I don’t understand how so many people can be so hysterical.

  5. Marty February 7, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    the handicapper general decrees that all teenagers are equal…

  6. chris February 7, 2011 at 10:27 pm #


  7. Hege February 7, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

    I am just wondering, if age is the issue, what the Brits intend to do about the large number of young teenage moms, if there’s a rule (or the police implies there is one) about not being able to mind younger children at 14-15-16. Who will be responsible then? Will their parents have to make sitting-arrangements for both daughter and grandchild?

  8. helenquine February 7, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    That is horrible.

    I think the woman is aiming for the wrong thing though. She says she wants a change in the law, but I doubt the law really supports the charge she was cautioned for.

    I think she should really be looking to sue the solicitor she saw who recommended accepting a caution for this, and seek to have the people involved in the decision to offer her a caution disciplined.

    While cautions are a useful tool for a country, they are not subject to the rigour that court proceedings would shine on the case – for instance there is no independent eye ensuring that a crime has actually been committed.

    Sounds like the woman got appalling legal advice, and like there are too many police officers, who should know better, buying into the “children are irresponsible and helpless” line.

  9. thescreamingkettle February 7, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    I remember spending entire days home alone when I was 9! The house never burned down, I never got maimed in a freak accident. And our church group uses 12-14 year olds as babysitters for a whole gaggle of toddlers. They are among the most responsible young people I’ve ever met. This is just ridiculous.

  10. LoopyLoo February 7, 2011 at 10:39 pm #

    This is insane. By eleven, I was babysitting toddlers all over our neighborhood. Never once did anything bad happen but if it had, I always had access to a functioning telephone to call for help.

  11. Deborah February 7, 2011 at 10:49 pm #

    This is most disturbing. I have 3 boys – 10, 8, and 3. Our regular babysitter is 13. Yes, 13. She is the most mature and responsible babysitter we could ask for. I also leave my two oldest at home alone without even a worry. They are responsible enough to look after themselves for an hour.

    When I was 10 years old, I had mono for 4 months. My parents could not take 4 months off from work, so I stayed at home. By myself. For 4 months. My parents came home to a cooked dinner each night that I prepared. Guess they would be arrested today. It is beyond troubling.

  12. Emily February 7, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

    I’m just curious – are there Sitter classes available in England? And if so – is there a minimum age? I know of two girls that I babysat for who took such a class at the age of 12 at a local hospital and they have been watching younger children ever since.

    (I do not think such a class is necessary, but it would certainly be a reliable measure of a person’s ability to watch younger persons. With the added bonus of CPR certification.)

  13. pentamom February 7, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

    This is nuts. I regularly leave my 12.5 year old at home in charge of the 9.5 year old, sometimes for as much as a couple of hours. Two of that age wouldn’t work in every case, but these two don’t “get up to stuff” — at least nothing worse than silliness — and are the type to follow the rules I set for them.

    I wouldn’t think twice about letting a 14 year old in charge of a 3 year old if said 14 year old was not notably irresponsible or untrustworthy for his age.

    So this raises the question — is it really illegal for 14 year olds to babysit in Britain? I knew the overprotective legal culture there was getting bad, but it’s hard to imagine a country where it’s illegal for a young teenager to babysit, ever, period. Bad as things are getting that way in the US, I don’t think we’re even CLOSE to having a law against teenagers babysitting for short periods, in the daytime, under normal conditions.

  14. jen February 7, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    My mother probably would have received life with no chance of parole. When I was nine years old she would leave me in charge of my seven year old sister in our apartment while she went down to the laundry mat. Our instructions were: Do Not use the stove. Do Not open the door. Simple instructions to follow.
    Surprisingly we were never injured, attacked or abuducted.
    This really has gone over board – but hey I personally know a mother who won’t even let her twenty year old wallk to the bus stop, and has a thirteen year old who has never walked home from school and so when he finally had the chance to walk home got lost and had to call her to come and find him. Then she applauded him for thinking independently and calling her when he was in trouble.
    Face meet Palm, is all I have to say.

  15. kcs February 7, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

    I’m part of a group assisting with first aid training for local 8th graders. Part of the training is ‘case studies’ of likely babysitting emergencies where we present a scenario, (child trips over toy, then can’t move wrist) and ask what the proper response would be. Whoever wrote the curriculum we are using clearly assumes that young teenagers will be babysitting and thus they can benefit from basic emergency first aid training. Also, in my community the Red Cross babysitting safety class admits kids as young as 12.

  16. SKL February 7, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    This is just great. Whenever parenting sites get on the topic of siblings helping with other siblings, someone always brings up their opinion that it is harmful to the older sibling. As the oldest daughter in a family with 6 kids, I say that is nonsense. Aside from it being actually fun to take care of little kids (most of the time), it is wonderful for young people to get that experience. The same kids who were “protected” from such “abuse” grow up to have their own kids, and they’re often freaked out by the continuous responsibility and the need for intelligent problem-solving. Unless you don’t expect your kid to ever be a parent, I’d think it best to encourage and even seek out babysitting opportunities if they aren’t easy to find. To think that my youth was one long string of “cruelty” because I had responsibilities for my younger siblings and other tots (babysitting and much more)? So very sad. That was the best part of my youth.

  17. helenquine February 7, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    Pentamom – There is no law stating an age at which it is legal or illegal to have kids babysit. Though legal responsibility for what happens rests with the adult who left the babysitter in charge.

    In this case the woman was cautioned under a general child cruelty law (presumably under a neglect provision). Since she was cautioned, not charged, no judge or jury ever contemplated whether what the woman did actually falls foul of the law.

  18. Cheryl W February 7, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

    I am with Wendy, which child was it supposed to be cruel to? “The Ransom of Red Chief” is a case study that the younger can be obnoxious to the older people!

    Seriously, a 14 year old should be capable of watching his sibling for a period of time. Perhaps the mom forgot to tell them to stay inside. Like homeschoolers here before it was legal, they probably should be “hiding” from their neighbors so that people can not see they are not with the adult over 16. Uhg. This is stupid.

    My theory is that this is all a result of birth control. If all families still had 8 kids, this would not be an issue. Because we have fewer kids, they are more precious to us, resulting in this insanity that we have now. (NO, I do not want 8 kids! I am all for birth control.)

  19. BMS February 7, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    I was changing my little sister’s (cloth!) diapers at 6, and I took her to the park a block away when I was 8 and she was 2. I was pretty much the only babysitter my folks used by the time I was 9 or 10, and I was earning money sitting by 12.

    This is nuts.

  20. Jennifer Herb February 7, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

    I can totally relate to magnuminsp’s 1st post. I was an only child, and my parents started leaving me home alone for a few hours a day when I was like 8. I had a house key, and would let myself in the house after school. And my mom used to sit me on her lap in the car and let me “drive” down the back alley by our house when I was 3! As soon as my legs were long enough to reach the pedals (age 10 maybe), I was taught how to drive a manual-shift car. Oh, what abusive parents I had!!! LOL And BTW, I am only 26, so I’m not talking about being a kid in the 1950s when this stuff was normal.

  21. magnuminsp February 8, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    @Jennifer–I am also the oldest of four and learned how to cook, clean, and do everything else that are what I would consider, “basic skills” that can be very useful, later in life.

    We also, and some may find this hard to believe, didn’t have a key to our home. We didn’t need it……the doors were never locked and that goes for the cars as well.
    In thirty years of living in that home, my parents were never robbed.

    How has society changed so much, that you are in some instances, a prisoner in your own home and now, in some instances, so are your kids?

    All of the kids in our neighborhood played together. Older kids were always with the younger kids and everyone was safe.
    Then again, all the parents knew each other as well and if one kid messed up, there was enough punishment to be spread around!

  22. Skyfire February 8, 2011 at 12:04 am #

    I agree, this is stupid. My little sister was born when I was 9, and by the time she was a toddler we were basically put out of the house during the day to roam the neighborhood. I and my brother were the oldest of the neighborhood kids at 10 and 11, and ALL the adults looked to us to watch over their kids. They didn’t ask us or tell us or caution us; it was just expected that we would because we were there and we were oldest. If we weren’t there it would have fallen to the 8 year old next door. Nobody got hurt (injured, I should say, there were plenty of scrapes and bruises).

    I’ve set my 9 year old to watch my 9 week old while I made dinner or took a shower. They both love it! I was thinking that when the little one is older they might like to go to the park by themselves, but now I might get arrested!

  23. Kathryn February 8, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    Echoing prior sentiments. The older sibling is at or above perfect babysitting age. My nearly eleven year old has been asked to babysit.

  24. Liz February 8, 2011 at 12:24 am #

    That is truly outrageous. We have a specific list of times when kids are allowed to be alone and under what circumstances. It’s very specific and cautious (this is on a military post housing). Children are allowed to babysit other children at age 12 for “several hours” at the parents’ discretion.

    That is an appalling verdict. I hope she has the resources to appeal it. I would donate to her legal fund.

  25. Sara February 8, 2011 at 12:29 am #

    We let kids drive when they’re 16 but they’re not allowed to be unsupervised before that? No wonder they go nuts when they get some freedom.

    Do they have daycares for middle schoolers in the UK? What do parents do during school breaks and if they have to work nights? Put their 12 and 13 year olds in daycare?

    I’ve had eleven and twelve year old babysitters for my daughter since she was an infant. I prefer younger sitters because they tend to be more excited about the responsibility and their parents are always a phone call away.

    The original article has a bunch of people commenting about how not all kids are ready at 14 so it should be against the law. Well if you look at it that way no one should EVER be allowed to be alone with a child because there are plenty of 18 and 20 and 30 year olds who aren’t responsible enough to care for children.

    At any moment you could crack and go insane and throw your child off a cliff or lock them in a tower or shove them in an oven or hire a hunstman to cut out their hearts, to protect our children we are now instituting a two adult rule. Every child must be supervised by no less than two adults at all times. Unless they’re in the public schools and then it’s 60 kids to one adult.

  26. Big Mac February 8, 2011 at 12:38 am #

    I was at the bookstore looking for a birthday present for my niece and there was a big rack of American Girl books. One of them was a book about babysitting. I was flipping through it to see if it was something she would like and there was a part that talked about how old you have to be to babysit. It said “some girls start as young as 11. Others start when they’re 14. It depends on the girl.”

  27. cheyenne February 8, 2011 at 12:41 am #

    wow…my 12 yr old neighbor regularly babysits my 6 and 2 yr olds. she is fully capable of taking care of them and herself for a few hours. this is shocking!

  28. Alexicographer February 8, 2011 at 1:02 am #

    This does seem rather off the mark; I had a full-time (summer) job caring for 3 kids (ages 3, 6, and 8) when I was 13.

    @Sara UK kids can’t get a drivers license before they’re 17, so they’ve got a year between being allowed to be alone for a few moments and taking off behind the wheel of automobile unsupervised :).

  29. LeeAnne February 8, 2011 at 1:03 am #

    Anyone remember that series of books titled, “The Babysitter’s Club”? The characters were barely in junior high, I think.

  30. Alexicographer February 8, 2011 at 1:03 am #

    Er the sunglasses and smiley face was an 8 in the original comment …

  31. Jen February 8, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    I was, what is now known as, a latch-key kid. Sure, we had our neighbors around if we needed anything, but they didn’t come and watch us at our house. My brother, who is 3 years older than me, and I would come home from school, let ourselves in the house, have snacks and watch TV. This started when I was in the first or second grade b/c both my parents were working. Nothing bad ever happened and we knew where to go for help if we needed it.
    The kid in this story is in high school and old enough to have a job in most places. Also, as some others pointed out, physically old enough to be a parent, so I truly don’t understand WTF is going on in our world today. Audible sigh.

  32. Kay February 8, 2011 at 1:13 am #


    It so incredibly short sighted. Why does society so desperately want to emasculate teens? Does anybody realize that the generation we seem intent on convincing they’re incapable will someday (soon) lead our countries?? I dont’ get it.

    Here’s a little teen trivia to remind us what this age group used to be capable:
    George Washington at 14 was the official surveyor for Culpepper County, Virginia
    Alexander the Great, 16 – founded his first colony – named it Alexandroupolis
    S.E. Hinton – 16, published “The Outsiders”, required reading for teens in our school district.

    The list goes on and on … Are we going to let these kids go on their own, or will be insist on flying for them. All in the name of safety. Yikes!

  33. Stephanie February 8, 2011 at 1:22 am #

    This is absurd. I took babysitting classes when I was in 6th grade (so 11 or 12 I guess?) and started babysitting shortly thereafter. At one point, while I was still in high school, probably about 15 or 16, I babysat 4 children (3 of whom were boys under the age of 5) for 12 straight hours. The worst thing that happened was one of the little boys peed his pants.

    I wholeheartedly agree with other posters who have said that teenagers are perfectly capable of taking on responsibility like this, and that taking away this sort of responsibility would result in them being LESS competent and LESS responsible. It’s absolutely the kids who are given no responsibilties and no freedom who immediately go wild the second their parents drop them off at college.

  34. Lisa February 8, 2011 at 1:24 am #

    So I’m confused. We can’t trust anyone under 18 with our kids because they’re irresponsible and will burn the house down. We can’t trust anyone over 18 around our kids because they’re all pervs. So… Who can we trust media and government? Oh, no one, you say? Ok lovely. Such a nice society we are building here.

  35. Library Diva February 8, 2011 at 1:25 am #

    This is ridiculous. I remember watching my sister for short time periods (an hour or less) when I was as young as 9. She would have been 6. I also vividly remember, that there was really nothing for me to do. She played with her dolls in room, just like she did every day after school, so I went to my room and played with my own dolls. We knew not to do anything stupid.

    Under US law, this kid is considered old and responsible enough to work at McDonald’s. Is there more to the story? Did something actually happen? I was babysitting for kids I didn’t know at that age. One of my charges had a peanut allergy and I would have had to give him an epi-pen. But, guess what, even though my charge was six, he knew what he could and couldn’t have absolutely cold. Kids are capable of a lot.

  36. Kathryn February 8, 2011 at 1:44 am #

    I just checked our local red cross website. You can take babysitter’s training when you are 11.

  37. View Point February 8, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    Screenwriters – Where are you?

    Here’s your chance to write block-buster comedy movies based on this nonsense.

  38. Tara February 8, 2011 at 1:55 am #

    I leave my 10 year old home with his 3 little sibs for an hour or two. He’s perfectly responsible and before we leave we point out which neighbors are home should there be an emergency (like the house burning down). We’ve run many first aid drills and other sorts of scenarios. And also, if I’m not home the minute the bus comes my (morning only) kindergartener knows to come in, shut the door and watch cartoons and to expect me in a few minutes! Toss me in jail.

  39. Marie February 8, 2011 at 2:00 am #

    I hope she gets the caution removed from her record. That’s just ridiculous.

    My 8 year old stays home for short periods on her own and loves it. She knows the basic rules. I’d let my 5 year old stay with her if he wanted, but so far there’s no interest.

  40. Claudia Conway February 8, 2011 at 2:00 am #

    One thing I wondered about this was that if children may be considered ‘in danger’ at home, then presumably it’s ‘negligence and crueltly’ to allow an under 16 to make their own way to or from school (which could take a long time, especially in the countryside or across a large city)? Or to allow them to take the bus to go and visit their grandma?

    I also agree there should be no need for childcare from, well, probably secondary school onwards (11+ in the UK). Plenty of secondary aged children are home alone until their parents get in – my mother didn’t always work full time in that period, but I’m sure I was regularly taking the hour-long walk home and letting myself in from at least 13.

  41. coffeegod February 8, 2011 at 2:02 am #

    By the time I was 14, my main source of income was babysitting everything from birth to 11 years old. I made considerably more money doing so than I would have working at the local burger and barf.

    Perhaps the world could benefit from one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cleanses. They work for her!

    * wanders away muttering about the need for invention of a sarcasm font *

  42. jenn February 8, 2011 at 2:33 am #

    i had to laugh at this because back when my mom was a dcf investigator and i was the oldest at 14/15 my mom had the leave me in charge if my three younger siblings ages 10 11 and an infant at the orders of her supervisor when she was on call and got a call in the evenings or night… she also laughed off calls about teenagers alone and once git a call about a 17 yr old who lived alone in an apartment provided by his mom was clean and evrything but it was call abandonment… this was all about 10 yrs ago… and my baby sister is still alive and so r the other babies i sat for in the neighborhood during middle school…

  43. Nik February 8, 2011 at 2:35 am #

    I’m presuming a lot of the FRK readership is non-UK based, simply on the basis that no-one has posted this comment before I. Over here, the casual passing along of a story from this notorious tabloid is often concluded with, “but bear in mind it was in the Express”.

    About as far as you can get from a trustworthy news-source, it’s principal obsessions are Muslims, the “dictatorial” European union, the private lives of celebrities, and the so-called nanny-state. Here’s a sample of the stories the Express has blatantly lied about (and paid out on in the courts) over the past few years: http://tabloid-watch.blogspot.com/2011/01/libel-and-express-newspapers.html . Of course, it’s the celebrities and larger companies that have the means to pursue them for legal redress, how many others don’t is anyone’s guess. Our press complaints commission is famously toothless.

    I adore Free Range Kids and Lenore is our queen, but one really must take great care with stories from sources such as this. If it’s true then it’s a miserable shame indeed, but if information came to light such that it was complete fabrication then I personally wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest. I imagine the reality lies somewhere in-between. For my money, it’s the follow-up comment from the NSPCC that is the most depressing.

  44. jenn February 8, 2011 at 2:37 am #

    also the great city of orlando florida had decided that 9 is old enough to stay home alone since that is the age they stop helping low income moms with childcare… they say by that age they should be responsible enough to stay home after school

  45. N February 8, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    I’m another person who babysat when I was 13 and 14 for kids who were 2 and 3, regularly. This is just plain crazy.

  46. Floyd Stearns February 8, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    What’s up with these people?

    I’m glad we declared our independence back in 1776!

  47. Teri February 8, 2011 at 2:42 am #

    14 is an odd age where you can have one that is as mature as a 4 year old and another that is more mature than a 24 year old. I feel like it should be the parent’s decision based on that child’s level of responsibility. And, nobody knows them better than their parents. Seven years ago, I went back to school. I had a 3 year old at the time and she had a 14 year old babysitter. I had no problems with it. And, there were never any issues. I was babysitting when I was 12 – for a family that had a pool and was okay with us using the pool without them there. I had two 5-year old boys most of the time in the pool with no adults around. Big deal. My parents left us home alone starting at around age 7 or 8. I remember staying at home for a full week when I was 16 and they were out of town and driving myself to/from school. Oh, and the grocery store. I had permission to go to the grocery store as well. Never did we think we were abused or neglected. We were thrilled to be given the opportunity and to be trusted.

  48. socialjerk February 8, 2011 at 2:48 am #

    This is, if I may use professional jargon, ridonkulous. (If this is in fact the full story.)

    I recently stopped by to do a home visit with a family. The 12 year old brother was at home alone with his twin two year old brothers, one of whom is severely disabled and requires a lot of supervision. The twins were asleep, and the mother had just run out to the store. Once she got back, we talked, and we agreed that her son was perfectly capable of watching his brothers in that situation.

    More recently, I went to a home to find a 2 and 4 year old home alone. That I called in immediately. There was no room for discussion. Because that VERY easily could have been a bad situation.

    If I called a case like this in, with no extenuating circumstances (the 14 year old was not incapacitated in some way, the 3 year old didn’t have special needs that the older brother couldn’t handle, etc) it would not be accepted. I can at least say that for CPS where I work.

  49. cat February 8, 2011 at 3:00 am #

    Wendy W’s comment is spot on!

    I remember having a full time summer babysitting job at the age of 13. every day, 7am-5 pm. It was a huge favor to them, because friends of the family I was able to watch the kids for a lot less than daycare would of cost, and to me $90 a week was a huge amount of money to be getting. Taught me not only a lot about responsibility, showing up to work on time, etc, but also money management from a much younger age.

    If I needed help, I knew how to get a hold of my mom and theirs (amazing, I know, considering cell phones weren’t prevalent yet <>)

    I wonder how these people would react if they knew I give my 8 year old $10 occasionally and let him run into the store for me to grab a few things (something he loves because it makes him feel so grown up).

  50. Myriam February 8, 2011 at 3:06 am #

    The case also appears in the more respectable Telegraph in this interesting article about people who have been barred from their jobs after receiving police cautions for child neglect, which also ties in with Leonore’s previous post.

  51. Myriam February 8, 2011 at 3:06 am #

    Sorry Lenore, not Leonore!

  52. Hattie February 8, 2011 at 3:10 am #

    One line from the article really made me wonder who do kids belong to anyway?

    “Parents are left to rely on their own judgment but sometimes they will make the wrong call.”

    Wrong call according to whom? If nothing happens- it was a good call. If something goes wrong the parents have poor judgement. Sheesh.

  53. Kat February 8, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    I started babysitting my neighbor’s 4 year old and 18 month old when I was 9! I don’t think I’d hire a babysitter that young for my own kids, but I certainly did fine.

  54. maggie February 8, 2011 at 3:18 am #

    this is truly sad! Our regular babysitter is 14 and I leave her with a 4 year old and a 2 year old. She’s great with them and they LOVE when she comes over. We usually leave for two hours and nothing horrible has happened (unless you count hours of playing batman…or little boys interacting with a girl)

    I don’t understand how she could have been ticketed when there was no danger and everyone was fine. Maybe MAYBE it would be understandable if the child had been hurt but if everyone was ok then they had no business getting involved.

  55. beth February 8, 2011 at 3:48 am #

    When my daughter was 14 I certainly expected her to babysit her younger brother when family needs dictated. And yes, a family need might just have been going out for the evening!

    And when my kids were younger, we rarely had a babysitter older than 14. Starting at that age they either had started some type of job with a work permit, or their social lives had started to kick in and they were no longer interested in babysitting on weekend nights.

  56. Nik February 8, 2011 at 3:51 am #

    Thank you for the link to the Telegraph article, Myriam.

  57. helenquine February 8, 2011 at 4:21 am #

    Nik – It was also on the BBC this morning.

  58. Kimberly February 8, 2011 at 4:35 am #

    My 13 yr old next door neighbor babysits my 3 and 5 yr old, makes them dinner, and does their bath. She even cleaned the sink while they were in the tub!

    At 16 I was not only babysitting a 4 and 2 yr old sibling pair, I was taking them with me to do the family grocery shopping, by car, while their mom worked at home, and taking them on outings to the beach by myself. When they moved out of town I would actually make the drive, alone, to spend the weekend “nannying”. As early as 14 the mom was dropping me at the movies with the oldest, then three, while she did her errands. I had lots of confidence by the time I had my first, at age 25, because I’d handled a toddler and a newborn at 15!

  59. EricS February 8, 2011 at 4:54 am #

    Quoting from Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does.” That law is stupid, the “police officer” is stupid, her employers are stupid. We are governed by stupid people, why am I still surprised about all the stupidity that surrounds us? Oh, maybe because I know people capable of better than that. Or maybe I just give to much credit to people these days. lol Just because someone holds a position of authority, doesn’t mean they know everything, and it obviously doesn’t make them immune to the stupid bug.

    By the way Lenore, you should change the caption of the pic to “You must be this tall to babysit.” lol

  60. Richard Allen February 8, 2011 at 4:55 am #

    from the time i was 10, it was not unusual for me to be left alone at home while my mother was at work. Never did a fire break out or the world come to an end. I’d sit at home and read, play video games, and watch TV. Sometimes head outside to the porch to play with my friends but that’s about it. Sadly it’s my generation that is doing the parenting now and while most of us are decent parents, there are a few who think that we need to protect our children to the point of leaving them in padded cells 23 hours out of the day. The other hour is so they can come out and see us parents so we can feel like we are doing a good job at raising them while all we are doing is making them feel like morons.

  61. Fiona February 8, 2011 at 4:56 am #

    If nothing happened how did the police get involved?

    This situation is absurd, but it sounds like the story is missing some information?

  62. Emily February 8, 2011 at 5:17 am #

    Like Nik, I had some reservations about the story when I saw it was from the Daily Express. Though it has been mentioned in more reputable sources as well, I’m wondering whether there’s something more we don’t know about the story, as 14 years is quite old for the police to be worrying about him being able to watch a child for 30 minutes.

  63. Jane February 8, 2011 at 5:20 am #

    As a single mother, I grapple with this leaving the kid at home alone dilemma all the time – all I’d like to do is be able to go for a run in the morning (before my 10 year old daughter is even thinking about being awake). After being told by a friend that this was illegal, I researched the issue and discovered that not only is it not illegal to leave your kid alone, out state government in Queensland, Australia endorses (in principle at least) this as a valuable step in children’s development into independent adults. See http://education.qld.gov.au/earlychildhood/pdfs/tip-sheets/tip-sheet-home-alone.pdf

  64. EricS February 8, 2011 at 5:22 am #

    @Richard: kudos on your post. The saddest part, those parents in all their “wisdom”, and wanting them to be “safe”, don’t realize they are actually setting up their kids to be walked all over, taken advantage of, and live a life of fear and insecurity when they are older.

    I was about 6 when my parents left us on our own. My older sister (by one year) and younger brother (two years), went to school together, and at least me and my bro, or my sis and bro would come home together. We had keys to our house, we already knew how to cook basic stuff, clean, do laundry. So it wasn’t an issue for us to be left alone for another 2 hours before my parents got home. By the time I was 9, we’d come home, make something to eat, then go out and play till the lights came on. Sometimes even later. As long as my parents knew what we were doing and where we were going, they were fine with it. Because their parents taught them to be self-sufficient at a young age. So they taught us the same things. Actually on my father’s side, his parents passed away when he was only 11, so being the oldest he took care of his siblings. Going to school, then work after wards. They had relatives that kept an eye on them. But they pretty much took care of each other. And that’s how me and my siblings grew up. Watching out for each other when our parents weren’t around. We learned many things early. And a time now when tweenies are out in the world, yet they don’t even know how to make dinner or do laundry on their own, we were way ahead of that curve at 9 years old. I wonder how the parents of these ill equipped young adults feel about that. lol

  65. Hels February 8, 2011 at 5:49 am #

    This is absolutely outrageous.

    If teens are kept literally on a leash until 16 or 18, no wonder they go crazy as soon as let off…

    My parents would probably be in jail had these laws applied back then and there…

    When I was six, my mom would pick me up from school, but starting with age seven I walked home with a bunch of friends who all lived nearby. I stopped by an elderly neighbor who lived on the first floor, she went up to our apartment with me, made sure I ate lunch (that was around 1pm or 2pm) and left me until my parents came home from work around 6pm. I did homework, watched TV or mostly just read and the only mishap I remember is that I burned fish I was reheating (that was before the microwave days) because the elderly neighbor and I got too much into looking at some photo albums and only ran to the kitchen when it started to smell like something burned.

    I dread thinking what I would be like had someone been constantly hovering over me until I was 14. I went to another country with a bunch of people I didn’t know for three weeks when I was 11, for Pete’s sake!

  66. Jynet February 8, 2011 at 6:02 am #

    “Although there was no “incident” and they were not believed to be in danger, the mother was cautioned by officers for “committing an act of cruelty on a child or young person.””

    This is the part that gets me. No “incident”?? Who got the police involved then?

    This sums up my feelings on the matter:

    “I think it boils down to the age of the children and the teenager’s intelligence and maturity.”

    Perhaps the issue is that the 14yo is not mentally capable of care of himself and/or a younger child?

  67. AMcguinn February 8, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    The events are from 2009 — it is a story now because she is trying to get reinstated. There was two similar cases involving nurses, who got their jobs back late last year.

    The lesson for similar instances is not to accept a caution. The police will offer to caution you, meaning if you accept the caution there is no further action taken, but it technically counts as a conviction, and in conjunction with the insane background checking system (which is only to be relaxed somewhat with the recent announcement), that means you can’t work in any capacity involving children.

    It also counts as a “solved crime” in the police statistics, which goes some way to explaining why it happened in the first place.

    If she had refused the caution, it is very unlikely any court would have convicted her of anything. In fact, the CPS would probably have chucked it out.

  68. Anna February 8, 2011 at 6:14 am #

    I wonder if they would have gone as far as they did if the babysitter had been a 14 year old girl? Something makes me think not…but I guess we will never know.

  69. Myriam February 8, 2011 at 6:43 am #

    It doesn’t surprise me at all. She was most likely reported by a malicious neighbour. And, after all, the influential NSPCC recommends that no child under 16 should be left in charge of someone younger.

    That is not to say that most people in the UK think like this. I listened to two talk shows about this today and everyone bar one caller thought it was ridiculous.

  70. crowjoy February 8, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    I go from here to Shorpy (http://www.shorpy.com/) and look what’s on top today, a photo by Lewes Wickes Hine who in the early 1900s photographed child laborers around the nation, trying to end LEGAL child labor (http://www.shorpy.com/lewis-hine-photos.) A time when 4-5-6 yr olds were put to work in family business, the fields and factories! Legally! I wonder what he would say of our children today, how amazed he would be at how far the pendulum has swung. Astounding.

  71. gramomster February 8, 2011 at 6:57 am #

    I’m probably going to get some heat, but one thing I wonder about is the component of putting off childbearing on the perception of children as so fragile and special. We are waiting later and later to have children, and then when we do, we often have one or two, and they are a huge financial investment for their parents in terms of the time, emotional investment and actual financial investment in reproductive technology to build a family. If you just kinda get pregnant at 23, you’re definitely still close enough to being a kid that you remember exactly how capable you were when you were younger. Also, you’re still a fairly self engrossed person at that age, and making sure your needs are met, in terms of leaving the kids, shooing them outside, etc.
    When we start looking at when this whole kids are delicate snowflakes thing started, it goes to right about when the ability to wait to have a first child until the age at which the previous generation was already looking toward grandkids became widely available.
    I want to make clear this is NOT a bashing of the use of ART. It is just an observation that perhaps at least SOME of this insanity is a result, indirectly or no, of the whole nature of parenthood – the timing, the manner, the whole enchilada – changing so incredibly radically. ART has opened up the parameters of ‘childbearing age’, which gives both tremendous liberation, and increased anxiety where childbearing is concerned. I think it has some unforeseen consequences, what sociologists would term ‘latent dysfunctions’.

  72. RobynHeud February 8, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    @gramomster – I totally agree with you. I remember thinking that I wanted to have my children young, so I could empathize better with them, having only recently left “childhood” myself. It ended up taking longer to have kids than I expected, so I was 26 when my first (and so far only) was born, but I swore I would never forget what it was like to be a kid, to learn and discover and to do the things I wanted to do because I knew I could do them. And if I failed a few times, I didn’t freak out, I just tried again or found a different way.
    When I was 5, I asked my dad to take the training wheels off of my bike. He had me ride for him, then declared he didn’t think I was ready for them to come off. I was pretty upset, but instead of whining and complaining, I later took my bike into the garage, got the tools that I needed and took them off myself. Kids don’t need our help or hand-holding. They need our wisdom and our resources, but in their time, not ours.

  73. Virginia February 8, 2011 at 7:55 am #

    Gramomster, you’re right, I’m going to give you “some heat.” I had just turned 35 when my first child was born (he’s now 14, do the math), and I have to say it’s pretty insulting to be told that my age somehow makes me a less fit or more “helicopterish” parent. I was born when my own parents were 22 and 24, and while they did their best, they made a lot of mistakes, many of which I think could have been avoided if they’d been a little more mature.

    Giving my kids the right amount of “range” has been something I’ve thought hard about since they were babies. And despite my advanced age, I’ve never been the self-sacrificing type. My mom friends span a wide range of ages. We all do our best, we all make mistakes, and I don’t think there’s any correlation between our age and the amount of freedom we give our children.

  74. Serena February 8, 2011 at 8:10 am #

    Wow, my kids are 11 and 6 and they have been spending half-days and vacation days home alone since the beginning of this school year. They even walk to the McDonald’s or the pizza place near our house for lunch and walk back–all without incident. I was worried at first that my older son would be too bossy but they actually get along better than when the parents are home.

  75. Donna February 8, 2011 at 8:58 am #

    @ Gramonster – I have to agree with Virginia at being insulted. I was 35 when my first was born. I know helicopter parents who are in their 20’s and free range parents in their 30’s. Age seems to be completely irrelevant. Socio-economic background seems to be the biggest indicator of whether one will be a helicopter parent or not. Helicopter parenting is pretty exclusive to the middle/upper class.

    I think there are many things that have contributed to helicopter parenting. The low number of children in traditional families definitely plays a part (but isn’t connected to age of the parents). So does vastly increased wealth, mothers moving out of the home for full-time employment, increased numbers of people getting a higher education thus moving the age of true adulthood and expected self-sufficiency up, the move from farming and manual labor to service industry jobs that require less expenditure of energy and time leaving more of both for parenting, the 24 hour news cycle, internet and global marketplace that brings us things to worry about from all over the world instead of just what’s in our local community, a highly mobile population with a lack of connectivity to the current community, fewer people living near the extended family for support and reality checks.

  76. Donna February 8, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    I did forget to add the easy availability of reliable birth control. That does play into the fact that more parents are having children when they want them and not just oops. However, again, that is not tied to age but instead by the ability to prevent pregnancy until children are actually planned.

  77. Stephanie February 8, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    As a single working mom, my kids were on their own at 8 and 11 years old for about an hour every night.

    No children were harmed!

  78. Gail February 8, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    And when they are old enough to drive they don’t want to babysit anymore. Sheesh! I watched my younger siblings, ranging from 4-15 years younger than me, since I was about 10. Nothing terrible ever happened! It was common when I was a kid. (And now I feel very old for having said that.)

  79. Fiona February 8, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    This is being discussed on Mumsnet .com, the UKs biggest parenting forum.
    Similar sentiments to those expressed here – thankfully!
    Not sure how to link properly on this site but…

  80. mollie February 8, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    I love delving into the sociology of this phenomenon of our collective hysteria about the dangers of current-day childhood.

    I think in large part it is due to the death of community and interdependence brought on by wealth: a form of “affluenza.”

    When women and children were at home in suburbia, or hanging out on the stoop in Brooklyn, or even washing the clothes in the river, interdependent relationships between families began at birth that lasted throughout a child’s upbringing.

    These days, from birth on, your kid is yours, not the neighbourhood’s. You live in near isolation in your little 4-bed, 2-bath prison and have to consciously ARRANGE interaction with other kids, sometimes weeks in advance.

    Over time, since we don’t really know our neighbours and have so little shared history, we begin to buy into the media hype that there’s a serial killer on every corner and a molester in every bush.

    There were bad actors back in the day; there are the same proportion of bad actors today. The only thing that has changed is our quality of life: dismal, for now we are shackled together, parent and child, each of us growing more wary and less fulfilled by the minute.

    I have to laugh about these affluence-driven, futile efforts to protect kids from each other and unforeseeable events… wake up, people. The world might become really dangerous, on the level of boiling seas and unbreathable air and lack of foodstuffs, very soon. We may all be huddled together and interdependent again by necessity and not by choice. Then it will indeed seem outrageously silly that we ever had laws against leaving school-aged children unattended.

    For me, I am striving to equip myself and my kids with compassion. It seems to be a great gift in any circumstance, foreseen or not, and a return to interdependence is definitely on the horizon. Fear and judgement are always in long supply. Stock up on compassion now.

  81. bmj2k February 8, 2011 at 11:15 am #

    How did the police even find out? Did someone reprot her? Did they investigate? I am glad there is so little crime in England.

  82. Molly s February 8, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    Unfrickinbelievable! So depressing!

  83. North of 49 February 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    I hope Mum gets a good lawyer and fights the ticket for the sake of UK mothers and mothers everywhere.

  84. gramomster February 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    First, @ mollie – affluenza. Amen.

    Second, I think I didn’t make myself clear. I apologize. The kid was calling and I had to sort of rush through my thought process.

    I’m not so much suggesting age per se as a relevant variable as truly OLDER age. And, certainly I don’t think of 35 as an ‘older mother’. And yes, I know plenty of younger moms that helicopter quite impressively. They seem to helicopter for some different reasons than older moms. And around here, the helicoptering of younger moms is rooted in insulated religious communities. (I do live in a very religious area, and not open, welcoming religious people. Religious people who, if they don’t recognize you from church, literally take their kids back in the house, and don’t say hello. When you live 5 houses apart. And have kids the same ages. Really. I kid you not.) These moms marry fairly young, and are really worried about their kids seeing anything on television, or hearing any words, or music or reading any books that might damage them. I’ve overheard conversations in cafes that they don’t take their kids to the grocery because of the magazine covers, they require them to watch DVDs in the van so they aren’t distracted by the billboards, etc etc. So, they helicopter to keep out cultural stuff, but when in groups of their own, their kids run free. They feel safe with others they know. Which, we all do, but again, they are less worried about abduction than about somebody hearing a Lady Gaga song at 7.
    Heck, I was pretty good at helicoptering when I was in my 20s! But I got over it before my kids were too old… they started gaining a lot of freedom when I sat myself down when they were 9 and 11, so when I was 35, and rationally discussed with myself the actual dangers vs perceived dangers. And, while I have a colorful history filled with heinous stories of every type of crap you could imagine (my siblings, not me… my grandmother raised me), I did talk sense into myself, and set them loose.

    But no, 35 is NOT an older mom in my book. My grandmother was 36 when her first child was born, in 1943, meaning that my grandmother, born in 1907 (!) was a career woman, married at 30, had her kids at 36 and 37, and went back to work until she was 62. Not the norm then, maybe, for a married white woman who’s husband had a job also, but very much the norm now. Pretty much 35 is normal age at this juncture in society. My youngest siblings were born when my mom was 32 and 38. My sister was 35 when her daughter was born.

    BUT! There are women who are undergoing hormone therapy and IVF at 52 and 58, and older. With first children. In one case, a woman in India was 70 when she gave birth to her first child. There are 3 moms in our preschool who were older than I am now (45) when their first child was conceived. Gramomster = I am the Gramma, and sometimes I can be monsterey, both growly and fuzzy Grover-like. So, I am taking my grandson to preschool where the mothers of a few of his classmates are my senior by 5-10 years. One was literally post-menopausal, and underwent incredibly difficult treatment to force her body back into a state where she could carry a child to term. I can guarantee you, that child represents an incredible amount of investment. It is the only child she will ever have, and the degree to which she is over-read about all the possible dangers is astounding. “I have to know EVERYTHING! It took so much to get her! If I ever made a single mistake that could make her the teensiest bit unsafe, I just don’t know how I could live with myself! She is the embodiment of everything I’ve worked for!” et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The poor woman has over-researched herself into anxiety induced insomnia, and the sleep deprivation that one might hope would be done and over long before one has a 5 year old (these are all 4 and 5 year olds in the classroom), is really taking its toll on her. I don’t think she intends to sleep until her kid leaves for college.

    To reiterate, 35 is not an older mother. 45, that’s starting to push the envelope for me. Maybe some people can do it, and be relaxed and comfortable, but I think many, if not most, can’t. And it’s understandable! It really is! For all kinds of reasons! One of my grad school professors had her first child at 44. When he was 4, she said to me that if she’d had any idea of the physical demands having a young child entailed, she’d have had a child in her 30s, or not done it at all.
    Yup. They can run ya’ ragged!

  85. Tricia February 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    I don’t understand. How did the police know that the 14 year old was home alone with the younger sibling? I guess Big Brother really is watching.

  86. Alexicographer February 8, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    @gramonster, sure, women today can have children at older ages than was previously medically possible. It’s not (just) “hormonal treatments,” it’s donor eggs that’s making that possible (freezing eggs is a new technology that I believe has led to the birth of a very few babies and may eventually make it possible for women to delay bearing children yet reliably expect to have children genetically related to them, but that’s years away if it ever happens). And just to be clear, I’m not criticizing these different paths to parenthood, such as those involving donor gametes, just saying that many who contemplate them (myself included) do see them as *different* paths to parenthood (versus bearing a child genetically related to the parents who will (a) gestate and (b) raise it).

    But women bearing children at much older ages thanks to ART are a tiny drop in the bucket; what’s changed across the board is that many mothers (and fathers) are welcoming children later (somewhat later) than they once did, due in no small part to birth control. We’re also having fewer children by choice, in part because we can reasonably expect that our kids will live to adulthood — less need to “hedge bets.” While I’m not willing to blame (or even implicate) ART, I suppose it’s possible that these other trends are contributing to the patterns Lenore points out, though I for one would consider that nothing more than a (testable?) hypothesis.

  87. Alexicographer February 8, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    … and just to be clear, when I say “we’re having children …” I mean, we in developed countries on average, not “you personally” or even “people in general.”

  88. Dawn February 8, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    Wow just wow.
    I started babysitting at age 11. (that was 15 years ago)
    We just started getting a babysitter over to watch my 5 year old and she’s 11.
    Is it different here in Vancouver Canada?

  89. Jennifer Howze February 8, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    As an American now living in London, I was surprised by this story as well. In Texas where I grew up, kids regularly did “real” work – driving in the fields, working in shops and babysitting.

    As an observer of British culture, I think the backstory on this is that the gov’t has responded to the hand-wringing about “bad” parents with a law that isn’t applied rationally.

    A few years ago a mother got in trouble for leaving her very young children alone for a weekend while she went on holiday with her boyfriend (I think the kids were 3 and 6 or something like that). So instead of just taking this case as a single example, it becomes the basis for entire mindsets about how terrible it is to leave kids alone.

    At least we’re doing away with the vetting scheme, so you don’t need a criminal background check to host playdates…

  90. Wayne February 8, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

    This is brilliant – you see, the cuts to the vetting scheme lauded here may have been overstated. Around 4 million people will still need to be vetted, and the vetting scheme will still include accusations with no proof (ECRB). On top of this, existing childcare regulations under ofsted will remain and people still won’t be able to look after other people’s kids.

    As this woman has accepted a caution, there are now many, many jobs that she is no longer eligible for. She is very unlikely to be able to get a job in the financial services industry, almost guaranteed not to be able to work with children and any shot at a job in law enforcement is gone.

    I’m at the point where I believe that this has to happen MORE! We need to get to the point where the regular person is up in arms about this, and the only way this will happen is if regular people lose more than the daily mail can scare them about pedophiles.

  91. Frau_Mahlzahn February 8, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    I have no idea what the legal age to babysit is in Austria (might be around 14), but my daughter has been babysitting her younger siblings ever since she was 12. And she is doing such a good job that my youngest one often asks, when we will go out again, ;-)… It is a lot of responsibility, of course, but she really is doing a good job — and so are her siblings, who behave real well and make it easy for her.

    The first time she babysat, all three of them where so proud. They are really cool kids!

    So long,

  92. Frau_Mahlzahn February 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    I have no idea what the legal age to babysit is in Austria (might be around 14), but my daughter has been babysitting her younger siblings ever since she was 12. And she is doing such a good job that my youngest one often asks, when we will go out again, ;-)… It is a lot of responsibility, of course, but she really is doing a good job — and so are her siblings, who behave real well and make it easy for her.

    The first time she babysat, all three of them where so proud. They are really cool kids!

    What I really do not understand and actually wonder, if this is legal, is that you can get suspended from work for something that is in no way related to your work. That doesn’t sound right to me, and I think I would challenge that.

    So long,

  93. Claudia Conway February 8, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    gramomster – I think that is an interesting point that as parenthood gets later, that might incline us to seeing younger people as less capable.

    There wasn’t much difference between 16 and the age my mum was when she started a family (22)… it’s rather larger for me (I was 30).

  94. Sean February 8, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    I think the irony is that when you treat teenagers as incompetent, they react by sulking, not talking and being miserable. Then the same people say look how teenagers are! They cannot be trusted!

    Treat children like they are already the people you want them to be.

  95. Giorgia February 8, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    My mom left me and my brother alone at home for some hours since when we were 8 and 9, and we were sooo excited about that!
    I have been tending my little brother (10 years younger) since I was 12, without any problem on my or his side, or any astonishment from neighbours, friends or relatives, who thought that just normal.
    And I was allowed to stay home alone even when my family went away for vacation, including NIGHTS!!!, since I was 14 or 15.
    But hey, wait a minute! That was Italy! Being a little less “modern” has its advantages sometimes.

  96. Renee Aste February 8, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    “Treat children like they are already the people you want them to be.”

    Love it.

    Of course we want any individual to have their act together, before starting their own family. The sad side effect is that we infantile young adults, and like many people said by 16/17 no wonder why they go berserk.

  97. crowjoy February 8, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    I am agreeing with so many of the reasons people are putting forth about why this happens. And to add, I think the visibility of fertility issues contributes. Many of my helicoptery friends spent most of their early adulthood terrified that they would become accidentally pregnant and then turned around to be terrified they wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. When they start to feel hard to come by children seem even more precious. Add to that the idea that we can somehow prevent all bad things from happening… perfect storm.

  98. Wayne February 8, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    Good grief, I guess my parents should have been arrested. My older brother was left in cahrge of my sister and I when he was 16, my sister 15, and me 13, for weekends, while my parents were out of town. were we hurt, no, did we have fun, yes, and never ever once were there any problems, other than typical sibling stuff. My brother made sure we ate, knew where we were going if we were going with friends, and looked after us, plus a few times dealt with other parents to make sure I had a ride to hockey, etc. It gave all of us a strong sense of independance. Sure, some of my parents rules regarding what we could watch on TV, or listen to, or how late we were staying up may have been broken, but the fact remains that our parents trusted that we could handle being on our own, and the fact that they knew our neighbors had an eye on us as well, probably gave them the sense of security that we would be okay.
    I don’t think that many people today would have the same sense of trust in thier neighbors, a sad thing really.

  99. Donna February 8, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    @ Gramonster –

    I just don’t see an age-related problem. I find a much higher helicopter mentality in traditional middle class families than in poorer or “alternative” families regardless of age of the parents. The 20-something parents in the suburbs are more helicopterish than the 40-something parents in the inner city. The closer the parents are to two, opposite sex parents with at least middle class income living in suburbia the more helicopter they are. There are of course exceptions to this but as a whole.

    I live in the “inner city” – a very progressive college town that has suffered substantial middle class white flight to the ajoining county. There is now a large poverty population and the remaining white middle class (there is no actual black/hispanic middle class in the area) leans on the progressive/alternative/artsy side. There is a vibrant art and music community and a sizable “alternative” population of various forms. My daughter goes to preschool in the conservative, suburban county next door. There is a noticeable difference between the helicopterness of the suburban county and my innner city area, even amongst the white middle class populations located in the city.

    And I’m noticing more helicopterness creeping into the city as the more traditional, middle class population grows through gentrification. It sucks for those of us who wish to remain free range.

    I also know many single mothers by choice who have chosen to become parents in their 40s and 50s without partners. They put substantial effort into having a child – as did I since I conceived via medical technology. They run the gambit from helicopter to free range just like the more traditional population and do not seem anymore inclined to be helicopterish than the standard affluent family.

    While I don’t really think that it contributes to the helicopterness of the population, I do think that pushing fertility and having children in your late-40’s and 50’s is kinda selfish. Children shouldn’t have to deal with the issues surrounding aged parents while in college and young adulthood at the time that they are supposed to be most carefree and are trying to find their own place in life. I would think that your willingness to strike out and follow your own passions might be somewhat limited when you’re the only child of parents in their 70s. There is alot of talk about the “sandwich generation” – the stress on people having to deal with aged parents and raising their own family – and I think that the pressure would be even worse on people who were just trying to start their own life while dealing with an aged parent.

  100. Emily February 8, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    This seems to be generating a lot of discussion all over the media, which is probably a good thing given the kinds of things people are saying about it: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12380329

  101. Lola February 8, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    Seriously, I fail to see the cruelty about this… Okay, as the youngest sibling, I sort of see how being under the care of an older brother can be “cruel”. But still…
    And yet, if they consider the older kid being treated with cruelty… How?? Because he was forbidden to go out with his friends just to take care of that snotrag of a brother of his? For half an hour?? Really??? I mean, something is left out in this story, for sure. I dunno, maybe the 3yo was Chucky reincarnated or something…

  102. Laura February 9, 2011 at 12:55 am #

    This is pretty rediculous. I probably started babysitting around 12 or 13… I babysat so often in middle and high school that my parents joked I was making more money than them. And I never had a single incident which would cause a parent to not rehire me. And just for the sake of comparison, I’m 27 now, so it wasn’t that long ago that a 13 year old babysitter was normal.

  103. CJ February 9, 2011 at 1:18 am #

    When I was 16 (not driving yet) my parents had me watch my 1 1/2 year old sister for four days while they went on a cruise in the Bahamas.

  104. pentamom February 9, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    Donna, you may be right, but my sense from observation is that *within* the middle class demographic, parents who have their first children later (and especially if those children have been difficult to conceive or carry to term or have had health problems in very early life) are more likely to be, and likely to be to a higher degree, helicopterish. But that doesn’t mean that I think being older or having a rough pregnancy or infancy “makes” you that; still, I think gramomster may have a pretty good account for why it trends that way, if in fact it does.

    Either the sets of people we know are just so very different, or one of us is seeing or interpreting something wrongly. Don’t know. What I’m pretty sure of is that no one intends anything insulting or is claiming that older parents are automatically terrible helicopters, any more than you are claiming that being middle class or above “makes” you overprotective.

  105. gwallan February 9, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    Bloody hell!

    I was fourteen in the mid seventies. I was in leadership roles and often had sole responsibility for groups of younger kids in all sorts of activities – with no other supervision.

    How the hell do our young people learn leadership and responsibility while this attitude persists.

  106. gwallan February 9, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    To add…

    Many young girls make a bit of pocket money from babysitting. Is this allowed any more?

    It also has me wondering what would have happened if the fourteen year old was a girl.

    Professor Freda Briggs, who is – wrongly in my mind – viewed in Australia as an “expert” on child sexual abuse was in the media a few years back telling parents that they should treat all teenage boys as if they were paedophiles.

    I find myself wondering if there isn’t also an element of sexism in this case.

  107. CLarence Eckerson February 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    My parents and aunts and uncles used to go out and get hammered drunk and would put me (at 12 or 13) and usually my cousin (11 or 12) in charge of six kids from age 6 to 10!

    There was never a problem. And this of course before cell phones and such where a parent could be just a second’s call or text away.

  108. Donna February 9, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    @ Pentamom – I do actually believe that affluence makes overprotectiveness to a certain extent. Biologically we are still early homo sapiens. Healthy caution and fear has been evolved into us as a species. That was fine when we truly had to worry about saber tooth tigers eating our babies, warring tribes, marauding bandits, famine, widespread contagious disease wiping out populations, and other legitimate fears of actual survival.

    There are few legitimate fears for the middle class. Absent some random accident or illness, you and your children are going to survive to old age. So we manufacture somewhat irrational fears. The red scare. Cold war. Terrorist attacks. Crime. H1N1. The pedophile obsession is just the current version. As is the belief that we need to protect our children from all accidents. And, yes most of these fears do come true for a minute portion of the population but the fear of them far surpasses the actual risk.

    This explains why we rarely see helicopterness in developing countries, war zones or even the poorer populations in the West. Those populations do have actual fear of survival.

  109. Priscilla February 9, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    I am curious to know what they do with young teen mothers? Is a 14 or 15 year old single mother allowed to watch her own child?

  110. Carrie February 10, 2011 at 3:06 am #

    My daughter was 12 and the only child at home when her brother was born. Before his birth, she had been quite the handful. After she changed diapers, did laundry, helped with shopping, meal prep and clean up, came home straight from school to relieve Mom….she later told me it was the best “birth control talk” I could ever have offered to her!

  111. Jodie Pruden February 10, 2011 at 3:58 am #

    This might be a bit taboo, and no one wants to think about teenange pregnancy, however there are 14 year olds who are sexually active.
    So the scenario is this – Had that 14 year old had a child of their own in their care, what is the appropriate response and what is the responsibility of the parent of the 14 year old now???

  112. Richard Holmes February 10, 2011 at 7:01 am #

    This story broke here in the UK mainly as yet another example of the over-protective nature of the authorities towards children. Yes there are many teenage mothers in the UK, proportionately more than any other country in fact, so the law is hypocritical. So, what else is new? I think all this story really achieved was to make the police look dumb.

  113. Erica February 10, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    Our babysitter is 14! She started babysitting for us when she was 13, And she was my occasional helper between the ages of 10 and 12. I thought 13/14 was the perfect age to start babysitting? Dont the police have bank robbers to chase or something?

  114. MrPopularSentiment February 11, 2011 at 2:56 am #

    It wasn’t so long ago that a 14 year old could be reasonably expected to be married and possibly have a child of his/her own (not to mention a household to manage). In many parts of the world, this is still true.

    PS: I was babysitting by 14.

  115. Lia Ortega February 11, 2011 at 5:34 am #

    I don’t think it was a crime

  116. tao February 11, 2011 at 6:28 am #

    I remember going on the subway to the movies in Toronto with my 12 year old brother, when I was 5. These trips were some of the best times I had with my brother.
    Later on when I was 10 I was given babysitting duties of my siblings as young as 5. My parents gave me responsibility and I responded. That’s what’s missing in most of these coddled childrens lives today. If you treat a kid like an imbecile he may just live down to your expectations.

  117. Samantha February 12, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    This is insanity. As others before me have mentioned, my parents as well would have been trundled off to prison, never to have been seen again, based on this rationale. I was alone for most of the summer – as were most of my friends in the neighbourhood – when I was nine. Our parents were at work. We were responsible. We survived. Ditto for the following summer (age 10) and the one after that. Oh, I won’t even mention my babysitting gig of a “gasp” one-year-old when I was the tender age of 12.

    This new age of over-protectiveness gone mad has got to end before we jail people for even less “heinous” crimes.

  118. Anthony February 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    Wow! I’ve been looking after my brothers since I was 12, the youngest being 7years younger than I, then 4, then 2 @ 18months. (Single Parent, working Part-time on top of going to University – she was given a full time job teaching after 6months out of graduation(the norm here in Aus for a full time job is usually 2years after Grad)

  119. JP Merzetti February 13, 2011 at 12:31 am #

    Is this why third-worlders, after arriving on our fair shores for fun and profit, laugh at us?
    (asking themselves, who really are the babies here?) Having considered seriously that they truly would have felt like they had died and gone to heaven, being allowed to participate in our fairest of societies…say, perhaps back in the days before they completely outlawed “child” labor? um?
    It is all a matter of perspective….go tell it on the mountain, or better yet, to your closest friendly Bangladeshi.

    However, a sour breakfast tells me that the real reason for this nonsense is in fact, a very financially acute one; to wit –
    ……in our daily age of rising insurance costs, health, law, liability et al, the pow’rs that bee know in their little doggie hearts that far too much of our hard-pressed populace cannot in fact really afford the cost of living anymore (surviving, yes – living, no…) whereupon they have to figure out how to come up with various and sundry new ways to keep us from driving them completely out of business.
    Think about it.
    Insurance companies can now merrily and legally “cherry-pick” their customers – only the best risks need apply, the rest be damned.
    ….which leads to a strange, peculiar conclusion:
    ANY deemed “risk” can be looked upon as a potential claim which cannot readily be covered by the premiums paid. No fun and profit in that, at all.

    So as kids are investments for future fun and profit, they must be carefully tended. And in the meantime, lord forbid that they cost the social “safety net” one thin dime! Egad! What would the shareholders think! Truly…beyond the pale.

  120. pentamom February 13, 2011 at 7:50 am #

    Donna, I agree that there’s legitimate causation there. All I meant was that people shouldn’t take offense about observations of correlation or causation, because no one is saying we should prejudge *all* middle/upper middle class people as being helicopters, or *all* older parents, ditto. I mean, most of us here, are probably middle/upper middle class, just because that tends to be the profile of people who write stuff online. We’re not prisoners of our social class or age cohort behaviorally speaking, and no one is suggesting that we are, so the people who take offense might have a reason to disagree, but they should probably cool it on the “insult” stuff.

  121. Anne February 13, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    Well hell…I guess all the parents I babysat for when I was 13 were cruel too. People are stupid.

  122. M March 2, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    I just found out that there’s at least a quiet acceptance of kids occasionally “being alone” in my town – I think having a course may be a bit silly, but if that’s what it takes to get some public acceptance of the idea, I’ll take it.


  123. helenquine March 29, 2011 at 9:36 pm #

    Oh Hannah – really? Let’s set aside the fact you seem to be promoting this website on many blogs that you otherwise don’t comment on long after the original postings have gone up (i.e. you look like you are searching for blogs postings where you can leave a link to the website, much like, oh I don’t know, a paid marketer might).

    Instead we’ll just focus on the fat that if your fourteen year old can’t phone the right people and tell them what’s happening in an emergency you *shouldn’t* be leaving him babysitting.

    The service you’re promoting (and I’m not naming it because I hope Lenore will treat your post as spam and remove it) is totally at odds with a FRK approach. Maximum panic, minimum information, minimum trust in your kids, minimum common sense and all for a price to boot. There are much better ways of living your life.


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