What Age Would You Let Your Child Go to a Different Aisle at the Store?

The University of Michigan survey that came out in the fall had all sorts of shocking stats: The majority of parents of kids ages 9-11 would not let them walk to a friend’s house, or go to the park with a friend. Only 15% — this was a national sample of 1000 parents across the demographic, geographic and economic spectrum — would would let them trick or treat without a chaperone.

But the biggest shock for some of us was this one:

50% of American parents of kids age 9-11 WILL NOT LET THEM GO TO ANOTHER AISLE TO FIND AN ITEM.

That’s not fear. That’s paranoia. That’s a country that has so normalized a clinical level of anxiety that it no longer lives in reality. It lives in a dystopia where tweens are treated like 2-year-olds, strangers are ipso facto predators, and an everyday trip to the grocery feels like a ride down the Amazon on an alligator.

So — our question: What age would YOU let your child go to a different aisle at the store? You can answer below, or I’m putting a poll up on Twitter, here.

And if you’re answering below: What age were YOU allowed to go get a can of peas, you intrepid explorer of yore?

8 Responses to What Age Would You Let Your Child Go to a Different Aisle at the Store?

  1. George March 5, 2024 at 9:28 pm #

    About Me: Male, Born 1949, and as far as I know I’m pretty typical of kids who grew up in an ok neighborhood built in the 1920s-30s on the edge of a medium size city (Atlanta Ga, pop ~500,000 in 1960)

    Until age 10 I (and the other kids on our block) weren’t allowed to go beyond a 1.5 block (~1000 ft) section of the street we lived on. We never questioned that boundary because we’d all had the same rule our whole life. Besides, we knew from occasional trips beyond that boundary with our parents that there was nothing interesting out there unless you got on a trolley (this was 1950-1960) and rode a long way. Also, that restriction on our wandering wasn’t because of any suspected danger, it was simply to keep us from wandering too far and maybe getting lost. There was a small grocery store and fruit stand just beyond one end of our block, and our elementary school with a big unsupervised playground that we could visit anytime we wanted to was just beyond the other end of our block. So that was our kingdom.

    At age 10, my family moved to a typical residential neighborhood built in the early 1950s and a whole new world opened up to me. There was a small patch of woods half a block away, a typical small 1950s strip shopping center about half a mile away, and a typical 1940s neighborhood shopping area with a movie theater, library, fire station, etc about a mile away in the other direction. (If you’re thinking Leave It To Beaver, yeah, that’s about right.)

    All the cliches about “just be home in time for dinner” applied in both neighborhoods, but in this new neighborhood I could go as far as I wanted to. By age 10.5 I had a bicycle with a basket and was routinely sent to the grocery store with a list of what to buy and enough cash to buy it.

    At age 11 my uncle who lived in Tampa Fla came to visit and I went to Tampa with him for two weeks. When it was time for me to come home, he just put me on a Greyhound, gave me a piece of paper with the number of the bus written on it, and cautioned me to get back to the bus quickly whenever we made a stop. I immediately found an empty seat next to a woman who was probably my grandmother’s age and she struck up a conversation. We were seatmates all the way from Tampa to Atlanta.

    At age 12 I knew how to get on a public-transit bus, go downtown, buy a ticket at the downtown movie theaters (and wander around in the railroad freight yard on the edge of downtown where I _shouldn’t_ have been!) and get myself back home again without having to ask anybody which bus I needed to get on.

    Now parents won’t let their 10 yo go to a different aisle in the store?

    OK, I know I did some dangerous things and took a lot of chances when I was young without realizing it was dangerous. That was normal back then. But there’s a happy safe medium somewhere between the way it was then and the way it is now. And I applaud this group for encouraging parents to find that happy safe medium and tell everybody else about it.

  2. Don March 6, 2024 at 5:28 pm #

    Imagine that I prevented my child an education, I would be a neglectful parent. My kid would struggle because he has only the skill level of a third grader when it comes to reading, writing, and performing mathematics. People would be horrified that I condemned my child to a lifetime of suffering as they struggle to live!

    The above story is real and quite common. Simply substitute the words ‘read or writing’ for life skills. Not only is it common but you will be considered as a bad parent if you allow your child to learn life skills! Maturity isn’t something people are born with or something that grows by itself. It can only be obtained by developing it. Unfortunately, it’s ‘normal’ to prevent your kid from developing some confidence. In fact, it’s considered to be ‘good parenting’ to browbeat them.

    “Your only 11 years old. You’re not mature enough to look after yourself”!

    When the above lines are said (You’re only 11….) the parent’s intention is that they’re protecting them for possible danger. However, the child hears something different such as:
    You’re not smart enough to take care of yourself
    You’re irresponsible
    You’re frail
    Danger is EVERYWHERE
    You can be kidnapped and sold as a sex slave at any moment

    A lifetime of hearing this mantra chanted at them daily will affect the child’s mental health.
    It’s no wonder that anxiety, depression, and suicide is on a huge upswing with the younger generations

  3. Mark Headley March 6, 2024 at 6:54 pm #

    To me, it would turn on whether the store stations armed drones over the aisles. In 10 yrs . . . ?

    Seriously, I consider this harmfully unhinged.

    The gap from when, where I grew up is massive.

    My sense is these reflect parents’ wanton failures, their own anxiety, depression. Little confidence in their parenting, in barriers for them to pursue their own lives as well, not dumping failures, unhappiness on their kids.

    At that age, I did crave more protection from bullying. But this not easy to pull off constructively IMO. Wretched if unfair.

  4. Mark Headley March 6, 2024 at 7:16 pm #

    Had my parents not let us out to walk, bike to our friends’, we would have had little socializing w/ friends outside school. My parents both worked to keep us out of poverty.

    I’d thought anxiety, depression, and suicide are on upswing with adult generations

  5. Don March 6, 2024 at 8:13 pm #

    Hush now baby don’t you cry
    Mama’s gonna make all of your
    Nightmares come true
    Mama’s gonna put all of her fears into you
    Mama’s gonna keep you right here
    Under her wing
    She won’t let you fly but she might let you sing
    Mama will keep baby cosy and warm
    Ooooh Babe Ooooh Babe Ooooh Babe
    Of course Mama’s gonna help build the wall

    Pink Floyd

  6. Linda March 7, 2024 at 9:34 am #

    Around 5 yrs old, I let my son look at the toy aisle in the Grocery store while I went to a different aisle. I just told him to stay there. AT 6 yrs old, we were at Disney, and I had a massive migraine, so I let him walk by himself to the bathroom and come back to where I was sitting. I was maybe 30-50 yards away? Guess what – nothing happened! He ran there, did his business, and ran back to me.

  7. Wyman March 9, 2024 at 12:20 pm #

    I was born in 1941. When I was in second grade–about seven years old–I walked five blocks down a residential street with no sidewalks to home from school. Our school had ‘Safety Patrols’. Two 5th or 6th graders would take charge of six to twelve 1st and 2nd graders, line them up and walk them three to five blocks and get them across commercial streets, at least one without a traffic light. Nobody disappeared or died.

  8. George March 9, 2024 at 3:37 pm #

    @Wyman Today that’s called a “walking school bus” and I think it’s a wonderful concept. It usually consists of two parents or school staff members who line the kids up and walk with one adult leading and the other adult bringing up the rear to keep an eye on the kids for dawdling or misbehavior. URL: https://www.google.com/search?q=walking+school+bus