44 answers

Some Perspective on Kids Staying Home Alone

Hoping I can see if my views on this are different or the same as the "consensus" of mothers... Do you think it is ok for a mom to leave her 9 year old (who I will admit is very level headed and responsible) and 4 year old home alone for roughly an hour while the mom takes a third and fourth child to a karate class which is a little less than 2 miles from the home? Even though the mom is only like 4 minutes away it seems like something could still happen in that time. She doesn't allow them to eat anything at all in that time and calls a few times during the hour to check in but still... thoughts???

ETA - I do know that laws in California state that kids can be left home alone at any age per the parents' discretion but that does not mean that it is logical or safe.

What can I do next?

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Too young. It is amazing how many parents think their 9-year-old would be level-headed enough to handle a crisis if put on the spot. It may seem like they could when just presented to them as a possibility, but if something were to happen to the 4-year-old, the 9-year-old would be scarred for life.

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It's not the 9 year old, but the 4 year old. SO not worth it, in my opinion. Actually, I think it's negligent.

6 moms found this helpful

I think it really depends on the kids involved, but I personally would not have done it at that age. My main reason is that if something ever DID happen, I would not want my 9 yr old blaming him/herself. It's putting a big responsibility on little shoulders. Not comfortable with that myself.

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Too young. It is amazing how many parents think their 9-year-old would be level-headed enough to handle a crisis if put on the spot. It may seem like they could when just presented to them as a possibility, but if something were to happen to the 4-year-old, the 9-year-old would be scarred for life.

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It's not the 9 year old, but the 4 year old. SO not worth it, in my opinion. Actually, I think it's negligent.

6 moms found this helpful

Responsible, mature 9 yr old alone - yeah, in certain situations. But alone AND in charge of a 4yr old? Never under ANY circumstance. But that's just me...

6 moms found this helpful

I think it really depends on the kids involved, but I personally would not have done it at that age. My main reason is that if something ever DID happen, I would not want my 9 yr old blaming him/herself. It's putting a big responsibility on little shoulders. Not comfortable with that myself.

6 moms found this helpful

I may leave the 9 year old home alone with certain restrictions, but not with a 4 year old. I think 9 is too young to babysit.

5 moms found this helpful

I would say it's okay to leave the 9 year old. Now whether to also leave the four year old would depend on the 4 year old and how well that child listens to the 9 year old.

5 moms found this helpful

It is truly a matter of know your kids. My older two were home alone at 8 and 10 and the 8 year old was allowed to stay home alone. They knew what they were doing, they were perfectly safe. My younger two, well they were coddled by the older two and me so they didn't mature as quickly. They were 10 and 12 before I would even run to the store to grab milk leaving them at home. Now at 11 and 13 they are fine.

I was not about to let the younger two stay home at 8 and 10 just because they older two did. They just weren't responsible enough! I am their mom, I know them, ya know?

If you are wondering why I describe my kids in chunks they are 24, 22, 13, and 11. They really are two groups of kids.
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The answers are interesting, my then 12 year old was allowed to watch the then one year old. Maybe times have changed but when I actually got babysitters, the younger two, my sitters were between 12 and 14 so why can't his brother that loves him take care of him rather than some kid who is after money?
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Ya know, looking at the answers again I need to say, what drove the point home for me was coming home to the two youngest drowning a bunny while their dad watched them. Sorry but my then 14 and 12 year olds were better sitters at five than my ex is at the moment!

It is not age! it is ability!

Oh yeah, freaking lucky one of the kids didn't drown too!! Age means nothing! My ex was 36 at the time!

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I wouldn't have a problem with leaving the 9 year old at home. But you need to take the 4 year old with you. If something happens, you would never forgive yourself.

D.

5 moms found this helpful

My son is 10 and I have left him home alone a few times. But I would NEVER leave him in charge of a sibling.
What if the sibling got hurt? What if it's the kind of hurt that affects them for the rest of their lives? No, I would not want my son to have that guilt.
I don't think it's safe.
Laura

5 moms found this helpful

some 9 year olds can be left alone.. they should not ever be left with the responsibility of a younger sib.

4 moms found this helpful

I wouldn't do it. I would take them with or find a sitter. Most of the time I take them with for anything like that. I find other ways to entertain the ones not involved.
Far too many things could happen, no matter how responsible they are.

4 moms found this helpful

I would leave a 9 year old alone, but not with a 4 year old.
Not really because of what "might" happen but because I just don't think kids should be watching kids (personal experience here) except in cases of emergency. Though a 9 year old may actually be a little more responsible than a teenager with his/her focus on their phone the whole time!
Still, as a mom it's her choice and her call. Even though I wouldn't do it myself I wouldn't consider it endangerment.

4 moms found this helpful

I wouldn't. I have a 9 year old and I would not leave her at home by herself yet. I believe she is responsible enough and I think she would do fine. I've thought about it, but am wary of doing it yet.

I definitely think a 9 year old is too young to be responsible for a 4 year old.

4 moms found this helpful

I think it's totally fine. I good friend of mine here (we live in the Netherlands now) has a an 8 and a 4 year old and she leaves them when she goes shopping. She said she wouldn't leave the little one alone, which I agree with, but with his big brother he is fine.
I have found here that people are much less paranoid than in California. Part of the reason may be that we are in a safer place here. But a big part of the reason is just that people are less paranoid. Trust your instinct. If you think it's fine, do it. When we were kids (and this was in Germany), we played unsupervised for hours. That was normal, not neglect on our parents part, but absolutely completely normal. It still is around here. I think your kids can be proud that you trust them enough to leave them alone.

- Wow, I just read the other answers. This may really be a cultural issue then. I remember babysitting my brother who was 8, my cousins who were 3 and 5, on the first night we arrived in Norway to visit our family there- a place I had never been to before, and where I did nt speak the language. I only had the number of the babysitter who only spoke French and Norwegian... And guess what? Things turned out perfectly fine. I think we have to give our kids a bit more credit. Geez, they are human beings. What you get if you don't allow them responsibility is a bunch of imbeciles later...

4 moms found this helpful

I would not do this. I'm not sure I would leave a 9 year old home alone--let alone make her responsible for a 4 year old. I admit, though, I am conservative and overprotective.

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Here's the website for the national latchkey kids organization.

http://www.latchkey-kids.com/latchkey-kids-age-limits.htm

To note they say: "The National SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that no child under the age of 12 be left at home alone."

Yes, a 9 year old will probably be fine, BUT if something DID happen, (like a housefire or break in or one of the kids got hurt), most likely charges would be brought against the parents for child endangerment even if there is no specified age. (It has happened MANY times.) Now a 9 year old babysitting a 4 year old - absolutely not and completely irresponsible.

4 moms found this helpful

It sounds like something I would not want to have to do. What would make more sense to me, is to run the 3rd and 4th children to the karate class and go back home. Then run up to the school and pick them up when it is over. I mean, if it is really THAT close... why not?
I know I don't just sit at the school I take my kids to while they are in class. They aren't even in the SAME class, so one is sitting during the other's class and then it reverses.... while I run errands in town and pick them up when they are BOTH done.
Of course, my kids may be older than the #3 & #4 children in your scenario, but still.. if they are in the same class, they are being supervised by their instructor while they are there. She could at the LEAST inquire with the school if she is required to stay during class or not.
Just a thought.

3 moms found this helpful

Yes.

If as you said the 9 year old is level headed and good at following rules. Yes, this can be done.

follow your own mommy heart and brain. NO ONE knows your children better than you..

I was a latch key kid starting when I was 8. I followed the rules..

Now my sister would have been juggling knives... Not really, but she liked to test...

3 moms found this helpful

I agree with Jess. The 9 year old might be old enough to stay alone, but not in charge of a 4 year old.

3 moms found this helpful

I agree that it has to do with maturity and not age. My friend has recently started leaving hers home alone during the day for an hour or 2. Her son just turned 10 2 wks ago and the other two are 8 and 6. (they just had Birthdays as well so she was leaving them at 9, 7, 5). They are all very mature, well behaved children. Mine are 7 and 4 and always want to be with us. We are no where near the point of even considering leaving them, again more so because they are not mature enough. I have to say though, just because we don't feel comfortable in our own situation, doesn't mean we get to judge others that do. My friend fears what others would think of her and I think it is horribly sad. I know her kids and they are so responsible and mature and I know her. She is a wonderful mother. I think it is sad that she can only tell one or two of us for fear of what others would think of her. Make decisions for yourself, but please do not be harsh or judgemental with others that feel differernt about their families.

3 moms found this helpful

I was babysitting and making money at it by the time I was 10 :) and I babysat 4 kids, ages 2, 4, 6 and 8.

I don't think it's too bad with her being so close and calling and checking in often during that hour.

Of course state laws should be followed.

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No it's not ok in my book. The mom needs to take them with her.

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In Massachusetts, it's 12...but w/that said, if she's OK leaving the 9 year old alone that's one thing but not with 4 year old...I think it's too risky particularly in an emergency

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Of course it depends on the maturity level of the child and circumstances.

For an hour or so, I would leave the 9 yr old ALONE .......but NOT leave the 9 yr old responsible for the 4 yr old.

We don't know if the 4 yr old is hard to manage, resistant to following the rules that are in place for the 9 yr old and in the end, I think it puts TOO much responsibility on the 9 yr old.

3 moms found this helpful

9 yr old can stay home - not answer door or cook. 4 yr old needs to go with mom. 10/5 same. 11/6 same 12/ 7 - according how well they get along. 14/9 both can stay home.

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Well I have 2 kids and my eldest is 10 and is very mature and level headed and has lots of common sense. My youngest is 6.
If it were me, no, I would not do that.
No way.

Even with me home with my 2 kids... in a split second, my son the other day fell down the stairs. He wasn't making trouble or anything. He just fell.
Luckily I was home.

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Personally, I would never leave children home at that age. Yes, it's four minutes away, less than two miles, but accidents happen, and if there was a car accident, it'll take a lot longer than four minutes before you're home again. Most states don't have laws -- I had thought it was 12 here, but apparently, it's not actually a law. I have a lot of friends who have left their kids alone since they were 7 or 8 on the idea they'd be gone for only a minute (or 20). But yeah, not happening in our world.

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I see nothing wrong with that. I was babysitting for other families when I was 9 years old.

2 moms found this helpful

I think I would be okay with the 9 year old being home alone but I don't think I would allow the 4 year old to stay home without an older person there.

I think that if they get along well and the 4 year old minded the older sister well then it would be something that I would have to consider on an individual basis.

2 moms found this helpful

I might leave the 9 yr old, but not with the 4 yro..

Is the 4 year old napping? is that why mom is deciding to leave him/her with the 9 year old. Is this a house or and Apt/condo bldg? That might sway my decision as well.

But My gut is , no not for an hr.. 5-10 mins to run to the mail box maybe..

2 moms found this helpful

Depending on the 9 year old, yes I might let him/her stay alone. I wouldn't leave the 4 year old though.

2 moms found this helpful

I lived in Glendora about 25 yrs ago, it was a airly safe city at that time. My only concern would be an emergency. A fire or someone gets hurt. I would ask a neighbor who is usually home at the time you would be gone to be available in case of emergency. Explain to the kids Mr or Mrs Smith next door or across the street are available if someone gets hurt or other emergency.
Any kid can panic if they see smoke or a bad cut and may need someone to help.

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I agree with those who say they would leave the 9yo, but not the 4yo.

My boys are 6.5 years apart, so they would have been 9 and 3 when they were younger. Both of them were, and still are, very easy kids to parent. They are calm boys. They follow directions, and they get along extremely well.

When they were 9 and 3, I would often leave my 9yo for short periods of time while I ran errands nearby, but I would take my 3yo with me. I knew that if I left them both alone they would probably be fine, and would probably have a better time if they were together, however, I was not ready to put that responsibility on my 9yo. Accidents happen, even when I am home, and I didn't want my oldest son to have to deal with an accident whether it ended well, or badly.

When they were 11 and 5 I did allow my oldest to babysit my youngest while I ran out to dinner with a friend. He was only a few months shy of 12, and I was at a neighborhood restaurant. My husband was at work. It was Christmastime, and my 5yo was sitting on the fireplace hearth. When he got up, his head jostled a stocking, and knocked the stocking hanger off of the mantle. It landed on his head, the corner of it gouged him on the forehead.

You know how much head injuries bleed. My oldest ran for a kitchen towel and a phone. Applied pressure and called me. I rushed home. When I got home, there was blood all over the bathroom; it looked like someone had been slaughtered. My youngest was kneeling on the floor, an my oldest was still applying pressure. He was telling my youngest silly stories to distract him. He handled it perfectly. I was so proud. BUT, he carried horrible guilt for weeks because the accident happened in his presence. It was an accident, but he couldn't accept that. All he could think of was that his brother was hurt while in his care. It was heartbreaking. We helped him through it, and now at 15 he is a spectacular babysitter.

I just hate to think of a 9yo going through something like that.

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I have an 8 year old and a 5 year old. I would never give my son the responsibility to look after and care for his little sister without an adult present. I have however left my 8 year old home alone for less than 1 hour. He knows how to use the phone. He also know not to answer the door and to stay in the house.

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I was OK with it UNTIL you said that the 9y/o would be responsible for a 4 y/o. I just couldn't do it.

~I would let my 9y/o stay home alone for an hour, he could totally do it!

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Nope. It'd be one thing to leave the 9 year old home alone for an hour, and that would be a bit on the "iffy" side. However, there's no way that I'd leave a 9 year old in charge of a 4 year old. Even if the 9year old is super responsible, he could get hurt or sick and not be able to call, could be scared by a sudden storm or someone at the door or any number of things. Adding 4 year old to the mix only magnifies all that and more. The other thing is that if the mom were delayed unexpectedly (what if a kid gets hurt at Karate? car accident?), the kids could be left far more than an hour.

2 moms found this helpful

You should check into the laws first. The current law here in IL is kids can't be left home alone under the age of 14. Despite the law, my SIL started leaving her son home alone for brief periods (1-2 hours) last year when he was 10. My oldest is 10 and I have never left her home alone. I would certainly not leave her in charge of a younger sibling. I don't think it's a good idea.

1 mom found this helpful

I would leave the 4 and 9 year old home (If I felt they would be responsible) for the 10 minutes it would take to drop the others off at class. I would then come back.

I drop my 5 year old off at Gymnastics and then pick her up 50 minutes later.

1 mom found this helpful

I think 9 is too young, especially if she's responsible for a 4 year old at the same time. If the karate class is so close, mom should drop the kids off and come home (taking the younger two with her for dropoff and pickup). I might leave a 9 year old home alone while I dropped off the other two, but I would take the four year old with me for sure. My oldest is 5, so it's hard to say for sure how I'd feel about it when he was nine.

1 mom found this helpful

NO. Not one bit. Waaaaaay too young. Too many things could happen in a short amount of time. Not safe or smart in my opinion.

1 mom found this helpful

No, I don't think it's safe because of the younger child. Too much responsibility for the older child, who is just not old enough for that. I woud probably leave a mature 9 year old home in that situation, but not with a younger child.

1 mom found this helpful

No way! I have a 9 year old and 4 year old. Both are very responsible, good listeners, etc. But I would never leave them home alone. Way too young. I think 12 is a good age, but maybe I'll feel okay sooner ... Life is risky enough ... Why would you create a situation that adds an additional, unnecessary element of risk for your kids' safety?

1 mom found this helpful

If make my 10 year old come with me when I pick up my middle school child up. Would not leave that young of a child home alone, especially with a 4 year old. Just seems too young.

The real question is would you be able to live with yourself if you did leave them alone and something terrible happened.

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