6 Year Old Staying Home Alone? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 94 Old 07-18-2014, 06:47 AM - Thread Starter
 
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6 Year Old Staying Home Alone?

We recently moved to a new house and neighborhood. We love the neighborhood and the fact that it's full of kids.

One of our neighbors have a daughter who is 2 years older than our daughter. The little girl is 6. It appears that she and her older sister (age 8) stay home alone together for short periods of time (30-60 minutes) while the parents exercise etc. They also get dropped off by the bus on school days and stay home alone together until their parents get home.

Does anyone else find this weird? I would never think of leaving my child home alone until they are at least 12 and even then, they'd need to prove they're responsible/trust worthy enough. I don't think we were left home alone until that age as kids either.

Just curious to hear other people's thoughts.
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#2 of 94 Old 07-18-2014, 07:11 AM
 
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I wouldn't and haven't done that but I most likely wouldn't do anything about it either. If the kids seem fine with it then they are most likely safe. Maybe let them know that you are available if the kids need anything? When you are home.
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#3 of 94 Old 07-18-2014, 07:47 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I wouldn't and haven't done that but I most likely wouldn't do anything about it either. If the kids seem fine with it then they are most likely safe. Maybe let them know that you are available if the kids need anything? When you are home.
I wouldn't do anything about it either. Just curious if anyone else was as surprised at that as I was. The little girl was over playing one day and her mom told her she needed to come home so the mom could go run an errand. In that situation I offered to let the little girl just stay at our house supervised. Didn't mean this as a judgmental/I want to get them in trouble type thing...just genuinely curious!
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#4 of 94 Old 07-18-2014, 09:27 AM
 
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Oh I didn't think you were being judgmental! Would I do that? Not a chance. I have noticed that through my years of parenting, I have seen myself look at others and think To each their own. As long as a child isn't put in danger (real danger and not society viewed danger) then I don't think much of it. I seem to have changed over the years.
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#5 of 94 Old 07-18-2014, 10:45 AM
 
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I think it should be no big deal but never did it with my kid bc of fear of CPS.

When I was 8yo I roamed the outerboroughs on NYC alone on roller skates and no one blinked an eye. When I was 10yo I was left alone with 2 little sisters, one just an infant... sometimes for days without seeing an adult. Today people are nosy and make trouble for others. My 12yo has only been left alone 2x for about 30mins each time.
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#6 of 94 Old 07-18-2014, 11:01 AM
 
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Too young, to my opinion, 12 was the youngest I would allow being home alone, and only for 2 hours at that age.
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#7 of 94 Old 07-18-2014, 12:55 PM
 
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I left my kids at home for short periods of time when they were around 8 and 10. It was fine.

6 seems really young to me, but came home from K by myself, unlocked the door (which was the tricky and stressful part) and played until my older sister got home from school. It wasn't ideal, but nothing ever happened.

A lot of it depends on the child, and with multiple kids, it depends on the dynamic between the kids. The parents I know who waited the longest did so because of how the children treated each other, not because the kids by themselves couldn't handle it. I felt like my kids were fine a little younger than some because they had each other. In some families, its the opposite.

In similar situations, I let the parents and kids know that I was generally home "just in case."

Even though my youngest is 16, we still talk about which houses on the street are "safe houses" in case the sh*t ever hits the fan. It's good to be aware of which houses generally have a person home who is nice and helpful.

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#8 of 94 Old 07-18-2014, 01:07 PM
 
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No, I don't consider a 6 and 8 year too young to be left alone so, no, I don't think this is odd at all.
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#9 of 94 Old 07-18-2014, 01:17 PM
 
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Depending on the kids of course, as others have said. For my last 2, those ages would have been fine. And that was before cell-phone ubiquity. Today, we are all in such close contact all the time, that I would think nothing of it. CPS may have other opinions of course.

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#10 of 94 Old 07-19-2014, 04:26 AM
 
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I think it depends on the kids, the length of time, NYC vs rural USA, is there a plan in place with a neighbor keeping an eye out. I also think it is a lot of pressure on an 8 yr old. That said, I bet my son could it.

There is another matter which is legality.
Last year I was accused of child endangerment by some lady for leaving my children in the car (fall...about 45°-50°f) while i went into PO for 1.5 minutes (and they were in visual range and no further than 30ft at any time) in our small rural town. Afterwards I called the state police (dispatch lady does the same as I) and child services and did a profound google search.
In Vermont, it is illegal to have key in ignition with kids alone in car...unclear if car needs to be running (law was mostly applied to people leaving kids in car to go into a bar!). And many states make it illegal for a child under 12 to walk home after school or cross the street. There may be such laws in your state...assuming you're in the USA.
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#11 of 94 Old 07-19-2014, 06:26 AM
 
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Yes, it may well be that the children, or the 6 year old, is considered an unaccompanied minor. In my state the law is that children over 8 may be alone, according to the parent's discretion. Children under 8 must be with a responsible care-giver over the age of 13. That said, in our state many, many people adapt that guideline to suite their needs and the abilities of their children. I think state guidelines are somewhat limited because they can't be especially specific in terms of allowing for gradual transition, which I think is essential for children's safety.

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#12 of 94 Old 09-04-2014, 07:21 PM
 
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I think it should be no big deal but never did it with my kid bc of fear of CPS.

When I was 8yo I roamed the outerboroughs on NYC alone on roller skates and no one blinked an eye. When I was 10yo I was left alone with 2 little sisters, one just an infant... sometimes for days without seeing an adult. Today people are nosy and make trouble for others. My 12yo has only been left alone 2x for about 30mins each time.
This. Especially for such short amounts of time. I do believe that it's illegal but that doesn't mean I think the law is right.

It sounds like the neighborhood is probably a pretty safe one- full of kids, seems like everyone knows each other fairly well, etc. It wouldn't surprise me if the parents do have safeties set up (the kids know who to go to for problems, the parents have friends in the neighborhood who keep an eye out for signs of trouble, etc). There are circumstances where it wouldn't be so safe, and it most certainly depends on the kids and circumstances.

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#13 of 94 Old 09-04-2014, 10:03 PM
 
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Yes, I find it odd, not because kids are not able to handle it, but because the CPS is hovering over parents and they might get in trouble.

My parents' generation would find it amusing that this could be considered odd. My generation would remember being in situations like this, but would never let their kids stay home alone at that age. Mostly (and I'm generalizing) out of fear of CPS.

Personally, I left ds home alone for 30min -1h at a time when he was 7. I had to look for opportunities, as I didn't actually HAVE to leave him home alone.

I think it's good for him and he likes the responsibility.

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#14 of 94 Old 09-05-2014, 04:34 AM
 
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Fear of CPS may range, depending on your area and the burden on the system, and perhaps, the individual's personal situation that may cause fear of discrimination. I am a middle class white woman living in a nice part of a city that struggles with poverty and other disadvantaging conditions for many children. Although I am alternative in some ways, CPS is not on my radar at all.

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#15 of 94 Old 09-05-2014, 05:35 AM
 
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My son is 6. As a rule, I think girls are generally ready to be home alone - or responsible for younger kids - at earlier ages than boys are. But I still wouldn't leave a 6-year-old girl home alone, even with an 8-year-old sister.

If, by "exercise", you mean the parents jog down the street in front of their home, I do that. My son can be trusted to walk out the front door and call me, if he needs me. We also live in the middle of a quiet cul-de-sac that's only 1/4-mile long, so at any point in the street, I could hear him if he yelled to me from the front step. A different neighborhood might have different safety concerns.

But letting your kids get off the bus and stay home alone until you finish work is a different story. In fact, here, that couldn't even happen. The elementary school bus drivers won't let kids off the bus if a parent's car isn't in the driveway and/or there's no adult waiting for them. The kid rides around 'til the end of the route while the transportation office tries to contact the parent or the kid's emergency contacts, to pick them up. I think that's overkill for, say, 5th graders. But if my car breaks down and I can't get home to meet my 1st-grader's bus - and I can't get anyone else to met him in my place - I'd rather he not be dropped off by himself.

FWIW, I started babysitting (an infant) at age 10, but it was 5 houses down from my parents, who were at home if I needed them. By age 12, however, I was babysitting in earnest.

I have 2 19-year-old and a 15-year-old son, but my husband and I do not let any of them babysit their 6-y-o brother. The 19-y-o's have special needs and I don't even let them stay home alone very much. The 15-y-o, unfortunately, can't consistently be trusted to be nice to the 6-y-o, or to refrain from inappropriate talk or TV shows/video games around him, without supervision.

In short, staying home alone - or babysitting - is very individualized. While I question that any 8-year-old is ready to babysit, generally the parents know their kids best. I hope you wouldn't contact authorities and cause trouble for them, unless you knew for a fact that something dangerous happened and the parents failed to address it. It would be nice to make sure the parents have your contact info, so the girls can come to you if they need something.

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#16 of 94 Old 09-06-2014, 09:22 PM
 
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My son is 6. As a rule, I think girls are generally ready to be home alone - or responsible for younger kids - at earlier ages than boys are. But I still wouldn't leave a 6-year-old girl home alone, even with an 8-year-old sister.

If, by "exercise", you mean the parents jog down the street in front of their home, I do that. My son can be trusted to walk out the front door and call me, if he needs me. We also live in the middle of a quiet cul-de-sac that's only 1/4-mile long, so at any point in the street, I could hear him if he yelled to me from the front step. A different neighborhood might have different safety concerns.

But letting your kids get off the bus and stay home alone until you finish work is a different story. In fact, here, that couldn't even happen. The elementary school bus drivers won't let kids off the bus if a parent's car isn't in the driveway and/or there's no adult waiting for them. The kid rides around 'til the end of the route while the transportation office tries to contact the parent or the kid's emergency contacts, to pick them up. I think that's overkill for, say, 5th graders. But if my car breaks down and I can't get home to meet my 1st-grader's bus - and I can't get anyone else to met him in my place - I'd rather he not be dropped off by himself.

FWIW, I started babysitting (an infant) at age 10, but it was 5 houses down from my parents, who were at home if I needed them. By age 12, however, I was babysitting in earnest.

I have 2 19-year-old and a 15-year-old son, but my husband and I do not let any of them babysit their 6-y-o brother. The 19-y-o's have special needs and I don't even let them stay home alone very much. The 15-y-o, unfortunately, can't consistently be trusted to be nice to the 6-y-o, or to refrain from inappropriate talk or TV shows/video games around him, without supervision.

In short, staying home alone - or babysitting - is very individualized. While I question that any 8-year-old is ready to babysit, generally the parents know their kids best. I hope you wouldn't contact authorities and cause trouble for them, unless you knew for a fact that something dangerous happened and the parents failed to address it. It would be nice to make sure the parents have your contact info, so the girls can come to you if they need something.
I think it's weird but only in the current CPS-crazy climate.

I could easily trust my 8yo to care for my 2.5yo while home alone. I don't, but I could. He's responsible, capable, and caring. I would not, however, leave my 6yo & 4yo with him because they wouldn't respect his 'authority'. In a lot of ways, my 8yo is more competent at watching his brothers than my 17yo!

I would assume your neighbor has an arrangement with another neighbor. I used to have such an arrangement when my older kids (they're 24 & 22 now) were kids. My across the street neighbor and I would keep an eye out for eachother's kids while we took turns running errands.
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#17 of 94 Old 09-07-2014, 02:04 AM
 
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But letting your kids get off the bus and stay home alone until you finish work is a different story. In fact, here, that couldn't even happen. The elementary school bus drivers won't let kids off the bus if a parent's car isn't in the driveway and/or there's no adult waiting for them. The kid rides around 'til the end of the route while the transportation office tries to contact the parent or the kid's emergency contacts, to pick them up. I think that's overkill for, say, 5th graders. But if my car breaks down and I can't get home to meet my 1st-grader's bus - and I can't get anyone else to met him in my place - I'd rather he not be dropped off by himself.
Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but do the bus drivers really consider a car in the driveway as a reliable indication that there's a parent home? That seems really weird to me.

And on the broader topic of 6 year olds being on their own for short periods, I'm on the "it depends" side of the argument.
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#18 of 94 Old 09-07-2014, 04:54 AM
 
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I think it seems fine.



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I do believe that it's illegal but that doesn't mean I think the law is right.
I didn't see she said what state she is in. My state doesn't have any laws regarding what age is appropriate to leave kids home alone.

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the CPS is hovering over parents and they might get in trouble.
CPS is hovering over this particular family? Or do you think they are looking to increase their case loads bc they don't have enough going on now?? CPS is a mess in my state, they certainly aren't "hovering" to get more work!! They can't even keep the kids in their care alive.

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#19 of 94 Old 09-15-2014, 08:18 AM
 
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I think it seems fine.

CPS is hovering over this particular family? Or do you think they are looking to increase their case loads bc they don't have enough going on now?? CPS is a mess in my state, they certainly aren't "hovering" to get more work!! They can't even keep the kids in their care alive.
No, I meant there is a general fear of CPS; people are sometimes afraid of parenting their kids how they wish out of fear of CPS.
This includes letting kids stay home alone, letting them go outside alone, leaving them in their car. I admit I`m afraid when I leave my 9 y/o in the car (on a cool day, for 10 minutes, at his own request).

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#20 of 94 Old 09-16-2014, 02:07 PM
 
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My state doesn't have any laws about this, but I do know one parent who got a CPS visit for letting three of her children -- the youngest was two or three at the time -- play outside in their not-fenced-in yard. She was in the house with the baby at that time. Even if you're not breaking any laws, people can still call CPS and you can still end up being hassled. In her case, even her littlest one knew his boundaries and she didn't have a problem with him trying to leave the yard and run in the street or anything.

Parents really are the best judges as to how much freedom their children can be allowed at what ages. My older dd understood her boundaries by age two, and sometimes I did let her play on our front porch while I was in the house with the front door open. My younger dd was still trying to run into the street at around age 3 1/2, so she needed much closer supervision for a much longer time.

Has anyone heard about this case about the mother in South Carolina who was arrested for letting her 9 year old play at the park -- a park that was just a short walk from their home -- while she worked? After doing a bit more reading today, I've discovered that there's been a ton of support for this poor single mom, so what looked to be a really awful circumstance may have brought some positive results. Not that this makes up for any child having to spend time in foster care -- I'm just very happy about all the love and support that this family is receiving, and I hope everything goes well for her in her trial.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/21/living...-park-parents/

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#21 of 94 Old 09-16-2014, 02:19 PM
 
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Oh my gosh! Here's another insane case! OP, it's no wonder your neighbor wants her children to come home and stay INSIDE if she has to run an errand. People these days get alarmed at just seeing children playing outdoors. They find out where they live and bring them home. And call the police and CPS.


Apparently, it's "good" for children to start feeling scared that the police will show up at the door if they're awake past their bedtime. We should feel so grateful for all the concerned citizens who think little children belong in cages or something.


http://reason.com/blog/2014/09/15/ch...did-nothing-wr
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#22 of 94 Old 09-24-2014, 11:12 AM
 
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Absolutely side with the intervention of CPS regarding the former 2 mentioned cases. In both cases the children were too far from adult supervision for too long and with an inadequate peer group (mixed-age children playing together). Really tired of hearing the media and hype siding with parents who are not providing adequate oversight of their children in specific cases like these. Showing children how when and where to be alone can save their lives any day they are on this earth. It's never too late to learn to watch out for yourself. Children only have their parents to help them know, and in some cases, fortunately, a concerned community member looks out for them.

I'd rather have more oversight and less child abuse and neglect. One in 4 children is abused and/or neglected. Shame shame shame on us.
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#23 of 94 Old 09-24-2014, 12:02 PM
 
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Pumabearclan, it's interesting hearing your perspective on those two cases, as I feel like both of the moms seemed like caring moms who were trying to do their best for their children. I do think the case with the mother and daughter in South Carolina was a less than ideal situation. Not having other care options for her daughter, she'd been bringing her to work with her and letting her play on her laptop, then when that got stolen, her daughter was bored sitting at McDonald's all day, and she was also bored at home alone.


Walking to and from a park a short distance from her home at age nine seems less than ideal, but not absolutely horrid. I was walking all around the neighborhood at that age and my mom didn't always know just where I was. Plus I didn't have my own cellphone on me like this girl did.
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#24 of 94 Old 09-24-2014, 12:47 PM
 
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I'm more sympathetic to the SC mother. I wish that she had been more proactive with getting gov't services involved first though. She did seem to need help figuring out what to do. I also think that CPS is too aggressive a lot of the time. It seems to be so varied from region to region, state to state as to the quality of help that people can get or the oversight that is given. It's a mess, in my opinion. What bothers me about these stories is that people are not focusing on the child's welfare, it quickly becomes a media sensation and power struggle among adults and as usual the children are lost from the discussion.
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#25 of 94 Old 09-24-2014, 01:07 PM
 
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I agree that it's the children's wellbeing that's the issue here -- but I also think families can feel isolated when dealing with people in authority who seem to have unreasonable ideas about how much freedom children should have to play outside.

I'm honestly not sure what anyone found objectionable about the six-year-old boy playing near the park bench just across the street from his home. It's one thing if an adult sees a child in distress, but it sounds like this little boy was just happily playing, and obviously knew how to safely cross the street and come back home when he was ready.

About CPS -- aren't they also worried about the childhood obesity epidemic? You'd think everyone who cares about children's health would be thrilled to see at least a few children out enjoying the fresh air from time to time.
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#26 of 94 Old 09-24-2014, 01:28 PM
 
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And here's another example of how insane things are getting -- an 11-year-old walking around on his own on a beautiful sunny day is supposed to make people concerned? While watching the video I felt like laughing and crying at the same time. The 11-year-old's mom who found it "scary" that no one questioned her seemingly happy and confident young man about why he was out alone cracked me up -- but I felt sorry for the dad of the murdered child. I guess that kind of experience would skew any parent's ability to believe in the wisdom of letting our kids explore the world in their own ways.

http://www.freerangekids.com/even-th...-child-danger/
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#27 of 94 Old 09-25-2014, 04:13 AM
 
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I'm honestly not sure what anyone found objectionable about the six-year-old boy playing near the park bench just across the street from his home.
It was 150 yards from home, he was alone, and 6yrs old, not 10 or 12. The mother put a very rapid and inaccurate spin on this story. I saw the footage on the news. The bench was way too far and in a place too public. The child could maybe barely be discerned from the house and probably not heard if he screamed, either. Others elsewhere have commented that the child wasn't really "safe" if he was approached by a stranger, went with the stranger/neighbor who asked him where he lived, walked back home with them... all without the mother knowing about it? So even if she thought the speck that is the bench on the horizon was close enough to home, she wasn't keeping an eye on him or she would have seen the neighbor approach and walk away with her son.

Still scratching my head at why anyone thinks this is OK, but whatever
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#28 of 94 Old 09-25-2014, 05:40 AM
 
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ETA: For clarity (because there are so many news stories being discussed - I'm talking about the Rossen Report link in post #26 )

I didn't watch the video but I certainly support the idea that stranger abduction is sort of the least of our worries as parents. Yes, it is like the worst nightmare for a lot of people but the likelihood of something like that happening are very low and, IMO, our culture is distracted by these rare occurrences to the point of not being able to adequately focus and kids from real dangers.

I think of the consequences of this fear-based thinking. For one, we are sort of distracting from the reality that most of the horrible things that happen to kids are done by people in their own family. But, also, kids need early and gradual exposure to learning how to be independent in this world. IMO, it starts by walking around the corner, or playing in the park, or running into the store for dad. I think teens, especially teen girls, are often under-prepared for being in the world once our culture considers it "ok". They do not know how to make eye contact or be blunt. I think this is learned behavior and it needs to start with early and frequent exposure to age appropriate independence.
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#29 of 94 Old 09-25-2014, 05:49 AM
 
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I watched a few minutes of the video. Fear-mongering, non-news as far as I'm concerned. I'm far more worried for the sate of our culture that this passes for mainstream news than a confident, obviously cared for boy walking around a busy child-friendly area. This child did not look the least bit out of place. Not a bit. Jeeze! I am so irritated that this was even on the "news". I completely agree with FRK's take. If anything her response was too mild. What I have to say about that news report is against the UA.

Here is another perspective on that Rossen Report: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/0...opter-Parents#

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#30 of 94 Old 09-25-2014, 07:02 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pumabearclan View Post
It was 150 yards from home, he was alone, and 6yrs old, not 10 or 12. The mother put a very rapid and inaccurate spin on this story. I saw the footage on the news. The bench was way too far and in a place too public. The child could maybe barely be discerned from the house and probably not heard if he screamed, either. Others elsewhere have commented that the child wasn't really "safe" if he was approached by a stranger, went with the stranger/neighbor who asked him where he lived, walked back home with them... all without the mother knowing about it? So even if she thought the speck that is the bench on the horizon was close enough to home, she wasn't keeping an eye on him or she would have seen the neighbor approach and walk away with her son.

Still scratching my head at why anyone thinks this is OK, but whatever
I was referring to the case in Austin TX which the other poster linked.

I don't think this is fear-based, to me it's common sense based. I don't do dangerous and risky things not because I'm afraid but because I would rather have a long happy life. That's what I taught my daughter. As a young single person she's had to know what is risky and what isn't because she wants positive experiences in her life.

The mother in the Austin case claims that her kid was just "playing outside" but that's not the whole story, it's the situation in which he was just "playing outside." There's a lot of tricky language going on about this topic and the children are being forgotten. Such as the "free range" movement, as if a child must be able to be in risky situations to experience life. Everyone in my family was "free ranging" as a child, but not in risky situations. Space and time were made to play outside. Education about safety and boundaries were given and reinforced. It wasn't at all oppressive and we all were not and still are not afraid of anything.
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