Leaving a younger sibling alone with an older sibling

Katherine - posted on 02/08/2011 ( 26 moms have responded )

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There comes a time in every mother of two or more's life, when she heaves a huge sigh of relief. The older one has finally reached an age where he or she can hold down the fort while you run into the grocery store. No more paying babysitters!

Well, maybe not. A mom of two got smacked in Britain recently for leaving her 3-year-old alone with his big brother. So how old was the big kid? Five? Ten?

How about 14 years old! Old enough to get his working papers here in the states! Old enough to be left home alone.

The bizarre story in which the unidentified mom was charged with "cruelty" and now finds herself marked by the law so she's unemployable gets even stranger when you consider the boys were left alone for -- get this -- 30 minutes! And there was no weird incident here. Big bro didn't beat little bro or sexually abuse him.

There's no law about this in Britain, officials are advising:

No child under 14 should be left home alone and no child under 16 should care for someone younger than themselves

Really? Sixteen? Are we ever going to let kids grow up? They are both crippling parents' finances and denying kids the beautiful relationship that exists between a teenager and his or her charge.

I've had teenagers watching my daughter since shortly after she was born. First it was my then-18-year-old brother, and then last year I hired a then-13-year-old to serve as my mother's helper for the summer. She turned 14 about a month into the job, and she was a lifesaver. Responsible, smart, well-rounded, a perfect playmate.

She and her older sister have become like second and third daughters to my husband and I, like big sisters to our daughter. And part of it is their age. At 14, M is more than willing to get down on the ground and play with my 5-year-old, where a 30-something sitter is more likely to set her up at a table with crafts and walk away.

Teens have so much to give as caregivers, and in turn they learn to be responsible, to have empathy, to use birth control! I wouldn't give the job to a tween, but a responsible 14-year-old sounds just right to me.

Do you leave your kids with teenagers? Is this cruelty?

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Angela - posted on 07/25/2012

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My son is 13 years old and my daughter is 8 years old. Is my son older enough to look after his sister? My mum lives just round the corner from us and i know everyone where i live, ive lived there my whole life. I dont leave my daughter with my son unless my mum is in and that she knows that im leaving them.

Kristi - posted on 06/23/2011

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Wasn't it in the UK a couple of years ago where the 15 year old girl had a baby with the 13 year old boy that didn't know what finances meant? Sooo....I'm confused then. It's not okay to babysit a sibling for 30 minutes but go right ahead and make some babies!

Kristin - posted on 02/08/2011

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here in Pennsylvania, a 12 year old can take baby sitting classes to be left alone with a child of the age of 1.
my boyfriends daughter took these classes. she learned cpr, what to do in certain situations and so on.
she gets left alone with her brother of 8 and her mothers other child who is almost 2. she is very responsible but i don't feel comfortable even letting her alone with my 7 month old son in the car when i run into the store for less than 5 minutes though.

Sharon - posted on 02/08/2011

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That is a joke. Assholes have nothing better to do in her town I suppose.

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Geoia - posted on 06/23/2011

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Wow! I live in UK and i'll leave my 13 year old in charge of her 8 year old brothers (twins) for up to around 45 minutes. Many of her friends babysit for other's children but i've said no to this. There are NO laws but it is recommended for aged 13 to babysit own siblings or 14 to babysit others, according to the NSPCC (national society for provention of cruelty to children) who DO have the power to sue or put people in prison i believe.



But basically it's not the law, the only time they'd do something would be if, for example, you left a 7 year old incharge of a 6 week old for 3 hours! I let Madisse (now 13) "babysit" her brothers from when she was about 9 and they were about 4, but only for 5-10 minutes MAX if i popped to give a misdirected letter to our next-door neighbours or similar.

Tara - posted on 04/02/2011

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lol, at some of the replies.
I love that I can leave my 11 year old at home for a few minutes to run across the street (literally) to grab some milk and she can watch her 8 and 5 year old sisters and her 16 month old brother!!
I would never leave her in charge for more than 5 minutes with all of them at this age, but when she takes the babysitting course, she already has work lined up for next year this time.
I think it depends on the child and how mature they are. I know some 14 year olds who can't be left with kids yet, they just don't have enough common sense or desire to spend quality time with kids.
But I also know that kids can be responsible enough for the task.
My 14 year old son can watch all his sister but I would never leave him with the baby for long, he just doesn't have the empathy required to deal with an upset toddler at this stage in his life. lol but he can play poker with his sisters when he needs to.
It's not cruelty unless you are using your teen to watch your brood while you go gambling or drinking etc. but to have your older child care for his younger siblings afterschool while you finish a shift or in the morning when you are working etc is different.

Sneaky - posted on 04/02/2011

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huh. Mostly I think it would be cruel to the teenager to leave them alone with my three.

Ruth - posted on 04/02/2011

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I had my son when I was 14, so I think if they have enough experience with younger children and they're responsible I see no problem with it.

Ruth - posted on 04/02/2011

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I had my son when I was 14, so I think if they have enough experience with younger children and they're responsible I see no problem with it.

Alyssa - posted on 04/01/2011

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I recently left our 3 and 5 yo with our neighbour who is 12!!

I checked the current laws in Australia and got this from the parenting website

http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/h...

""There’s no actual law that states at what age children can or can’t be left alone. But the law is clear about the responsibility of parents to look after their children, and parents are expected to make ‘reasonable’ decisions about their children’s safety""

Very unclear...but we still did it because we live in a very small town, we were only 1 minute away, and the 12yo bigger brother was next door.

He did a great job! My boys went to bed better than they EVER have with us!!

[deleted account]

In canada its under 16 unless you have a babysitting course, then a 12 year old can babysit. Its outrageous..i was babysitting at 12.

Stifler's - posted on 04/01/2011

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Not to mention like someone down the thread mentioned, some people are parents at 14.

Stifler's - posted on 04/01/2011

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How ridiculous. The Babysitters Club were 13. I watched my sisters when I was 10. I wonder if your kid has to be 18 to stay in the car at the servo legally now.

Sal - posted on 04/01/2011

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god i hope that isn't the law in australia or my hubby will have to lock me up leaving my son in charge, then he will have to lock himself up, while i don;t do it all the time i do do it, (actually hubbies car if off the road at the moment and i have to take him to work and pick him up, the early drops are a hassel if i have to drag kids along, so i leave them home so for maybe 5 mins everyday i leave them all happily in front of cartoons with nik incharge) i happily leave my son to baby sit he likes the money i like the easy....(he is 15 and the girls are 3 &4)

Jocelyn - posted on 04/01/2011

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Absolutely ridiculous. I remember watching my younger sister when I was in elementary, and shortly after that I started baby sitting (after I took the course, of course)
I would leave my kids with a 12 year old no problem; well, depends on the 12 year old lol.
They're saying no kids under 14?!?! Christ, in Alberta, you can get your learners license (for driving) on your 14th birthday...

Karen - posted on 04/01/2011

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In England they have done away with the age for babysitting and leaving a child home alone, I find it odd that someone put on part of this post that The National Prevention Of Crulty To Children said it did not support this view. I am a single parent who because my child is now 12 I am being forced to get a job and have been informed in writing, supported by the NSPCC that I can leave her all day while I go to work and while I disagree with this the law says they can cut my benefit if I don't work. I used to support the NSPCC financially needless to say I don't now

[deleted account]

I recently let a 13 year old babysit my son. 13 is the legal age here. She came over to my house several times prior to being left alone with him so that he could get used to her and so that I could have a chance to see how she interacted with him. He was comfortable with her. She was great with him. I got good vibes from the whole situation so I let her have her first official babysitting experience with us.



I can't believe they are making such a huge deal out of a 14 year old babysitting his younger brother for half an hour? I wanna know, if nothing bad happened while Mom was out, then how did "they" even find out? And really??? The mom's being charged with cruelty? I call bullshit.



Edited to add: The girl we let watch our son also took a babysitting course ahead of time. She actually has paperwork saying she is a "Certified Babysitter", which basically means she knows CPR and First Aid. This also helped make me more comfortable with her watching Jacob.

Jenni - posted on 02/08/2011

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In Canada the legal age is 12 years old. I took a babysitting course at 11, got my papers and was babysiting my sister and brother as well as family friends' kids by 12.

My sister is 3 years younger than me but has always been considered the "mature one". Always good in school, stayed home on saturday nights, never drank or smoke, always well-behaved, you get the picture. My brother has behavioural disorders and was too much for me to handle. So when my sister was of age she took over responsibility for him instead of me. He was always really good for her. I just didn't have the patience and would always end up fighting with him. My mom was a SAHM so we rarely had to babysit and only for short periods of time. Well one time my sister was left in charge, I was off in my room and I could hear her and her friend who was over laughing hysterical in the laundry room which was next to my room. (She was probably 12 or 13 and I was 15 or 16 at the time). So I go to investigate... I found her and her friend putting my brother through the electric dryer!!!!! My brother thought it was fun and that he was going for a ride. My sister and her friend thought it was hilarious and were completely oblivious to the danger of it. Of course she wouldn't have done it if she knew he could be injured. I gave her shit for it.

Although my sister was responsible and mature for her age she was still just a child herself and didn't realize what she was doing could have resulted in my brother being seriously injured. I know she never would have done that with someone else's child.

Becky - posted on 02/08/2011

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Wow, that's crazy! I was babysitting my 3 younger siblings and cousins all at once by the time I was 12/13, plus babysitting for money! I believe it's at age 12 that you can take the babysitting course here too. I haven't left my kids with a teenage babysitter yet, but that's mostly because I haven't needed to, and only recently found one I trust - one of Cole's Sunday school teachers. Of course, some kids can't be trusted on their own yet, much less with younger siblings, by age 12 or 13, but I think a lot of them do just fine. Especially for 30 minutes! Good grief!

Lady Heather - posted on 02/08/2011

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Oh wow. Our babysitter is 13 and she's fantastic. Got the kid fed, to bed and cleaned up the living room. Freja thinks she's great. I wouldn't leave my daughter with every 14 year old, but there are definitely many good ones out there. Heck, when I was 13 I spent the whole summer providing daycare for a 5 year old and whatever friends happened to be around.

Tara - posted on 02/08/2011

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Wow, some kids are parents at 16!!

Where we live a 12 year old can take the babysitting course through the St. John's Ambulance, it teaches proper first aid, cpr and routine babysitting chores as well as a bit about infant development and emotions.
My 14 year old has been watching his 3 younger sisters since he was 12 and took the course. I love it.
Now at 14 he is more than capable of running the house should Steve and I both need to be away. He knows how to cook, help with school work, clean up, read to them, get them to do their chores etc. etc. he doesn't always like it but he knows it's better than some stranger watching them.
As well his girlfriend has been babysitting around our town since 12 and is asked for by all the parents around. She is 15 and does overnight babysitting for some couples who work night shifts.
It all depends on the teen and their level of maturity, training and responsibility.
We have a large family so I think my kids come better prepared than some only children or kids from two child families. They've usually had more experience than others.

JuLeah - posted on 02/08/2011

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I was baby sitting by age 11. On the other hand, at age 14 our folks left my sister and I for a weekend. She was 17 and had a party. I got very very drunk with the assistance of a collage aged man who attended said party .... not a good weekend for me. But then, my parents didn't really do much better then my sister, so maybe age is not the issue. I know 10 year olds I'd trust over some adults I know.

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My girls are only 9, so haven't been left home alone themselves yet. When they ARE left alone I will have no doubt that they will be fully capable of caring for their now almost 3 year old brother as well. They are GREAT at being on 'brother duty' while I take a shower or whatever.

I can't say what age they will be left, but they will be ready and able LONG before 14.

Bonnie - posted on 02/08/2011

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So a 14 or 15 year old cannot babysit? I find that odd. I know a 14 year old who babysits and most of the time the kids are under age 5.

Katherine - posted on 02/08/2011

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I personally find it ridiculous! I would leave my toddler home with my 14yo, no qualms about it. I will look for the full story.

Tracey - posted on 02/08/2011

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I leave my 14 year old in charge of her brothers regularly for up to a couple of hours during the day, although we get an adult to watch the during the evening/night. I thought 14 was the age they could babysit?

Has this case gone to court? If she has no conviction this will have no effect on her employment status, it wont even show up if she needs a CRB check for working with children.

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