How old should kids be to be trusted in the restroom?

Joy - posted on 05/30/2012 ( 67 moms have responded )

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It came up on a blog with another mom: when you go to a public restroom such as an airport or other busy place with your children what age do you trust them to wait in the bathroom for you to finish your business?

Recently my 2 year old wanted to wait outside for me when we were in a small airport (Cedar Rapids, IA.) While there aren't a lot of people there, I didn't want to leave her outside the stall I was using. -so I didn't. I am pregnant so I can see why my 2 year old wouldn't want to be dragged to the restroom as much as I have to go, but I won't let her run around by herself in such places either! My 2 year old is potty trained and sometimes when she uses a public restroom she'll tell me she doesn't need any help (and sometimes she does) so I'll sometimes wait right outside her stall (checking to make sure she remembers to wipe.)

The other mom I was talking to said she doesn't leave her 4 year old in the restroom alone either. So how old should children be before they can wait outside the stalls for you? 5? 6? 8?

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Gwen - posted on 05/31/2012

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When a friend of mine, single mom, traveled and was no longer able to take her son in the ladies room with her (he was probably around 7), she would wait for him outside the door. She told him "You've got 3 minutes. If you aren't out by then, I'm coming in." I've also heard of people giving their kids a whistle in case anyone tries to grab them.

Jodi - posted on 06/02/2012

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I'm thinking that in the time it would take them to hold my child down to shave their head and then dress them in different clothes, I'd already be there checking on them, if I hadn't heard them screaming of course. It seems just a little far fetched. We really need to check our imaginations a little and stop instilling these unfounded fears into our children.

Sherri - posted on 05/31/2012

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Yup and when you know more about them you do more to protect your kids from them.

Medic - posted on 05/31/2012

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There are no more "whack jobs" now then before. We just have more means by which to know about them.

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Zula - posted on 09/30/2012

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I have a 5 year old girl who is not allowed to go to the bathroom alone. She can be alone in the stall while I'm outside the door, and that's only after I've checked out the stall for perverts. We live in a society now where there are too many freedoms for our children and too many predators waiting to strike. I'd leave it up to the parents as to what age you can allow your youngster to the bathroom alone. Always be mindful and trust your first mind when sending them into the restrooms ALONE!

Carrie - posted on 06/26/2012

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My grandmother and I got into a ridiculous arguement in the grocery store about 3 years ago. We were at the check-out, & my son who was 7 at the time had to use the restroom. So, I told him to go. I could see the restroom less than 12 yards away, & he is loud, & not scared to tell someone to get off him, & call me. My grandmother had a freaking fit! It's a personal decision, just as each other decision regarding your child should be. I may allow more than most parents of 10 year olds would, but my husband and I agreee on his limits, allowences, & boundries. So I pretty well tell others who don't like it to piss off

Pamela - posted on 06/05/2012

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These days I would say 10! Just because of the energy of the public. With a child under ten I would accompany them and wait outside of the stall, or send them in with an older sibling if they have one. Better safe than sorry. Ten year olds can defend themselves if so taught. A swift kick to the shin of anyone threatening them and running away as fast as possible, etc. Also screamig loudly if someone grabs them and tries to force them somewhere.

Sylvia - posted on 06/05/2012

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Jodi is definitely not a minority of one. At the very least, there are 2 of us ;)

Stifler's - posted on 06/04/2012

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If it was somewhere dangerous I'd send them to the disabled single toilets and stand outside.

Sherri - posted on 06/04/2012

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@Jodi not once did I ever say I took my teenagers in the woman's room let alone take them in the same stall with me. Although if someone else did I honestly wouldn't care.

Lacey - posted on 06/04/2012

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Right? my friends grandmother told me that, now I know this was some time ago, but in 1978 an 11yr old boy went into the bathroom @ the zoo in Tacoma and a man came up behind him and cut his little manhood right off. No Yells, No sound! nothing! and I believe the boy bleed to death! I know it is extreme, but I like my son just the way he is and I will be a crazy mother, before I put my child in danger! if it takes me holding the men's door open and looking inside 1st and talking to him the whole time or him coming inside the door in the woman's to keep him safe then call me crazy!!!
People are nuts and only getting werider! and being a single mother of a boy then I will do what I have to do, not out of control crazy, to keep him safe. come on I am not gonna make in come in the stall, he's 9. but come in and stand on by the sinks or sit in the little room like in Macy's, I think that is reasonable!

Sherri - posted on 06/04/2012

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@Stifler I wouldn't in a restaurant or grocery store either but in a train station airport or let's say concert you bet I would.

Joy - posted on 06/04/2012

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My church trains its volunteer Sunday School teachers how to take kids to the bathrooms and not to be alone in the bathrooms with them because the church is afraid the children may accuse (falsely or correctly) the teachers of sexual assault. We also have a security gate that locks everyone in if a child is missing. My church is large, but if we're taking these kinds of precautions in my city there have been reports of it.

Stifler's - posted on 06/04/2012

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Maybe I am a country hick but there haven't been any news reports around here of people lurking in the toilets just waiting for a victim to sexually abuse at the shopping centre or local park it's pretty obvious since there are only 2 toilets that there's no one else in there.

Joy - posted on 06/04/2012

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It may depend on the maturity of the kids again and other factors so I will not judge other people in this thread. I'm thinking by the time my daughter's 6 or so I'll use the method of having her stand outside the stall door with her back against it so I can see her feet and talk with/to her. 6 years old is still 3-4 years away for me so I'll have to wait to see how mature she is by then.



Right now my part of the world's generally safe, but parents should still exercise caution. There are a few reports of kidnappings here, but not many. Never heard of the shaving the hair/changing clothes trick although I do know that human trafficking of small children exists (used to work with a charity that worked against human trafficking.) I think there's a lot easier ways to kidnap a child. In a public restroom rape or other inappropriate behavior would be more likely.

Stifler's - posted on 06/04/2012

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I think that 10 is old enough to go to the appropriate sex toilets if not before. I don't have kids that old but I can't see taking my 10 year old brother to the ladies room with me :|

Jodi - posted on 06/04/2012

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We aren't talking pre-teens (I used the word teenagers, as did you earlier), and I highly doubt most people are taking their pre-teens into the stall with them. So I doubt I am in the minority. Maybe only the people in your part of the world?

Sherri - posted on 06/04/2012

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I think you are in the minority on this one Jodi. I think you will find more people that have their preteen children still go into the ladies room especially in an extremely large venue (especially if dad or multiple siblings aren't present or available) then you will find parents who will have them go into the men's room on their own.

Jodi - posted on 06/04/2012

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"Also Jodi if your kids don't care if they are in the same stall why do you say the parents have a problem?"

Because if a parent is still taking her teenagers into the stall with her, the problem is in the paranoia of the parent. That IS an issue of control and fear that will ultimately pass onto the child, and whether you see it or not, can lead to potential problems.

Lacey - posted on 06/03/2012

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My son is 9yr and I still have a hard time letting him go into the restroom alone. I perfer a family bathroom but if one is not available then he has to come in with me and wait. Or I will hold the boys bathroom door open, not looking of coarse, but make him talk to me the whole time. I'd much rather be safe and look crazy then be sorry and wind up that way cuz I wanted to save face and put him at risk.
When he is old enough to realize people aren't always happy and wonderful then maybe I will stop, but I doubt it. Lol

Sherri - posted on 06/03/2012

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Well I still take my 6yr old in the bathroom with me and I have to go too he is in the same stall as me no reason for him not to be.

Also Jodi if your kids don't care if they are in the same stall why do you say the parents have a problem? I mean my kids at home are in the bathroom all the time when I am going to the bathroom I don't see the big deal. I don't take my 15 & 13yr old in the woman's room anymore anyways but I still did on occasion when they were 10 & 11yrs old depending on where we were.

Sylvia - posted on 06/03/2012

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I think my DD was using her own stall most of the time by the time she was three. She's almost 10 now, though, so my memory's a bit hazy. I don't know that I'd have let her loose in an unfamiliar public washroom at 2 -- she liked to touch and grab things and peek under the doors of other stalls :P

I think she first used a public washroom alone -- like, we stayed at the table and she went to the washroom on her own -- when she was 5. She's about average height for her age now, but she was very short when she was younger, and a lot of ladies' rooms are just not built for a short 3-year-old. But she was certainly old enough for her own stall, or to wait outside my stall for me, sooner than that.

Jayce - posted on 06/03/2012

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I can't imagine any child being still/quiet long enough for a complete stranger to shave their head and change their clothes. Besides taking the time to do all that would increase the kidnappers chances of getting caught and leave less time to get away.

Despite the horror stories fed to us on a regular basis, our kids are at a greater risk from people they know than they are from strangers. That said, I still bring my 4yr old into the stall with me unless his father is with us then they go together.

Leonie - posted on 06/03/2012

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Coincidentally, within the last week, my husbands Aunty was telling us that when she was in Serbia a child went missing in a major shopping centre. They shut down all the exits and the child was found in a toilet in different clothes and their head had been shaven. I have not heard of this before but apparently there are organized trafficking rings that do this. It was just a coincidence that this was being told to me recently.

Sherri - posted on 06/02/2012

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Except that it has happened Jodi and they are far from unfounded. It all happened within I believe 3 mins too. Long before the parent even began to worry about their child in the bathroom.

[deleted account]

A 2 year old,...no, I wouldn't allow him/her to go by themselves to a restroom. You don't know what crazy ass person is in the restroom. They could take the child into a stall alone and here you are waiting for them to come out and you don't hear any crying or screaming because the person could be putting their hands over their mouth or telling them if they scream, they are going to die.. So many children has gone in restrooms has been raped, murdered and even taken from the store. Children has had there hair shaved and put a wig on their heads with different clothing and etc. You are expecting your child to come out with the same clothes and etc and the child already came out with another person who done kidnapped them. Know what I mean?
I think a child around the age of 10 and up would be fine. If you have a 2 year old that can go into the bathroom with their older brother or sister ,..fine.
Me, I have taken my son who is 8 to the womans bathroom. I will stand beside the door until he is done...IN The Restroom. Not outside of the restroom. I have been told that he shouldn't be in the ladies room, but I have told them...my son is going in with me. I can't take him to the mens...I will not allow him to go in alone. There are too many crazy people. If my husband is there to take him to the restroom , then of course..mens bathroom.

Markita - posted on 06/02/2012

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My son is 9 and I have a hard time doing it. I think it was around 7 when he decided he didn't want to go in with me anymore. Do what you feel comfortable with and don't let anyone tell you you're doing it wrong. Go with your gut on this one, different places warrant a different response.

Shannon - posted on 06/02/2012

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I don't travel, so the busiest places we go are restraunts and the mall. If i can find one, I use the family washrooms (that are bigger and allow all of us to go in together). That ways the kids all get to go, the baby gets changed at the same time and I don't have to panic. If I have to go into the regular stalls my 5 and 6 yr olds use their own stalls but have to wait beside the sink or where I can see their feet until I'm done. I think when they are 8 is an ok age to let them go alone (if its not crowded), that is also the time when we would allow them to walk to school alone.

Nina - posted on 06/02/2012

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I will let my 6yr old daughter stand outside the stall not bathroom. Close enought so I can see her feet. My 8yr old son goes to the men's room by himself. He would be mortified if I told him to one come in the ladies room and two stand in the stall w/me.....ummm no. That being said he knows if he's not out in a certain amount of time I will first call to him from the door if he does not respond he knows I have no problem walking in there! Never had to but trust me I would.

Leonie - posted on 06/02/2012

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I guess there are a few factors to consider such as; how busy the toilets are and what the individual child is like ( do they wander off etc). I feel maybe considering these factors and if your chid is maybe 8 onwards and you can see their feet outside your door it should be ok. My boys are quite young (1 and 3) so they are never on their own. When my brother was a bit older and said to mum he wanted to use the boys toilets, he had a time limit and she would wait outside- she let him know if he took too long she was coming in. Lol. I don't know what a whack job looks like but I believe there are more of them in society and most look normal. Just be vigilant and aware. I am saying this because sadly I have a family member who was rapped in a public toilet when he was in his early teens.

Glorianna - posted on 06/02/2012

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At four I let her go in by herself. When we're in the bathroom together, she'll have her own stall, and once she's done she has to stand next to my stall were I can see her feet. I WILL NOT, let her stand outside of the bathroom and wait for me though. Maybe when she's 10.. . Maybe.

Glorianna - posted on 06/02/2012

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At four I let her go in by herself. When we're in the bathroom together, she'll have her own stall, and once she's done she has to stand next to my stall were I can see her feet. I WILL NOT, let her stand outside of the bathroom and wait for me though. Maybe when she's 10.. . Maybe.

Martha - posted on 06/01/2012

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Dear Joy,

I would say 7 or older because by that time they have a little experience in school and using public restooms but also understand the importance of staying together and in-sight. So you should have a system, I used to have my children stand against the stall door so I could always see their feet for safety.

But as I would say to any parent, you do it when you feel it's the right time (but not too young...lol).

Good luck!
~Martha

Mazy - posted on 06/01/2012

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It totally depends. I have an almost three year old & an 18 month old. The older one is really good at following instructions & has been toilet trained for almost two years. The younger one...not so much. If we are in a mall, he HAS to stay strapped into a stroller no matter what because he will RUN. If it's a small restroom, I'll let the older one go in alone & wait for him right outside; a bigger restroom & I'll come in, but wait outside the stall for him. Now, if *I* have to go I have more trouble since I always have two kids with me! There aren't always stalls available that are big enough for us, so I do keep both kids right outside the stall & have them talk to me while I'm in there, and depending on circumstances, I'll leave the door open a jar.

Robin - posted on 06/01/2012

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Exactly what I was thinking. It's not about trusting our kids, it's about trusting others.

Jodi - posted on 06/01/2012

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I would still take my 2 year old into the stall with me. My kids would have been almost 4 before I started just having them stand outside the stall - usually I just had them stand right in front of the stall, and could generally see their feet. I think as soon as they are old enough to follow instructions and not defy them, it would be okay.

Joy - posted on 06/01/2012

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Good to know all options. I have the same gender child right now so its not an issue at this time, but I could have a boy in the future. My husband doesn't read these posts so unfortunately, he won't see all of the advice.

Terri - posted on 06/01/2012

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This question is just about waiting outside the stall, where you are still in the same room and can hear everything and see feet. The question of sending a child alone into a restroom is totally different. If I'm in a quiet place (the single potty bathroom type places) and can see for myself that there is NO ONE in the men's restroom, I will allow my boys to go in together and then I guard the door. Unless I can prove to myself that there is no one in there though, they go with me, and likely will until I feel like they can punch back if need be.

Terri - posted on 06/01/2012

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I make my kids stand so I can see their shoes. The rest of the kid usually stays attached to them.

[deleted account]

I think it really depends on 2 things, your child's maturity, and where you are.

For example, I know my 3 yr old wouldn't run away, but we live in an area where every few weeks there is a report of someone trying to take kids off the street etc, so I wouldn't leave my child outside.

But I will let my son go into a stall alone, and even lock the door (mainly cause I can take my ring off and unlock it from the outside) and I know he will be ok. But I wouldn't let him go into the toilet area alone, but I have friend who let their 3yr old do that.

[deleted account]

My daughter is 5 and I let her go into the restroom sometimes by herself depending on where we are. I always watch the door and time it. If she isn't out in 3 mins then I know something is wrong(usually she is pooping, LOL). I live in a small town but it's not like it used to be. I have to be so careful with her! We have a concessions business and travel all over Colorado and sometimes I can't get away because we are busy so it makes it so hard. I am so super careful with her. We see thousands of people every day and can't trust anyone. It freaks me out when she runs between all the trailers and business. We have been doing it since she was born so she knows almost everyone. I know it's not the smae but close. We do alot of traveling on airlines as well and I always have her go into the bathroom stall with me. I will let her go into the bathroom at say Walmart when we are checking out if we are right across from the bathroom.

Dove - posted on 06/01/2012

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Like I said, I can only speak on where I live and my experiences with my children. You don't have to agree with them, but you also don't live my life or know my surroundings.

Zandra - posted on 06/01/2012

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Dove, I disagree with letting oppisite sex kids use the washroom by themselves if they are still quite young. You cannot see what is happening in there and at 4, 5 years old they cannot stop a person from touching them where they shouldn't be. If you don't want to bring boys in the womans washroom then send them into the family washroom if they insist on going by themselves!

Zandra - posted on 06/01/2012

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Gwen you are exactly right!! My son is 9 and he comes into the washroom with me (not the stall though) If my husband is with me then he goes in with my husband if he needs to use the toilet. There are so many people you just can't trust anymore.

Paula - posted on 06/01/2012

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Difficult, my boys are 10 and 6 and the eldest has only recently been allowed to go in the mens room without Dad. the 6 year old generally comes with me and comes in with me if I need to go.
it does depend on where we are nad who else is around for example at places where I see lots of Dads taking thier boys in I allow mine to go in unaccompanied but if very busy and lots of men about without children generally dont allow it, for example busy railway stations I allow them to wait together while I go ...
I would suggest waiting a while before you leave her on her own ...

Tabitha - posted on 06/01/2012

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It's a sticky situation when this topic comes up. Sometimes, even a teenager or adult would not be safe in a public restroom if someone with ill intentions is waiting in there. I didn't start lettin my boys use public restrooms without an adult until they were nearly 10(depending on the location). Even then, they went in together, even if they didn't all have to use the bathroom. They go in together and come out together. Obviously, we can't protect them from everything so the important thing is to teach them to be aware of their surroundings and travel in groups if possible.

Bernadette - posted on 06/01/2012

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I think they should be old enough to be able recognise potential dangers (such as strangers coming in) and to be able to alert you to it. Also, old enough to have the attention span to remember not to get distracted and wander off. In a small restroom with only a couple of stalls, obviously there is not far that they can go, but in larger ones they may wander to the far end which puts them out of range to talk to you about any concerns. And some bathrooms don't even have czolosing doors any more, but passageways to outside. It is easy for people to walk in without being heard, and just as easy for your child to wander out. So I think if they aren't able to stay close enough to talk to you while you are in there, and aren't old enough to understand stranger danger, then they shouldn't be left alone.

Dove - posted on 05/31/2012

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It really depends on where you are located and I can only speak on my area since I haven't been out of my area with kids since I had a one year old (who would obviously never be alone anywhere in public). At 2 I would always have a kid in the stall with me. At 3-4 I'm totally fine with them waiting outside of the stall if they choose. Opposite sex kids can use the men's room (assuming I DON'T have to go too, which hardly ever happens..lol) as soon as they don't need help and are comfortable going themselves.

[deleted account]

I would say that at 4, they should be good to be in a stall on their own. But the parent should be right outside it. Most places around where I am it is illegal to take a child the opposite sex into the bathroom with you at age 6.

My son is still a baby, so I haven't had to think about this much. But since a lot of places have family restrooms, I'd probably snag one of those in most cases. I know my husband loathes taking our daughter into the restroom with him. He will take her in, but he makes her face the wall.

Joy - posted on 05/31/2012

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Heather, I agree on 2 being WAY too young. The mom on her blog said her 4 year old was too young too - which I also agree with. Since we each only have 1 daughter and those are the ages we weren't sure what age we were going to let them stand outside alone. So I told her I'd ask here what other moms do.

When I have the 2nd child that'll get really tricky having both of them in the same stall with me.

Katie - posted on 05/31/2012

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My son went with me into the ladies room until he was about 7 or 8. He's big for his age and athletic and at 10, looks 12 or even 13. At a big place like an airport or amusement park, I let him go to the men's room with me right outside paying attention. Then I go to the ladies room with him right outside and I am in and out quickly. At 10, he knows not to go off with someone and to scream, kick etc if someone tries to touch him. Plus, he is as big as a small adult. I have been in ladies rooms when people have their what look like 10-13 year old boys with them and it makes me so uncomfortable. I saw one looking under a stall one time and it just creeped me out.

Ellen - posted on 05/31/2012

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My 7 yr old step son goes to the public restroom eith me. If he needs to use it also he gets a stall beside me if possible. If he doesn't have to go he stands outside my stall. And in either case he talks to me the entire time. I don't let him go Lone. His dad let's him go alone sometimes but I always get after him about i. Too many predators out there to trust a child alone in the restroom.

Heather - posted on 05/31/2012

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I will be taking my kids WITH me into a restroom until they are teenagers, like 12, 14, or older. Even my son! I don't care what people think. I won't even let him go into the men's bathroom alone without me standing and watching him at the door. If I can't see him, then he can't go in. If people have an issue with this, then tough. I am sure that by the time he is 8, he can wait outside, but still, I will be really worried about him the whole time.

Two years old is WAY to young to wait outside. Maybe when she's 5, 6, or 12. But certainly NOT at an airport, ever! Kids are taken way to quickly in places like airports.

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