“How Young Is Too Young to Stay Home Alone” on GMA

As promised, here’s the link to the Good Morning America spot. I thought my family did a great job and we really enjoyed working with the film crew and GMA co-host Paula Faris. We had a great conversation, Manchild was extremely poised and articulate, and I was surprised at how at-ease I felt sitting in the hot seat with the cameras rolling.

However, I can’t say I’m not a little disappointed in the final product.

I knew going in, of course, that I might not come out looking great, especially since we knew it was only going to be a couple of minutes, but I was hopeful that they would have a real discussion about giving kids more responsibility and helping them learn to navigate this world we live in. Instead, all we got was “Seven seems too young.” I would have loved to rebut their “parenting expert,” Ericka Souter, who, as far as I can tell, is actually a journalist who specializes in celebrity news.

And since this is my blog, maybe I will take a minute to do just that. 

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 10.59.01 PM

First: Souter suggests that my style is the “other extreme” of the helicopter parent. Is teaching your child independence and responsibility really an “extreme”? On the other end of “helicopter”? I am really surprised to hear that because I thought on the other end of being hyper-involved, hyper-vigilant was neglect and apathy and abandonment. If my parenting style is extreme, I fear for the state of our nation.

Second: She says a child should be able to take care of other children before you can leave him alone. This is silly. A child should be able to take care of himself before he can take care of other children. I think that either she had it backward or she didn’t explain herself very well.

Third: The shock and awe that only 3 states tell their residents when they can leave their kids home alone. And no comment on either the fact that in Oregon it is age 8 (which is not much older than 7!) or that in Illinois it is 14 (which is ridiculous — Micah pointed out that he could practically build a simple cabin at age 14). I wonder how many families in Illinois are in violation of that law. Probably all of them?

Fourth: There were no allowances that maybe parents actually do know best, or that there are children who can be trusted to not set the house on fire. The final word that “seven seems too young” was much too definitive and, I thought, closed off the much more important discussion of why and how we can teach our kids to be safe but also responsible and independent members of society.

Finally: She mentioned that people have been doing this forever but doesn’t go into any reasons why that changed, or why our era is exempted from teaching our kids how to be by themselves.

I do wish that at the very least Paula Faris could have been at the table to say, “Hey, actually, I met this kid and I spent time with his family and you might be surprised what a 7-year-old is capable of.” That’s all.

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  1. Excellent rebuttal! I had many of those same concerns. I’m glad that you posted the link to the expert’s biography. Who knew that being on the team that created the first talking Frosted Mini-Wheat was qualification to being a parenting expert?! Nowhere in her biography did I see any parenting experience other than mentioning she had one son and a shih tzu.

    I would have loved to have seen a more thoughtful contribution at the table. I’m glad they pointed out some ways to help children develop independence. However, that list does not exhaust all possibilities.

    And for the record, I think that 14 is completely laughable!! More research (because I’m like that…) The expert is from thestir.com which has an interesting article with an expert opinion (PhD and licensed psychologist) that states “Because children mature at different rates, you should not base your decision on age alone.” It’s a great article that although it sets a standard “12 is probably good for most kids” minimum age, I think the tone follows more in line with what you talk about here. (http://thestir.cafemom.com/big_kid/176101/age_leave_kids_home_alone) It looks like Ericka needs to spend more time on her website and less time opining as an expert. The final segment where they give the three criteria to show that kids are ready to be left alone is inconsistent–the words on the screen and Ericka’s words do not match. It appears she took some liberty with the “taking care of another person” comment. Maybe she’s thinking of leaving her own son home with the dog.

    I want to be respectful for this woman, but it’s very difficult when she is presented as a “parenting expert” when she has a journalist degree and can tell you everything you need to know about celebrity weight loss and reality tv (check out her bio on http://thestir.cafemom.com/blogger/115/ericka_s%C3%B3uter ). I am sorry, she has no qualifications to imply you are an irresponsible parent.


    lizzie Reply:

    I know, Alan! I wish I knew a better way to call GMA and Ericka Souter out on this aside from on my blog. Maybe I need to start tweeting or something. I hear that works sometimes. 🙂


  2. Lizzie, you are wonderful! and you have messages and truth to share with the world, despite how others respond or neglect to get to the bottom of issues. While what we teach is important, I’ve been inspired even more by your ability to share and respond gently, but clearly, to opposition. Thanks. Love you!


  3. I agree with your Mom, Lizzie! You are wonderful.

    While also disappointed by Good Morning America’s summative dismissal, I’m not particularly surprised by their conclusion that “seven seems too young.” If we’re talking about seven year-olds everywhere, perhaps they’re right.

    However, we’re not talking about the average seven year-old being raised by the TV: we’re talking about *your* seven year-old. And from all I’ve been observed, Manchild is particularly capable, probably because he’s being raised by particularly capable parents.

    I’m grateful for your encouragement to give our children room to learn responsibility and independence. Keep trusting your instincts, and thanks for your courage in speaking out.


    lizzie Reply:

    Thanks Kara! I have been disappointed in the focus on age and the lack of discussion about maturity, but even more disappointed that the age thing is taking away from what could be a good discussion about how our children can benefit from learning to be responsible — and how it is irresponsible of us as parents to not teach them the things they are ready to learn.


  4. This is fantastic! I feel we deal too often in extremes in our society, and it’s so good to see the healthy middle ground at play in parenting. Thanks for your example and voice.


    lizzie Reply:

    Oh, I do hope I am occupying the “healthy middle ground.” That is where I strive to be. 🙂


  5. Lizzie,
    You did great in the hot seat. I am just wondering, I am more inclined to be a helicopter parent, yet I know that it isn’t good. Do you recommend any books/articles that would help to teach an inclined helicopter parent to allow her children independence and self-knowledge?


    lizzie Reply:

    So, I haven’t read it (yet), but I have heard great things about The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel. It’s on my list because of it’s focus on teaching kids to be self-reliant and respectful. I hope you are well, and thanks for chiming in!


    Kareena Reply:

    Thank you so much! It is now on my list!


  6. Hi! I found your blog through your friend Mara, and I just wanted to say that I was really impressed by your original post and by what YOU had to say on GMA. Not so much impressed with everyone else on the show! It seemed like they went into the experience planning to disapprove and found a way to make their point. That’s too bad, because I agree with you that they missed out on what could have been a really valuable, insightful discussion. You said pretty much everything I wanted to say about the show in this rebuttal, although I just have to say that I can’t believe a state actually set the minimum age at 14! That’s so absurd, it’s hard to believe. I was personally glad to see that more state governments haven’t gotten involved with legislating something that should be a personal decision and depend on the maturity of each kid. Honestly, my five-year-old daughter sounds a lot like your son, and I think that even now she would be just fine if I left her home for 15 minutes while I took some books down the street to the library or went across the street to the bank. It really does depend on the kid. Anyway, nice work!


    lizzie Reply:

    Thanks Sarah! I’m glad you took the time to comment. I did have a friend from Illinois who did some research and found that the law about 14 year-olds is for kids to be left alone overnight, which makes a big difference! I totally agree, though. Parents know their kids and should be able to teach them as their child is ready, not as the state thinks they might be ready.

    Thanks again for chiming in!


  7. Marissa Rodriguez

    August 22nd, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Hello Lizzie,

    My name is Marissa and I work for medical day time talk show The Doctors (www.thedoctorstv.com). We recently read your blog and saw the piece you did on GMA. We are interested in learning more about your technique. I would love to speak with you over the phone and hear more about your story. We are hoping to offer you an open forum with our hosts. Please contact me at your earliest convenience!

    I can be reached at (323) 956-8290 or via email at marissa.rodriguez@cbs.com



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