Monday on Good Morning America

It turns out that some people think it’s a bad idea for 7-year-olds to be left alone for short periods of time. Some people have even gone so far as to say that no one should be left alone ever. (Or maybe that was just one person, but still. No one? Ever?)

And it looks like a lot of people want to talk about it. This is a good thing. I think we should talk about it. I think we need to have a conversation about how to teach our children to be more independent and how to give them a little more freedom in a world that is so fearful for/about kids that we get yelled at if we let them ride their bikes half a block ahead of us. Our kids need to be given space and opportunity to grow into capable human beings who can take care of themselves. It’s our job as parents to be in tune with them enough to know when and how to give them that space and those opportunities.

This week I’ve been floored by the amount of attention my essay on Babble has been getting. It was picked up by the Daily Mail, I was contacted by several news stations and a radio show (if you want to listen, my segment starts at 20:17), and just tonight a film crew from Good Morning America came by our apartment to film a segment for tomorrow’s (Monday) show. (It’ll be in the second hour, in case you want to tune in. And I’ll post a link to it afterward as well.)

Even if I’ve been floored by the response, I stand by my decision: my son was ready for a little more responsibility and a little more independence and Micah and I prepared him and taught him and gave him a chance to spread his wings a little bit in a safe environment. If we keep this up, he may just be ready to be a contributing member of society when he reaches adulthood.

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Just a note: I know that lots of people are expressing their opinions and that not all of them are being very kind about it. It doesn’t really matter to me. I cannot make good parenting choices for my kids if I am parenting to quiet the critics, so I don’t listen to them.

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9 Comments

  1. really excited and proud, Lizzie! takes guts to do what you think is best for your family. can’t wait to watch the interview! miss you guys!

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    lizzie Reply:

    Thanks Koseli! Hope you are all doing well and settling in to life on the other side. :)

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  2. Oh Lizzie, you rabble rouser. Love it. Knowing what I do of your son, I’m sure he relished the opportunity to stretch his wings. You are a good and thoughtful mom. I admire you for thinking specifically about him and his capabilities. It’s obvious that this decision didn’t come lightly. You are an inspiring mother. You’ve given me much to think about, far beyond just when is an appropriate age to leave kids home alone.

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    lizzie Reply:

    Thanks Shiloh! You know how I love to stir up some controversy . . . oh, wait . . . no I don’t. But we are doing the best we can here and I’m hoping that maybe people will start thinking a little more about how to teach their kids to be safe and responsible.

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  3. PS you look beautiful as always. Love your short hair. You wear it well.

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  4. What is wrong with you parents don’t you realize that you have exposed your children to the sexual predators of this world giving your names and showing pictures of your children and of all things letting everyone know that you leave you son home alone. You parents need to read about pedophilia and just how far someone will go to get at your child.

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    Suzee Reply:

    Mr. Jim, don’t give those bad people any ideas. Yes the world is getting to be a rough place to live. That’s why we need to step up and raise confident independent children who are aware of the world around them. I have a friend who has left her 6 year old home in charge of her younger brother for short periods of time. She is one of the most responsible kids I know. She also knows how to stand up for herself. She has been taught well. I also know of some kids who are 9, and 11 who have never been left alone. They are taken to and picked up from school. They are clueless about what to do if by chance they they find themselves alone, let alone if by chance they are confronted by a stranger. They are also very insecure about themselves, have no confidence, have to be told what to do all the time, and very unsure about the outside world. I feel they will be living very stifled lives. Fearing everything around them, and having to have someone tell them what to do. Thy haven’t been taught how to think for themselves. I vote giving children responsibilities ( trusting them) according to their abilities when they are ready for them. There will always be those predators out there. Teach them safety first.

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    lizzie Reply:

    Thank you Suzee! You understand my point exactly, which, sadly, is being obscured by the fact that my child is 7. I didn’t realize that would be such a distraction from the real issue: that we can teach our kids how to be safe and responsible. In fact we have a RESPONSIBILITY to teach them how to be safe and responsible.

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    lizzie Reply:

    Oh Jim. I hope you understand that the whole point of this exercise was for me to teach my child to be safe when he is home alone. Of course we have prepared him to be home alone and taught him what to do. We’ve also taught him to protect his own body. I’m much less concerned about him opening the door to pedophiles than I am about him not knowing what to do with himself when he grows up because he never had the chance to learn.

    I also hope you realize that if/when I leave him home alone, I’m usually still on the same block and can be home in 3 minutes if I need to be, and there is no regular time or day or schedule where he is alone. I cannot live my life in fear. What I can do is prepare myself and my children to take care of themselves.

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  5. I’m usually measured in my judgments of other people, but I have to say that if you have a problem with leaving a 7 year old – especially if its a teaching moment – you need to reevaluate your life. I’m serious – we live in a nation full of helicopter parents who’s children will doom us all….

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  6. Your story was on the news here in Australia tonight. I’m a bit shocked at all the negativity. I think it’s completely reasonable for you to leave your 7 year old home alone for short periods of time. You know your child and his capabilities. You both seemed quite comfortable with YOUR choice. How do kids learn responsibility when they’re never given any opportunities to develop it?

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    lizzie Reply:

    Thanks for chiming in Jasmine! I am shocked that this has made it all the way to Australia, but so glad you reached out. I am also perplexed by the focus on my son’s age when the bigger issue (in my opinion) is how we can raise our children to be responsible — and how that can begin when they are still very young.

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  7. I just came across your story whilst reading the news mere minutes after I had left my 6 year old at home with his 4 year old brother so that I could go and get milk. In a shop less than a quarter of a mile away. The whole trip took 5 minutes. They were still eating the same bowl of cereal. I fully applaud you for what you’re doing. The disservice we are doing to children but not allowing them any independence is manifest in so many ways. Not only do they not learn how to self regulate their behaviour, but they learn to believe that they are not capable human beings. And the worst part is that it s their very own parents who have proven to have the least faith in their children.

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    lizzie Reply:

    Hi Ana! Isn’t it sad to realize how little we are willing to see our kids as people and to give them opportunities to become self-reliant human beings? Thank you for reaching out—it gives me confidence in the future to know that there are mothers who see value in giving their kids opportunities to be independent!

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  8. Children in the U.S. are allowed to / pushed to remain “children” a fair bit longer than in many places around the world. We’ve prolonged the phase of immaturity just long enough that for many “adults”, it is difficult for them to shake off old habits of childhood. Our egocentric society seems to go hand in hand with this where people are unable to handle their emotions, communicate effectively, empathize with others and fail to be socially responsible and accountable for their actions (I recently overheard a job placement specialist at the college which I am attending say that these so called soft skills are what new graduates are sadly lacking). Children can still be children without stunting them in all aspects of their growth. Can a 7 year old stir a pot on the stove, cross the street by themselves or, stay at home alone for up to 45 minutes? Unfortunately, Americans generally have a fear of uncertainty and what could happen in a split second terrifies them. The big pictures is that each child’s experiences and maturity, even at age 7 can be so different. Just like with potty training. Kids are ready when they are ready, be it age 2 or age 5.

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