Leaving your children unattended is a topic that has been springing up all over the internet and television recently. Dr. Phil addressed it by sharing this story of a mother arrested for leaving her child in the car while she stood outside.
Anna Kournikova's 5 year old brother fell out a window when his mother recently left him unattended for almost an hour to run errands, and Her Bad Mother confessed doing it in her recent post Home Alone.
After researching online for state by state guidelines, I learned that most states have not addressed an specific age, but those that have list ages ranging from 8-14 - a pretty big range!
Now, each of these examples shows a difference in degree and intent. Is leaving a 5 year old home alone for an hour while you run errands the same as leaving a sick child inside the house while you run next door to pick up your preschooler? Is leaving a child alone in the parking lot of Walmart while you shop the same as jumping out for a quick second to put money in the Salvation Army bucket 2 car lengths away?
Should there be a zero tolerance policy regarding this practice? Does age play a factor, the distance away? Are you within eyesight or have you driven away in your car? Should the personality of the child be considered?
I began leaving my oldest son home alone for about 15-20 minutes at a time when he was 10. Now, at the age of 11 he can stay alone for about 1 1/2 hours during the daytime and he views this as a reward for good behavior. He loves to stay home alone and now even watches his brothers for a short period of time. They feel so independent and work hard to earn this reward. Is this neglect?
What about gardening when your infant is fast asleep inside? Running to the mailbox on the corner? Waiting at the bus stop for your older children? Leaving your kids in a locked car when you ran in to pay for gas? I've done all of these things when my children were very small. Am I neglectful?
When I read Her Bad Mother's "confession" about running across the street to pick up her preschooler I started to wonder. Does degree and intent count for anything in this matter or is it an open and shut case?
Come on, it's time for feedback!