You Can Babysit at 12…But You Must Be Dropped Off at the Babysitting Class by Your Mom

Hi Readers! Let’s call this a “Catch 12”: you are old enough to do something independent, but not allowed to do it independently: 

Dear Free-Range Kids: I’ve got my 11 & 12 year old sons registered to take a babysitting class through our local children’s medical center.  The reminder email stated:

Accompany your child into the building and to the classroom. Please allow 5 minutes to park, find the room, and to check your child in.

Please send a water bottle, lunch and snack with your child. There is no cafeteria available.  (Because clearly, neither I nor my kids would think of this on our own for a class that runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.!)

Class ends promptly at 2 p.m. Please arrive to the classroom by 1:50 p.m. for a summary of the day and to pick up your child. For your child’s safety please let the instructor know if you plan to have someone other than yourself pick up your child from the classroom.

So I replied:

Hi, my kids have been learning how to bus around town this summer.  Are they not allowed to arrive without an adult?  What about leaving on their own?

Thanks, Cheryl

Here’s their response:


We really appreciate you checking in on this ahead of time. Due to safety concerns, it is our standard practice to ask that a parent or caregiver accompany the child to the class. The instructor checks each student in and confirms an emergency contact number with the adult. We also ask that the instructor see each child leave with a parent, caregiver or designated adult.

I apologize if this causes any scheduling concerns for you. If you’d like to schedule your child for a different class that occurs when you can accompany them, we’d be happy to waive the transfer fee and schedule them in a class with availability. Let me know if you want to do that or if you have any questions.

Thanks again for contacting us with the question. I hope your child enjoys the upcoming class!

And my reply:

I can make it happen, it’s just kind of silly that kids who are to be responsible for little ones aren’t given a chance to be responsible for themselves. It’s also not good for the environment, my time or our gas budget.

Does it make a difference if it’s two siblings that would be traveling together?

I haven’t heard back from them yet.  Isn’t this just ridiculous?!  I won’t stop being a Free-Range Parent, but goodness, sometimes it’s just so dang tiring dealing with friends, family, society, etc. that think I’m crazy for letting my kids do things like walk, bike, and bus around town; for working for neighbors; and you know the rest! ~~Cheryl 

84 Responses

  1. Do let us know how that turns out. I would be more insistent. “No, my children will arrive on their own and leave on their own with MY permission; yours is not necessary.”

  2. I’d be sorely tempted to let the kids go on their own and see what happens. Would they make them go home? Perhaps have the kids tell them that you won’t be at home 🙂

  3. Clearly, they’re covering their butts. This course is not intended to be child care (in fact, teaching those enrolled to BE child care providers!), but they’re obviously feeling the pressure to treat it that way. It’s similar to having to sign children in and out of daycare. They probably feel that if they don’t make parents sign them in and out, they will be found at fault (that is, sued) if something were to happen. Sad. And yes, very ironic.

  4. They’re requiring the same security as my niece’s Headstart program did last year… you know for preschool? The kindergarteners at my daughter’s school are the only ones that need to have an older sibling or parent pick them up from the classroom… first grade can just walk out the door and on home by themselves (or the bus if they’re farther away)… but this class that is intended to teach MIDDLE SCHOOLERS how to take care of those preschoolers is actually treating them as if they are preschoolers themselves! RIDICULOUS!

  5. I would be very firm with them and say that I could NOT pick them up and they will be arriving on their own with emergency contact information and leaving on their own. I have had to do that with various classes that my daughters has been in since she was 8 (when she insisted that she wanted to walk to her art class on her own. And she was able, too)

  6. Well, I know one local library here, I called to ask about my kids being there. My daughter, 12, was fine. Younger brothers…only if she could be sure that they would behave. I asked what would happen if they did not behave. Staff would call me, if I could not be reached, they would call the police, and they would be taken to the police station for me to pick up. Adults who misbehave are told to leave, no police involved, but they can’t do the same for kids, even if they came in the door on their own.

    There is also no public pay phone at the library anymore. Hopefully staff would let them use their phone if there was an issue that they needed to reach me when they weren’t in trouble with the staff.

    The long winded point being…if they show up unattended, the police may be called and they may not get to take the class. Stupid, I know.

  7. This brings up the issue I wonder about in this community: have any of you had your grade-school or middle-school-aged child throw this kind of thing back in your face if you encourage them to be responsible for themselves (taking the public bus alone somewhere instead of you chauffering them, coming home and fixing themselves a snack if you are not home yet) and saying, “You know, this is against the law. I could call the police.”

    Thirty years ago, it would be laughable. “Go ahead and call the police!”

    These days, the police are on their side! What does this do to a child’s sense of trust in their own parents’ guidance and wisdom? Where does it leave us when our kids look around them and think the “easy” way (kids driven everywhere, all things handed to them instead of them earning it) is the “better” way?

    I feel sad about it all sometimes, really want to be in a position of partnership with my kids in their own development, instead of pitted against them, and the prevailing cultural attitudes.

  8. Mollie – I’d call their bluff.

    Worse thing that happens is that they have NO MORE FREEDOM after the CPS investigation concludes.

    But I think a child actually making that threat is about as likely as a hurricane hitting Nebraska, since I don’t know of any kids who would be so self-defeating as to threaten to call the cops because they got too much freedom.

  9. In my community, it is illegal for a child less than 12 to be left alone. I really think this is good common sense on the part of the organization. Even if I was doing something out of my home, I would prefer a face to face with the parent. While I allow my own children a great deal of freedom to roam, when another adult is placed in the position of being responsible for them for a period of time (and I do not know the parents of the child taking the class,) I too, would err on the side of caution.


  10. If this is a legal requirement demanded by their lawyer, you probably won’t get anywhere. But if there is any chance of getting somewhere, it is more likely to happen in a face-to-face conversation, or even a phone call, than by emails. I would confront them, politely but firmly, and discuss this.

  11. Love it! Great job Cheryl. It IS so frustrating! No one even considers public transportation. Sad.

  12. @whimsyrightthere, I’d like to see a link to the actual law that you reference. Are your community’s laws on-line? It would also be interesting to see how many parents have been arrested and prosecuted by the DA’s office for breaking that law.

  13. It’s not the same but when I took my eldest child, then approaching school age to some child activity, these women were often upset that Dad brought her along instead of Mum.

  14. The fact is it is a babysitting class is priceless. Maybe they are teaching by example (e.g. how to be an overprotective babysitter).

    What would probably happen if you had just let them take the bus is that the teacher wouldn’t know the rule and the kid would get in and out with no problem. Since you have now emailed the organization, I think you have to follow the rule. I would send a letter and also complain to whatever organization is running the program BUT I think that once you ask and are told no you shouldn’t press the issue.

  15. Just remind them in a firm manner, that these are your kids, and you make the policies for them. If they do not allow them to attend the class, because of your beliefs…………would that not be a case of descrimination? My 13 yr old routinely reminds people in certain positions, that her father’s authority trumps theirs,

  16. That is a little silly. They could get emergency contact and permission forms through the mail or e-mail.

    Personally I always drop my 12 yo kids off at their practices ect. but that is because they can not walk or ride their bikes safely due to distance and our curvey, hilly suburban VA roads. There is 0 public transportation to the locations. I never have to walk them in. A lot of times we are car pooling so it is not the actual parent dropping the child off.

    12 yo kids do not like their parents tagging along period. They would rather you drop and run!

  17. Each response says that they “ask” for a parent to be there. It’s worded strongly so it seems like a requirement, but they never say the word “require” so I think you’ll be fine. With this wording, I would expect that they don’t have it written down as mandatory. They just really really want you to hold your kids hands the whole time. 🙂

  18. Give this “local children’s medical center” some publicity by posting its name and city.

  19. What I find interesting is that this essentially requires that each child is driven to this class by a parent, in a private vehicle. This means 2 trips that might otherwise be unnecessary.

    Does your community have a “Safe Routes to School” organization, or any sort of organization that works promote alternative transportation or walking communities? Maybe your City’s transportation engineer?

    Maybe you can get in touch with them and have them explain to the baby sitting school the impact of requiring that parents make otherwise unnecessary car trips that burn fuel, add to congestion, and do nothing at all to promote a healthy community?

  20. Would it be possible to find another babysitting course with no such rule? Unfortunately, I agree with the overall sentiment, but I think Brian is right–you asked the organization, via e-mail, they said your kids couldn’t go to and from the babysitting class alone, and now there’s a written record of that exchange. So, I think all you can really do now is to find another course that doesn’t treat twelve-year-olds who are learning to babysit, like their preschool-aged future charges. I want to say that the YMCA might have something like that, because I’ve had a lot of experience with the Y, and, I don’t remember ever having to be signed into or out of Leader Corps or Bronze Medallion/Bronze Cross by a parent when I was a preteen/young teen, but that was circa 1996-1998, so things might have changed even since then. Oh, and I did take a babysitting course when I was twelve, but it was through the Red Cross or St. John’s Ambulance or similar. It was a just a one-day course, taught by an old British man, and while my mom dropped me off, she didn’t have to sign me in or out. Maybe one of those places would be an option.

  21. In all seriousness, I am not sure I would trust an organization like this to teach my kids babysitting skills. I mean, they’re approaching the whole thing from such an illogical standpoint, how could their instruction be trustworthy?

    That’s the nice way to put it. Here’s the other way: these people are so stupid they think babysitters need to be babysat, so I wouldn’t let them teach my kid how to babysit.

  22. Wow. I refuse to be required to pick up my kids in person once they’re past pre-school age. (And these days, I’ve arranged to have my teenaged daughter pick up my preschoolers at times, because she’s already there.) At church, the Sunday School teachers initially wanted me to come pick up my elementary aged kids, but I pretty much told them there’s no way I’m walking around to every single classroom (I have seven kids, so there’s at least one in each of their age groups) just to tell my kids that they have permission to walk across the church.

  23. “Due to safety concerns, it is our standard practice to ask that a parent or caregiver accompany the child to the class.”

    This is where the problem lies- your kids are tweens (at 11&12) and they are being treated like babies, not babysitters. What are the safety concerns? Are there dangerous stairs that lead to this classroom? Rabid raccoons outside the entrance?

    Kudos to you for teaching them how to get around town without a chauffer service.

  24. Why the heck do they need to bring a bag lunch for a five hour class? Eat breakfast before you go and eat lunch when you come home.
    No wonder child obesity is such a problem. Kids can’t take two steps without someone swooping down on them and cramming cupcakes into their mouths.

  25. I agree with pentamom…these people are obviously not qualified to teach this, as their perspective is completely wrong for the subject.

    I also agree with Michele, and I regularly ignore the “parent sign-in/out” process. I tell my kids to tell them that I am not coming in, as they are responsible and capable themselves. They can keep them all day if they like, but I will not come in. I have yet to see that not work.

  26. @Chihiro, I agree that it seems like kids can’t deal with the slightest notion of hunger anymore. There is some evidence that a snack (outside of lunch) can help them stay focused through a long day of school, and I believe that’s somewhat legit, but it’s an idea that gets taken to extremes too often. Kids don’t need to eat a dozen times a day! In this case, I think if they want to bring a snack to a five-hour class, that’s fine and up to them. They don’t need a three-course meal, though.

    With my own kids, I got so tired of packing snacks everywhere that I just don’t do it anymore. (They are both still preschool age.) I’ll admit I feel like a “bad mom” sometimes, but they are not starving. I feed them– a lot! Most days they eat more than I do. I’m working at breaking them of the habit of eating whenever they’re hungry. In life, sometimes you have to get through a shift at work or sit through a meeting without eating, even if you’re hungry. It’s just the way it is. My hope is that they’re learn to actually eat when it’s meal time. I would think that an 11- and 12- year-old could probably do that.

  27. I don’t see any way they could enforce this. If the “child” arrives on their own, would they just not allow them into a class? Wouldn’t that be more of a safety/liability risk, as now a “child” that is suppose to be in their care is instead out somewhere alone? Would they not allow the “child” to leave; wouldn’t it be illegal for them to detain someone like that?

    My response would be something along the lines of “I appreciate your concern, but my answer to your question is no, I will not pick up/drop off my children, they will arrive on their own at the scheduled class time. Thanks!”

  28. What I was referencing in my earlier comment is the backlash sometimes of offering, or encouraging, kids to take responsibility for certain aspects of their lives… especially when they look all around them and see kids being dropped off at the door and bought everything they want. The culture has changed so very much… if Ipads and Ipods had been around in 1978, I can’t imagine that every parent would have bought one for their child without the kid being involved somehow in earning it, and certainly, if you lived within a half-mile of school, you were walking. Period.

    My kids can sense that they are being treated differently around here, and they also know that there is an authority out there who sides with the prevailing culture. This, to me, is an awkward position for the kids to be in; they want freedom, but only when it’s convenient. If things start to take them to their edge a bit, as they do when learning is taking place, then their resistance can be immediately aligned with what they see as the “normal way of doing things,” and insist on an “easier” way— heck, the police are really on their side!

    When my ex-husband threatened to call CPS after hearing my 7-year-old had happily walked a mile to school, my son also heard that mentioned, and then saw that I backed off. He internalized the message that Mommy was breaking the law, and it has altered the way he sees me as a guide and mentor in all things “learning responsibility.” It’s a burden we both carry.

    The older he gets, the more moot the point is, but I am wondering if anyone else in our community is sensing that their kids have serious doubts sometimes about their own freedom, or their edges, and feeling them, as they are growing into more responsibility… doubts planted there by the authorities, the culture. We think kids are dying for freedom… they also want what their friends have, sometimes. 🙂

  29. That is just insane. Then you have people shaking their heads when adult children are still living with their parents and unable to function in the real world. A little responsibility goes a long way when raising your children. I think you are doing a fine job of teaching your kids to become independent 🙂

  30. @mollie, kids who live within a mile of their elementary schools are actually not offered bus service in my district. If you can’t drop your child off yourself, the district says your child has to walk! So, it’s definitely not illegal, at least where I live. (The district started doing this to save money, BTW.)

    You bring up a good point, but I guess it’s a matter of what the police and CPS are like in a given area. I doubt that the police or CPS would do anything where I live if someone called in that a child was walking a mile by themselves. I’ve seen cases where CPS was legitimately called (a child I was working with at a school was getting hit by his father) and they still didn’t do anything.

    It seems like maybe there isn’t a lot of consistency in this regard nationwide.

  31. Sarah, let’s all move to your town! 🙂

  32. @mollie-
    My friend was reported for child endangerment because she allowed her son to babysit her 7yo while she worked overnight shifts. Her husband was refusing to pay child support so she was picking up any extra shifts she could to stay afloat.
    He went to the police claiming her work schedule was endangering his children. The police reprimanded him for wasting their time- his babysitting son was 16 years old! My first reaction was that this is so insulting to the 16 year-old who was just stepping up and becoming the new man of the house.

    As for kids walking distances to school- we also live in a community that did away with bus service for those within 1.5 miles of school. It makes it easy to answer to the busybody folks who ask “Why can’t you just drive them?”. I always answer that they are just doing what they were told to do- the school district told them that they were to walk or bike to school. They never said “Your parents need to drive you”. They love being self-suffient and independent.

  33. @Chihiro and Sarah–actually, I think bringing a lunch/snack (one or the other, NOT both) to a five-hour babysitting class that goes from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., isn’t a completely outlandish idea. I mean, the babysitting course is only an hour to an hour and a half shorter than a typical school day (my school schedule was something like 9-3:30 in elementary, and 8-2:30 in high school), and you have to remember, eleven-and-twelve-year-olds are growing kids, and they probably need to eat more often than adults do. That doesn’t equate into “swooping down on them and cramming cupcakes into their mouths every two steps” (although, Sarah, that’s a very amusing image), but I can see sending a kid to a class like that with a PBJ and a piece of fruit, or something of that nature.

  34. I recall being that 10-12ish age and attending a babysitting class. The hospital where it was being held was two blocks away from my house, so I walked. No one asked where my mother was. I brought the check my mother gave me for the class fee, took the class, received a certificate and a folder of cool stuff. Then I walked home.

    On another note, the line about the “Please send your child with water and a snack and a lunch” made me laugh. Because parents DO need to be told this! A 2nd grade teacher friend of mine decided with other 2nd grade teachers to take a field trip to an environmental center during the winter. They did not feel it was necessary to tell parents to send their child with winter clothing and gear–because it was clearly winter and snowy.

    Several children arrived without gloves or coats. The parents angrily called to say “they didn’t know”.

  35. ^Oh, wait, my bad, it was Chihiro who made the comment about “swooping down on kids and cramming cupcakes into my mouths.” Still, I found it very funny, so thanks for the laugh. 🙂

  36. I would suspect this is less of an indictment of Free-Range Parenting and more of an indication of how litigious and blame-happy our country has become. This sounds to me more than a cover-your-ass policy, since if something happened to a child leaving without a parent, they could be sued into oblivion. Especially if this is attached to a children’s hospital, I’m sure they are very concerned about litigation, given the climate of medical-related litigation.

  37. “Please send a water bottle, lunch and snack with your child. There is no cafeteria available. (Because clearly, neither I nor my kids would think of this on our own for a class that runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.!)”

    I don’t understand this hostility. It would be natural to assume there was a cafeteria, or that arrangements had been made for a group lunch. Even if it were obvious kids had to bring their own lunch (and it’s not), it would be really easy for a 12-year-old not to think of this.

    Free-range parenting has a lot to recommend it, but this isn’t the first time I’ve been puzzled by an angry reaction against something that’s a harmless effort to be nice (by keeping a kid from going hungry while everyone else eats their lunches and snacks).

    What is it about free-rangeism that makes people so mad about little things?

  38. In the late 80s when I was 8 I went to a summer class at the science museum and they were quite upset that I arrived and departed on the city bus. They insisted that my parents had to drop me off and pick me up, but my mom pointed out that it wasn’t in their rules and they had already cashed the check. They let me do it that year, but the next year they explicitly changed the rules and I was quite dissapointed I couldn’t go to camp.

  39. I’m surprised to see that no one so far has shared my gut reaction: “a babysitting class?” I babysat at 12 without one, and the 13 year old who sits sometimes with my daughter hasn’t taken one, and it’s hard for me to imagine what the class would teach her that a sane, responsible 13 year old – someone I’ve decided to hire as a sitter – couldn’t learn from me in a casual 10 minute conversation the first time we talk about the possibility s/he might babysit. Sure, skip the class for the reason other commenters have given. While you’re at it, skip the class and teach your kids what they need to know to sit.

  40. The school district here has a strict busing policy of 1.7Km. If you are past that, you get bused. If you aren’t, you have to walk. It really peeves me that they think that walking 1.16km in the opposite direction to a bus stop is feasible alternative to putting a bus stop outside of the complex we live at. We’re at 1.9km from school and there should be a bus stop there to at least get the kids to school.

    Coming home from school, is another matter. The kids like walking home. I don’t mind because it gets them the exercise they need.

    Any kid who dares to tell me that it is “illegal” for them to walk to school gets laughed at.

  41. Kenny,
    Sure, I can teach my kids the basics. However, I am not a certified CPR instructor, nor are most parents. CPR certification is one of the major reasons why kids take babysitting classes. Many parents who are looking to hire a sitter insist on this certification, especially from younger sitters. So, “skip the class and teach your kids [yourself]” is not really an option.

  42. I think a kid can be a good babysitter without the class. Still, those classes have some wonderful information even beyond the CPR and first aid.

  43. @Erik M.: I agree with you, it is a useful reminder. Even if 90% of people think about it, it sure would suck to be in the 10%.

    In particular, a need to bring water is definitely worth a reminder. I would have guessed a public building would have a drinking fountain sonewhere.

    @Susannah: CPR seems odd. Heart attacks are somewhat rare in the under-10 set. Perhaps it’s just a proxy for some basic first-aid training and ability to take some issues seriously?

  44. I think “babysitters need to have CPR training” is a good example of what I, and this blog in general, find somewhere in between hysterically funny and heartbreakingly sad. Sigh.

  45. @Kenny: A lot of people use “CPR” to mean “First Aid”. I get certified in “CPR” every year since my job requires it. I get trained in CPR for babies as a part of it, although I will most likely never, ever use it as I work in heavy construction.

    OTOH, I insist my kids get CPR/First Aid/AED certified so that they have the knowledge and confidence to do what’s right. Last year when we came up on a situation where an 11 year old broke his arm in the backcountry 2 hours from help and 9 hours from the nearest hospital, my then-13 year old daughter knew what to do and did it calmly and without panic.

    That’s what freerange is all about; giving your kids the tools to act responsibly in situations they may come across.

    I’m not really sure what you find “hysterically funny” about a child knowing how to act in an emergency situation.

  46. This sounds more like the protocol for a daycare centre where you would take infants or toddlers !!! Ridiculous. I hope they can hear the irony in their own rules.

  47. CPR isn’t for kids having heart attacks. It is for choking, drowning, electicution, and other reasons, rare as they are, that a child may need to be recuscusitated.

    I took a babysitter course when Iwas young, and baby sat by 11 (multiple kids, not my siblings). I later took first aid, then became a lifeguard, first aid instructor, and EMT. I have never done CPR, but being prepared doesn’t make me hysterical. If anything it makes me more willing to take risks and give my kids freedom. “Emergencies” are rare, not unheard of, and knowing how to handel emergencies is not a requirement, but can be an asset.

  48. CPR is actually far more effective for people whose hearts stop for reasons other than heart disease. In fact, the protocol for children is to check for a clear airway and then perform 1 minute of CPR BEFORE calling for help, because in all likelihood their hearts stopped for lack of oxygen. For adults, you are supposed to call for help immediately, because they need a defib or drugs to get started again and CPR is a very poor substitute for actual breathing and heart beating.

  49. OK. While it may be a bit of an over-reaction to have to escort the kids to the classroom and sign them in and out, can I ask this?

    Is the classroom somewhere within the medical center? I can see not wanting to have children wandering around looking for the classroom (not that, as a nurse, I think it’s any better to have adults wandering around!) So the medical center may be indulging in a bit of CYA.

    And, if it IS in the medical center, often classrooms are not near the cafeteria so the kids would need to be taken over to it. Most hospital cafeterias are not large and a group of any size, taking into consideration the staff usually is on restricted lunch hours, can really interfere. (Yes, I am a nurse and I’ve dealt with this).

    I would imagine a babysitting course means the one by the Red Cross, which teaches CPR, basic child care (a lot of kids have never changed a diaper these days). A class isn’t a bad idea. My kids took the RC course, years ago.

  50. I babysat my brother long before I took a babysitting class. I mostly did it because my 4-H friends were doing it. Knowing how to help a choking baby is a good thing, because it does happen. I still vividly remember my mother grabbing up my baby brother, turning him upside down and swatting his back. The ice cube came right out. I was 11, and doubt I would have known what to do had I been on my own. Yet, I had babysat him before that event. Now, most of my friends had siblings close in age, so they didn’t get the same experiences that I had.

    I seem to recall some first aid stuff in my Lamaze class too. It is good for first time parents to also know some basics.

  51. In light of Dawn G.D.’s question, I’d want to know what this “local children’s medical center” is. Is it really a hospital, or are we talking office building with a variety of pediatric offices in it? There are places here in town called “medical centers” that contain a group practice of three or four doctors!

    Before we paint the picture of a child wandering around a hospital and stumbling into the ICU trying to find a classroom, I’d want to know that.

    Erik, I do agree with you — I was a little puzzled by that, too. As an adult, I’d appreciate literature being informative to that degree for some session I was attending, as well, just so I knew what the arrangements would be. I wouldn’t think of it as an attack on either my parenting skills or my intelligence to be informed of what I’d be expected to furnish vs. what would be provided, since these things vary depending on how the event is organized.

  52. I think it’s awesome you put your sons in a babysitting class which culturally is usually for girls! Awesome mom!!!

  53. @Shaylene: I keep trying to get my 11 year old son to sign up for modern dance, cheer, gymnastics…. I keep telling him that by the time he’s 16 he’ll thank me but he never listens… . 🙂

  54. @Erik M. – I agree with you. Lunch arrangements would have been a question that I would have asked if not in the information. They could have worded it more generic – i.e. “Lunch will not be provided” – but it is good information to know.

    I do question the need for both a snack and a lunch. Really, one opportunity to eat in a 5 hour time period is perfectly sufficient.

    @ Kenny – I agree with you completely. The whole idea of a babysitting class is a bit over-the-top. I didn’t know a single person who took such a class when I was a kid and we all babysat. Nor have I ever considered CPR as a requirement for babysitting. Heck, I know MANY, MANY parents who don’t know CPR (myself included).

    This is not to discount CPR and first aid classes for kids. I think they are great and will encourage my daughter to take them when she is older. I just don’t think CPR and anything beyond basic first aid that any kid should know through tending their own injuries by 11-12 is a prerequisite to being a good babysitter and am not really sure what the point of babysitting class is beyond that. I’m certainly not more (or less) inclined to hire a babysitter who has taken such a class. Just kinda seems like a time-filler class to me.

  55. I took this same course in the late 80’s as a 6th grader and learned CPR/First Aid, emergency preparedness…some of the same skills I was required to learn many years later in pursuit of my teaching degree. I don’t think it’s over the top for a caregiver of children to be prepared for emergency situations, and as a child the training made me feel confident and somewhat “professional” as an 11-year-old babysitter.

  56. @Chihiro adults are fine eating 3 times a day, elementary school age kids should eat 5 times. When people used to have set times for meal, brunch was common. (English does not have a name for a meal between lunch and dinner, but other languages do).

    It does not mean that you have to give the kid a cooked meal and fill him up with cookies. It used to be a fruit, milk and a small piece of bread. The exact food vary by location, but get the idea.

    There is no reason to assume that if it is not a lunch then it is a candy or cookies.

  57. Brunch is not generally an additional meal between lunch and dinner. At least in the US, brunch is a meal, usually eaten late morning, that replaces breakfast and lunch and combines aspects of both. I’ve never known elementary school age kids to get snacks, in addition to lunch, at school. Not in my childhood, my mother’s childhood or my grandparents’ childhood.

    There is no reason that a child needs to consume a snack, healthy or not, AND lunch during a 5 hour class. I think lunch is reasonable because the class covers a typical mealtime, but 11-12 year olds can live with breakfast before class, lunch during class and hold off until after 2 for a snack.

  58. @Donna, know it is totally off topic, but the lunch/snack thing interests me. We always (at school, anyway) have a snack at around 10.30 and lunch at around 12.30. Still, lunches always are packed at home for state primary students (most high schools have canteens, though they don’t serve meals like I see on the movies of US and European high schools). That said, the total food intake for the school day usually consists of something like two sandwiches, a piece of fruit and a bikky or piece of cake. How do you all go from 8.30 or whatever to lunchtime with no food intake? Just interested…..

  59. Actually I mean the kids…..they get so restless otherwise. Maybe it’s because they do a fair bit of physical exercise, but I do find my charges concentrate better when they’ve had their snack and run-around.

    The hardest thing with the littlies is making sure they don’t eat their sandwich at morning tea, or the afternoon is hell!

  60. What a great idea for a scheme shame about the sloppy execution! Children can be so responsible, but red tape around the nursery just lets the whole concept down.

    Smudge & Dribble

  61. @Hineata–it’s just normal in North America to eat that way. When I first arrived in Australia, I’d never had “morning tea,” because by the time “morning tea” rolled around, I felt like I’d practically just had breakfast. So, I never adopted the custom for myself.

  62. I’m surprised by the number of people here who feel that just belligerently sending the kids on their own, AFTER you’ve spoken with the people running the program, would be a good idea in any way. I applaud Cheryl for her way of handling this… asking questions, challenging the rules but also acknowledging that the rules should be followed in the interim, no matter how ridiculous she deems them. Teaching kids to follow, but challenge silly rules (not rules that are actually hurting people in an immediate and tangible way- those are another story) is a great step in teaching them how to handle adversity properly!

  63. @Donna- Our elementary school has a morning snack time. It only offers 1/2 day kindergarten so they also have an afternoon snack for the pm session. I fed my daughter lunch and send her off to school at 12:30 and she had a 2pm snack. My youngest rarely ate hers (an apple or banana and water) and usually she just did work through it.

  64. Christi, I understand what you are saying, but unfortunately just questioning these people on their silly rules isn’t enough anymore. They get questioned on the rules on a regular basis, and nothing is done about it.
    9 times out of 10 it is staffers just blindly following policies set down by lawyers, for the simple reason of butt covering.
    It is not enough for our kids to see us question these things, and then give into them. Our kids need to see us stand up for what we believe in, and not give into the silliness. You question the policy and then give in, is the same as telling our kids that we were wrong and they were right.
    I raise my kids according to my standards, and not to what the “majority” feels I should be doing. My kids are my kids, not anyone else’s. If we do not actually fight for our rights, things will only get worse.

  65. It’s actually much healthier to have 6 SMALL meals spread out throughout the day than 3 large. And hineata, I suspect your kids are probably getting a lot more exercise than most kids here in America during the school day, so I can see where some extra nutrition would be critical to the learning environment.

  66. I agree with those who say that extensive training is not “necessary’ in the sense that you need to know it in order to watch kids, but nowadays it’s fairly “necessary” as a marketing thing — parents want to know potential babysitters have it. My daughter, whom everyone knows has a younger brother and is able to do normal housekeeping tasks and is quite responsible, keeps getting asked “Have you had the babysitter training?” And because we’ve never gotten around to doing it, she usually gets a polite “Well, when you’ve had some training maybe we’ll call you” kind of response. And beyond that, the kids do learn some things that make them better, more fun and/or confident babysitters (particularly kids who don’t have younger siblings or much experience with other younger kids.) So if you want your kid to have that training, I don’t see a need to criticize the process, even if it’s not really “necessary.”

  67. I, too, understand what Christi is getting at, and yet I still don’t really see it as “belligerent” to drop a competent child off to find his way in and out of a classroom at the beginning and end of a day. Belligerent would be to insist that the child can or will not do something that really disrupts any part of the actual process.

    Generally I’m a go along to get along person so i would probably just do it the way they ask but I don’t really find the act of dropping off a child “belligerent” unless I expected to make some kind of scene while doing it.

  68. @Jennifer Soliz – CPR training also covers how to treat drowning, choking and other “OMG he’s turning blue” problems.

  69. As with many things, it is better to ask forgiveness than permission.

  70. …this is just goofy. When I started babysitting, at about age 12, we didn’t have a babysitting class but my mom did insist I take a CPR class (one aimed at adults) at the fire department. So I got on my bike and rode across town. I remembered to take $5 out of my allowance money so when we broke for lunch I could walk to a nearby restaurant for a slice of pizza or a sandwich. And then I biked back home afterwards to show off my new certification.

    Because I was 12. And my mother had better things to do than ferry around an almost-teenager who was fully capable of getting herself around town. (And the firefighters assumed anyone taking an adult certification course in order to be responsible for small children can probably be trusted to get herself to and from the class without having to be told how to do it.)

  71. Okay, this is a bit off-topic, but remember that “homemade” music camp that I mentioned a while ago that I was helping to run? Well, today was the first day, and it turns out that the kids (aged 7-11) have to be escorted to the bathroom by a camp counsellor–within a church building. Originally, we weren’t going to have any such rule, but ONE set of parents insisted upon it for their son, and I guess my co-director doesn’t want him to feel singled out. However, we do have a pair of sisters who have been given permission to ride their bikes to and from camp, and sign themselves in and out–but, while they’re there, they apparently can’t go to the bathroom alone. One step forward, two steps back.

  72. @hineata – It just seems to be the way that it is done in the US. I don’t know what you typically eat for breakfast in New Zealand (hopefully not the cold Spaghetti O sandwiches that the Kiwi’s were downing at breakfast while on vacation in Samoa last week. Yuck!). If you eat a good, protein-based breakfast, you shouldn’t need anything to eat for several hours. If you eat a carb-based breakfast, you’re probably looking for a snack within two.

    School lunch times also vary in the states. Lunch is spread out; sometimes varying as widely as 10a to 2p, depending on how many lunch periods are needed to feed all the kids. So it is definitely not a consistent 12:30 across the board for everyone to eat lunch. I think my daughter had lunch at 11:20 in kindy when we were in the states. I know a few teachers with extreme lunch times that have instituted snacks because otherwise the kids are going many hours without food.

    I do think that some of it is just habit. People are very Pavlovian. We get hungry when we are used to eating. If you have grown up eating breakfast at 7:30 and lunch at 11:30, you get hungry at 7:30 and 11:30, If you are used to eating morning tea, you get hungry at tea time.

    @lollipoplover – Snacks for all grades? I’ve heard of a snack in kindergarten but I’ve never heard of a regular snack break in 1st-5th grades.

  73. What an oxymoron. This was good for a chuckle. Thanks for sharing the laugh. Good luck, Cheryl! Would love to see the posted ongoing response!

  74. I’m surprised. I sent my 9 an d10 year old on their bikes a couple weeks ago to camp. They signed themselves in and out. Honestly it didn’t really occur to me to send them on their own until I saw I had that option. They only road on the sidewalk about 1 mile.

    Today though I was 35 minutes late to pick up my son at camp, and yes, I was beyond horrified at the situation but stuck in traffic caused by an accident. I told them, just go ahead and leave him at the park. I’ll be there in 10 minutes. Of course they said “no, we can’t do that”. I get it.

    Fact is, people don’t want to be sued and they’ll go out of their way to not be.

    In my business people leave their kids often to go to their cars. I say go ahead” but there is a part of me that wonders if I’m going to regret that.

  75. Classic! Fight the power!!

    My 11 year old just had to wait 20 minutes after she was done babysitting for neighbors (less than 100 yds from my house) for the grandpa to come home so he could DRIVE her home. Grandma wouldn’t let her walk by herself at 8pm at night or leave the kids (who were in bed) alone for 2 minutes to walk her herself or see her around the corner from the side yard. This is a crime free, totally SAFE small town, no traffic, thugs etc.

    Paranoia will destroy ya!!

  76. @Kate — It doesn’t stop in some families. My 90-year-old grandfather, whom I walked home from a gathering at my aunt’s, one cul-de-sac block over from his place, wouldn’t let me leave his house alone 5 minutes later. (I’m a 28-year-old woman, and I’ve lived in an urban environment for years, often walking alone at night.) He insisted that I call my aunt’s and “have my dad come pick me up”. When my 60-year-old mother arrived a few minutes later, having walked ALL BY HERSELF, my grandfather was less than pleased with my dad. My mother, and everyone else, found this concern highly amusing.

  77. On the snack front….my junior high/high school (smallish private school) had a long break in between classes mid-morning, and set out crackers and juice in the lunchroom for students to grab a snack. They recognized that a lot of kids skipped breakfast, and felt it was better to provide something to eat than to let their brains continue to starve. It was referred to as “milk lunch” for some unknown historical reason. Setting up and cleaning up was the responsibility of one of the school service groups – students in the club usually rotated and did prep or clean up one day a week.

  78. There’s nothing at all unreasonable about expecting lunch in a 5-hour class. I don’t normally like to go 5 hours w/o eating something. And given that you would need SOME amount of time to get to and from a class, if you ate before and after, you’d probably be closer to 6 hours between meals. A long way from shoving a snack at them constantly. I also think clarifying that there’s no cafeteria is perfectly reasoable–that kind of logistical stuff is often provided for daylong training classes I have for work, it was for my son’s driver’s ed, etc.

  79. It seems society caters to the “helicopter parent” doesn’t it?

  80. Hi. It’s Lenore, just checking something weird going on with my comments and email. L

  81. Hi i was wondering if my sister and i could start a babysitting bisnus at our house

  82. but what matterials do we need so just let me know what we need to be a babysitter

    anyway thanks for your help

  83. I took the American Red Cross babysitting course when I was in 5th grade (1998-99). It was held at a hotel in my town and my mom would drop be off outside and come back to pick me up at the scheduled time, meanwhile hauling my three other siblings (ages 13, 6, and 2) to various activities. This was also the time when my mom got her first cell phone, and to help her remember her cell number she had it written on a post-it note stuck to the dashboard of our minivan. One day, we somehow missed the memo that babysitting class was cancelled and she dropped me off, I went inside by myself, and she left as usual. When I got inside and realized there was no class, I sat around for a while wondering what to do and after about 1/2 hour decided to find the front desk and dial her cell number – my first time calling it. Just from sitting in the car and seeing the post-it note, I had conveniently but unintentionally memorized the number and was able to call and have her come back to get me. NO big deal. Needless to say, I am still alive today! Just thought I’d share since that incident shows both a kid being resourceful and managing an unexpected situation, as well as the way the “rules” have changed for acceptable parenting surrounding babysitting class.

  84. Hi everyone, Cheryl here. I enjoyed reading your comments. In response to some of your questions: This class was offered through Children’s Hospital in Seattle, Washington but was located at a small-medium’ish office building in a nearby suburb, not on the medical center’s campus.

    I wasn’t feeling hostile about being told they should bring some food, but it did strike me as nanny state. My kids are bright enough to think about these things, and if they don’t, then they get a very natural and built-in lesson. As for a water bottle? Well, there was a drinking fountain across the hall from the classroom they were using.

    CPR/First Aid was not part of this class, it was a separate class which my boys took just a few days later, on a Saturday. That was at a different office building, and are you sitting down for this one: the building was locked during the class “because there are children in the building”. When I came to pick them up, I had to be let in by a security guard. BTW, this particular building is a whopping half block off of Seattle’s most commonly used walking & biking trail.

    And finally — why take a babysitting class? Yes, I know, I didn’t have any formal training either. But here’s my take on it: 1) marketing! As one reader mentioned, most parents really want their sitters to have a certificate. 2) with smaller families and looser-knit communities, kids don’t necessarily have a lot of exposure to younger kids. My kids learned some great info about developmental stages, favorite activities for kids of different ages, etc.

    My next incident happened at Costco. But maybe I should tell Lenore about that one in a separate message.

    Blessings to all of you & your lucky kids!

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