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Is 13 Too Young to Babysit?

A Connecticut mom was arrested after leaving her kids home in the charge of a 13-year-old.

Moms Talk is a weekly feature on all Lehigh Valley Patches in which local parents, caregivers and other members of the community are invited to share opinions and advice on parenting topics.

This week’s Moms Talk question relates to the “right” age to begin babysitting.

This spring, a Connecticut mom was arrested and accused of endangering her four children when she left them under the supervision of a 13-year-old babysitter. The 13-year-old happened to be her oldest child and that child was supposed to watch three younger siblings – ages 10, 4 and 18 months – for one hour while the mother was at church. During that time, as the story goes, the 4-year-old walked across the street into a neighbor’s yard, and the neighbor reported the situation to the police.

And, that brings us to this week’s Moms Talk question:

Would you leave your kids with a 13-year-old babysitter?

Our Moms Council members include: 

  • Lisa Amey of Upper Milford Township is a stay-at-home mother of two. A past president of the MOMS Club of Emmaus and longtime member of MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers), Lisa is an Independent Consultant for Arbonne International. 
  • Lisa Drew of Emmaus is a certified nutritionist and personal trainer, wellness and fitness coach with more than 17 years of experience. She is the mother of a 13-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy.
  • Jennifer Elston of Emmaus has almost two decades of professional experience in child development and counseling. She is currently a stay-at-home mom to two beautiful girls. Together with her husband, Chris, she owns Christopher Elston Photography.
  • Jeanne Lombardo of Nazareth is the mother of a 10-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. She’s new to the Lehigh Valley, having moved to Nazareth from Bergen County, NJ in January.
  • Lisa Merk of Lower Macungie is a stay-at-home mother of four boys – a 12-year-old and 6-year-old triplets. Lisa is a past president of the MOMS Club of Lower Macungie East. In her “spare” time, Lisa teaches piano to school-age children.
  • Zoila Bonilla Paul of Bethlehem is a stay-at-home mom to two girls – a 5-year-old and a 14-month-old. Zoila is a member of her local “moms’ club” and says she is “well-versed in the fun that children can bring.”
  • Beth Sharpless of Emmaus works part time in a local emergency department as a nurse and part time from home as a customer support specialist. She has two children -- a boy who is 3 and a 6-year-old girl. She says they love spending time outdoors and dancing.

If you would like to become a part of the Moms Council and/or have ideas for future Moms Talk questions, please email jennifer.marangos@patch.com.

kerry follweiler December 02, 2012 at 01:39 PM
I babysat when I was 13. My opinion is there is no magic age, your babysitter just needs to be mature. Now the kids today are a little to coddeled. The problem was that the sibling left the house unobserved to its sitter. Maybe 3 children was just to big of a number to be left with. Im sure the mother would not have left her children alone if she didnt think her 13 year old couldnt handle it. At least I hope that is the case
Mary Anne Looby December 02, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Most 13 year olds are mature and capable enough to babysit. I had a 13 year old baby sit my daughter from the time of her birth and she subsequetly went on with here sister to be the only two sitters my kids ever had when they were young. Both girls are now married with childrent of their own. I will say that they took babysitting courses, at the Y and volunteered in the baby room at a childcare in preperation for my daughters birth. These gilrls were some of the best influences on my kids. We continued to visit them even after they moved away and were in college. My daughter was in her babysistters wedding. It dosn't get much better. On the other hand a 13 year old as the eldest of 4 could create a problem. My experience was that the kids did not listen to the older sibling the way they listen to an babysitter from outside the family.
phylliss ward December 03, 2012 at 01:37 AM
I babysat at the age of fourteen and on one night, I had six children to watch. It all depends on like everyone stated the maturity of the child. it is a shame that the neighbor didn't offer to help and instead caused such anguish for this family. I am sure the eldest is indeed upset about all of this as not only did he put his sibling in danger by not keeping a closer eye out, but now may lose his mom, too. So sad.
kerry follweiler December 03, 2012 at 03:18 AM
I agree with Phyliss on the neighbor helping. Noone wants to lend a hand these days. This could ve happened to the mother too. I know my daughter was opening the door and trying to get out at a young age.
Carl W December 03, 2012 at 08:29 AM
"babysat when I was 13. My opinion is there is no magic age, your babysitter just needs to be mature." & competent. My first feeling was this. We set up legal ages for driving, alcohol, & voting (& employment), but it really comes down to the person. Suggestion? Other form of criteria for all these. "Too coddled" yes, but that needs astute attention, not just put them out & hope they'll survive, so to speak.
Lisa Amey December 03, 2012 at 12:15 PM
This is a sad story, and obviously a misjudgement on the mom's part. The maturity of the child and the number/ages of those being watched always need to be considered. I agree that younger ones may not cooperate with an oldest sibling babysitter, as opposed to someone outside the family. I wonder why the mom didn't bring her kids to church with her? Child care is usually provided.
AnnaMarie Zeravsky December 05, 2012 at 05:27 PM
I think 13 is too young, no matter how mature. I have 2 young girls, ages 2 yrs old and 7 months. I would not allow a 13 year old to watch my kids. I was a mature 13 year old too and I babysat many kids. My concern is not in how mature the person is but how they would handle an emergency. No matter how mature I was, I just don't think I or most 13 year olds could handle an emergency well. I may be an over protective mother but I just dont feel that a 13 year old is mentally capable of always making the right decision when needing to think/act quickly.
Lanya December 05, 2012 at 06:20 PM
This situation could have happened whether the babysitter was 13, 33, 93. What mother dealing with her other young children has not 'misplaced' a child from time to time? Young kids sometimes wander out of the house and across the street like this little girl did. But by calling the police instead of just walking the girl back across the street to her home like most normal people would do, the neighbor has opened up a can of worms for this family that was probably unwarranted. People are so quick to hate on teenagers or call them immature when really, I feel the neighbor was the one without common sense in this case.
Lanya December 05, 2012 at 06:24 PM
One time, my family accidentally left 2 of my siblings behind at church. We had taken separate cars that day, and when we left for home, my dad thought my mom had the kids while my mom thought my dad had the kids. We arrived home to a phone message that a nice parishioner had taken them out to lunch at McDonald's and would meet up with us halfway to collect the missing siblings! Nobody called the police on that one, thank God! LOL
tamarya December 05, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Today they would call the police though Lanya. It is good they have protection laws, but they have too many laws even this situation should not have warrented a police call, especially if the neighbor knew who the kid was, simply tell the kid to go home or walk them home is all it would take. And there were sickos around when we all grew up and our parents were not aware of them like parents are today because of megans law.
AnnaMarie Zeravsky December 05, 2012 at 07:11 PM
While I do agree with you (shame on the neighbor for causing this mother a huge can of worms!) I still wouldn't want a 13 year old watching my children. Most moms have or will "misplace" a child. However, I would not want to put a 13 year old through the unneeded feeling of guilt should something terrible happen during that innocent "misplacement". A 13 year old is still a child themselves and would not handle the situation well (emotionally) if something bad would happen on their watch.
tamarya December 05, 2012 at 07:19 PM
No one will ever handle something like that emotionally well. I am sure the mother is going through emotional stress now also but no one cares about that. And now those kids have a bigger emotional issue because their mom was arrested, for doing nothing that really was a crime. As for if you would not let your kids with a 13 yr old, then don't, that is you choice, just like it is someone's choice if they choose to let them with a 13 yr old. Personally if it weren't for my daughter's behaver I would leave them with a 13 yr old, but she would walk all over a 13 yr old more than anything. Personally she needs old fashioned punishment, but thanks to child laws punishing her to get it to sink in would lead me to jail also, because tried the new ways, the time outs, the no toys and everything else and she could careless. So I could imagine how she would walk all over a 13 yr old.

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