Parents, you should be worried.
A mother in British Columbia, Canada has been told that she cannot leave her eight-year-old son unattended for two hours, from when he returns from school at 3 p.m. until she gets home from work at 5 p.m.
It all started when the child’s father, who is separated from the mother, contacted a provincial social worker to review the situation. It went to court, where the social worker testified that “children under 10 lack the cognitive ability to stay safe on their own at such a young age due to potential incidents such as accidental poisoning or fires.”
The mother argued that children mature at different rates, there was no proof her child was unsafe, and there is no law stating that children cannot be left on their own.
It’s true, there wasn’t legislation setting a minimum age for being alone in British Columbia, until last week when the provincial Supreme Court sided with the social worker and ruled that “children under the age of 10 could not be safely left alone, therefore establishing there were reasonable grounds to believe [the boy] required protection, and that such protection could be effected by a supervision order.”
This ruling sets a very alarming precedent, regardless of this particular boy’s maturity level. By making such a decision, the Supreme Court demonstrates that it considers child service workers better able to gauge a child’s maturity level than their own parents. It undermines parents’ authority, despite their obvious vested interest in their own child’s wellbeing and their intimate knowledge of that child.
Vancouver bloggers Chris and Melissa Bruntlett also point out:
“It leads to a scenario in which parents begin to second-guess their own better judgment. Judgment, one could argue, that instills responsibility and freedom in their children, two qualities that are sorely lacking in many young people today.”
Just as it seemed that North American society was starting to acknowledge and accept the fact that encouraging independence from a young age greatly benefits children and makes them more self-sufficient, confident, and successful adults, it appears we’ve taken great leaps backward – in the direction of mandating helicopter parenting. (See this infographic on the damaging effects of helicopter parenting.)
John Paul Boyd, executive director of the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family, says the boy’s mother made a good defense. Children do mature at different speeds.
Boyd says: “There are seven-year-old kids that I would trust with the keys to my house, and 17-year-old kids I would never trust with the keys to my house. It's a parent's right to decide whether or not her particular child is old enough and mature enough to handle those decisions on his own.”