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Trusting a Child is Not Neglect

Lenore Skenazy on

Laws like that would NOT suddenly allow parents to let their 3-year-olds run around at night or their 6-year-olds to babysit their baby brothers for a weekend -- because those things are NOT reasonable.

But if a mom thinks her 7-year-old would be fine at home while she runs to the corner grocery, she can't be second-guessed by any authorities because she has not put her child in immediate, obvious or probable danger.

Our laws should also prevent the authorities from hounding parents just because something COULD have gone wrong. Yes, the house COULD have caught fire while mom shopped. A burglar COULD have broken in.

But a child walking with mom to the grocery COULD get hit by a drunk driver, or caught in a gun fight, or chewed by a rabid chinchilla. Just because bad things COULD happen doesn't mean they are likely, and if they really aren't likely, you can't castigate a parent for trusting the odds.

Confusion about open-ended neglect laws has made people such as my neighbor convinced that the state is ready to pounce the instant she takes her eyes off her kid, even when she knows he can handle some time alone.


Our job as reasonable parents is to find out the local laws. But if those laws won't let us trust our kids when we believe they're ready for some independence, it's time to change them.


Lenore Skenazy is president of Let Grow, a contributing writer at,and author of "Has the World Gone Skenazy?" To learn more about Lenore Skenazy ( and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

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