19/08/2014 16:29 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Mum Leaves Her Seven-Year-Old Son Home Alone To Teach Him Independence


Would you feel comfortable leaving your child home alone - at the age of seven?

Mum-of-three Lizzie Heiselt is happy to leave her young son for short periods of time - as an antidote to helicopter parenting.

Lizzie believes the practice teaches kids independence and so regularly leaves her young son on his own in their apartment – though, for now, only for short periods of time of 45 minutes or less.

Lizzie, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, told MailOnline that she feels it's important for parents to draw the line between protecting their children and 'keeping them from developing confidence and growing into their own capable person'.

She added: "It's essential for kids to learn and be confident that they have the ability to take care of themselves and to fight their own battles - and to know that they have the support and confidence of their parents as well."

Lizzie writes a blog called Mother Runner on which she explains that her son – who she refers to as Manchild - is an 'old soul' who is responsible, follows the rules and is happy to be on his own.

She said when he asked to be left at home while she went to the launderette around the corner from their apartment building, she decided to go along with it, but only after teaching him what to do in case of emergency.

Another time, she took her two younger children for a run, and again she let her son stay behind.

She said: "I was gone for about 45 minutes for the longer of the excursions, [and] by the end of that time, I was a little bit anxious to get home.

"He was starting to wonder when we were getting back as well, so it seems we both felt that 45 minutes was about our limit - for now."

However, she plans to extend the time by leaving him alone more frequently until he becomes more comfortable with the experience.

She added: "Not that he wouldn't be able to handle himself in terms of following the rules or taking care of himself.

"But more that he would start to get anxious and worried, which I don't think is terribly important for him to experience at this point in his life or in this context."

Lizzie has written that she is averse to the idea of 'helicopter parenting' - mothers and fathers who stifle their kids by being too involved in their lives - and instead encourages hers to learn and do things on their own.

She said: "They need to have the ability to make their own decisions in life and to function without supervision.

"Getting in the way of that maturing process can, I believe, cripple children as they grow up and don't have the confidence or the knowledge of how to handle problems as they arise."

But is she doing anything illegal? No – in the state of New York it is perfectly legal to leave your child alone because the authorities trust the parents.

According to the Child Protective Services website, there is no specific age limit when it comes to children being at home alone.

It reads: "Some children are responsible, intelligent, and independent enough to be left alone at 12 or 13 years of age.

"Parents and guardians need to make intelligent, reasoned decisions regarding these matters."

Lizzie said she's confident that she has made the right decision for her son - although her feelings on the topic may be significantly different when her daughter, now two, is his age.

She said: "I like to think that it would depend on the child, regardless of their gender, but I also know that little girls appear more vulnerable.

"I think when she gets to be that old I will first need to evaluate her temperament and decide if she has the maturity and awareness to handle that kind of responsibility."

More on Parentdish: When can you leave your children home alone?