Imagine this: It’s the weekend and your domestic helper has the day off, so there’s no one to prepare lunch. While you could bring your kids out for a meal, it’s just too much of a hassle, especially since junior’s tuition teacher is arriving in the next hour or so. Because your trusty neighbour is out, your only choice is to leave your oldest child in charge for the 20 minutes you need to nip out and buy lunch.
While this kid might be able to supervise her younger brothers and sisters for a short while, remember that he or she still lacks the experience, physical strength and maturity to do so for an extended period of time. Noting that the responsibility of parenting lies with you and not your older kids, Focus on the Family parenting specialist Sarah Chua lists factors to help you decide if your child is fit to look after her younger siblings for short episodes:
While this kid might be able to supervise his younger brothers and sisters for a short while, remember that he or she still lacks the experience, physical strength and maturity to do so for an extended period of time.
1. Can she take care of herself? You shouldn’t let age be the deciding factor to determine if your child is ready for the responsibility. Instead, you should consider your older child’s physical and mental maturity. Chua suggests that you ask if she knows what the home safety rules — like keeping away from the windows or sharp objects — are? Can she look after her own basic needs? If your child does not have these vital skills, giving her the responsibility of caring for her sibling or siblings is setting her up for failure.
2. Is she able to think on her feet? Consider your child’s level of emergency preparedness before you decide that she’s mature enough to look after her siblings. Besides knowing whom and how to call for help when needed, she must know how to respond to stranger danger. One way is to keep the doors locked while you’re out, which should reduce any chance that she’ll invite strangers into the house.
3. Does she know what to do in an emergency? Is your kid trained in basic first aid — will she know what to do when someone sustains a cut, a bruise or a burn? Have you childproofed your home to minimise accidents? Make sure to provide your child with an essential list of numbers, including yours, she can call if there’s an emergency at home.
4. How good or strong is the relationship between your children? Even the best of siblings have their squabbles. What matters is your child’s ability to resolve or look past their differences ― that responsibility usually rests with your oldest child. Chua says junior must be able to manage her younger siblings and get them to listen to her without resorting to violence or abusing her power. Also, do check if your younger children have any concerns or have been mistreated by their older sibling, before you ask jie jie or gor gor to hold the fort.
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