Ages and privileges: how does it work at your house?

After  getting a few questions about various rules and privileges at our house, I thought I’d put together a post answering some of those questions. As you might expect when folks have been parenting 20+ years like we have, there are rules that have changed and adapted with changing times. In some cases we’ve gradually gotten more lenient, and in other cases we’ve gotten more careful. In all these parenting decisions, I think it’s really important to look at the kid. Some kids simply are ready for things sooner than others. If you’ve dealt with these issues in your home, I’d love to hear what you do differently and what you do like we do.

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How old do kids have to be to stay home alone?

This varies from child to child, but in general by the time they’re 12 or so, I’ll occasionally let them be home alone for an hour or so.  By the time they’re 14, I usually feel okay about leaving them for an afternoon.  This summer for the first time ever, we’ve had to leave older teens home while we’ve been out of town.  It’s such a new/uncomfortable thing for us that we opted to have the teens hang out at my parents’ house for the nights and at least part of each day while we were gone.  Probably overly conservative there, but it is what gave us the most peace of mind.

What about babysitting siblings?

I will occasionally let a 12 year old stay home for half an hour or so with a younger sibling– for example if I am going running, or quickly driving a sibling to work.  Babysitting multiple younger siblings for any length of time doesn’t usually happen til the child is 14, and even then it depends on how challenging the younger set can be and how mature and patient the older child is.  As far as paying siblings to babysit younger ones, that happens infrequently, and usually only if the number of hours is substantial.

Do you give an allowance to your kids?  If so, is it tied to household chores?

We don’t do allowance at our house.  We consider an hour or so of chores each day to be a normal part of living in our family. All kids have jobs at our house, beginning in the preschool years.   Here’s another post I wrote about kids and chores and here’s another that I wrote about raising money-smart kids.

At what age do you start making the children pay for things on their own?

In general they start paying for wants when they’re teens, since that’s when they usually start babysitting and getting odd jobs helping out relatives.  But even elementary age kids will sometimes get the chance to earned a coveted item at the store by doing some extra yard work for me.  Depending on their effort, kids can earn $3-$5 an hour doing yard work any time they need to earn some money.


How do you handle internet/communication with friends?

This is such a challenging issue.  We allow internet use only on our living room computers, usually for 30 minutes a day or less.  They can get facebook when they’re 14, with passwords that I know, and the understanding that I can log into their account at any time.  We have Safe Eyes installed on all the computers in our home, with reports on every computer coming to my email on a daily basis. Kids can do internet searches for research as needed, with me nearby.  In general, any internet for kids under college happens after asking permission, and facebook privileges have occasionally been lost by kids who have gotten online without asking. Kids can buy their own computer when they graduate from high school, and college students can do internet-based homework in their rooms as needed, though we still prefer that social media stuff happen out in the living room. Kids younger than college don’t have smart phones, ipods, or any other device that accesses the internet.  They can use my phone to text friends as needed.  They can also use our house phone to talk directly with friends.

What about video games?

Kids can play x-box once or twice a week for maybe an hour or so– generally only on weekends, but sometimes on weekday evenings when everything else is done.  There are occasional video game marathons when friends come spend the night. Minecraft is a favorite at our houses these days with the under-teen kids.  Most of our games are marked ‘E’ (for everyone) or ‘T’ (for teens), with a couple carefully vetted ‘M’ (mature) games allowed for the 16+ crowd.  The teen/mature games are for times when no younger siblings are in the room.

How early do you get up? How do you structure your routine? 

I’m not a morning person, so I generally do not get up before 7 AM, and sometimes sleep in til 8. Here’s a homeschooling schedule from a few years back to give you an idea of how a typical day goes at our house.

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What do you do to take care of your self and have dates or time alone with your husband?

Since my youngest child these days is 9, I have more ‘take a break’ options than I used.  Usually we have some quiet time in the afternoons, and almost every night I stay up later than the kids for some quiet time.  Even teens are usually in their rooms by 10:30, though sometimes they stay up later reading.  John and I watch a TV show in our bedroom most evenings after everyone else has gone to bed.  (Lately we’ve enjoy White Collar and Royal Pains.)  We also go out to eat or to a movie once or twice a month.

What do you expect of college (or older) age that still live at home?

College kids are expected to tell us where they’re going and to be home at an hour reasonable for whatever outing it is that they’re attending.  In general they don’t do chores around the home, but are expected to pitch in occasionally when asked, have at least a summer job, and be putting good effort into school.  So far we haven’t had kids stay home after college, but we’ve told them they’re welcome til age 22 as long as they are employed full time, are respectful and fun to be around, and pay a small amount of rent if not attending school.

How do you handle things like bedtime and age appropriate movies when you have a wide range of ages in the house?

Younger children have earlier bedtimes than older ones.  If the teens want to watch a PG-13 movie, they wait until the younger ones are in bed.  We do sometimes try to choose movies that everyone can enjoy together as well.

How have you guided your children in the area of dating/courtship/preparation for marriage?

Our kids need to wait til they’ve graduated from high school before they can go on a one-on-one date with someone that we’ve met and that we feel comfortable with.  We believe that dating is not really just for entertainment.  It is for getting to know someone as a possible marriage partner, so it doesn’t make sense to begin that before someone is even a high school graduate. We talk on an ongoing basis about the various characteristics that make a good marriage partner, and of course bathe the entire situation in lots and lots of prayer.  We feel very blessed by the husbands that our older girls have chosen, and will continue to pray for God’s hand of guidance for our younger ones.

I think that answers all the questions that I got this past week or so.  I’d love to hear how other parents handle similar issues in their homes.  It takes a lot of wisdom and a lot of prayer and thought, doesn’t it?


  1. Fantastic! Thank you!

  2. When I was a teen I often had to babysit my brothers. I did not get paid unless I had to turn down a paid babysitting job with another family in order to babysit my brothers. It seems fair now, although at the time I probably thought they should pay me every time I babysat!

  3. Would you mind going a little farther on
    “We talk on an ongoing basis about the various characteristics that make a good marriage partner…”
    What are those characteristics and how do you explain to the 8-12 bunch?