What's The Right Age To...? Top Ten Questions

We’ve heard the adage that babies and children don’t come with instruction manuals. But sometimes, we need real advice to help us out when it comes to certain topics that we just can’t muddle through or get any answers. So we’ve taken your top ten questions and asked local experts for their professional opinions that seem to keep parents shaking their heads and throwing their hands in the air. 

Get my child a cell phone?

Age 10

Most parents feel their children should have a cell phone when they are away from home and they are engaged in activities that are off-school hours. Many parents limit the use of minutes to the minimum for emergency use only, but feel that when a child walks alone to a school bus or even rides a bicycle through the neighborhood, a cell phone is a matter of safety. The days of children not being able to contact their parents in case of an emergency are over. 

Allow my child to stay home alone?

Minimum age 10

While states across the U.S. have legal ages that range from eight to fourteen, Louisiana does not have a specific legal age limit that dictates when children can be home alone. There isn’t a magical age. Most kids can stay home for short periods of time by the time they are 10 as long as they have the maturity and confidence. Parents should consider the competence of the child and decision-making skills. A parent should begin by short periods of time such as one or two hours. Under ten is way too young since there may be emergencies beyond the child’s capacity to handle. Some children are actually afraid to be home alone, and some are just fine. Parents have to weigh these factors with children individually. However, leaving a child alone at any age, including the teen years, is a tricky and even dangerous situation. 

– Tiffany Thibodeaux, Licensed Professional Counselor of Prairieville Counseling

Open a checking account?

18 unless joint account with an adult

Depending on the bank, children must usually be 18 to have a checking account alone. They can, however, have a joint account with an adult. There are exceptions for student accounts. What is important is that children learn early to be responsible for money management. A checking account, even a joint one with a parent, is symbolic of money management. Children should learn at a far younger age to keep track of money, forecast expenses, add and subtract expenses, and see how much is remaining. An allowance is a great way to begin this process.

Ann Marie Erie, Community Outreach Coordinator, Neighbors Federal Credit Union in Baton Rouge

Begin receiving an allowance?

Elementary age; when a child can count money

Children should learn early that saving money is a behavior and a habit while growing up, and that there are consequences to mismanaging money. This prevents costly mistakes as an adult. There are basically two theories in giving an allowance. Some children receive a regular allowance that they do not earn. They may need a small amount of spending money for school activities, for example. They should not be paid for brushing their teeth, making good grades, and completing tasks that should be rewarded by healthy self-esteem and responsibility instead. Another way a child can receive allowance, however, is by doing random tasks that are not part of normal chores involved in being part of the family. The child may vacuum the parents’ car or help with a neighbor, for example. This teaches them to earn money outside normal routines and learn self-reliance. The important thing to remember is to start early and make money management a part of growing up. 

Ann Marie Erie, Community Outreach Coordinator, Neighbors Federal Credit Union in Baton Rouge

Take my child to the dentist?

By age 1

According to the American Association of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD), the general rule for taking a child to the dentist is in the first year. The motto of the AAPD is, “When does one plus one equal zero? ONE baby tooth + ONE pediatric dental visit = ZERO cavities.” AAPD research reveals that children who wait past their first birthday and do not see a dentist until age two or three “are more likely to have subsequent preventive, restorative and emergency visits.”

The main goal is to establish healthy visits in the first year, educate the parents and help the child get used to the environment and dentist. Parents learn how to clean the child’s gums and prevent infections, that can rot the teeth early. There are gum cleaners a dentist can give the parents for this. Then if there is a broken tooth or cavity later, the child’s visit to the dentist is not a scary one. An additional bonus is that some dentists offer free consultations for babies at different ages to establish communication and a relationship with the dentist. 

 Dr. Joseph Porter, DDS of Porter Orthodontics, Baton Rouge

Take my child to the orthodontist?

6-8 years 

When the first permanent teeth come in, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends a child be brought for a consultative visit to an orthodontist. The goal is to catch problems that can possibly be corrected and avoid braces. There may be an overbite, cross bite, or problems resulting from excessive thumb sucking that can be fixed early, but may be rather hard to treat later. 

Dr. Keith Kyler, DDS, Kyler Orthodontics, Baton Rouge

Teach my child to floss?

With help when two teeth are together; age 8 alone

As soon as a child has two teeth together, the parent should help the child floss. The child may not be able to do this by herself until her fine motor skills develop, but the parent can help the child make this part of her routine and prevent cavities from forming. The American Dental Association states that most children are able to floss on their own by age eight.

Dr. Keith Kyler, DDS, Kyler Orthodontics, Baton Rouge

Let my child bathe alone?

Varies, approximately age 6

A child should be able to go to the bathroom alone, brush his or her teeth and practice self-care adequately. Varying factors are how strong the child is, how verbal he is, how big he is, and how active he is. He should be able to sit up straight alone and sit securely. We want to encourage our children to learn the value of personal space and privacy, so kindergarten age is usually a good time to allow a short period of time alone as long as the child is monitored. A parent should always be in the vicinity of the bathroom, run the bath for the child, and ensure the water heater is down to 120 degrees. A good idea is to have the child sing or for you to talk to the child frequently to make sure he is okay. 

Dr. Mindy Calandro, Pediatrician, The Baton Rouge Clinic

Get a pet?

Varies; Age 5 or 6

Usually children are around age three before they understand not to pull a dog’s or cat’s tail. If a dog or cat is already in the home when a child is born, each situation must be evaluated differently for the safety of both the pet and child. Around age five, a child can participate in age-appropriate pet care such as putting water in the bowl, helping to bathe the pet, change its bedding, or going on dog walks with an adult. By the time a child is 12 or 13, he or she can usually take on most of the responsibilities minus transportation to the vet. Even responsible tweens and teens may become too busy to take care of the mundane, yet important tasks of pet care, and time is of the essence in many of these tasks. Basically, the parent will be the primary caregiver for the lifetime of the animal, which may be well after your child leaves home. 

Dr. Kate Adams, White Oak Animal Hospital, Baton Rouge

Teach my child to tie his shoes?

Age 5

Most children can tie their shoes by age five, and some will master the skill at age four. Tying shoes requires the child to have the manual dexterity, fine motor skills, and patience to do so. Parents need to have patience also and allow the child to keep practicing before giving in to Velcro. 

Dr. Mindy Calandro, Pediatrician, The Baton Rouge Clinic

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05 Aug 2016

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