What does staying home alone have to do with young people changing the world?
In today’s New York Times there is an article that proposes that anywhere between 11 and 14 is okay. The author acknowledges that 7, 8 and 9 year-olds stay home alone in working class homes, but doesn’t hesitate to add a “poo-poo” from an upscale New Yorker who thinks that an 11 year-old staying home with their younger siblings is terrible. At the middle of this article is the assumption that these conversations are best held without the people directly affected. If they are involved, the opinions of children and youth need to be vetted by parents.
In my experience, this is often the reasoning in the minds of youth workers and teachers when they share the same space as young people: “I am the best person to make decisions for kids, and if they tell me their thoughts I need to decide what to pay attention to, not them.” I know this because I am a dad, and I have considered these concerns. On the other hand, I have gone through the Cycle of Engagement with children and youth, including my own daughter. She and I have a great time, usually, doing the activities that she determines she needs to, and that I support her in doing.
So what can young people do when they do not feel supported? How can adults show their support and their judgment at the same time? Is it either/or, or with/and? What are other important questions that need to be thought about here?