Parents of young sons...What age is old enough to let them go into restrooms alone?

I’m sorry if this has been covered here before but no combination of search words that I tried produced any results.

My son is 5-1/2 and a tad precocious. He insists that he is too old to come into the ladies’ with me and that he’s perfectly capable of going to the men’s by himself. Places like a small local restaurant where the bathroom is pretty similar to our own (minus the tub - but the sink is just a standard height and so forth, and the door is not very heavy) I don’t worry too much but at the Multiplex I still don’t feel comfortable sending him off on his own. Besides worrying that he won’t be able to reach what he needs to, or he’ll eat the big mint I’ve been conditioned to believe that evil lurks around every corner. What if Jack the Ripper is in there?

How do I know if I’m being cautious or over-protective?

I remeber on family outings ( a gaggle of females and my one male cousin) my grandmother would ask kind looking strangers to make sure my cousin came out alive. I’d do the same but it seems like the only men heading in at the same time as us look as if they think children are best cooked on a rotisserie and served with spinach (or fava beans and a nice chianti)

What’s a mother to do? What have other Dopers done?

Thanks in advance for your advice.

When my son would be able to kick my ass, then I’ll stop worrying.

I’m not a parent.

However, I certainly feel that five years old is old enough for your son to use bathrooms on his own. At some point, a line has to be drawn…and I feel that age is one your son has just passed.

I’d certainy feel a bit uncomfortable in the men’s room with a kindergarten aged girl present.

However, I do think it is wise for you to wait right by the door for your son to exit.

BTW…I commend your efforts to get your son to wash up after he is done. It is a shame that society can’t conform to such a necessity by offerring lower sinks in movieplexes…

I used to live in Slc, and in one park a lady let her son (aged 6) go into the restroom by himself while she went to change her baby’s diaper and her son was molested. So I won’t let my boys (6 and almost 4) go into a public restroom without myself or my husband. Many people think I am too paranoid, but I would much rather be safe. Margo

I let my son go to use the bathroom by himself when he was about 5, but that was only in small, local places.

If we’re at the mall or something big, his father goes with him, if he’s there. If he’s not, he goes by himself, but I stand by the door until he comes out. I’m also ready and willing to go into the men’s room myself, if he needs me.

He’s 10 now and I still wait outside the door for him.

My son is 3 1/2, and there is no way I’d let him go in alone until he’s at least 10.

Seriously, we live in a shitty world and things have changed a lot since we were kids.

No way am I going to gamble with my kids. Lokk at that horrible murder in Vegas in a public restroom!

I think my son was around six or so when he insisted on going to the men’s room alone. Like you, I was convinced that six perverts were waiting just inside the door to molest him, but I gritted my teeth and let him go. It’s one of those milestones that is so hard for moms. Here’s how I got thru it:

First of all, kids in school learn about public restrooms, so he probably won’t eat the big mint.

Second, I had talked to him about strangers and not speaking to them, etc. We talked about this a lot and even practiced, which he thought was great fun.

Third, I would make sure there were lots of people going into the restroom. I figured the odds of a pervert trying something in front of a crowd were slim. And I waited right outside the door until he came out. Had he not come out after what I thought was a reasonable amount of time, I would have had no qualms whatsoever about going in after him, shouting and screaming. Fortunately he was never inside for long.

Hope this helps.

My son is nearly 10, and at around 7 refused to go into the ladies anymore. He has a developmental disorder so I worry heaps about him in the mens loo.

I also wait outside the door for him and I am not adverse to asking a friendly looking male going in to check on him if he has been too long. I usually try to get him to use the disabled toilet though, if there is one, where he can lock the door and not be exposed to anyone else.

I’d let him go with me waiting right by the door. The biggest reason in this case being: he doesn’t want to go in there with other ladies. Which is something as a parent I think I would have to respect. I know it probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to you but to him it probably is. (don’t want to give the little boy a complex :wink:

The only thing I could tell you to curtail this is to get into the habit of asking him if he needs to take a wiz before you two go out. (that is if you don’t already)

However I’m a dad with a son so from where I’m standing, its probably easier said than done.

Thanks for the input.

So far my strategy has been to insist that he goes right before we leave the house, and while we’re out in the smaller places. But I really knew before posting that it’s time to push this little bird out of the nest. The fact that the question even ocurred to my was my clue.

My son is five but is tall and appears older than that. I’m pretty sure if I didn’t know him and saw him in a crowded public ladies room I’d think, hmm isn’t he a little old for that? and then, he must have an over protective mom. I don’t want to be over protective. But then I picture someone telling my son to point on the dolly to where the bad man touched him. What’ll I think then? “Hey, at least I wan’t overprotective”

To tell the truth, in a big place like the mall or the stadium I’m more worried that he will come out and head off the wrong way than I am about mollesters. Which might be the start of another thread. . .How do you educate your kids about the dangers of the world without scaring them to death and making them unable to participate in life???

I wish it were 1954!

A very good question.

And some very good responses as well.

The best point is to make sure you wait right by the door. This may be difficult if you have more than one child to watch over. However, there is an advantage to having two children of the same sex (which is what I’ve always hoped for be it two girls or two boys). They can watch over each other in public restrooms.

A point to consider…

If I was in a public restroom and a gentleman brought in his eight year old daughter, I would call security. I’m not kidding, either.

A suggestion, gwendee. If you’re worried that the sinks are too high for him to reach and that he won’t be able to wash afterward, carry some wet wipes with you. You can even get antibacterial ones. I’ve had to resort to them myself when the washing facilities were less than adequate.

And I do understand your dilemma–I have a three year old son myself and I’ve had the same worries. I know that I wouldn’t want someone else’s 5 yr. old in the bathroom with me, but I also know how difficult it’s going to be when I have to start letting him go into the men’s room alone.

On a side note, I had a woman get really upset with me once when she brought her children–boys included–into the restroom where I was nursing my baby. I wasn’t covered up enough to suit her, apparently, and on her way out, she threw back a remark about how I was just letting it all hang out. OF COURSE I was (only the pertinent breast though)! It was a ladies room and I didn’t feel the need to hide! (Besides, YOU trying nursing a 12 pound newborn in a small chair in the corner of a ladies room and see if you are worried about a little skin showing!)

I applaud you, mayflower. While I consider nursing to be a completely natural act which should not condone any harsh feeling, it is not, for some crazy reason, socially acceptable to do so in public (I’ll admit…I feel a bit uncomfortable around nursing mothers…especially my sister). It seems you went out of your way to find an acceptable way to do it, but were chastised by someone else committing an unacceptable act (you did not state how old the other parent’s boys were). Was she expecting you to lock yourself in the stall so you could nurse your baby? Somehow, the though of feeding a baby next to a toilet disturbs me. Was she expecting you to drive all the way home with the baby wailing in the back seat just so you could nurse her?

In my view, it is okay (I guess) to be a bit distrubed by witnessing the act. But it is natural, for gosh sake. Be disturbed, but keep it to yourself.

BTW…just for the record…I still remember the first time I was ever forced to use the men’s room by myself. It was at a local swimming pool. There was a sign above the ladies’ locker room door which stated “Children over 5 years of age shall not accompany their parents into the changing room of the opposite gender”. The first time I went into the place after I turned five, I was very dismayed about having to go into the men’s room alone. However, to this day, I find that 5 is the age where this should become mandatory behavior. I will state again…if I find myself in a locker room or a men’s room with a child over the age of five from the opposite sex, I will call security.

I think Nick was 6 or 7 when I started sending him off to the men’s room on his own. Basically, as soon as he told me he wasn’t comfortable going with me into the ladies. I felt that that was a valid concern on his part and once he was old enough to notice it, I needed to honor his feelings.

God, I’d almost forgotten how difficult this was, too. I have two kids, one boy and one girl AND they’re a little less than 11 months apart in age… Plus, my daughter is disabled with CP and spent most of her young childhood in a wheelchair (if we were out and about), so we really took awhile to get in and out of a public restroom. Nick was always done way before Doe and I were. I used to send him into the men’s room with orders to do his business, then come right out and stand close to the ladies room door… Poor kid hated that – he said the women going in always stared at him – like, “What’s that kid doing hanging around the ladies room door?” It was much easier when my husband was with us, but he was in the Navy and often out to sea during that period. Anyway, I’m a housewife and, during the summer especially, took the kids with me on my daytime errands.

Even harder was letting my daughter start going into public restrooms on her own. That started when she was about 12 or 13 – shortly after she stopped using her wheelchair in public and started using her crutches full time. Damn, that was hard. That first 15 minutes sitting at a table in the mall food court and waiting for her to come out of the mall restroom was [endless*. For me, anyway. She was one proud little crippled girl when she came out. When we got home, she insisted on calling my mother long distance and telling her about it! One of the hardest things we have to learn as parents (and while this might be a little harder for parents of disabled kids, it is absolutely true for us all) is to avoid that pesky overprotectiveness that all good parents are prone to.

Anyway, try not to worry too much. It’s amazing how fast they grow up. Mine are almost 16 and 17 now, and while I still have plenty of worries about them, I no longer worry about Nick (who can bench press 200 lbs) being molested in the men’s room :wink: .

They were discussing this on a radio talk show recently. One woman said she let her young son go into the men’s room by himself, but she waited outside the door and insisted that he sing very loudly the whole time he was in there. If he stopped singing, she would go in there. I think that’s a very creative and smart solution.

I think my son was around six when I let him go alone, but I stood outside the door and actually talked (screamed) to him while he was in there. He had a major obsession with public restrooms when he was little. He always had to push every button, turn on every blower, etc. I would just keep talking to him and telling him it was time to wash his hands, or whatever. He usually made it short to avoid me yelling through the door any longer than necessary.

My 4 1/2 year old doesn’t want to use the girls room.

I still make him go with me into the ladies room though, and I probably will for a few more years. Small single stalled bathrooms where I can wait outside the door, I’m fine with - but the restroom at the movie theatre - no way!

Right now he is a little torn, he doesn’t want to use the “girls” room, but he doesn’t want to go without Mom either.

There is a quantitative difference between bringing a little bit older boy into a ladies room and bringing the same age girl into a men’s room. Ladies rooms in the States almost always have stalls with doors - I can’t think of the last time I caught a glimpse of a woman doing more in a ladies room than adjusting her slip (or breastfeeding a baby on the bench in the “ladies lounge” at Nordstrom). He’s unlikely to see anything that will scar him for life - and the women themselves have a little privacy from the prying eyes of a young boy.

Both my ex & current wife do the talking thing if they’re the only ones with my son, and have since he was about 5 or 6.

I’m with Dogface.

There are lots of SICK people out there and a small kid alone in a men’s room is a potential target.