How old should a child be before they're able to go to a public bathroom alone?

public washroom

We’ve all been there.

You’re out with your young child and all of a sudden, he/she announces “I have to go pee!!” You know that this type of warning means that time is of the essence and that a toilet needs to be found, now.

If you’re the parent of a child that is the opposite sex from you, you have a problem, especially if that child is “of a certain age.” In some cases, this can mean over the tender age of six. Yes, six.

Recently, a sign was seen warning parents to leave their boys who were over the age of six out of the women’s bathroom and to let them go alone to the men’s facilities.

To say that this is a problem is an understatement, at least in my opinion, and in the opinion of the many other parents who helped to make this image go viral. Here’s the offending sign:

boys over 6 sign

As a parent of young boys (twins), I know them well and know that my comfort level in allowing them into a public bathroom without me is not there yet. There are the practical problems: they may need help wiping or washing their hands, or even reaching the sink. I want to make sure they don’t touch too many things in the bathroom. They may need me to undo and do up their pants.

Then there are the more disturbing potential problems: what if there is a questionable person or persons in the bathroom who may pose a threat to my son(s)?

As a parent, I can’t help but feel that erring on the side of caution is best in these instances and therefore, my child will stay with me if they need to go to the bathroom, at least until I feel comfortable enough to let them go in on their own. At the end of the day, parents know their kids best and should be the ones making the decision about when their kids are ready to confidently venture into a public bathroom without their parent. An arbitrary age shouldn’t be dictated to determine bathroom abilities or the lack thereof.

On a related note, for those insisting on a specific cutoff age for going into a public bathroom with an opposite-sex parent, I would ask them the following: How do you determine a child’s age? Do you ask for a birth certificate? What about those kids that look older or younger than they really are?

In case it’s not clear, I think that six is much too young to be going into a public bathroom alone. I accompany my kids at this age and will continue to do so until I feel that they can handle things by themselves. As a mother, I will not be told that I  have to leave my children alone in a potentially vulnerable situation. And clearly, based on the response to this topic, I’m not alone in this sentiment.

Check out the Huffington Post Live segment below on the subject where I weigh in and provide my perspective, along with other parents:

VIDEO: The Public Restroom Challenge For Parents

So what do you think? How old should a child be before they can go into a public bathroom alone? Would you feel comfortable letting a six-year-old go into a public bathroom without you? Why or why not? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.


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CBC Marketplace – Checkout Charity

by Samantha on February 16, 2015

CBC program investigates the popular trend of soliciting donations at the checkout


“Checkout Charity” is a thing.

Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay.

I’ve discussed the topic on more than one occasion, both on this blog and in the media. For details, click on the link below.

IN THE NEWS: Is “Checkout Charity” Just a Money Grab?

checkout aisle

Seems like I’m not the only one who’s fed up with this sneaky way of gathering funds. Consumers in general, are becoming fatigued with the amount of requests that occur on a regular basis. Enough that Canada’s leading consumer investigative show, Marketplace, decided to look into this increasingly popular practice.

I was interviewed for the show and of course gave my two cents. Tune in on Friday, February 20th to watch the full show. I’ll post a link to the program and do a follow-up post once it’s aired as well.




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How much freedom should a child be given, and at what age?

Where do we draw the line?

Where do a parent’s right to making a decision about their child or children end and the rest of the world’s responsibilities begin?

Working from the assumption that most of us have the best interest of children in mind, does that give us the right to butt in where we don’t belong?

I wish the answer to this question was simple but recent headlines and a growing trend towards “Helicopter Parenting” doesn’t give me much hope.

You may have heard about this story:

Maryland Family Under Investigation For Letting Their Children Walk Home Alone

The crime? Maryland parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv allowed their children, aged 6 and 10, to walk home alone from a playground, not far from their home, in the middle of the afternoon one recent Saturday.

 child walking home

For many who subscribe to the philosophy of “Free-Range Parenting,”  it was seen as the most normal thing in the world: an opportunity for these parents to teach their children a bit of independence and self-reliance in what they felt was a safe scenario. For others, many whom may be considered “Helicopter Parents,” it was cause for considerable alarm and for some, enough for them to call the police and child protective services.

Both camps believe that they’re in the right – and that the other is woefully misguided. Each camp believes that the other is doing irreparable harm to the children due to the choices of the children’s parents. Sadly, the kids are often the ones who suffer as they are either monitored so closely that they never gain the confidence required for true independence, or they are left to their own devices – too much so – which in itself may lead to trouble.

Is it okay to let a child walk to the park and home alone, or with a younger sibling? How old is it when it becomes okay? What age is too young?

For the record, I think that the treatment of these parents is beyond harsh and alarming. If anything, they are doing what we all try to do as parents – teach their children to have confidence in their decisions, to be fearless and to be independent. Isn’t that what we all want for our kids?

Now, perhaps my perspective is coloured by the fact that I was also raised by “Free-Range Parents,” except they didn’t know that that’s what they were doing.

As a child of the ’70’s, I spent many a day, evening and summer vacation going to the park by myself or with friends, walking to the corner store alone, riding my bicycle without a helmet (no one else wore helmets, either) and coming home after school alone, with a key to let myself in. Yes, I was alone, in my home and no, I wasn’t a teen yet. I had to call my mother (who was at work), from our landline (there were no cell phones, email, texting or Google then and we all managed to survive) and I watched the Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island until my parents got home from work. I even made myself snacks and used the stove. I was a responsible kid and my parents trusted me. Oh – and all of my friends were “Free-Range Kids” as well, as raised by their parents. The “Helicopter Parents” of later decades had not yet made their mark.

Nowadays, I’m sure my loving parents would be reported as being negligent, and perhaps be arrested for their perceived neglect. Yet they were anything but. They loved and cared about me and were able to gauge my maturity level as they meted out a bit more responsibility and independence to me every time I proved that I was worthy of their trust. They provided me with the tools, skills and independence I needed to become a fairly confident and well-balanced adult. This type of parenting isn’t neglectful; if anything it shows a keen desire to help a child to gain the skills that they will need as an adult.

Yet we are now in a different era and parents like Danielle and Alexander Meitiv are under the spotlight for their perceived neglect.

I had the pleasure of participating in a Huffington Post Live segment on this very topic that featured Ms. Meitiv herself, along with Julie Gunlock and Lisa LaGrou, both moms who, like me, were united in our thoughts surrounding how Ms. Meitiv is being treated regarding her decision.

You can watch the full Huffington Post Live segment below.

Huffington Post Live – Under Arrest For Letting Your Kids Be Independent?

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you believe in “Free-Range Parenting?” Was it necessary to call in the authorities on this parent regarding her decision to let her children walk home alone? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.


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How do you feel about being asked for money at the checkout counter?

checkout counter

Forgive the fact that this post doesn’t have much to do with Parenting and Kids as per usual, but I really need to get this off my chest. Thanks.

Checkout Charity

As I unwittingly approach the cash register, items in hand, little do I know what’s about to occur. You see, what I thought was an innocent trip to the store to purchase milk/wine/clothes/[insert item here] has become a battle of wills and a test of my ability to overcome what we all secretly fear: Public shame.

Yes – what I thought was a mundane daily errand has become a thing. You know – something that will evoke a strong emotion, and a subject that you will recount sheepishly to your family and friends, after the fact.

“That’ll be $24.72, please. And would you like to donate $2 to the ABC charity?”

We all know the score.

As consumers, we’re increasingly being tested and potentially shamed at the checkout counter.

This relatively new corporate method of money collecting is what I think is an insidious and downright unfair method of achieving a company goal.

Yes – charities need money, but do they need to shame unsuspecting consumers in the process?

There’s little warning when and where this sneaky yet popular type of occurrence will happen. You may think that you’re getting a carton of milk and some bread at the supermarket, yet said supermarket thinks otherwise.

You’re a target and a potential donator of funds to what is oftentimes a very unclear, murky “charity” that you’ve been asked to support.

The common thread regarding these types of incidences is that little if no information is given by the requestor (in most cases, a cashier), yet the requestee (you or I) is expected to hand over some money.

How is this right or fair?

I don’t think that it is.

Here is what I think.

Using a “gotcha” technique that is based on surprise, intimidation and, let’s face it, humiliation, is not one that sits well with me. And I don’t think that I’m the only one who feels this way.

Pressuring consumers to give money to charities about which they’ve been provided NO information is just wrong.

Are the companies getting a tax break on my after tax dollars that I may be donating? I don’t know.

How is my money going to be allocated? What percentage of my $1 or $2 is going to administration and what percentage is going to everything else?

This information is never given, yet I’m supposed to give them money.

I don’t think so.

Until both the charity and the business that is requesting money on behalf of said charity is completely transparent about how this money is being spent, I’m not about to hand over funds. Further, using the embarrassment factor, that is, hoping I’ll say “yes” just so that I don’t seem like a cheapskate in front of the people who are standing in line behind me, is sneaky, underhanded and downright wrong.

Do I want to donate $2 to ABC Charity? Perhaps. But I’ll do the research and determine how, when if and how much I will provide to said charity on my own time.


This was the crux of a “rant” that I did for CBC The 180 about an increasingly popular  tactic of consumers being asked to donate to charity while paying for items at the checkout line. Here’s a link to the rant:

Rant Against “Checkout Charity”

Having written about this topic before and discussing my extreme distaste for it, CBC wanted to know if I still felt this way and, more importantly, if my opinion on the topic was representative of so many others who are unsuspectingly “hijacked at the checkout.”

The short answer to both questions is “yes.”

“Checkout charity” has become even more prevalent than it was even a few years ago, and my disdain for the tactic is, apparently, not unusual. I’ve written extensively about having to deal with a “Meltdown in Aisle 5” – the challenges of shopping with young kids in tow; imagine now trying to add yet another variable to the mix? Screaming kid(s), a shopping cart full of items and an opportunity for yet further humiliation by being asked for money for charity and having to either

a) say yes, just to save face and salvage what little dignity you have left, or

b) say “no” and prove to all those in line behind you that yes, indeed – you are a horrible person (screaming child notwithstanding).

As part of a segment on the subject including my rant (above) a poll done by the CBC 180 on this very topic revealed that over 82 percent of those polled agreed that this type of charity collection felt like “an ambush for alms.” In other words, most people don’t like it. To be more specific, people seem to particularly despise being “ambushed” when all they really wanted was to buy an item or two and head out on their way.

It doesn’t seem to matter what type of items are being purchased, either. They could range from milk and eggs to wine, spirits, hardware or clothing. Anything and everything is a seeming opportunity for a checkout request for donations, much to the chagrin and often, the embarrassment, of those being asked.

To say “no” could render one earmarked as a “cheapskate,” a “Scrooge” or perhaps just an unfeeling, insensitive sod in front of the checkout line of people who are in full earshot of the request. For those who are more prone to public embarrassment and who dread the prospect of being publicly shamed, it may seem to be the lesser of two evils to begrudgingly submit the few bucks just to save face. Say “yes” and you’re absolved of any perception of cheapness. Say “no” and you’re a mean-spirited, cheap and unkind person who doesn’t care about others. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

I welcomed the opportunity to once again state my opinion and to speak for all those (of whom there are many) who agree that being ambushed for money when all you were looking for was a carton of milk (or otherwise) is just plain uncool.

Following the CBC “rant,” they did a follow up show where my (and many others’) dislike for this particular tactic was counter-balanced by feedback from charities and those who support this type of thing. You can read the full show notes here, as well as listen to the segment that is linked on the page (click on the “Listen” button under the image):

The Case For and Against Checkout Charity – CBC The 180

Check out the Twitter commentary and comments included in the post. Seems like I’m not the only one who is irritated by this method of money collection. Here are some examples:

The whole thing seemed to hit a collective nerve. Who knew? Apparently so many more of us are completely unimpressed by this new method of money collection. Ellen Roseman, resident Consumer Advocate for the Toronto Star called, following the CBC interviews, and wanted to discuss this topic as well. I did the interview, which can be read here:



Some items related to “checkout charity” that are questionable:
  • Donations are not tracked or acknowledged and donators are not given a tax receipt, even though the organization will receive a charitable break on their own taxes, as well as being seen as a “good corporate citizen
  • Why aren’t donations tracked the same way businesses easily track loyalty points – through a dedicated card or similar system? This way, the donation can be recognized and filed as part of the donator’s tax return
  • The request for donations is to be given from our after tax dollars – this means that we’re being taxed on our net income, getting no recognition or tax break for it, but the organization that is asking is getting one
  • Little or no information is given when the request for money is made. How is a person supposed to make a conscientious decision about donating when they don’t have all the facts? These include:
    • Details about the charity – what they stand for
    • How funds in the charity are allocated – percentages for administration, expenses, etc.
    • How much has the business asking for the money donated to said charity?

As you can see, there are so many questions surrounding this topic, yet so little answers. The topic is a hot one; apparently there are still more of us who are irritated by this increasingly popular practice.

Reuters came calling as a result of the radio and newspaper articles and I stood firm on my position. This practice is apparently ramping up around the holiday season, all across North America (Canada and the U.S. are equally affected). Here’s the full article/interview:

Checkout Charity: Get Ready For the Cash Register Ambush

So, it’s a thing now. Whether we like it or not, it appears that “checkout charity” is here to stay. Yet so many of us are increasingly uncomfortable with this method of collecting money, and still it continues. The question is, “why?” And what can we, as consumers, do to stop this type of underhanded tactic?

Any suggestions? I welcome your commentary and feedback. Please leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.   



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Trick-Or-Treating is for Kids. Period.

by Samantha on October 25, 2014

Save the Halloween Treats For the Little Ones

It happens every year.

They come to your door, taller than you, baritone voices and facial hair abound.

The females? Let’s just say that their costumes are often not PG-rated, to say the least.

Yet they’re heralding the Halloween battle-cry: “Trick or Treat!!”

What do you do?

Beside them, in front of them, behind them are kids – real kids – ones who can barely walk and in some cases, carried by their parents. Ones who have just learned about the joys of the quid pro quo deal offered through the Halloween covenant: Ask and ye shall receive.

These little ones deserve candy, and more. After all, they’ve taken the time to dress up, helped by their parents, buoyed  by the excitement and anticipation that this annual “high holiday” of childhood brings. For weeks, they’ve been planning their costumes and waiting with bated breath for the evening where they can finally reveal all to their neighbours in exchange for candy.

So have some other “kids” who want to get in on the action.

It’s fair to say that many teens love getting something for nothing. Free candy? It fits the bill.

And every October 31st, they fail to disappoint, showing up at the door, thrusting a bag in the direction of unwitting participants, sometimes without even uttering the agreed request – sometimes, the words “Trick or Treat” aren’t even mentioned.

Often, the shock and confusion lends itself to these kids walking away with a handful of candy and treats. After all – it’s quite stunning to be asked by a 6’2 Frankenstein for candy. Most of us would oblige.

But then, there are some of us who will put their foot down and just say no.

And how do I respond?

“Sorry. Halloween is for kids. Little kids.”

It took a number of years for me to build up my courage in saying this – after all, I didn’t want to be seen as an “Ebenezer Scrooge” (I know, wrong holiday, but bear with me for argument’s sake), but after being deluged year after year with more 16-18-year-olds (and older) than I could imagine, I had to take a stand.

I remember that wistful year that I turned 13, knowing full well that it would be my last year trick-or-treating. My friends and I had consulted with each other, talked it through, discussed the pros and cons of continuing the charade – literally – and erred on the side of caution, realizing that we were…well…too big to do it next year. It was a sad realization and one that made that last All Hallows Eve even more special because we knew that it was the end of a tradition and, in a way, the end of our childhood as we knew it. There was an unwritten code that dictated that kids would stop asking for sweets around the times that they started becoming interested in the opposite sex, and when school dances became much more important than any other event that season. We knew in our heart of hearts that we were just too big – both physically and mentally – to dare ask for candy under the auspices of childhood. After all – we were, at the same time, battling with our parents about our maturity and independence; how could participation in this very obvious vestige of childhood jive with our request to borrow the car?

Granted, adolescence is a strange mix of childhood and adulthood with those venturing through its path unsure upon which side they should fall. Some days, they’re kids. Other days, they’re adults. Many days, they’re confused. Therein may lie the problem on October 31st, though I suspect that many of these young adults who come to the door looking for candy know full well that they’re leaning more towards the “grown-up” scale than not.

It’s understandable that they would want to cash in on the sugar bounty that happens every October. After all – who wouldn’t? Show me a parent who hasn’t tucked into the Halloween stash both before and after their child has gone trick-or-treating and I’ll show you a parent who doesn’t exist (those tiny chocolate bars are a major temptation).

That being said, there comes a time when one has to be honest with oneself about the realities of life and this should ideally occur before any Adult XL Frankenstein or similar costume is donned.

Leave the candies for the kiddies. The high-school dance is so much more engaging.

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