A Question about Dads Driving the Babysitter Home

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Hi Folks– Lenore from Free-Range Kids, just alerting you to a big to-do going on over at my blog. I posted a question from a mom about whether dads still routinely — or ever — drive the babysitter home anymore, and 150 comments later, the topic is still on fire. Some fear the man, some fear the teen, but plenty, I am happy to report, fear neither! If you have some thoughts on the topic, or simply wonder why it is even an issue, come visit! Back to weightier topics anon!

Who will drive the teen girl home?


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33 Responses to “A Question about Dads Driving the Babysitter Home”

  1. #1 |  Bob | 

    My son can’t take the babysitter course for another year, and I know he isn’t ready for these responsibilities just yet.

    Wait… What? You have to take a COURSE to babysit? When did this shit start?

  2. #2 |  r.l.s.3 | 

    When my kids were younger my wife was always the one to take the babysitter home. Now that my daughters are teens, they sometimes have friends over. If I need to take them home, my daughters come with me. This behavior is largely driven by my wife because, she informs me, there is apparently widespread suspicion of all men among the gossipy and rumor mongering housewives in my neighborhood.

  3. #3 |  EBL | 

    Most child organizations (boy scouts, etc.) require two on two parental involvement. The reason is to protect kids, but also to protect volunteer leaders from false claims.

    And in general males are absolutely more suspect than women.

    While it should not be an issue for 99.999% of parents hiring a baby sitter for dad to drive her home, unfortunately it is an issue.

  4. #4 |  EBL | 

    Most child organizations (boy scouts, etc.) require two on two parental involvement. The reason is to protect kids, but also to protect volunteer leaders from false claims.

    And in general males are absolutely more suspect than women.

    While it should not be an issue for 99.999% of parents hiring a baby sitter for dad to drive her home, unfortunately it is an issue.

  5. #5 |  Cyto | 

    As a teen I always rode my bike to and from babysitting jobs. Until I got a car that is. But I’m a guy, so that end of the argument doesn’t apply to me.

    There were a few comments at Free-range Kids along the lines of “false allegations are so rare, why are you worried about it?” Well, having coached girls basketball for several years, I can tell you why. It is because it is ridiculously easy to make serious and damaging charges that will never go away, even if retracted. And it doesn’t even have to be the young girl hurling accusations. It could just be some nosy neighbor starting some gossip, or a parent who thought you looked too cozy with the kids.

    When I was coaching I never was alone with the girls for even a second. Even though the situation often called for a pat on the back or a hug; I never touched the girls in any way. Why? Because even the most innocent thing could be misconstrued and there is absolutely no way to un-ring that bell.

    Our sitters so far have all been 16-17 years old and have driven their own cars. But if we had to provide transportation I’d defer to my wife unless there was no alternative. Even without real charges to the police to defend, a simple rumor that something was going on between a married man and his teenage babysitter could be life changing. Better not to even remotely allow for the possibility.

  6. #6 |  Z | 

    I taught at a college on Long Island. The campus was far from the train station so my supervisor asked if any student would drive me. One volunteered. After one ride, my supervisor emailed me. The girl bailed from the task and gave, as an explanation, that she was uncomfortable with a man in the car. And I was lucky, she could have pulled the sexual harassment card.

  7. #7 |  croaker | 

    Red Cross has had a babysitting class with certification since the 50’s. Laws requiring such are a more recent innovation.

  8. #8 |  Leah | 

    Free Range Kids is all about reality versus fear of the worst that can happen, so I find it depressing to see the constant refrain of “their lives could be RUINED!” I mean, how is that different from the usual message of Free Range Kids that your kids have such a tiny risk of kidnappers/molesters/murderers that you shouldn’t keep them indoors under lock and key? I realize suspicions/accusations are terrible for the person dealing with it, but is it MORE life-ruining than the kidnapper/molester? And yet we’re encouraged to look at real stats and not listen to fearmongering hearsay for our kids, but for men it seems to be becoming it’s own snowballing form of fearmongering.

    We all take risks as members of society. We can all decide our own risk tolerance, yes, but worst-first thinking isn’t logical – whether it’s fear of kidnappers or fear of being falsely accused. We’re a lot better off when we try to fight actual incidents and not nebulous fear.

  9. #9 |  M | 

    As a dad who was already a weirdo in general, no way in hell would I take that risk.

  10. #10 |  Bill | 

    This is a very depressing thread. Do we also make it a point to avoid black people, who have at times been known to kill people? Or, if you prefer not to be racist about it, just avoid people in general? Do we avoid driving cars, since people die in them every single day?

    Cyto, you say that you know how important it is to protect yourself from these potential false allegations because you coached girls’ basketball. Fair enough, but are you saying that you’ve been a victim of a false allegation? Repeatedly? Otherwise, you can’t really speak to the prevalence of such occurrences. “As a NASA astronaut, I can tell you that abductions by little green men are a terrible thing. It’s a life-changing experience from which you’ll never recover.”

    I’ve worked with middle school and high school aged students in church youth work for twenty five years, and in my experience, this whole false allegation/crazy rapist male thing is overblown. I have never had any such accusation leveled at me. Yes, it’s wise to have multiple adult leaders and to engineer things so that you’re not fostering an atmosphere in which inappropriate things might happen…but to prioritize your life so that you are never alone with a young female, just in case, to avoid giving a friendly hug in a public place when it is clearly appropriate, is to help make the world an even uglier place than it already is. I refuse to play along.

    By playing along with this mindset, we reinforce it. Yes, there is risk when we interact with other people–even people who aren’t scary 13-18 year old girls!–but I just can’t be bothered worrying about such a miniscule risk.

  11. #11 |  Jim Wetzel | 

    My youngest is 27, so it’s been years ‘n’ years since I’ve employed a babysitter. But way back in the day when we did, there was never any thought that anyone but me would be returning her to her home. And I think I’m with #10 Bill — I’d do the same thing today. Even though, yes, I do wear a goofy-looking helmet when I’m out on my road bicycle.

  12. #12 |  tarran | 

    Bill, I watched a false accusation of indecent assault almost ruin a man’s life. I was a witness in the two pre-trial hearings.

    It happens far more frequently than you know.

  13. #13 |  John | 

    Um, maybe its just me but we specifically have only hired babysitters with a car, since its a colossal pain in the ass to go through all that business for a date. A bit off topic but our current babysitter, who is pure gold, was found at http://www.sittercity.com. There you can specifically find sitter a who live close and have their own cars. I think they also do so type of background checks. Outside of “The World According to Garp” I can’t say I have ever heard of an accusation either way, I am sure they exist but it seems more of a red herring than anything else.

  14. #14 |  Jim Collins | 

    You are right about this being a depressing thread. The problem is the overreaction that occurs when there is even the hint of the sexual abuse of a child. Between the ‘trial by media” and the “ready-fire-aim” mentality, you can never take the chance of even a blatantly false accusation. Ask the Assistant Basketball Coach at Syracuse about it. He was lucky, the University stood by him instead of throwing him under the bus.

    I knew a male teacher that was accused of improper contact with a female student. He was promptly fired, his Union wanted nothing to do with him, the local newspaper had it all over the front page and it lead the local television news. When the charge was investigated, the student admitted that she made it up to get back at him for her having received a poor grade. This caused her parents to prevent her from going on a trip with her friends. When his innocence was proven, it didn’t make the paper or the news and he couldn’t get his job back because State law had revoked his teaching certificate because of the ACCUSATION. He couldn’t go to another State to teach, because even though the accusation was public record, his being CLEARED of the accusation was sealed, due to his accuser being a minor. His reputation was trashed, his career trashed and people still talked behind his back about his “having gotten away with it”.

    Cyto is right. These days you can’t afford to take even the slightest chance. Your entire life can be ruined because some whiny brat doesn’t get his or her own way. The only way to be sure is to do what Cyto does, to remove any chance of being in a situation that can be misinterpreted by anybody.

  15. #15 |  Mike T | 


    This is a very depressing thread. Do we also make it a point to avoid black people, who have at times been known to kill people? Or, if you prefer not to be racist about it, just avoid people in general?

    Actually you made a good parallel there. Blacks actually do commit a disproportionate percentage of crime, but that is no reason to be suspicious of any particular black person you know. The only value in that knowledge is when you meet black people who fit particular cues that say they might fall into the categor(y|ies) of blacks who are likely to give rise to that statistical skew. People tend to either make far too much of the statistics or go out of their way to deny they mean anything.

    In that spirit, yes, men are more likely from published statistics to rape kids than women. However, it’s not likely to be the case that any normal man would do that. Sure, there are predatory types who will avoid any impropriety in public, just like there are well-dressed blacks who actually have the same capacity to act like thugs as ones dressed like some thug from the ghetto. However, statistically that is not likely to be the case. You are much more likely to condemn an innocent person.

    The only solution is to vigorously resist both those who play up and who really play down these trends. They feed off each other and like 2 lawyers in a one horse town ensure they’ll always have a reason for being there.

  16. #16 |  kbiel | 

    Because of my faith, I adhere to a rule that I am not alone with any unrelated female whenever I can avoid it. If I must be alone with an unrelated female, I make sure that we are both accountable. For example, in the hypothetical (for me) situation of having to drive the female babysitter home, I would either bring someone with me, such as one of my children, and/or I would call ahead and let her parents know that we were on our way to their house. If possible, I would walk her to her door and hopefully talk with her parents for a moment. Then I would call back to my wife when I dropped the babysitter off to let her know that I was on my way back.

    I do not do this because I fear anything untoward happening or a false accusation, but because accountability is key to removing the ability to even consider sin which is always the first step in a long trail to actually committing a sinful act.

    Even if one does not have a faith, they should consider this approach too. Just replace the word “sin” with “unethical behavior” and you should hopefully see the wisdom in this.

  17. #17 |  Bill | 

    #12 and #14: I am not denying for a second that false accusations–or, for that matter, actual dad-driving-the-babysitter-home molestations–do happen, and that they are indeed terrible ordeals. In the case of false accusations, the terribleness is in part due to this mindset we are discussing here, and I do believe that feeding into the paranoia makes that worse. (“Of course the accusations are true! What would a decent man even be doing in a car with the babysitter?!?!?”)

    In 2010, over 32,000 people died in automobile accidents; I’m sure that the serious injury rate (paralysis, chronic pain, loss of limbs) is also terrifyingly high. These are also tragic, life-changing (or ending) events.

    I would suggest that the greatest danger of getting into a car with the babysitter is the chance of getting killed or maimed driving her home, and that if you are afraid of the babysitter, you should be even more scared of automobiles. Granted, you have every right to be frightened of the babysitter (though you probably shouldn’t let her be in the house alone with your kids if you think she might be unstable enough to falsely accuse you of rape); I’m just trying to help you to more accurately assess the risk.

    Or, you could give people–even teenage girls–the benefit of the doubt and assume that they’re as decent and sane as you are.

  18. #18 |  Jeff | 

    As a general rule, I avoid unnecessary trust situations with those I’m not intimately familar with. Why should I trust my neighbor that my half of the road is $30K when he can just show me the receipts? Why should I take a female babysitter home when it’s just as easy for my wife to do it and society’s freak-out factor is two orders of magnitude less?

    Yes, society’s perceipts are out of whack, but I have no desire to sacrifice myself on that particular altar in an attempt to reset it.

  19. #19 |  ClubMedSux | 

    Some fear the man, some fear the teen…

    Me? I fear that, as the teen exits the car, I’ll notice the Gummi Venus de Milo stuck to her butt, and when I pull it off, she’ll mistakenly think I’m sexually harassing her.

  20. #20 |  Bill | 

    Jeff, I would agree with you completely; while there is no reason to take a needless risk just to prove a point, I just wouldn’t jump through extra hoops to conform to the precepts you mention. But I do have to ask–if you’re okay leaving this babysitter alone with your kids, why don’t you trust them enough to go on a car ride with you?

  21. #21 |  Bill | 

    #19, for those who are unfamiliar:

  22. #22 |  Comrade Dread | 

    If I were in that situation, I would have my wife drive her.

    Simple reason, the girl may not feel uncomfortable. I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. Nothing torrid would happen if I did drive her home.

    But it doesn’t take much for the rumor mill among certain people to start.

    It’s sad, but it’s a fact of life.

  23. #23 |  Bill | 

    In reviewing my earlier posts, I want to apologize for my tone. While I stand by my point, I was a bit too sarcastic in making it. I didn’t intend to be disrespectful to any of you, but I’m afraid what I said could easily be taken that way. I appreciate the generally civil, intelligent level of discussion here, and I wouldn’t want my remarks to fall below that standard!

  24. #24 |  Jim Collins | 

    I actually agree with you 100%, but, I am unwilling to take the risk. in my opinion there was nothing wrong with what you said or how you said it.

  25. #25 |  smurfy | 

    Speaking for myself and not all pervy old men I have to say that if she’s old enough for that particular fantasy to be anywhere near happening then she’s old enough to drive herself home.

  26. #26 |  liberranter | 

    @#14: Examples like that you cite are what causes me to repeatedly ask the following question:

    What adult male in his right mind, no matter how desperate for employment, would ever even entertain the thought of teaching, especially in a public school?

    Quite honestly, it’s getting harder and harder for me to sympathize with anyone who asks for trouble.

  27. #27 |  Ahd | 

    i usually drove our babysitter home (i’m a guy). but it was only about 5 blocks. i have to say, though, that i was a little relieved when she got her driver’s license and could start driving herself home.

  28. #28 |  marie | 

    The danger of getting killed in a car wreck is straightforward. You will be killed or hurt…or not. If not, then nothing to worry about. The danger of the babysitter getting raped or molested by the dad driving her home is straightforward. She will be raped or molested…or not. If not, then nothing to worry about.

    The danger of the babysitter (or by the Boy Scout or the Sunday school kid you are alone with) accusing you of assault is NOT straightforward. Even if you did nothing, the mere accusation is all it takes to ruin your life.

    Plus, there is such hysteria over sexual assault of children that kids can easily fail to distinguish among good touch and bad touch and accidental touch…along with the all-purpose “he made me feel uncomfortable.”

    When I was a babysitter, dads always drove me home. Never thought anything of it. Nobody did.

  29. #29 |  Amazed | 

    Wow, I must be abnormal or something. In the early 70’s, when I was a teenage babysitter, I nearly always had the dad take me home, and since I lived in the country, my parents knew all of the people for whom I sat. It was never an issue. I never once felt uncomfortable, nor was there a problem. I, too, know a nice young man who was a newly minted Jr. High teacher whose life was ruined by a student and her friends who accused him of molestation. The trial took a year to come about, and was one day from going to the jury when two of the co-conspirators came out to the prosecutor that they all made the whole thing up because the young teacher was going to fail one of the girls – in band of all things. The prosecutor had to be forced (blackmailed) to take the info before the judge, because he felt he would win in front of a jury.

    I often wonder when I hear these stories whether it’s the incidents of molestation that have increased, or if it’s the accusations for thrills or some sort of adolescent payback that have gone up…… Cries out for further study.

  30. #30 |  The Late Andy Rooney | 

    Could you give more detail on how the prosecutor was forced/blackmailed? I’ve been reading about prosecutorial misconduct for so long that nothing shocks me anymore, but I’m still curious about what happened.

    Any idea whether the prosecutor is still in office?

  31. #31 |  Laura | 

    Having no kids and being female, I have no experience with this exact senario. However!

    A nearby urban school district did a study and found that teachers were far, far more likely to the the target of a false accusation than a student was to be the target of real abuse, physical or sexual. I can’t remember the statistics, but they were striking.

    I don’t think it is paranoia to avoid problems. I used to have to cross a dark park and walk through a parking lot to get to my car. Was it paranoia for me to carry a monkey wrench that was over a foot long? I don’t think so. Nor was it paranoia for me to walk out of my way to avoid any men I saw.

    I think that a man would be taking an unnecessary risk by driving a babysitter home unless he knew her and her family and they ahd an established positive relationship.

  32. #32 |  Jeff | 

    Bill, I’d not only have to trust her, but everyone who knows me and sees us riding together.

  33. #33 |  Amy | 

    I remember back in high school someone told my father that he had been seen at the mall holding hands with a young blonde. Someone started the rumor not realizing that the young blonde was me, his daughter. People easily forget that things are not always what they appear to be.