How Old Should a Child be Before He is Allowed to Walk Home Alone?

Take the Test of Twelve to Help Determine if a Child is Ready to be Alone in Public

Yesterday Levi Aaron was arrested in the kidnapping and murder of 8 year-old Leiby Kletzky. The boy was kidnapped in his Brooklyn, NY neighborhood after losing his way on his seven block walk home. His parents say it was the first time they allowed Leiby to walk home alone.

Click here for the horrific details of the murder.

In his book Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safenotable author, Gavin de Becker has created a Test of Twelve to help determine if a child is old enough to walk home alone.

The Test of Twelve
1. Does the child know how to honor his feelings? If someone makes him uncomfortable, that’s an important signal.
2. Are you and the parent strong enough to hear about any experience the child has had, no matter how unpleasant?
3. Does the child know it’s okay to rebuff and defy adults?
4. Does the child know it’s okay to be assertive?
5. Does the child know how to ask for assistance or help?
6. Does the child know how to choose who to ask? For example, she should look for a woman to help her.
7. Does the child know how to describe his peril?
8. Does the child know it’s okay to strike, even to injure, someone if he believes he is in danger, and that you’ll support any action he takes as a result of feeling uncomfortable or afraid?
9. Does the child know it’s okay to make noise, to scream, to yell, to run?
10. Does the child know that if someone ever tries to force him to go somewhere, what he screams should include, ”This is not my father”? Onlookers seeing a child scream or even struggle are likely to assume the adult is a parent.
11. Does the child know that if someone says, ”Don’t yell,” the thing to do is yell? The corollary is if someone says, ”Don’t tell,” the thing to do is tell.
12. Does the child know to fully resist ever going anywhere out of public view with someone she doesn’t know, and particularly to resist going anywhere with someone who tries to persuade her?

Find more titles about keeping children safe by Gavin de Becker below.


  1. This is so timely for me. The parents have just started allowing the 10 yr old to walk some places alone. She must carry her cell phone at all times. But, I'm still scared to death. We live in Brooklyn. But I don't think the parents even have the time to watch the news. They didn't know when osama bin laden was killed because they were too busy!!! I am going to try to email them this link but I'm scared they won't find the time to ask their daughter these questions.(I am not posting name to protect privacy of the family. They will know this is my comment if they read it but at least I am respecting their privacy).

  2. My heart is breaking and I have a lot of anxiety about this. Good points made in the Test of Twelve. Let's hope this very sick man gets punished (unlike Casey Anthony).

  3. These books sound like awesome resources. This murder just reinforces again that kids need the buddy system. They must be with someone else and carry a mobile phone with them when out without adults at any age (even 15).What's so scary is we always hear not to judge a book by it's cover and once again this evil monster doesn't look like a monster. He looks like a man who fits right into the neighborho­od, someone you would never expect to kill a child.

  4. The subject that is not brought up and I wish they would is what should they do if a person pulls a gun or a knife on them. Sadly in Jaycee's case it was a stun gun, which eliminated options there. (Between her and Elizabeth Smart maybe there will be tips some day on what to do if you are abducted.) BUT, many years ago in MN a boy out on a bike ride with two friends was kidnapped at gun point in front of them. (He's not been seen since.) I worked with parents that don't allow kid to play with guns, so they don't know what they are, and how to act around them. As a woman, I have been taught if a rapist attempts to get me into a car with a gun, that I am supposed to choose to get shot first. So after this boy in MN was kidnapped I told my younger nieces and nephews to take the bullet. That is a hard thing to teach. I said it's better that you get hurt that way, then what could happen to you if you went with them. I wish as scary as this topic, or thought is, and unfortunate. It should be something we all should be taught.

  5. Eight is too young to walk home alone or know how to fend off an attacker. It's really not until the age of 10 that most children have the ability to cross a street safely. Crazies come in all ages,shapes, sizes, uniforms, genders and can enter any neighboorhood.My heart goes out to the little boy's family. I truely believe that from one bad event, many good things can happen. I hope that many families learn that its not Ok for a young child to walk alone.

  6. Are Hacidics allowed to use cell phones? Where I work the parents have just started to let their 12 yr old walk alone a few blocks to the playground, but he must have his phone on. I wonder if poor little Leiby had a phone on him?!I think anonymous thinks 8 is too young but in their culture they walk a lot. On sabbath they don't drive and walk to synogauge and he was in a familiar neighborhood. I cry for those parents who will be blaming themselves forever.

  7. Great responses to your article and they are posted here:!/groups/184128908308823?ap=1

  8. I worked with the Hoscitic community. The children are very intellegen­t and respect and trust other jewish adults. (Expeciall­y the adult men). Ironically I found that they do not usually let a child be alone like this, in fact they are very protective due to the discrimina­tion agianst jews. But it was in his community and just blocks away and his parents were to meet him half way. Just disgusting when a child is ever hurt. I will forward this link of The Test of Twelve to my employers.

  9. I saw LaToya Jackson on The View one time right after Elizabeth Smart was found. And of all people she is the first one that helped me understand why a child doesn't know what to do in some situations like that. She spoke of children in certain cultures and sociol cirles are taught to really listen to adults, mind their manners and be respectful. She said she and her siblings were taught that because of being in the music industry, etc. Then she said but sometimes in religious cultures this happens too. And children dont' know that it is okay to shout out. I hope some of our communities do take note of this.

  10. It's a sick person that would take and kill an innocent. Liebby, you didn’t make it to moon in this lifetime, but with your outstretched arm, you’ve slipped the surly bonds of earth and gone to touch the face of God. RIP

  11. Thank you for the list of questions. I haven't found this important advice anywhere else.

  12. This story has been weighing heavily on my mind and with deep saddness. When I first heard this little boy went missing- I knew it was not going to end well. The next day I heard the horrific story.I love how Steph/Be the Best Nanny- posted the "Test of Twelve"- and it's great that all of us here are learning them.However- for me it's not enough-I don't want this little boy's death to be in vain- and I never want to hear of this happening to another child. I want to help educate as many people as possible about the Test of Twelve, so that from this one bad event- we can bring safety to as many children thru educating adults.I have started to contact all the news channels in my area- since I am close to Brooklyn- and am asking them to please help educate the public/parents on helping a child have the ability to walk alone and for parents to know that their child maynot be ready to walk alone. I have also contacted several talk shows…Dr. Phil, The Talk, The View, 20/20, and PrimeTime to please help by doing a story on this topic.I am hoping you all will help spread the word too- if not to your news stations or on any childcare related message boards, or postings on sites that are running this story – at least to other parents of young children.Thank you.~Andrea Flagg- Nanny in Northern, NJ

  13. This is a wonderful resource. I saw no other media post this Test of Twelve. Excellent! Children's safety is our first priority.Question is: if the parents let a child walk alone and you as the nanny don't feel comfortable letting them do it do we as nannies defy the parents decision?

  14. Dear Janice, Give the parents these books! Book reviews are posted on Saturday July 16th also! How do you read all this steph?

  15. I feel like kidnappings and things of that sort are so uncommon… it’s also important that a kid know his phone number, address, full name, and parents’ names and that he knows how to get where he’s going.

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