"Parents are responsible for their children". For real? How is that regulated the supervision? When do we actually are responsible for our children? How should we behave in order to satisfy the duty of supervision?

Fiduciary duty of parents to urge discovery of children

Children without supervision Wall

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/ Cherry-Merry

Children are curious and spontaneous. You want to discover the world and try everything. You hedges of pranks and forget playing sometimes everything around. This can backfire: Such as when a child after a chummy shove landed unceremoniously on the floor and breaks his arm when the ball does not fly window into the goal, but in the neighbor or if cars are scratched while playing. Such mishaps are happening quickly - and just as quickly the accusation is often raised that parents had neglected their duty of supervision. What exactly is this all about? Parents need their children constantly in view? When can they be held responsible for mishaps and pranks of their offspring? And what consequences it can have if they are at the crucial moment is not there?

Adult supervision

All this regulates adult supervision. It is a part of in § 1631 BGB regulated custody and parental duty of care, which includes generally the right and duty of parents to maintain their children to educate and supervise. The supervision basically twofold: minors should be protected from damage they themselves or which can cause them to third parties. The other way round but are also third parties from any damage that may threaten them through the "dangerous child" to be protected.

A violation of the duty of supervision can lead to both criminal and civil law far-reaching consequences. Causes a child harm or hurt it, parents must prove that they have fulfilled their supervisory duties properly. In accidents, although the health insurance first enters, but the rising recourse if parents have not fulfilled their supervisory duties. Beware the grandparents, friends or a childminder the child, it will automatically take with it the duty of supervision. This also applies to children's birthday: The parents of the birthday girl not liable only for their own offspring, but also for younger guests.

Children can also be held liable for damages

But not always automatically liable parents for their children. From the age of seven and the road from the age of ten, the children can be made liable, if they have the appropriate maturity. In this sense, a court, for example, after an accident, which was caused by an eleven year old cyclists decided. The boy ran counter to the direction of travel on a bicycle, crossed apparently without looking one block and collided with a woman who could not brake in time. The woman was injured and demanded damages. Was the duty of supervision violated by the parents? No, because a eleven year old should not stand under constant supervision when riding a bicycle, the court ruled. Therefore, the parents are not liable in this case. Is he responsible for the accident? Yes, because he was 11 years old no longer entitled to drive on the sidewalk, and would have to respect the right of way. According to court he possessed at his age mature enough to be able to assess his misconduct. The boy therefore solely liable for the accident. 

Liability insurance is essential

Parents should definitely take out personal liability insurance for the whole family. The insurance coverage should include "offense-disabled children." Offense Unable children are basically up to the age of seven. Up to this age legislators and insurers believe that children are not able to overlook the consequences of their actions so far that they can be held responsible. In traffic, this applies to ten years. Children over seven years are liable only if they have the necessary maturity and understanding ability. So shooting a five year old a football into a disk, the victim gets nothing - unless the parents or other guardian have neglected their duty of supervision. Then for negligence liability insurance for the damage occurs.

Supervision: parents in dilemma

Parents basically have to ensure that their children not damage cause to come themselves to harm. But how can a child be independent and able to take responsibility for their own behavior if the father and mother pursue it at every turn? Regulatory law provides parents with a dilemma: On the one hand, they need to give their offspring freedom so that they learn how to deal with risks and dangers. On the other hand, they need to protect their children and outsiders from potential damage. And even the fürsorglichsten parents can not have all their eyes. How much control is therefore needed, how much is appropriate? What are the legal requirements?

It all depends on the individual case

The dilemma of the parents is well aware of the legislator. Thus in § 1626 of the Civil Code, paragraph 2: "In the care and education of the parents take into account the growing ability of the child to independent and responsible action." However, specific rules concerning the content and scope of parental supervision does not exist. What they allow their children and forbid depends on their sense of proportion. Decisive for the age, level of development and the characteristics of the child. Is it able to identify hazards and assess? Followed it instructions or is it like to play over it and despite the ban on the nearby lake or on the street? A three-year-old must be supervised differently from a nine year old, a wild bumblebee who is always ready to strike, unlike a small paragon. In traffic or while playing near a construction site other "rules" as in the playground apply.

The challenge for parents is therefore to consider what dangers threaten their child or concrete can expect from him. Because only they know his level of development and know what it can get and what it may still overwhelmed. To comply with its duty of supervision, they should their child definitely about possible risks at play, explain in sports or in traffic and agree on clear rules. Depending on the age, intelligence, ability and exceptional circumstances, such information must be repeated admonitions expressed or situations - are practiced - for example, the behavior on the way to school. Of course, parents should also be sure that their child has understood the instructions and they followed. Is it still too small or is it often prohibitions of time, parents must be to intervene at any time in the position.

Court decisions as a guide

This does not mean that the child must be permanently supervised. Depending on age and situation, it is sufficient to casual or to examine only a random sample, where the child is playing and what drives it. An example from the case law makes it clear what is meant by: Two boys, one seven, one five, scratched in a parking several cars. The parking lot was right next to a playground. The parents had let the children play alone, asking them not to leave the square. Two injured sued the parents for breach of its duty of supervision for damages. The court dismissed the lawsuits against the parents of the Seven Years'. The boy had not previously noticed by pranks and aggressive behavior, so it was all right if his parents let him play up to two hours unattended. Unlike the judgment in the case of the five-year-old: At this age, a control distance of 15 to 30 minutes was necessary, the court ruled.

From when children are allowed to stay alone at home?

These and other cases from the legal practice at least give a rough guide: Small children should never be left unattended. For four-year-olds, parents should see approximately every 15 minutes after the rights - if they play on a safe area and not close to a busy street or a lake; at six-year, the monitoring interval is extended to 30 minutes. Nor may they cover short, safe routes by bicycle by prior instruction. After this age, parents can also begin to leave their child alone at home, at first, of course, only for a few minutes. If that works, the periods can be extended step by step. For safety's sake, parents should always be reached by phone for the child. What did not work: including children, during the absence in the house.

In seven to eight year olds who were taught by their parents enough over doings and follow their instructions generally, periodic monitoring is no longer necessary. At this age, children need to explore their environment playfully without parental supervision, the Federal Court found in its judgment of 24.03.2009 (case no. VI ZR 199/09). Because otherwise the learning process would hampered in dealing with hazards.

But as I said: It all depends on the individual case.


Related Links:

  • www.kindersicherheit.de: information about important questions about the safety of children at home, at play and in transport; including FAQs on "supervision".
  • www.familienhandbuch.de: Detailed legal discourse on "supervision".
  • www.aufsichtspflicht.de: Actually, an information site for educators and youth leaders. But it also contains lots of useful information for parents and numerous current rulings on the subject.
  • The Youth Office in Munich has developed a very informative and comprehensive issue paper on parental supervision. Free download at: http://www.muenchen.de/cms/prod1/mde/_de/rubriken/Rathaus/85_soz/06_jugendamt/30_kinder/80_kinderbeauftragte/download/themenblatt_aufsichtspflicht_final.pdf