First off we live in the United States and I know this is asked alot with traditions. My son, 9 years old has had to bathe his 4 year old step brother for over a year while taking a bath. I feel that he should not be responsible and getting into trouble for this responsibility, am I wrong?

  • This is a bit opinion based so can't really give a good answer. But when i was 11 i regularly babysat my cousins including diaper changes and stuff...but 9 seems a bit to young to do this every time.
    – A.bakker
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 19:43
  • I would say no for two reasons. 1) Parenting is the parent's job. 2) At 4yo he should be washing himself. That said, different cultures, different opinions.
    – Jack M.
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 21:22
  • 1
    Note that there's a difference between delegating a simple task and making it their responsibility. E.g. just because a child feeds the pet doesn't mean that they are the pet's primary (or sole) caretaker responsible for its wellbeing. Similarly, how much of this task if offloaded onto the 9yo? Simple assistance? Company? Deciding to bathe the 4yo regurlarly?
    – Flater
    Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 1:36
  • 1
    A 4 year old needs adult supervision while in the bath. This should not be the responsibility of your 9 year old. Why is it necessary for the older child to do this? Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 10:43
  • Why do you feel this responsibility is inappropriate? Is it because you think he’s too young? Because he doesn’t like it? Because he “gets in trouble” for not doing it? What part of this situation would you like to change? I get the impression it’s not occurring at your house or with your blessing/support. If so, is “How can I make sure my child isn’t given inappropriate tasks when he’s away from home” (or something along those lines) a question you’d like to add here?
    – Jax
    Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 14:11

1 Answer 1


This depends on too many details to have a direct Yes or No answer.

Can a nine year old have some responsibilities for the household, and be held accountable for those responsibilities? Absolutely. My nine year old does the laundry for the family and unloads dishes. My seven year old does our recycling and feeds the cat.

Is bathing a younger sibling an appropriate responsibility for a nine year old? For some, yes, for others, no. This depends on their relationship and maturity levels. My children sometimes bathe together, but only when they want to; but they’re both old enough to bathe alone.

But could a nine year old manage this? Yes; given the main responsibility is keeping the younger one from drowning and making sure he washes his various places at some point, none of that is particularly hard. Many nine year olds would not be mature enough to handle that, but some would be. A parent should be paying at least an earful of attention to the bath; but at least for my kids they’d be capable of keeping a four year old alive and maybe cleaned if I asked them to. But I wouldn’t ask them to supervise toothbrushing; that takes more specialized skills.

As far as getting in trouble, then you’re going a bit further. Is the nine year old unwilling? If so, then is it this task they don’t like? We’ve switched jobs before. No reason for someone to do a job they don’t like so long as they do something equivalent, unless nobody likes the task. Is it too hard? If so, particularly if the four year old resists, then the job should be done by a parent.

But is he just unwilling to do a job because it’s work? Then hold him accountable. I dislike ‘in trouble’ as a concept; but fun time has to follow work time for all of us, right? I ask my children to do their jobs before they play. That’s not unreasonable, and while they act like it’s the end of the world sometimes, overall it works and they end up doing them.

  • 1
    I’m so glad to read a down to earth answer. Of course it’s reasonable, on average, to expect an older sibling to help out with a younger sibling to a certain extent, as part of their contributions to the household/family. And I agree that most 9 year olds are capable of making sure a 4yr old doesn’t drown. A child that isn’t sitting up independently, no. A pre-schooler? Yes. I personally leave my 9 year old son to sit with my 4 yo daughter while she plays in the bath so I can do other chores. He plays along w/her and offers practical advice like “don’t drink bath water it tastes gross.”
    – Jax
    Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 13:53

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