Monday, February 28, 2011

Leashing Your Kids

Let me preface this post with a controversial statement:  I can't stand animals.  I have no desire to be a pet owner whatsoever, much to the dismay of all three of my girls.  Especially Darcy.  I've never seen a child love animals more than she does.  Now, don't get me wrong, I like going to the zoo just as much as the next mom.  I just don't want to own animals.  I have four children.  That's enough responsibility for me.  I can't even keep a plant alive.

A few weeks back, I posed the question on my Banned From Baby Showers Facebook page, what topics would you like to see on the blog? Several of you asked what I thought of leashing your kids.

So, what is the politically correct response to this question, especially from an advocate of Attachment Parenting?  I'd have to say, surely it is to not leash your child, like you would your dog, right? 

I've written a bit about my life here and I think you've gotten the picture that I was a pretty rowdy teenager.  Definitely a rule breaker.  Apparently I was the same as a toddler.  When I was 18 months old, my dad kept me on a leash every time we went anywhere.  He gave it to me as a gift when I had my own children, only partially joking.

The only time any of my children were leashed was when Vena (#2) was about 18 months old.  We were at "Breakfast on the Plaza" for a 4th of July celebration in my hometown of Santa Fe, NM.  My dad insisted that I put her on my old leash because there were so many people.  I absolutely refused and told him that if he wanted her on a leash, he was going to have to do it.  He got her harnessed up and it lasted, maybe, 5 minutes.  She screamed her head off!  (I thoroughly enjoyed it.)  With everyone staring, he agreed that maybe it wasn't the best idea.  He said that if only I'd started her off that way as soon as she started walking, it would have worked.  Yes, this was the parenting I was raised on.

I have no doubt that my dad was just concerned for Vena's safety, and mine when I was a toddler.   It is a scary thing for any parent to have a small child in a large crowd.  It only takes a split second to lose them. 

As you can imagine, I carried all my babies in a sling and rarely even used a stroller.  When they got older and we were on all-day outings, I would definitely take a stroller too.  But sometimes, let's face it, the kid wants out -- and needs out -- to run around, to stretch their legs.  Obviously, the parents have to watch them every single second and it can be a stressful event.

All kids are so different too.  When my son was about 2, we lost him in a Super Target in Orem, UT.  OK, wait -- David lost him -- I was in a dressing room.  He let him out of the cart "for just a second," and he was gone.  One thing about Daymon, when his feet hit the ground, he was running!  For 10 minutes we had no idea where our son was.  He had made it to the very back of the store when a very nice lady picked him up.  Yadda, yadda, yadda, David learned his lesson!

I read a funny story one time about a mom who was in the front yard with all the neighborhood moms and kids.  Her 2 year old boy took off down the road.  She had a baby on her hip and another one on the way.  She was wearing "the cutest clogs" and had no idea how she was going to chase her son down the road.  She got a great idea and yelled as loud as she could "ETHAN!  ICE!  CREAM!"  Sometimes we have to be resourceful.  Each child is so different and cannot be treated the same as the next.

I think it's really easy to judge a parent that has their child on a leash -- I know I've done it -- but in the end, we don't know the parent's frame of mind at that point.  (Maybe they've lost a child before, maybe she's pregnant and not feeling well, maybe the kid hates the stroller and screams in it, etc.)  There could be a million reasons why they made the decision to use a leash.  Ultimately, if the child is happy (not screaming like Vena was), mom or dad is probably happy, everyone is safe.  I don't really care.  I'd rather see a happy toddler walking around on a leash than a parent trying to keep a child in a stroller, cramming a bottle in his mouth trying to keep him quiet. We've all witnessed that, I'm sure.

One of my former students was at the zoo recently and she sent me a picture of a father holding up a stroller with the child in it to see the animals.  Heaven forbid he should take the child out and actually hold him up to see.  They obviously wanted the child to stay in the stroller.  A leash would have been so much better and have forced the parents to have more interaction with their child.  

So, I don't think this is so cut and dry.  It must offend us because we see it the same way as leashing a dog.  But why do people leash their dogs?  So they don't run away.  It's all the same.  People love their dogs.  People love their children.  They want them to have the freedom to walk, but they also want them to be kept safe.  Besides, the leashes I've seen lately are so cute, like animal backpacks!  Mine was just a rope, like a hanging.

What I'd really like at this point in my life is a leash for my 14-year-old son.  That's another story for another day.


Kendra said...

let me start off by saying I love your blog!I get sooo nervous when people I admire speak ona topic I am on the opposite side of so I was nervous when you apporached leashes. I loved my sons leash. He and his sister are only 15 months apart and until my daughter was about 2.5 months old we didn't have a car.
So we caugth the bus to hadnle our affais. Thank Goodness the city were in had great public transportation! But all of that to say I do not know how I would have handled a newborn and a toddler on the bus with out my wonderful back-pack leash. It had a sesame street chacater on it and my son loved his leash he got to walk around and see everything while staying safe.
Althought he hated when he got to the end of the leash. LOL
I love in was a real and physical lesson on boudaries.

Carolynn said...

I have been back and forth about leashes. When my sister told me she had a little backpack one for my 2 year old neice I was very skeptical. Then I saw how she loved wearing it and wanted me to hold the other end. Somehow she felt independent but safe knowing someone was holding her too. I like the idea that my baby is used to being in a sling, but I guess you never know how they will be when they are big enough to run around!

Jessi said...

I've never felt the need for a leash. Usually when I'm out I get the feeling my kids would rather have ME on a leash.

Just gotta say, I feel exactly the same about having animals as pets (much to the dismay of my own animal-lovers) Kids are enough to take care of and clean up after. I've come to believe that animals were meant to live outdoors. :)

Nikki said...

I was just wondering about this myself as I was on a family vacation and saw my husband's cousin 'leash' her toddler who is close to the same age as my son. I never thought I'd leash my son, but as he's starting to walk and my belly is expanding with baby #2, the leash looked sort of... like a life saver. I hate the thought of it but can appreciate the usefulness of it.

Regina said...

Before I had kids I would have never understood the need for a leash, I will admit that. I probably thought something really rude like, "Just get control of your kids". I know, what a jerk. Anyway, I have never needed one, but if someone does, I say Go For IT!! Whatever you feel you need to do to keep your kids safe.

You mentioned people keeping their kids in strollers. Both of my kids are very good in the stroller. We usually only need it at the mall, but the rule is that they can NOT get out. (Obviously at the zoo, or a place where they can explore it would be different) But not at the mall. And they never cry or ask to get out (even my 3 year old). I think seeing a mom hold a baby, chase a toddler AND push an empty double stroller is just as bad as seeing a crying kid in a stroller with a parent cramming a bottle in their mouth. I think it's our duty as the parent to do what is best for the kid, (either pick them up in your example, or stick them back in the stroller in my example) whether they like it or not. We are the parent, they are the child. So if a leash is deemed necessary by a responsible parent, so be it! :)

Mama Sticks said...

It's so funny...I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I always looked down on parents who had their kids on leashes. And then I had twins and now have a 2 year old and 8 month old infants, and the leash idea looks a lot better than my son running out in the street when my hands are full of baby.

I don't think we'll need to get a leash because he rides in the stroller pretty well. And if I'm out with my husband too, one of us can hold him if we need to. I guess I've just learned to NEVER judge parents for their choices (unless it's a clear legal issue) because we all have different experiences and children.

Christine said...

There are some very good reasons already mentioned here as to why a parent would want to use a "leash" for their child... but there is one very good reason, the main reason I used them on both my sons, and a good reason why my mom used them on me and my sibilings. That reason is for the comfort of the child. Go walk around with your arm stretch up in the air for 30 minutes and see how fun that is! It's not only uncomfortable to walk around like that, it's also restrictive. With a leash a child can feel safe AND independant at the same time... I know, because I remember mine and I remember how much i LOVED my leash! I could explore and know exactly where my mom was at all times. To me, it's the best alternative to letting kids wander with little to no adult awareness, but still letting the child explore their world safely.

Mrs. Obie said...

I used to HATE the idea of leashing your kids up. My frame of mind was "are these people THAT lazy that they need to leash their children?!"
But then my oldest daughter started walking, and every once in awhile, a leash looked like a pretty damn good idea. I still never used one, and I probably never will, but as I've grown and had children, I understand why parents would want to.

Augusta Cherri said...

Yeah, I used to think the leash children were abused and in desperate need of liberation. That was BEFORE I had kids.

My mother-in-law bought our kids these backpacks that look like animals with tails and the kids went absolutely NUTS for them. They wanted to wear them in the house, outside, in public, to bed. Anywhere I would let them. We had three children ages 5 and under and lived overseas. We traveled through busy international airports and having the leashes was such a wonderful thing.

On a side note, I actually rarely "walked" the kids like animals on leashes. More often than not, I'd give them their own tails to hold with the promise that they'd be on their best behavior. If they started to run around or into dangerous situations (i.e., toward the street), I'd grab the end of the tail and hold it. Otherwise, they'd wear their backpacks and happily hold their own tails, all the while staying close to me and out of danger. And for the record, my kids HATED slings, wraps, being carried, etc. They wanted to walk for themselves as soon as they could.

Anonymous said...

We are on the same page, same paragraph, same sentence, same word concerning ALL of the above! : )

Shannon said...

I used to be so annoyed by leashes! That was before I had a child of my own. When Morgan was almost 2, I got one for her to try because she always wanted to walk, and we were going to Disney Land. I felt so conflicted even buying it. She loved to wear her hippo, but we only used it one time that trip, and that was for a crowded day of shopping at the beach. A lady walked by and said, "free the leash kids". I thought..."She obviously doesn't have a 22 month old that wants to walk everywhere!" She has even asked me to take her for walks around the block with it! I might take her up on it now that I'm 9 months prego, and not really up for a chase.

Shannon said...

First of all, I'd just love to say that I love your blog. I was introduced to it through a friend and have read every back entry. It's really introduced me to a lot of ideas and new perspectives. As far as leashes go, let me preface this comment by saying that I am not a mother yet, and since I do not have that experience, I am neither strictly for nor strictly against leashes. Like everything else, I agree, it's a situational thing. However, like the dad holding the kid's stroller up instead of the kid at the zoo, this is what bothers me about leashes: when I see mom/dad with the child on a leash, talking on a cell phone, digging through racks of clothes, completely ignoring the child. I worked retail in a mall for a period of time and I would see this constantly. It bothered me as much as seeing a parent ignore their child in a stroller or in a car seat on a store cart. I think whatever your choice is as a parent, you should at least pay a little attention to your child!

Junior Junction Childcare said...

I had a monkey backpack leash that my kids LOVED! Wore it around the house all the time and would play with each other holding the tail.

I found I was able to give my kids more freedom in certain situations using it. Such as in the airport when traveling with lots of family members, she could wander around to all of us easily but couldn't wander off. At the Aquarium there are a lot of crowds such that I would insist on her holding my hand, but that isn't comfortable for her.

Lastly, I found it incredibly valuable as a mom of a special needs child. My former foster daughter had severe FASD. She would take off running instantly and would leave with anyone. She was very hyperactive and didn't want to be held or hold hands even if something caught her attention. This took away a lot of our battles out in public.

dianthe said...

i bought a puppy dog backpack leash when my daughter was 1, right before we left for a trip - i wasn't sure i would use it but it turned out to be a huge lifesaver - we ended up with a 3 hour layover and i was traveling alone with 1 carry-on, a diaper bag, a car seat AND a baby - i wore her a lot when she was a baby but as a new walker, she was having NONE of being worn

having her on a leash allowed her the freedom to "wander" and i didn't have to run after her or deal with any tantrums - we didn't get any negative comments or dirty looks - in fact, we got several comments about what a great idea the leash was and how cute she was - of course she was holding court as she walked through the airport, so i'm sure that helped - lol!

i always said i'd NEVER leash my kids but i don't know how i would have managed if i'd been without it - the only time we've needed it was when we were traveling, but i'm no longer opposed to using it if i need it in the future!

amy@BreadandCircuses said...

I didn't need one for my son because we live in the countryside. But if I lived in a city or used buses etc instead of the car, I would have definitely considered it!

My partner on the other hand hates them. He believes that you can just teach children not to run into traffic. Well not at that young age you can't.

We used them with my younger brother and sister growing up with success.

Ginger said...

I see these harnesses misused all the time. You're supposed to put the strap on your wrist and hold the child's hand, not let them walk ahead of you like a dog!
I've been judged for using harnesses with my toddlers, but always by parents whose kids were out of control and running ahead of them into the parking lot. Judge me all you want, silly parents, my kid isn't about to get run over.
My kids' safety is my top priority. What these people think of me is not.