Leashes for children: safe or irresponsible?
I recently created a post on Facebook that stated that I was planning on purchasing baby leashes for my 18-month-old twin boys, and instead of the positive feedback I expected, most of my friends, many who did not even have children, much less multiples, responded immediately with extreme criticism.
Before we go any further, let me explain what I mean by a leash. I’m not talking about a dog leash. I’m talking about a cute little fluffy stuffed animal backpack that has a chest harness attached to it and at the very bottom has a long, fuzzy tail that can be removed later on. The tail, of course, functions as the leash component.
Most parents of small children are too busy to respond immediately to a Facebook posting, so I had on my hands a ton of negative criticism from people who had never shepherded small children from one place to another. I hadn’t thought about the fact, at least not at first, that none of these people was a parent. So I went online to try to find out what had been written about this subject.
In April 2011, Parents magazine advice columnist Judith Goldberg, who writes under the column “Judy on Duty” wrote a column that received more feedback than it ever had before. The column was about leashes for children.
Leashes, she said, are for dogs. She continued to write, “You wouldn’t put your child in a crate, or let him poop on the sidewalk, right? If you have a bolter, invest in a cheap umbrella stroller with a buckle.”
The column generated a record-breaking amount of feedback. One poster wrote, “Not sure if your brain is off duty but “leashes” as you call them allow children to be mobile and have both hands free to explore their world in a controlled manner when they are walking but still too young to understand basic hazards. Umbrella strollers with a buckle, while meeting safety and security needs, don’t give a child any mobility or freedom.”
Other posters argued that parents should simply teach their children to stop when they say stop.
An article posted in the Florida Times Union earlier this year, written by a parent, discussed her fears of her child being kidnapped. Her child, she said, would be safer if she could keep her hands on him at all times, and she accomplished this by using a leash on him.
Yet another writer, social psychologist and author Susan Newman, states she doesn’t think leashes are an effective child safety tool. She, like others, says it’s more important to teach your child boundaries and safety rules.
Then we explore the pediatrician’s viewpoint. Much of the literature I found said that pediatricians were actually consulted on the design of most of the child leashes, or child harnesses, that exist. As a result, pediatricians feel like it’s safer to use a harness that buckles at the chest rather than constantly yanking your child up by the arm, which could cause dislocations.
In one blog I found, a parent wrote, ““My pediatrician suggested I get a leash after I twice dislocated my son’s arm while walking with him. Dislocation occurs at the elbow. Once it happened when I held his hand tightly and he suddenly twisted to go in another direction; the other time he fell while I was still holding his arm. I had to go to the doctor to reset his elbow.”
That sounds horrific. I can’t imagine what this parent went through, unintentionally hurting her child.
Having explored what I could find online, much of which did NOT address twins or multiples, I decided to start asking my pediatrician and my family and friends what they thought. By the time I finished exploring the Internet, I logged back on to Facebook to check my original posting. I was shocked. In the half an hour I had been surfing online, all my parent friends, many of them mommies of twins, had jumped into this conversation and actually supported my decision to purchase leashes for my children.
Many of them told me it was hard enough to keep up with one child who is too old for the stroller in many instances but not old enough to stay put when mom says stay put. All four of my parents agreed (I come from a blended family) and supported my decision. I think in all the conversation I had online and in-person, I got only one negative comment from a poster who was a friend of a friend on Facebook and had teenage twins. She informed me that she was able to teach her children to stay put when they were my kids’ age and only parents who don’t pay attention to their kids need to use leashes. Considering all the feedback I had from other people who also had multiples, I had a hard time believing her. But who knows? She could, in fact, be Supermom.
I bought the leashes yesterday. I found them at Target for 10 bucks a piece. Not a bad price for a mom of multiples on a budget. I started small by hooking them up at the park and letting them wander around. They loved the newfound freedom of not having to be trussed up in the stroller where they couldn’t move. I loved the enhanced safety of not having to worry about one running off in one direction while the other runs off in the opposite direction. As a stay-at-home mom who does almost everything on her own, this is an enhanced sense of security I really needed. And these poor kids are too big to be in the stroller all the time.
If you’re trying to make the same decision for your kids, weigh all the pros and cons and, ultimately, go with your gut. As parents, that’s probably the most important resource we can use. Don’t let others’ judgment keep you from doing something you feel will keep your children safe in the long-run.