Leashes for children: safe or irresponsible?

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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.

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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.

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Comments

My mom used one on me. It was horribly traumatic. Don't do it. They may be safer, and I don't think they're irresponsible. From a child's perspective it is terribly unnatural. Kids especially want to move and run. It's a part of how they explore and orient to the world around them. Being restrained...in simple terms...made me feel sad. That feeling lasts.
I cringe every time I see a 5 or 6 yr old being pushed in a stroller. My mother (back in the 50's) had to fashion a tether for my brother who could disappear faster than ice cream at a birthday party. I also had two boys like that and used a tether on them. They loved being able to get in the sand and touch things. It added safety and we were able to plan more trips. I was not stressed by trying to find my child if he ran and hid, and they knew mom was right with them. I consider them to be a safety measure that should be standard in any trip.
I think this is good idea. Knowing many parents of multiples, those with children with disabilities like ADHD, and knowing parents whom were disabled themselves, it helped to broaden everyone's world. I myself used one for my son when he was little and helped me not to harm myself or him. It turns out it was a good thing because a few years later I was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and so was my child. This i think helped my joints not be quite as damaged thus far, and saved my son the agony of injuries and life long consequences from them. My son was also very hyperactive and I could not keep up with him running in all directions. So without the harness I had for him, I or him could have ended up in far worse shape.
Kathleen, I'm not sure they should be used on children who are old enough to remember them being used. I imagine it was horribly traumatic if you were old enough to remember it when it was used. Once a child reaches an age where he or she can understand to stay put, I believe the "leash" should stop being used. I imagine that coincides with the age where children start to remember things. I know every person remembers differently, but I have no concrete memories until I was around 4 or 5 years old. I certainly don't intend to continue use of these harnesses on my children past the age of 3, at the oldest. Currently, they're 1 and a half, and the danger of them running into dangerous situations is just too high. I've had too many close calls to count. In addition, the kids have not reacted negatively to them at all. Quite the opposite. They love being free to roam around instead of being stuck in a stroller.
I understand - I really do. Just giving a perspective. I was 2 years old - Yep! The terrible 2's and I do remember it. Every child is different. I remember "fighting" against it and I felt trapped and now I'm claustrophobic. But we're all different, seriously.
I understand claustrophobia. I have it bad. But I've had it my whole life. Maybe you were born with it and the claustrophobia was why it bothered you so much? Just a thought. I've seen lots of kids on "leashes" and I've never seen one look unhappy about it. I also see the leashes get more and more kid friendly as the years go by. When I was a kid, they were plastic with little springy leash components in fun colors. Now that my kids are small, they're actually stuffed animals. They're soft and when you take them off, they play with them like a little friend. And they're backpacks, so they love carrying their toys around in them. I totally understand your perspective, and if I put one on my kid, and my kid freaked out, I would take it off immediately. And would advise anyone else to do the same! I'm really sorry your mom made you keep wearing it even though it scared you. But one thing I wonder about is you said it actually restricted your mobility. It's giving my kids MORE mobility than they had before. Because there are two of them, I can't just let them go. I used to have to keep them in the stroller when running errands or walking to the park, etc. Now I can put the leashes on and they're able to walk and roam around.
I think safety is a priority for sure. If they don't react badly, that's key also. I did though. We do come into the world with predispositions to certain things. I suppose they can have a lot of fun. I just know I didn't like my leash. It wasn't cute either!
All I have to say is yes they probably shouldn't be used on older children but the experience is only traumatic if you make it such for the child, and anyone who "hates" on the leashes has OBVIOUSLY never had to walk through a store, crowd, or public place with a toddler. If used in a proper manner they are quite helpful, but you never want to punish a child with the leash, they are children, not dogs.
I preferred a tight hold on my hand from my mom instead - sister on one side and me on the other. If a mom needs to use those hands she can ask her child to hug her leg or stand in front of her protected. The nanosecond that hold on the leg loosens or that child moves, stop what you're doing. Yes, it takes time and leashes are more convenient, but I think they're so impersonal.
I have 2 young children, and unfortunately i cannot control them both as they would run off in different directions. I have tried all sorts not to use a restrainer, but i had a hair raising experience. My son (now5) walked out of the supermarket today as i was paying. My husband picked him up and drove off with him! I looked out on the footpath and inside the shop. To have a call from my husband saying that he had picked him up. This all happened in a matter of seconds. I am a responsible parent, and will not take any stick from anybody calling me otherwise! My son will definately have a leash on from now on! His safety comes before any psychological impact that he may develop in he future!
The debate won't end: Hand holding, strollers, carts, carrying your child, discipline and other options do exist.
seems you don't have young kids
LOL - That's irrelevant at this point. Did your mom tether you? And if not, why?. I do understand both sides of the story. It's my opinion that they could cause harm. It probably does depend on a child's acceptance of leashes and their inherent disposition toward being restrained. I again also understand the debate will not end and there will be proponents and adversaries for tethering kids. Parents will follow their personal beliefs. So be it.
I have a 3 year old, a 22 month old, and a 5 month old... and I am definitely contemplating on getting these. I'm sorry, but I have said No, Stop That, Get Over Here, like way to much and I'm tired of hearing myself say it so I'm sure it irritates the crap out of people when my kids are running around like crazy and not listening to me. I have tried taking away toys, time out, no treats and NOTHING works. I can't stand it anymore. I feel like I can't leave the house because the kids throw such fits and don't stay close to me.
When I hear about little kids on leashes, the first thing that comes to mind is subway tracks! Oh how quickly a kid can dart off and fall in them.