“Leashes are for dogs,” they say.
“I’d never embarrass my child like that,” they say.
(Ever notice how when parents are being judgmental of each other, they always refer to their kid as “my child”?)
These model parents are, of course, talking about the child harness—or as it’s more commonly known, the kid leash. This piece of child safety equipment has somehow earned a spot right up there with the co-sleeping debate and the question of how long to breastfeed. These are topics that can lead perfectly reasonable parents to the brink of a fistfight.
Clint Edwards runs the popular parenting site No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog. He recently issued a powerful salvo in the Kid Leash Wars, and it’s safe to say that he is decidedly pro-leash.
“We were at the farmer’s market. No shame. I put this kid on a leash,” begins the post that launched a thousand comments.
Edwards goes on to explain that his daughter Aspen is “a wild child.”
“The real difficulty with having a wild child is that you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” Edwards wrote.
“Because the fact is, if I didn’t put Aspen on a leash while at amusement parks, the zoo, a crowded mall, or the farmer’s market, she’d be the lost child announced over the intercom. She’d be the kid popping up in every Facebook feed for wandering into a shopping center parking lot unattended. She could be the child climbing into the tiger cage.”
Edwards admits that he gets a lot of dirty looks and unsolicited advice. All it takes is a quick Google search to find legions of parents with their noses proudly in the air, vowing that they would never demean “my child” with something as crass as a safety harness. Edwards’ post itself is full of comments blasting this father for leashing his child.
To these naysayers, Edwards has a clear message:
“I’m [keeping] this kid safe while maintaining my piece of mind, and that is 100 percent worth it,” he wrote. “Because the reality is she’ll calm down. She’ll figure it out, because all kids do. But until that day comes, I’m going to do whatever I can to keep her out of danger, even if it means a leash.”
That all seems to make sense. Not everyone agrees, of course.
Commenter Mark Thomson’s response is typical of the never-leashers.
“Putting your child on a leash says a lot about your knowledge of parenting, discipline, and unrealistic value of safety parameters and you should be judged,” Thomson wrote.
“There are no shortages of resources that can help any parent make improvements to their parenting techniques and methodologies. Especially in establishing a base discipline and behavioral expectations of the child. One thing [is] for sure… It’s not the child’s fault. A leash is wrong.”
A surprising number of parents share this viewpoint. Even Judith Goldberg, who writes the “Judy on Duty” column in Parents magazine, does not reserve judgement when it comes to child harnesses.
“Leashes are for dogs,” she wrote. “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.”
Goldberg doesn’t address the difference between restraining your kid with a harness and strapping them down in a stroller—which sound to us like essentially the same thing.
Besides, comments like Goldberg’s seem to ignore the fact that every child is different. So is every parent.
Unless the American Pediatric Association (APA) or some other authority says child harnesses are harmful to kids, parents should feel free to use them without becoming the targets of online parent trolls. For the record, the APA has issued no such warning.
Speaking of safety, there is one type of child harness that you should avoid like the plague. Some models attach to your kid’s wrist. This can hamper a child’s natural stride, which depends on arm movements along with their toddling legs.
Even worse, if your kid wanders too close to the edge of a cliff and you suddenly pull them back, you might dislocate their elbow or shoulder. If you choose to leash your kid, buy a tether with a harness that fits around the chest, or else attach the leash to the kid’s backpack.
People tend to argue about the things they care most deeply about.
Parents love their children, so it’s natural that they develop very strong opinions on every aspect of raising a kid. Before you rush to judgement, though, consider how different every child is—and remember that some parents have to choose between keeping their kid on a leash and skipping public outings entirely.
The only one who can decide whether to leash a kid is that kid’s parent. There is absolutely no reason to feel guilty for doing whatever it takes to keep your child safe. Don’t let the haters get you down. Bare your leash proudly—it is an expression of your love and concern for your child.
Another commenter on Edwards’ contentious post seems to have the right idea. “I used to be pretty judgy about those things,” wrote Kristin Nosbusch. “Then I had kids. Keep on keepin’ on, man.”