To Leash or Not to Leash

A few weeks ago, I did the Walk for Autism at the Cincinnati Zoo. Unfortunately, it started raining pretty heavily, so we bailed early. O was sick (again), and I didn’t want to make things worse. Of course, an hour or so after we left the skies cleared into the most beautiful blue spring sky you’ll ever see, but I digress.

So, I was thinking about the logistics of the walk earlier that week, and I wondered out loud to O’s dad about getting a harness/leash type thing for O. O *hates* the stroller, and I thought a leash might be a better option for lots of walking around in a crowded place. O’s dad was not pleased.

“What!? Well, don’t look at me when O comes home with a newspaper in his mouth!” he said.

“Uh, huh? What does that even mean?!” I asked

“Oh, you know, you’re gonna leash our kid like a dog so he might act like one later in life. Bad joke,” he said.

“Um…, OK then.”

After that odd exchange, O’s dad went on to express some pretty seriously strong opinions about leashing O. Things I never even considered! Such as parents who leash their children are “lazy” and just don’t want to keep a hand on or keep a close eye on their child. Really? Have these lazy-callers ever taken their very fast 21-month-old to a very crowded, public place on their own?

Here’s some background on why I considered “leashing” O:

1) The aforementioned stroller hate.

2) O loves to run. A lot. At a fast clip. With no regard to his own safety. Maybe that regard will come soon, but last week he jumped out of a moving wagon to run across a street to a bike. (He also loves bikes.) Visions of him escaping me at the zoo were too frightful not to take seriously.

3) I figured with a leash, he could run around and explore. I could also pick him up to see the exhibits easily, without unbuckling him, taking him out of the hated stroller, and then trying to force him back in it.

4) As a single mom, I don’t have that “backup” in public spaces that married couples have. I don’t have another set of eyes. If O gets away from me, I don’t have a Dad to step in and grab him—it’s ALL me ALL the time. I can handle it for the most part—but did I mention O’s fast? All it takes is that one time where he escapes and something could go horribly wrong. (And I don’t believe for a second that no parent has never had a wily toddler escape from his or her grasp for a moment or two.)

I’ve seen kids leashed (isn’t there another word for it, really?) before. I always thought it to be a little weird, but never gave it much more thought. But as I talked to other moms about the whole leashing thing, it became apparent that lots of people have very strong opinions about it. One friend was silent for a good chunk of the time as I told her about my possible leashing plan. I suspect she had really strong feelings about the subject, but wasn’t about to tell me how to raise my kid. Because I know this particular friend, and if she has an opinion about something, she’s going to tell me.

And when I googled this topic—oh MY! People sure do have opinions. The most common negative one being the “lazy” comment I got from O’s dad. Although honestly, I don’t know how much different a stroller is from a leash when it comes to the lazy department. You’re less lazy because you’re pushing something?

It wasn’t like I was going to leash O all the time, everywhere. But at this crowded zoo, on this crowded walk, I thought about it. Ultimately I decided against it, and we went with the stroller—O couldn’t see much, didn’t get to explore, but he was fine. All the commotion and seeing so many other kids in strollers seemed to appease him.

Not to say I wouldn’t consider the leash in future situations, but right now I’m going to continue to try to stress to O the importance of not running away from his Mom and Dad, into the street, etc. It’s working pretty well–so far, so good.

I’ll letcha know how it goes. In the meantime, I’m going to keep up with that whole “trying to not judge other people’s parenting choices” thing. I’ll letcha know how that goes, too.

23 thoughts on “To Leash or Not to Leash

  1. Mom3Times says:

    I used to have very negative opinions about using a leash for children. I am not sure where the negative connotation came from for their use. Because, as you pointed out, if you really want to give your child freedom to explore, plus keep a eye out for their safety, a leash is perfect. They are confined in a stroller and thier view is blocked for the most part. A leash (maybe harness would be a better word?) would be a good option.

  2. FreshHell says:

    Whew, yeah I think opinion about parenting choices would change if we had a national “walk a day in my shoes” day. I used to have negative opinions about things like “leashing” children but that was before my second “spirited” child was born. I never bought a leash for her because it never occured to me but she never liked the stroller either. She’s too rambunctious to hold my hand and in fact chafes at the suggestion. She’s stubborn and independent and loves to run, full bore, through crowds. In the city, this can really raise my blood pressure and it does take at least two adults to keep her from darting across the street. She’s not even four yet and has the sense of a squirrel when it comes to safety. If I could do it all over again, I might consider a leash for those forays into the city. For her own safety. Haters are ALWAYS going to find something to criticize and they usually never speak from experience. I’ve learned over the years to tune out this kind of unasked for criticism. I’m not 100% successful but one thing that’s worked is simply not to go looking for it. I’ll make my own choices, thank you very much, and you can just butt out. Easy to say, harder to put into practice, I know. With a spirited child, every day is a different kind of challenge.

  3. My opinion of the child leash changed once I had kids, too. I think the leash or harness is perfectly fine when you have a runner on your hands. Especially if you have multiple children with you. If you’re in a crowded public place, keeping an eye on older children is hard enough, put a little one in the mix and if you’re alone it’s even harder. As long as your child is OK wearing it–I think there’s no harm.

  4. OK, I tried to post a link in that last comment, but it didn’t work. So I’ll break it up. Cut and paste, then reassemble.

    Sorry – I just couldn’t resist!!

    But seriously, do what you need to do, Tela. Everybody else can go to hell!

  5. Amy in Ohio says:

    Opinionated one here (lol!!)

    Sorry if my silence seemed to be unexpressed judgment. It truly was one of the times when I didn’t have an opinion. Alert the presses!

    You know I love you and I think you are an awesome mom! I know how long you research and debate to make the best decision for your child and if this is your choice, I know it is the right one. Because you know his needs better than any other person will ever know his needs and you work so darn hard to meet them.

    I do think what you’ve said before about the huge difference between girls and boys is so true here. O is a thrill seeker – he’s out there to see what the world has to offer – with or without YOU Mom. Where P is more let the sights and sounds come to her. She’s the lazy one now that I think of it!

    So how in the world could one parenting approach work for all kids? That is the message we all need to make our mantra. What works for us, works for us. Period.

    You are a fantastic mom – and I trust you with my kid and that says a lot since I only trust about 4 people with my kid and my husband just barely makes that list! LOL!

    Love you!

  6. kookaburra says:

    How about trying it on an excursion and see how it goes? Just think of it as another tool in your parenting kit. It’s not like you are hitching the kid to a tree while you go shopping or something.

    I used the leash/harness with both my daughters. The oldest was my “velcro” child and it gave her a sense of attachment to me without me being exhausted by the end of the day. The youngest was my “wild” child and the harness gave her a sense of freedom without me being exhausted by the end of the day.

    Try it out – if it works, great. If it doesn’t, try something else.

  7. just4ofus says:

    I see a lot people with those cute kids’ leashes that are like a stuffed animal.
    You do what works for you.
    No matter what you do, someone will disagree.
    The people who think they have all the answers and that their way is the way.. well..usually they are the wrong ones.
    Being a parent is about being flexible and about realizing that your opinions about things might just have to change.

  8. icecreammama says:

    If the leash makes everyone happy and comfortable, then do it.

  9. I used to say “No Way!” Until my first child came along. I found one that goes around the waist and looks like a fanny pack and the “leash” was elastic, to give him freedom. We put snacks in the pouch thing and it was great!

  10. I don’t think it’s lazy at all. I always thought it was AWFUL that people would leash their kids.

    And then I became a single parent.

    My daughter’s four now, but she was walking at 10 months, and there was no stopping her. I broke down and tried the leash because just like you, I didn’t have an extra pair of eyes in crowded situations. It was more of a safety thing for me. Plus she hated holding my hand — I think she saw it has being held back.

    I admit, I only wound up using it a handful of times, mostly because it felt so weird.

    But now, instead of judging parents who choose to use one, I TOTALLY understand.

  11. I fall into the used-to-think-harnesses-were-weird-until-i-had-my-own-kid camp. I think you need to do whatever works for you. Toddler wrangling is hard! Another possible benefit of getting a harness/leash is then you could give O the choice of two options that work for you: would he rather sit in the stroller or use the leash? We do this all the time with our Little Dude and it works well: “do you want to wear your blue hat or your red hat?” so no matter what, he’s wearing a hat but there’s less drama because he feels like he has a certain amount of control because he gets to choose.

  12. What the heck is the problem with this concept? It’s not as if you’re using a choke-chain or tying him to a stake in the yard. 🙂

    Even the most manageable kids get excited and forget about safe boundaries sometimes. If a kid-harness helps you enjoy outings safely and comfortably while he’s still learning the rules, so be it!

  13. Wow! I can’t believe how supportive you all are. That just goes to show you how awesome WMAG readers are.

    I had this post written for weeks but was afraid to post it for fear of some of the comments I might get!

    No leash for now, but like I said, not ruling it out. Time will tell…

    That video of Phillip the Hyper Hypo is hilarious, btw.

  14. littlemansmom says:

    Well, I’ll tell you that doing something to ensure the safety of your child, especially when you are doing it all on your own is , IMHO, the most responsible thing EVER! Leash…it’ll allow a bit or roaming freedom for your little one and a little piece of mind for you. Who care what anyone else thinks!

  15. moosh in indy. says:

    Despite people’s negative feelings on leashes you know darn well everyone who’s ever had a toddler has wanted to use one at one time or another. I used one for the squirrley phase, I kept the “leash” tucked on top of the backpack until I needed it, and even when I used it I still held her hand as much as I could or that she would let me.
    People who judge other people’s parenting can suck it. You deserve all the praise in the world for being a single parent no matter what difficult parenting decisions you have to make.

  16. jennilea6 says:

    I actually used a “leash” (there DOES need to be a better word) for my precocious and curious 2 year old while at DisneyWorld back in 2003. At the time, I was the only person I knew who had made that choice for their child. What is interesting to me is that people are passionate about hating the leash because (according to some) it’s demeaning and restricts children, though my experience is that many parents stick their children in a stroller for longer stretches at a time, preventing them from running, moving, exploring and, in truth, restricting them. How is a stroller any better? At least with a harness, my son was encouraged to use his body (avoiding teaching laziness here), use his mind and explore what he finds naturally interesting. The leash has a negative association with it because we use leashes for animals, and rightly so, no one wants to feel that we are treating people as animals. In truth, we aren’t treating our children any differently, showing them disrespect or abusing them — just using a tool in our resource box that will allow us to be there while giving them room to grow at the same time.

  17. Well, I have twin girls who are just as daring as any boys I know in public places (not the case in smaller venues) and we live on a very busy street in a city. I would have had a heart attack by now were it not for those cute backpacks they sell at Target. Moms with twins and multiples are faced with challenges that keep them from doing many things on their own (like going to pools) but “leashes” help to actually do something. I couldn’t care less about what other people so long as my sanity is safe and sound, which means I’m a better mother. My girls still beg to wear their backpacks even though they don’t really need them anymore.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I used to think that those leashes were a cop-out – a way for lazy parents to not have to watch or discipline their kids. My boys just aren’t wanderers and while they’re fast – I’ve been lucky enough that they reserve those outbreaks for parks and the backyard – not public places. When I spent the weekend with my sister, who has a very bold, independant 21 month old – my opinion of the leashes completely changed. She needs one! With 5 children all under the age of 4 to manage that weekend, my sister and I had a really hard time keeping my niece under control in crowds. My niece was constantly brushing up against safety issues by her wandering and running away – out into busy streets and too far for comfort in crowded places. So I say — do whatever you need to do in order to keep them safe! Every child is different and you can’t expect those really small, curious toddlers to keep themselves out of trouble. It’s a scary world out there!

  19. I actually bought one while I was pregnant — haven’t needed to use it yet (my daughter just turned 2), but the whole reason I got it was if I took her somewhere that is too crowded. I obviously keep an eye on her, and have her hold my hand, but she does squirm away, and if we are in a very crowded or dangerous (traffic, etc) place, I think it’s much better to be safe than sorry!

    But, although I’ve never used the ‘toddler’ leash, one of her favorite things to do is imitate our dog and become “J-puppy” — this led to a family walk around the neighborhood, with the dog on a leash, and our daughter with the dog’s extra leash clipped to the back of her skirt! Didn’t realize how bad that looked until I got a funny look from a neighbor. “J-puppy” happened to be barking at the time too! Oh well! Imagination is good… right! 🙂

  20. Anonymous says:

    He hates the stroller, eh?

    I guess his affinities for transportation supersede his safety.

  21. Sorry, Anon… not sure what your comment means, exactly.

    Care to clarify?

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