To Leash or Not to Leash?

by anna on December 10, 2008

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Many many months ago, when the true impact of having and ambulatory child was still all theoretical for us, Mr. Right-Click and I were discussing the necessity of eventually getting a leash for Mini. Mr. Right-Click argued that we were going to be in serious trouble once the kid could run and get away from us, especially when we were out in public and trying to multitask. He felt that, given that no kind of remote control with a toddler pause and rewind button has been invented (yet), a leash was the only way to handle this potential problem, and cited the many people we have seen out in The World using leashes for their children as evidence for the acceptance of this practice by Society at Large.

I don’t think I need to tell you that I was vehemently opposed to the idea of leashing my child. First of all, I always think of kids with leashes as the same ones who have to wear helmets so that they don’t hurt themselves while just walking around. And no child of mine . . . uh . . . well, yeah, now that I think of it, a helmet might not be such a bad idea, since you never know when a toddler will fall over and bang their head. Like, say, when they’re eating their Morningstar Farms vegetable scrambles–you know, the things that look like chicken nuggets but are actually made of vegetables, that I love to use to trick Mini into eating stuff that isn’t made of cheese or meat–and take a header off the side of a platform bed, which is only like two inches off the ground to begin with.

I digress. What I mean to say is: if we start leashing our kids . . . why, next thing you know we’re going to be carrying little plastic baggies around to dispose of their poo. Wait. And what is after that? Chew toys? Wait.

So now Mini has been walking for a while and he can pretty much run, though it’s more of a shuffling movement, where his chest sticks out way in front of him and the threat of falling is particularly pronounced. And I’ll admit that it’s hard to keep up with him, particularly when your energy level is as piss poor as mine. Like when we went to the bank the other day, and I’m dealing with the teller, and I look away from Mini for one half of one millisecond to get money from the teller. And when I look back down, he has vanished! VANISHED, I say! Then I turn around in a circle really fast like the Tazmanian Devil or some other cartoon character whose legs are moving so fast they can’t catch any traction–looking for him, desperately, a caricature of the frazzled mother-to-young-child. At length–like a good 2-3 seconds later–I finally spot him right next to the giant, life-sized stuffed animal horse toy that I have to assume Wells Fargo puts in its branches to tempt errant drunken elf tyrants toddlers and to torture me. He was pointing at it saying, “This. This. THIS.”Of course.

Alright. I guess I have to say it. Dude needs a leash.

What do you guys think? Do you leash your children? Would you could you in a mall? Would you could you dare at all?

{ 17 comments }

3carnations December 10, 2008 at 6:37 am

I would not leash my son, and I always think it’s looks kind of ridiculous. My son is 4 and a half now, but when he was first walking, we usually used the stroller on outings (other than the park or something), or we would carry him. Now we hold hands, and if we have to let go, he knows he has to be close enough to touch.

3carnations´s last blog post..Nobody likes a complainer

Michele December 10, 2008 at 6:54 am

When my boys were little it was socially unacceptable to leash them up. Times were different then. There were either less weirdos or they were spread out. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore or once again the media is out of control or both. This is a tough choice.

Safety and security says yes; allowing toddlers to have freedom of movement in order to express independence and get a sense of their surrounds says no. Maybe it is all about where they are at any given time; park with mom & dad paying attention = no leash. Busy crowded mall with possible distractions for the parent = yes.

Danielle December 10, 2008 at 7:00 am

Well, I can’t say with all certainty that I’d ever leash my children, but I remember so vividly how my mom used to pull out the “hand holder” (aka, leash) for my sister whenever we went to the mall. I don’t think I ever got the treatment, but here’s something to think about: My sister, 20 years later, still isn’t independent…she can’t even go get her hair cut by herself. Now, I’m not saying that this is because of the hand holder, but it’s an interesting correlation.

Danielle´s last blog post..List love!

Kerry December 10, 2008 at 7:29 am

I said I’d never do that. Then, when my oldest was about 19 months or so, we took her to the zoo. I was pregnant with #2 and miserably sick (I had severe, severe morning sickness all nine months, 24 hours a day, with both kids). She thought it was fun to run away, and I couldn’t keep up with her. We bought leash right there at the zoo. It was the kind that is a little stuffed-animal backpack, a monkey, and the leash part was his tail. We only used it for a few months (shortly after she turned two, she got the whole “don’t run away from me or I will get scary mad” thing). But there were a couple of times when I was REALLY glad I had it (like when I was throwing up in a parking lot and she was trying to run away…good times).

Incidentally, when we were walking back to the car that day at the zoo, some bitch looked at us and very loudly said, “Look at that kid on the leash. That is just disgusting. What is wrong with those people?” It was the closest I have ever come to assaulting someone.

Do what you need to do to keep your kid safe and yourself sane. A few months of using a leash is not going to kill him.

heather December 10, 2008 at 9:00 am

I have three kids. The youngest, on his own, is a handful. Add to that, his two older siblings and it’s difficult to keep them all wrangled. I have always felt that a leash was bad. Restrictive. Treats your child like an animal, etc.

This summer, we took a family trip to Disney World. The thought of having my two-year-old wriggling away and getting lost forever was more than I could stand. Bought a leash and used it. One of the monkey backpack ones as described above.

Not only did he actually LIKE it, but he wanted to put it on. I was afraid of the scorn from other parents, but there, we saw many toddlers in leashes. Also, we had a few families say that although they had never used one before they finally broke down and bought one.

Look, I don’t know that I’d put it on in the grocery store, but I’d do it again in a place like Disney. He’s a runner and it’s a safety factor. Just my 2 cents.

jenni December 10, 2008 at 9:02 am

Nelson and I have been talking about this same thing. Like you, we feel like it’s just a little bit “ick” putting your kid on a leash like a dog. But, at the same time, the little sucker is FAST and he refuses to hold our hands and I’ve had more than one “oh shit” moment when I look away for a second and he’s fled the country. It isn’t and issue of want to control him so much as it is of wanted to keep him safe in public.

Now that baby #2 will be here in less than a day, I’m seriously considering getting one those ones that looks like a monkey backpack with a “tail.” But, I don’t know. It feels weird.

jenni´s last blog post..Second Time Around

Amy December 10, 2008 at 10:14 am

I have no input as I have no children and the times I’ve attempted to leash & walk my cats has mostly ended in failure. Also, I’m totally those people described above who look at leashed children & think “Look at that kid on the leash. That is just disgusting. What is wrong with those people?” Although I would never actually say that out loud. And also, don’t have kids, so my opinion is worth about -5 :)

Amy´s last blog post..Not bad, for a Tuesday

Joy @ Big Time Fancy December 10, 2008 at 10:26 am

Oh man, all my kids will be leashed.
I was a terrible child – I would run away from my parents in department stores on purpose, so I could have them call for my parents on the intercom and hear my name on the loudspeaker.

Karma is going to bite me in the ass for that one. So I am allllllll about leashes.

Joy @ Big Time Fancy´s last blog post..Dress’d

blissfully caffeinated December 10, 2008 at 12:17 pm

I can see why people do it, especially at a place like Disneylad, but I’ve never leashed my kids and I don’t think I ever would. It really bothers me when I see a poor little kid leashed at like Office Depot or something. It just seems wrong to me. I’ve always used a stroller or shopping cart if I needed to keep my girls contained, and now at 2 and almost 5 they are pretty good about not running.

On Jon and Kate Plus 8 they use this little contraption made up of round plastic donuts connected by straps, and each of the kids holds a donut. Then the parents take the ends of the straps. It works pretty well and they have a bunch of kids. I wonder if they are available for smaller numbers of kids.

Also, sweatshirt hoods work really well for keeping your kids from running.

blissfully caffeinated´s last blog post..While We’re On The Subject…

anna December 10, 2008 at 12:23 pm

See, but if you only have girls, then your vote doesn’t count (just kidding, of course). I have used the back of the sweatshirt trick, but Mini won’t sit in a stroller or a grocery cart anymore. It’s a major pain in the ass. I don’t really want to leash him up, but there are times when I’m really worried he’s going to wander off, even though I watch him carefully. For now, I basically just don’t ever take him shopping anymore.

lisa December 10, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Get the leash and leave it in the diaper bag. Bring it out if you feel like the situation calls for it.

Kids generally don’t know how to act in public, that’s where we as parents have to step in and teach them. I like to call it “practice”.

When Ava was about 14mo, I would go to the mall as soon as it opened and walk around with her “practicing” the behavior I desired when out in a public place. It worked like a charm!

Juliet December 11, 2008 at 7:54 am

My youngest will be three in February and she had some developmental delays including very late and poor walking. The PT recommended that I have her walk on our daily outings to take my older child to kindergarten, so we’d get an extra 10-15+ minutes of walking in each day. This was TERRIFYING since my poor walker would occasionally become a super fast, unpredictable DARTER — i.e. into the street. It was really scary. We had some close calls, especially on the walk home, when I’d also have the kindergartener with me and she’d be showing me macaroni crafts or something then suddenly younger child would dart….scary.

So PT recommended the leash. I tentatively raised the topic with a couple of neighborhood acquaintances (“Ever seen those leashes? Where do you buy them?”) and got VERY emotional responses. Nobody is neutral on this. People are either: Yes! Parents have the right to keep our kids safe! Or: How horrible! Nobody sees a child, a teeny little human being, paraded on a leash like a dog and thinks, “Oh, that’s nice.”

And I have to admit I’d see people at Disneyland or wherever back in the days before kids and think, What lunatics. Or even when I had just one child, I’d especially think, “Why don’t they just do what I do and they won’t need to worry about a leash?” I didn’t realize (duh) that everyone has their own unique challenges, some of which are practically invisible but are still very real.

One thing about the leashes is that they can give you a false sense of security, which can almost be worse than having to be super vigilant all the time. Several people told me the backpack-style leashes are very easy for kids to Houdini out of.

I ended up not getting one, ended up having many nail-biting days walking to/from school, sometimes with scarily close calls, but all of that walking was good for Bitsy. By the way she has “aged out of” her program for kids with developmental delays and is pretty much caught up. We had hoped to get her caught up to age level by kindergarten and she’s only almost-three so that’s good news.

crazylovescompany December 11, 2008 at 10:48 am

I’m voting no on the kiddie leash. But I don’t have a kid yet (tomorrow!) so ask me again in a year when hopefully baby is walking around.

crazylovescompany´s last blog post..Still no- almost 41 weeks

Angela December 11, 2008 at 12:40 pm

I was really against it until I was 8 months pregnant and my two-year old threw himself onto the ground in a busy parking lot. I almost bought a leash that same day, but we made it through leash-free, and I’m proud of that. But still…very tempting.

Angela´s last blog post..feel like killing yourself?

pamela December 11, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Hell yes! Leash those bad boys (or girls). My three year-old ran away at Target and hid inside some plus-sized sweaters.

Slings work, too. I would have had the naughty one in a sling that day, but I’m way too knocked up to be hauling that kid around all tied to me.

Also good for keeping children where you want? Duct tape.

pamela´s last blog post..wordless wednesday: with tunes

Jo December 14, 2008 at 11:03 am

I don’t have kids, but there was a time when I used to babysit a two-year old and every day we’d have to go down to the bus stop to wait for his 5-year-old brother to come off the school bus and while we were standing there waiting, the toddler would want to run around … in the street. So his mom bought a leash for him. I used it while we stood there so he could move a bit but I had control. I don’t see anything wrong with using leashes for toddlers in situations like that, or when you’re in the bank or somewhere that you have to pay attention to something else for a few minutes. When the kid’s old enough to be potty-trained and you’re still leashing them, it starts to look weird.

Janet April 5, 2009 at 8:20 am

I read your answers with interest and am a first time grandmother of an only child of my only child! I was a very overly-protective mother when my daughter was young and struggled on numerous occasions to keep her close when we were out and about. Being a child of the 60′s, we would never have DREAMED of harnessing our children. But 30 yrs after I struggled with my wiggly two year old, all I can say is how WONDERFUL that some brilliant person in marketing has come up with a harness that is cute with the stuffed animals, and also practical with the backpack! FORGET the looks on the disapproving faces of idiots around you! Who CARES what other people THINK! It isn’t THEIR child. Your child is your job, and your job is to keep them as safe as you can in this crazy mixed up world we live in today. I’d much prefer to see a parent with their toddler under control at the end of a “leash”, than a frazzled one screaming at their child as they struggle to keep them at their sides.

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