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In Kids & Family Commentary

Safe or stupid? (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

Local parents disagree on kids wearing leashes


As a parent, one has to make a zillion decisions, like to vaccinate or not to vaccinate, city or suburban schools, and soda or no soda.

One question that has caused a big debate in the parenting community is whether or not it's OK to leash kids, particularly toddlers.

Some parents say using the devices treat children like dogs and destroys their natural curiosity, while others argue they are simply used to prevent injuries – namely getting hit by a car – and that a busy city street or large festival is no place for kids to explore their curiosities anyway.

Amber Brooks knows she's judged sometimes for choosing to use a backpack-style harness, but she doesn't care.

"My daughter is a bolter, so we use a neat froggy backpack that has a leash attached. She loves to wear Mr. Froggy and help keep him safe," says Brooks. "I have no shame. I'd rather use a leash and be judged than not use a leash and have something happen to my kid. I'm sure I'm a real spectacle when I walk my kid and my dog around the block at the same time."

Often referred to as "safety harnesses" instead of "leashes," there are a variety of different styles on the market including wrist leashes, backpacks with "reins" and even electronic versions that look like bracelets and make sounds when the child exits the parameters.

A lot of parents change their mind on leashes if they have a scary experience. Beth McKay is one of these parents. She changed her opinion on leashes last week when her 2-year-old ran away from her. McKay was injured trying to grab her daughter.

"I ran trying to save her and at the end of it, it was an ambulance ride and 15 stitches for mama," says McKay. "I am now a fan of leashes."

Erika Schier Zilenski had a change of heart when she realized how quickly her son could get away from her and other safety methods did not work.

"I used to not be a fan at all. I thought they were a little degrading to the kid. And had a son who is a runner, like faster than I could have imagined. We tried making him hold hands, time out if he ran from us, and nothing worked so I let him pick out a harness that looks like a lion piggybacking on his back," says Zelinksi.

However, Ashley Wiener remembers wearing a leash as a child and feeling embarrassed by it.

"I promised myself that I would never put my kid on a leash and go through what I went through," says Wiener. "People actually pointed at me and laughed. I have a very active but very sensitive little boy, and I can't imagine what it would do to his psyche if people were pointing and laughing at him all the time."

Tricia Ballman agrees that leashes on kids are a bad idea.

"Kids are not dogs," she says. "If you can't keep track of your kid maybe you shouldn't have had one in the first place."

Personally, I understand both sides of this. When my sons were toddlers, I spent very long days alone with them and most of my time was spent trying to keep them safe. It was a tall order because there were two of them, and only one of me, and my oldest was a bolter.

I resisted leashes until I experienced a terrifying running-into-the-street scenario that aged me about eight years in five seconds and I finally accepted it was unsafe to spend time beyond my uber baby-proofed home or in the car where they were strapped into car seats.

After a few months of reclusiveness, I began to feel isolated. And since I was unable to figure out how to effectively clone myself, or to be able to run in two directions at the same time, I opted to try leashes.

The first time I tried them – I got the wrist kind – the boys wore them for about five minutes at a farmers market before I accidentally pulled one toddler over by reaching for the other one. I did not continue to use them, but I never judge parents who do.

Like everything else, it's about what works best for each family.

"I quickly learned that its not my place to judge how someone else chooses to parent. Whatever keeps them out of the street works for me," says Zelinski.

Talkbacks

TosaJim | Aug. 14, 2013 at 1:05 p.m. (report)

Stay off your iphones and pay attention to your kids and you won't need a leash. That's just being lazy. I raised 3 kids and have 9 grandkids and I would never think of attaching them to a leash...now my dog...that's different. :)

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belle123 | Aug. 14, 2013 at 11:12 a.m. (report)

I'm sorry, but I have to agree with the parents saying it's a bad idea. I believe in teaching my kids the correct behavior and then expecting them to listen to me; repeat again and AGAIN if necessary. I have two kids and am juggling not only them, but all their stuff all the time. My 3 year old daughter ran into the street once, we had a talk about why she shouldn't do it and then about holding hands. She's a kid like any other, likes to run around and push the boundaries; but at the end of the day I am the parent and need to teach and discipline when necessary. A leash seems like it just prolongs that process. And what happens to the kid that one time you forget the leash in a public place? Kids are smart and learn quickly; give them a chance before strapping on a leash and holding them at an arm's length at all times.

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Photodavie | Aug. 14, 2013 at 7:17 a.m. (report)

If you train your kid properly, you should be able to walk them off-leash. If you cannot, they should be on a leash until they can behave. Simple as that.

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