Posted: Apr 01, 2013 6:00 AM
 
We’ve all seen them at the mall — maybe you even use one. For little ones too big for the stroller but too active to stay close, many parents use a kid leash to keep their kids from roaming away. Is this helping them, or just delaying them from learning self-control? Experts weigh in.

Admit it — the first time you saw a child on a restraint or leash you were shocked. Or maybe you laughed. But for some children who are really active and hard to handle, child restraints may be a sanity-saver for parents. We spoke to some parents to get their take on the practice.

Good idea — for a while

Unbeknownst to me, Victoria had a conversation with her father and convinced him to let her have a turn holding the leash. As soon as he handed it to her, she ran off.

Laurie A. Gray, J.D. is the founder of Socratic Parenting. "I am generally not a fan of putting a child on a leash," she shares. "However, just before our daughter turned 3 she was to be the flower girl in my cousin's wedding at Disney World. Victoria never liked any stroller and was definitely too big for the Baby Bjorn. She was definitely not going to stay in a stroller and definitely able to run off in a flash," Gray remembers. They bought a leash for the trip to use only in the amusement park.

An adult held the leash and it seemed to work well — for a while. "Unbeknownst to me, Victoria had a conversation with her father and convinced him to let her have a turn holding the leash," she remembers. "As soon as he handed it to her, she ran off. Fortunately, I saw her take off and caught her very quickly. So I would only recommend using a leash as an exception rather than the rule, and if you do use it, don't ever give your child a turn at holding the handle," she adds.

Tempting — but not for me

There are absolutely times I would have considered putting my kids on a leash, but would never do it.

Blogger and producer Karri-Leigh P. Mastrangelo is the mother of two toddlers who lives in a big city. "There are absolutely times I have considered putting my kids on a leash but would never do it," she shares. "The most natural human response to restraint is to push against it. There is a world of difference between training an animal to behave properly and conditioning a child for safety and good behavior in the real world," she says. "When I see leashed kids, I usually resort to a bit of (inadvertent) uncomfortable laughter," she admits. "Still, I try not to judge, but I don't always succeed. And that, too, is only human," she adds.

Teach or leash?

If a parent is using it because they can't be bothered to explain to their child what the plan is for today or they are using it as a form of babysitting then it appears to be awful.

Julia Simens, M.A. clinical psychology and author of Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child shares her opinion. "This is one of those situations where it can't be just yes or no. If a parent is using the child harness for safety or for issues of time then it is a great invention. If a parent is using it because they can't be bothered to explain to their child what the plan is for today or they are using it as a form of babysitting then is appears to be awful," she says.

"As a mother of two, I often traveled through major airports with young kids," Simens shares. "A safety harness was a very important part of our travel routine. Imagine traveling with a 6-month-old and a 2-year-old from Nevada to Australia. We would land in a major airport and need to get to our connecting flight in a hurry." Having a toddler in her arms with a diaper bag and a carryon didn't allow her a free hand to assist the 2-year-old. "When time and safety are part of the equation, a parent needs to use some sort of safety harness or leash for their child," she adds.

"With a background in early childhood development and clinical psychology I can't see the harm in using a safety harness, but my preferred method of interacting with a young child is being on the same level as they are so you can see each other's faces and then share the information on what is going to happen," Simens adds. "This is not always possible when there are time issues involved in your plan."

Tell us!^ What do you think about child restraints? Leave us a comment below.

More toddler troubles

How to deal with a difficult child
When your toddler isn't walking
When your toddler isn't talking

Topics: