Huffpost Parents

Leashes For Kids: Is Putting Safety Harnesses On Children A Good Idea?

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Parenting is an endless series of decisions: Natural birth or epidural? Co-sleeping or separate beds? Private or public school? Allowing them on Facebook or not? The list is infinite. ABC News recently spotlighted a parenting practice that has moms and dads with strong opinions on both sides of the debate: to leash or not to leash?

Last year, Judith Goldberg, author of the “Judy on Duty” advice column for Parents magazine, wrote:

“Leashes are for dogs. 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 received an overwhelming response from outraged parents who maintained that leashes and safety harnesses are practical and necessary. Becky from Minneapolis wrote:

As the mother of twin 20-month-old boys, I would do anything reasonable to keep my kids safe. Since I haven’t figured out how to run in two different directions at the same time, a reasonable option for me might be toddler leashes. How exactly is this any worse that restraining them in a stroller, as you suggest? They would at least get some exercise.

Mother of two Lauren Jimeson told ABC that she was leashed as a child and remembers being embarrassed. She says there are better ways to restrain children than to put leashes on them and claims that giving her 2-year-old more freedom makes her a more attentive parent.

But Kristen Howerton, a mom of four, family psychologist and blogger at Rage Against The Minivan and on HuffPost had a different take. Howerton once received a harness as a gift and tried it out. She described being glared at, hearing negative comments from strangers and how it all made her feel very embarrassed. Had it not been for those negative reactions, she says she would have liked the leash.

“My daughter was walking freely she felt like she had freedom, but I felt like she was safe,” Howerton told ABC. She wrote on her blog that she only used the leash on that one occasion.

Many parents who use harnesses stick by a “better safe than sorry” mantra. In a 2010 Circle of Moms discussion, user Stevie wrote that even though her own mom disapproves of leashes, “I don't approve of my kid getting run over so end of discussion, case closed.” Beyond safety, they just make life easier, Stevie went on. “If someone wants to look at me funny I'll just say ‘excuse me, I see you judging me, would you like to try to push this stroller and hold onto this 2-year-old’s hand at the same time? No? Me either!’”

With all this taking sides, there is a final way to look at the question about leashes. As Yahoo! writer Jennifer Phillips says, the debate isn’t even about leashes; it’s just another topic to perpetuate the mommy wars. Instead of judging parents who choose to leash (or choose anything for that matter), it’s important to remember that “we are all unique individuals, with unique children, in unique situations trying to do the best we can, and make the best decisions we can for our unique families,” Phillips says.

So, where do you stand? Would you use a harness? Do think it's ever a good idea for someone to use one? And is it even OK to ask the question? Tell us in the comments.

Around the Web

Are Leashes for Children? - NYTimes.com

Kids on Leashes: Sensible? Or Silly? | Discussions for Professional ...

The Great Mom Debate: Are Leashes for Kids Cruel or Kind - Redbook

Charlotte Hilton Andersen: Leashes for Kids: Cruel or Kind?

Leashes for children: safe or irresponsible?