If You Walk Your Kid On A Leash, You're Treating Them Like A Dog

Photo: Alexandr Grant / Shutterstock
Parents Who Put Kids On Leashes Treat Them Like Dogs

My four-year-old sister poked me and pointed. We giggled. Some kid was attached to a leash. "Like a dog," she said.

The kid pulled himself to the end of the cord and strained against it. We giggled harder.

Even at five, I knew kids on leashes were lame. My sister and I would actively ridicule any kids we saw tied to them.

It meant that the kid's mom was too sadistic to put him in a  stroller.

I don't laugh at kids on leashes anymore. I feel bad for them, especially the kids with the monkey backpacks.

Someone's convinced them that leashes are cool.

These children have internalized their own oppression.

I know people have different parenting styles and the truce in the mommy wars says that we aren't allowed to criticize others' parenting choices.

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Moms I know claim they've used leashes with great success (i.e. their child didn't fling herself into traffic).

And that's the argument most leash parents use: they can't trust their kid not to run away, and by run away they mean run in front of an Oldsmobile. 

Child leashes are particularly popular among twin parents.

As one twin mama told blogger Ronnie Koenig, "My family said, 'How can you walk your children like dogs on a leash?' I said, 'Until you have twins, you don't know.'"

And most of the moms online who have tested or tried child leashes seem to be twin moms who simply can't chase two children at once, and apparently have never heard of a stroller or baby carrier.

Another mom of twins, Megan Zander, said she felt like an amateur dog walker. "I sounded like I was walking a couple of puppies since I was saying things like 'Come on!' and 'Leave it!' and 'Good boys!'"

But some parents don't buy it. It's not enough for their kids to look like golden retrievers out to do their business.

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They're far too concerned about safety, always citing the running-into-traffic excuse.

But there's a great way to stop your 19-month-old from running into traffic. It's called a stroller, and it's used by parents of all stripes to tie down finnicky toddlers.

These leash parents aren't concerned about safety; they're concerned about their kids wailing in a double Graco.

Newsflash: if you never let them walk, they won't know they can. Once they walk to the park one time, you're screwed.

Keep them in the stroller as long as possible. And when you slip up and they get pissed off, you can outlast the screams. Aren't you the parent for a reason?

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Then there's those parents who want their kids to explore safely.

But here's another newsflash: If you have to put a leash on their kid, the kid's too young to explore.

And walking on a leash isn't exploring. Exploring assumes the ability to go where one chooses and discovers things.

The only thing your toddler's discovering is the tensile strength of his leash.

The leashes don't even work well. As Koenig says, "Each one of them headed off in a different direction, only to be ricocheted back before they had made it three feet."

Her kids "cross the streams" and tangle up; the trip ends with one twin in her arms and another on the ground.

They unbuckled their leashes when they were tired of it. Clearly not a success.

Zander's twins also kept crossing their leashes.

Her kids also decided that "leaning forward on the leads and falling slowly to the ground was hilarious."

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She says her arms hurt as badly as they did after pushing a stroller, because of the constant tugging.

She also "had to actively remind myself not to gently tug on the leash the way I would when trying to get a dog to start moving, because when I tried that, the boys toppled right over and I felt horrible."

Again, the dog comparison — this time with kids falling over. Clearly children are at risk for hitting the end of the leash and falling flat.

Of course, someone will argue about their ADHD four-year-old who runs at a moment's notice. There's a solution for that, too. It's called holding hands.

Parents have used it since time immemorial. And yes, kids twist and pull against hands.

Parents can hold on; that's why they're called parents. And before someone says I don't know how it really is, I've got two ADHD kids who do this, both under the age of five.

There are some cases of special needs children who truly do benefit from being leashed.

The children are usually older (over four), and have the tendency to run. Far be it from me to tell any special needs mom what she should do with her kids, especially if she's explored other solutions. Ladies, leash away. I'll keep my mouth shut.

I don't laugh at kids on leashes anymore. I think they're being walked like dogs in a wholly inefficient manner.

Don't disguise it with a cutesy backpack and brightly colored nylon. It's not a "safety harness"  it's a leash. And you're walking your kid on it.

Elizabeth Broadbent is a regular columnist for ADDitude Magazine and frequent contributor to Scary Mommy. Her work has appeared on xoJane, Mamapedia, Babble, and Time Magazine Ideas.

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