Stop the Hate on Toddler Leashes

I’m going to leash him for his own safety. Without shame.

I put my dog on a leash when we are in a crowded place. He is a fast runner, and it wouldn’t take much for him to get distracted by something and take off running into the sea of people before I could catch him. I put the leash on him when we are walking somewhere that is potentially unsafe for him too, like near a road. I’m sure he would rather run around at free will, but I’m a responsible doggy mom, and I need to do what’s best for my little furry guy and keep him safe.

Wait, sorry, I don’t have a dog. I’m talking about my toddler. But that changes exactly nothing. I don’t understand the leash hate when it comes to children. I see countless posts from sneaky photographers (or Shame-arazzi as I like to call them) chastising parents for having a harness on their child while out in public. In the comments will be a chorus of perfect parents of perfect children who never require being tethered to their parents for their own protection. And I do not understand the ire.

Many say, “Just use a stroller.” First of all, Stroller Pushers (see what I did there?), have you ever tried to get an independent three-year-old into a stroller when they are hell-bent on walking? Save yourself the trouble and put an octopus into a snowsuit; it’s easier.

But let’s say that we go with the parent is the parent and decides what goes. That’s fair enough. But, will you be the same person who complains that that stroller on the bus or elevator is taking up too much room? Or freak out if a stroller accidently bumps into you while being navigated through a cramped, crowded place?   

Will you be the person who takes the Shame-arazzi photo of the three-year-old in the stroller and posts, “This is why there is a childhood obesity problem, this child is too old to be pushed around. Let the kid walk!”

Well, what about just being a good parent and holding your child’s hand? That’s a great idea, why has no one in the history of time and shopping ever thought of this? I don’t know about you, but I find it very easy to do everything I need to do with one hand all the time. My child certainly loves having access to just one hand when we are out exploring.

And he never tries to pull away with such a force that I have to squeeze his hand like an orange in a fancy juice commercial to keep him from breaking free. Children who are just done holding hands right now will forge an escape with the force and conviction of Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption.

So yes, I do hold my child’s hand in public, of course I do. But having the added assurance of a harness means that when my child does try to break free, I don’t have to choose between keeping his hand in a vice grip or setting him free to the wind. When loses his shit and drops to the ground, because toddlers are unpredictable jerks, I can let go of his hand so he doesn’t pull his arm out of its socket, taking my back with it, and not worry that he will run into the road.

Or I could just teach him to behave. First, let me congratulate you on your perfect parenting skills. I am clearly not as good a parent as you are, and you put me to shame with the way that you are able to get your children to behave perfectly and on command at every moment. I bow down to your superiority, you are the parenting winner. The trophy is in the mail.

Now that that’s out of the way, I have a confession to make. My kid has a will of his own, and I have no idea how to break it. So, while I absolutely address his behaviour, tantrums happen. Lapses in judgment from my toddler happen. Sometimes, no matter how much I have hammered home that he needs to stay with me, his will power is no match for a shiny object, and I don’t feel like compromising his safety is a fair punishment for a moment of misbehaviour.

Also, I’m human. I pay close attention to my child, but occasionally something shiny catches my eye too, and I’m not willing to risk his safety over a moment of distraction on my part so that I won’t be shamed on Facebook.

It seems like it is simply the comparison to a dog that is the real issue. This still makes no sense to me. We put a leash on dogs so that they can get out and explore and get some exercise but stay safe doing so. We do the same thing for children, so what’s the problem? And we use a leash instead of holding the dog by the collar to give the dog a bit of freedom to explore when there is room to do so and in an appropriate environment. So why not give our toddlers the same bit of space? How is it more cruel to give them a bit of space in a safe situation with a back up safety device than it is to restrict them with a stroller or a held hand?

Shame me if you must, but if we are somewhere that my child will enjoy exploring and getting some exercise, but that isn’t safe for him to take off unexpectedly, I’m going to leash him for his own safety. Without shame.




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Heather M. Jones is a mom of 2 from Toronto. When not writing, she can be found reading, worrying, and spending way too much time on Facebook.