Gaining a New Leash on Parenting

Not so long ago there was a lot of news about parents who put their kids on “leashes.”  This is nothing new, I’m not sure what sparked the interest, or why it was newsworthy, except that parents are critical of how their peers are raising their children.  There are pros and cons to putting your child on a leash and I’m sure when parents make the decision to do so, they’ve thought about both sides of the issue.


I admit that I purchased a leash for my daughter when she was about 14 months old.  I was going to be traveling with her by myself, and at the time we were having an issue with her taking off and running like the wind.  She thought it was a game.  I had visions of her at the airport running through security, unattended, while I tried to get the stroller and car seat onto the conveyor belt (without pissing off the person behind me because I was taking too long,) causing a security breach, closing down the terminal and causing mass chaos.

Child leashes are a long-standing joke in my family.  Just look at this photo of me wearing a leash.  Not just any leash, a pink leather leash with multiple straps and buckles on the harness.  I haven’t even read “Fifty Shades of Grey” yet, but this sounds like something Christian Grey might possess.  Not only that, I’m wearing the leash – while sitting in a stroller.  A flight risk if I ever saw on!  I’m only 11-months-old in the photo.  I don’t even know if I was walking yet, but obviously I had an overly caustious mom.

So, after careful consideration, I headed to my local Target where I purchase a cute monkey backpack that happened to have a leash attached.  She loved the backpack and wanted to wear it around the house all the time.

As we embarked on our journey, once we actually got to the airport and my husband left us, I did use the leash until I got to security and realized I had to take it off of her.  The leash did not work as intended and was therefore a waste of money, time and thought.  That was the only time I used the leash, it became a toy, and I finally ended up selling it for $5 in a garage sale.  But for some parents, I see it as a viable option.  Some kids love to run off and there’s not a lot you can do about it.

I’ve seen mothers of multiples use leashes and quite frankly don’t know how they could do it otherwise, as I seem to have trouble keeping track of one kid sometimes.  In the midst of the debate about leashes, I read an article in “Family Circle” magazine about “unleashing” your kids and giving them the freedom to explore and make their own decisions.  This is also known as “free range parenting.”

In the article, “Risk Management” written by Elizabeth Foy Larsen, she talks about how she allows her children to roam their Minneapolis neighborhood freely, riding bikes to friends’ houses, walking to the corner store, and playing in the front yard unsupervised.  I applaud Larsen for having the courage to give her children such freedom in this day and age.

That is they type of freedom I grew up with, but unfortunately my daughter will never know.  I am way too protective a parent to let her play unsupervised in the front yard.  Or even when she’s old enough, ride her bike to visit a friend.  I have watched one too many Oprah’s and seen one too many news reports of children being snatched in broad daylight to ever let this be a reality for my child.

My husband and I have discussions about this topic all the time.  Are there more missing children then when we were kids, or is it because information is so readily available, we just hear about it more often?  It’s distressing to me that kids are now being taken from the comfort and security of their own beds in the middle of the night.

According to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, nearly 800,000 kids under the age of 18 are reported missing each year.  More than 58,000 are kids taken by someone other than a family member.  115 children are what we would consider “stereotypical” kidnappings by a stranger defined as someone “who holds the child overnight, travels more than 50 miles with the child, holds the child for ransom, plans to keep the child or kills the child.”

With all the information available, we as parents can make an educated decision on whether or not to leash or unleash our children.  In the end, we all share one thing and that’s the fact that we love our children, we want to keep them safe and we want what’s best for them.

If that means your child wears a leash, then so be it.  I’d rather have my daughter wear an invisible leash than become a statistic on the evening news.  Some may say it’s living in fear, I say it’s protecting my most valuable asset.  Excuse me while I make sure the rotars on  my helicopter are working properly…

What are your thoughts on using a leash on your child?

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  1. Bernadette Soehner says

    My sister was that flight risk, so she had a leash. I, mother of multiples followed by another, also used these when we’d travel. Kids love to explore and isn’t that what we try to encourage every day of their life? Yet when you are holding the hand of a 2 year old, their view of the world is a tired arm that is being held straight in the air as well as the side of your leg and everyone else’s butt! Giving them a chance to explore the world 2 feet ahead of you, with their arms free to touch and feel, that’s very important. Our leashes had dog back packs on them with diapers tucked inside and an emergency info card…just in case. They are an invaluable tool to a mother of 1 or a mother of 5.

    • Angela says

      I love it and I agree! I just saw a boy at Disneyland on a leash with a bear backpack having a great time exploring and I knew his mom didn’t have to worry about chasing him through the crowds. Kudos to you for traveling with your 5 little ones!!

  2. Elizabeth Anne says

    I’m only 18 (so thank god I’m not yet a parent) but that means I can give the child’s side of the argument, which might interest you. I wasn’t leashed regularly when I was little (because I didn’t tend to run off) but I have one memory of being on a leash and loving it. I was at the mall or somewhere with my mom and it gave me the freedom to go farther than I could while holding my mom’s hand and I could look at all the cool things around me without having to worry about where my mom was and it gave me the security of knowing I’d never get lost. So for me it was a pretty good experience 🙂 (Also, my mom had three little children to run after, so my younger brother was often leashed to prevent him from running into the street, which he liked to do. And despite what a “horrible mother” our mom was for leashing us, we all turned out pretty well 🙂

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