As you can see here, I recently made a brief appearance on "Good Morning America." I was asked to share my opinions on whether or not to use a "leash" on a small child. Only a minute fraction of what I said ended up in the actual segment, so I wrote up my thoughts in an fuller article. You can read the whole article at Mom.me (where it's already generating a great deal of discussion). Here's an excerpt from the piece: --------------
You see it at the mall, at the airport, at Disneyland. A small child wears a monkey backpack, and the monkey’s tail is a tether held by the child’s parent. A leash.
Lots of people react pretty strongly against leashes for children. I even hear the practice described as “inhumane.” When I asked a friend about it, his tongue-in-cheek response was, “That’s how you get them to sit and stay.”
In my opinion, a leash is like so many other parenting tools and techniques. It’s not inherently good or bad. What matters is how it’s used: how it’s presented to the child, how and when the parent uses it, what the child’s temperament is, and why the parent is using it.
For example, I can see why a mother of young triplets might use a leash when she takes them to a crowded store. Or why the dad of an impulsive 2-year-old who has a history of bolting might feel the need to use it in airport security because he’s also attending to a 4-year-old. In fact, I’m not sure that a leash in these cases is all that different from buckling kids into a stroller to keep them contained. And, further, it might be a better alternative to what I’ve seen in parking lots, where I sometimes see a parent yanking a child’s wrist in rough ways.
In other words, I understand that in certain situations, a parent may have tried everything and eventually decided that a leash is the best way to protect her child until the child has a little more capacity for thinking and controlling impulses. Some parents are truly afraid for their child’s safety, and that fear is legitimately based on the child’s past behavior. I’ve talked to many caring parents who decided to use some form of a leash when it became a basic safety issue for their overly impulsive child who was, say, 18- to 36-months-old. And some parents feel that this provides them with a basic security that allows them to be more engaged and playful with their child.
However, all that being said, I do have three main concerns about using a restraining device like a leash.