Family psychologist John Rosemond recently wrote a column discussing those children’s leashes that have become popular.
Rosemond’s argument for the leashes (or at least against the anti-leash crowd) is that they are not demeaning towards the children wearing them and that folks are exaggerating the dog-like nature of the device. Rosemond goes on to point out that the leashes help the parent teach the child how to properly behave in public and, because the leashes are lengthened because of good behavior, the child associates their good behavior with increased freedom.
While I agree totally with Rosemond on these points, I think he’s missed the point for why parents like me disagree with using them.
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Simply put, if you cannot control your child in public without literally tying a rope around them then you need to either reconsider taking your child to that public place, or need to consider why you have to resort to restraints when you do take your child out and about.
Rather than resorting to an impersonal harness/leash set up I suggest that many parents utilize something far easier and cheaper… like, I don’t know, your hand.
You can communicate control and restraint to your child much more effectively by holding their hand rather than attaching them to a leash. I can understand that this becomes more difficult when you have more than one child to keep up with, but I would argue that this makes it all the more pertinent to quickly teach good behavior through physical contact, rather than resorting to the less personal leash.
From the moment children are born they crave and respond to physical touch. When my daughter and I are out in public the first thing she does is reach for my hand because it is a comforting thing for her. Sure, I have to lean over a little so her little arms stay comfortable and we sometimes don’t get to see everything I want to see because she tires more quickly, but the opportunity to physically bond with one’s child is such a fleeting thing that I simply cannot fathom finding a leash to be a better alternative.
Who doesn’t remember the familiar and comforting squeeze of a parent’s hand when afraid, who doesn’t remember the squeeze of their mother’s hand when you’ve pushed them a little too far in public. I believe those squeezes tell the child much more than a sharp tug on their leash could.
I have also found that holding hands enables better non-verbal communication not even related to control. My daughter knows that three squeezes on her hand means “I love you” in our family. As a parent I can tell you there is no greater feeling than holding your child’s hand while she “secretly” tells you she loves you through her squeezes- that’s far better, to me, than having to teach her to heel.