Moms Columns & Blogs

Kids on leashes? Horrors! (It works.)

What do you think of kids on leashes? Chicago Parent magazine put that question up on its Facebook page and – no surprises here – some readers went ballistic.

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“Treating the child like a dog!” was the common theme of said rants. One person suggested that these kids be taught to bark. Don’t you just love people who think with their pituitary glands?

In case you’ve not seen one in use, a child “leash” consists of a 4- to 8-foot tether attached to a comfortable harness the child wears around his or her torso. The leash allows the child limited freedom in public places while preventing parent and child from becoming separated.

In addition to the safety factor, the idea is for the parent to patiently teach the young child how to properly behave in public places. As the child’s behavior improves, the leash can be lengthened, giving the child more and more freedom. The child learns, therefore, that responsible behavior and freedom go hand-in-hand. What a concept!

As for “treating the child like a dog” and other absurd comments, I’ve seen lots of child-leashes in use in Europe and the occasional use in the U.S. Never did the child in question look embarrassed, angry or downtrodden.

Without exception, they seemed quite content – pleased, even. And never have I seen a child on a leash who was misbehaving. Actually, the well-behaved child is also the content child, and vice versa. Because the leash helps the child learn to behave properly in public places, it is often unnecessary by the fourth birthday.

Here’s what’s demeaning: wheeling a 4-plus year-old child through a public place in a stroller as he’s drinking from a sippy cup. Those kids have no idea how demeaned they are, not to mention how ridiculous that looks, especially to someone my age who remembers the day when strollers were dispensed with by age 3.

And while I’m on the subject of sippy cups, here’s a radical notion: Instead of giving your child everything but water to drink, make water the norm. Beginning about age 2, introduce open-topped plastic or paper cups with about an inch of water in the bottom.

Believe me, a 2-year-old will master the art of drinking from a topless, spoutless container within a couple of weeks. And so what if he spills? It’s water.