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Life's a Drag

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Are leashes for kids okay?

Brett Berk: 37-year-old Melissa Catherine Smith-Means created controversy when she dragged her child on a leash in a Verizon store, and someone got it on tape.

mom drags kid on leach play video

She was later arrested on child cruelty charges.

While I'm all in favor of leashes for vicious dogs, circus tigers, and between consenting adults, I'm not so into them for kids. Sure, it's an effective means to keep your child from running away from you while you're cruising the aisles of Target, or to prevent them from tearing into the street while you're gossiping with the neighbor on the sidewalk. But then again, so is handcuffing them to the shopping cart or chaining them to a post in the middle of the front yard. As with most things with young kids, simply because it "works" doesn't mean it's just, proper, or healthy.

My rejection of leashes is based mainly on the fact that they're solely an external mode of control, one that's implemented ON the child, and one with which they have no input or agency. It's my feeling that effective discipline -- and by this I mean behavior management tools that are actionable, functional, and operative in the long term -- defines clear boundaries and repercussions in advance, and puts the onus on the kid to figure out how to comply and find their own center. In other words, ways of implementing your authority that allow the child to rationally engage with your demands and figure things out, rather than just be told what to do. When kids are required to think, and develop an ownership stake in things, they tend to comprehend more and respond better.

But you might not agree. You might think your toddler tether is the only thing standing between you and rambunctiousness, or find it adorable and a great way to accessorize an outfit (pink dress; green harness; silver chain: voila!). Still, even those leash lovers in the audience would probably admit that if you're going to utilize this product, you should stick to doing so in a manner that demonstrates the modicum of respect you would provide to even the most reviled family pet -- a baseline that includes not using the living being attached to the far end like a ball-and-chain, a slingshot, or a Swiffer. And that if you're intentionally not going to conform to this rather low bar, you should probably consider doing so away from a phalanx of in-mall security cameras so that you don't end up looking like a self-centered, abusive harpy in front of the entire Internet.

Or maybe you just REALLY want that bedazzled cell phone case and you have to get over to the display before some other bitch steals it out from under you. In which case, drag away.

next: Push Presents are Tacky
72 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kristin - August 4, 2009, 12:56 PM

Oh - that’s really shocking video! I’m definitely not a fan of kid leashes!

Jean Rubinson August 4, 2009, 1:15 PM

Never used a leash on my kids. Don’t know what it is that makes anyone think that is a solution to ANY problem.Maybe it is just a lack of imagination.

Jean, MA

Shea August 4, 2009, 1:26 PM

good lord that is shocking

Gigohead  August 4, 2009, 1:36 PM

God Lord! I’m surprised the store manager didn’t kick her out of her store. That’s a horrible site to see. I would have been horrified if I saw someone dragged like that. I’m sorry, but if kid has a history of tantrums she needed to keep in in a stroller or something. Dragging him like that was not going to resolve anything. I’m glad she has been charged.

Adriana August 4, 2009, 1:56 PM

I’ve seen the harnesses and even have a friend who used one on her rambunctious toddler just after she had a baby. Some people consider them a safety tool. Anyway, I can see using one if you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t have the energy to chase your toddler with a carriage in tow, but if it’s just you and one child? This is where that thing we call “parenting” comes in.

Sara August 4, 2009, 2:17 PM

I have two harnesses and a very energetic, fearless three year old. We use them in large crowds and for walks where a street or water is easily accessible for him. NEVER ONCE have I considered dragging him across the floor with one. Most of the time, I am holding his hand also, and they are used as a backup in case he yanks his hand away too quickly for me to react. He’s just too heavy for me to carry, and shopping carts and strollers aren’t always feasible.

I think that a knee-jerk reaction to something as useful as a child harness because of one parent’s gross misuse is as ridiculous as getting upset at car seats because a neglectful parent left their child strapped into a hot car. My child will never run into the street, drown in a pool or lake, or get abducted while hooked to my arm. He will also never get dragged through the store either.

May August 4, 2009, 2:18 PM

While I don’t agree with this mom dragging her kid. I do use a harness. I have an 18 month old daughter that been walking since she was nine months. I don’t use the harness all the time but when I do I use it to make sure that she is not running around getting herself in danger. Some people see it as a way of being lazy I see it as a way of protecting my daughter.

Chris August 4, 2009, 2:47 PM

I use children leashes. They are shaped like monkey backpacks, and their tales are the leash. I have two extremely active two year olds. When we are out in a big public place, I take them along, so they too can be out of the stroller a while. I have no problem with using them, however, I do have a strong issue with abusing them. I’d never drag my child, or rip on it. I caught my son with it once. He tripped, and I was able to pull up on the leash before his face hit the pavement.

Lizz August 4, 2009, 2:56 PM

My parents used a wrist leash on me when I was a little tot and I remember loving it. The specific memory I have was in Disneyland about twenty some years ago. With the crowds I felt like I had been swooped up and carried away when I couldn’t see my mom or dad… but then I remembered the leash! They were just a couple steps away, and all I had to do was follow the phone cordesque leash back to mom or dad. I don’t recall if I was ever dragged across the floor… but I don’t think so! In this situation: bad mom, good leash.

Andrew August 4, 2009, 2:59 PM

I would almost never use a leash on a kid, but I’ve been a ski instructor and for something like that, where the kid can’t actually control themself yet, then it would be good. But then it’s a safety device, not a substitute for teaching conduct.

Kellyk August 4, 2009, 2:59 PM

What happens when these kids are 6 or 7 and they have not been taught how to behave in a public place? Do you still leash them.
The fact that the leash looks like a monkey is not a selling point. You buy leashes for animals not children. I always see these and feel so sorry for the kids.
Leashes seem like an easy way out.

Rachel August 4, 2009, 3:05 PM

Well, KellyK, you teach them how to behave in public and use the leash as a safety net, like many people here have already attested. ???

m August 4, 2009, 3:11 PM

my 2 year old daughter runs away from me as fast as she can every chance she gets in public places right now and I have a small infant I cannot just leave to go chase after her if she slips away from my hand, and I cannot run as fast as her when I am holding my infant, so I use a leash in places like the grocery store, so I can hold my baby, pay the cashier, and keep my daughter from running off, (and putting her in a cart or stroller won’t work, she can unbuckle the belt and jump out

soultravelers3 August 4, 2009, 3:21 PM

Horrifying video! When I see any child on a leash, it makes me ill. I have a friend who was scared for life ( still emotional about it in her 40s!!) because her parents used a leash with her.

I had a baby who walked at 6 months and could run faster than me by 9months, the most active kid you have ever seen who thought nothing of running football field lengths away from me starting at 9months.

I am mobility challenged and I chose to find other ways to meet both of our needs and am so grateful now that I kept her sense of freedom and self intact, despite how hard it was at times.

Kris August 4, 2009, 3:28 PM

I have a leash that attaches/dettaches to a backpack monkey my 2 year old wears. I take it off when we get to where we are going. I put it back on when we are leaving to go outside because my son has almost ran over by a car when he darted away from me in the parking lot. I know some may think its cruel but to see a car stop inches from your 2 year old is enough to scare anyone to death. So I use for that purpose only he does fine when I tell him not to wonder off while we are shopping or just sight seeing. I also use if he keeps wondering off after I’ve told him for the hundredth time to stay where mommie can see him. A leash can be a good thing when used properly as with everything that you buy or own. I mean why knock until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes or ran which ever one my kids feel like make me do for the day to keep him from wondering off.

jeff nach August 4, 2009, 4:19 PM

I say a firing squad isn’t good enough for this woman! She is UNFIT to be a mother and should have child protective services remove her children

Deanna August 4, 2009, 4:24 PM

All of you leash users… have you ever thought about actually talking to your toddler? Holding their hand in public? Utilizing the ever popular stroller?

I have a rambunctious 2 year old son who would love to TRY to run off at times, but he understands that he has to stay by mommy, no matter what, and holds my hand anytime he is not in a stroller…

Believe it or not, talking to your children works wonders!

Brittney  August 4, 2009, 4:26 PM

You should really ask the original poster of the video if they mind you reposting it… as it is mine and you did so without my permission. It would be different if you linked it.
I do not mind, I just really wished you would ahve asked my permission.

Jenn August 4, 2009, 4:27 PM

I agree with the other moms who use these I have used it with my now 6 year old and I use it with our very strong 3 year old. I dont like them sitting in a stroller all the time they need exercise but when we are in a crowded are like a mall or fair ground than these are great the child is free to walk around and not have to sit the whole time and you dont have to worry about them yanking out of your hand and disappearing or getting hit by a car. Dragging them through a store is something totally different. If your child is throwing a temper on the floor you stand there and calmly wait till they are done than have them stand up and walk with you I would NEVER use the leash to drag them anywhere I use it for his safety. My 6 year old has no ill effect from me using one with her when she was younger and she learned to walk next to me and not take off. I think these are great and if you have a problem seeing kids in these than dont look. I for 1 would rather see a child in one than see a mother crying over her child who ran in the road and got hit by a car.

Cat August 4, 2009, 5:05 PM

What this lady did was wrong. You never drag a child anywhere.

But, Sir and other commenters who get your pants in a twist over parents who have to use these, you obviously have never had a child who is out of control (sometimes it has nothing to do with parenting skills), or in my case has special needs. Never be quick to judge a parent who protects their child by using a harness. Your ignorance and judgments sicken me. It is people like you that make me angry when I take my autistic-like child into the store and you shoot me dirty looks and say mean things about my parenting skills.

You say “talk to your child” — what if you have one that can’t comprehend what you are saying?

I have been using a harness ever since my child was almost hit by a bus. Not because I was “gossiping with neighbors” but because he wiggled out of my arms and I slipped on ice before I could get to him.

I have enough trials in my life raising a child with special needs, I don’t need people ignorantly judging me too. Do you love your dog and value it’s life more than your child’s? Shame on you.

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