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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
mommy123 September 7, 2009, 1:20 PM

With two 18 month olds and a newborn we have backpack leases, the toddlers wear them if we are in a situation that they could get hurt in the time between them pulling away from my hand and me catching them (parking lot, sidewalk..etc. If I am alone with all 3, this is honestly the old way I feel comfortable as I don’t have 3 hands, they get a bit of freedom but are still safe. If at all possible I am also holding their hands, the leashes are just looped around my wrist for extra security.
That being said- the way that this ‘mother’ used it is absolutely inexcusable- no child should ever be made to feel like this mother made her son feel. Ever.
It is people like this that make people like me get stared at when my kids are leashed to me.

Chad March 30, 2010, 6:34 PM

If a “leash” prevents your child from being abducted in that brief instant while you were looking in another direction, I’m all for it. That’s not to say I approve of someone DRAGGING their child in a leash, but to keep a hold on them, I don’t see how it can be any different than simply holding the child’s hand as though your arm were just a little longer.

If your child loves to explore, that’s wonderful! Not so great though when you can’t keep watch of them every single second. Having them attached to you ensures their explorations are safe and close to you at all times.

Watching the video again though…. it doesn’t even look like the child was hurt, and chances are it was just being a little brat. Obviously the mother needs lessons in giving discipline more than anything else to prevent the situation from happening in the first place.

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Mrs K July 30, 2010, 12:59 AM

While I didn’t see the video (browser too slow) and can’t comment on exactly what is happening, I do think leashes are a good idea. They give a child freedom to be active while keeping him safely in touch with the parent. I’ve often seen parents holding a child by the hand and it pains me, because imagine a giant holding your arm up above your head all the time. that’s exhausting for a little tyke.

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Krystal  December 7, 2010, 4:45 PM

I have a 4 year old and i have a backpack Unicorn “harness” that she picked out before we took a cruise to Hawaii, i am a very paranoid person and the thought of anyone taking my child from me, whether i look away for 5 seconds or she lets go of my hand or gets PULLED away from me, well simply, it terrifies me, so YES i have leashes for my children, and if i feel the situation could be even slightly unsafe for them, i WILL use them, on the other hand what this woman did in this video is horrific, made me want to vomit. i hope CPS took her child to a more loving home.

There is nothing wrong with “‘leashes” as long as they are used properly.

We as parents can “discipline” or “parent” our children all we want to but it only takes 5 seconds for a tiny hand to pull free from ours and dart onto a street or for a pervert to come and snatch them.

I am all FOR “leashes”/”Harnesses”

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