Leashes for toddlers: good parenting or bad parenting?

Some worry that leashes make parents feel too secure, causing them to pay less attention to their children, while others believe they are a great safety tool.

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Some worry that leashes make parents feel too secure, causing them to pay less attention to their children, while others believe they are a great safety tool.

Fraternal twins Hank and Harry, who are a year and a half old, have parents who use leashes.

Some choices that parents have to make through the years as their children grow are hot-button issues. Choices like whether a mom should breast feed, whether she should stay home with her children or send them to day care, whether parents should discipline with spanking or time out are made every day and argued about every day. One of those issues is whether or not you should use a safety harness on your child.

Most parents call them toddler leashes or children leashes because they consist of a backpack, usually in the shape of a cute animal, like a puppy or a monkey, and a detachable “tail” that clips on to the bottom of the backpack. The leashes are designed to be cute and snuggly for the child as well as utilitarian for the parent.

Medical professionals say that the leashes are much safer than trying to keep your child with you and at a safe distance from where vehicles could hit him by holding his hand. Pediatricians say they’ve seen dislocations because of parents yanking children up by one hand or pulling on them by the arm to get them to speed up. There are several stories online floating around that detail parents’ frustration with keeping up with their kids safely. Many of them said when they brought their children in with shoulder dislocations, the pediatrician recommended the child harness instead of holding on to the child’s hand.

Parents who have more than one toddler, whether they’re a year or two apart or twins/higher multiples, mostly say they’re in favor of the child harness. In one blog, a parent said she hated the idea of a leash until she had more than one child.


“I’m one of the die hards who said they’d never use a baby leash. At one time, the idea of using even the cute toddler leash backpacks that look like cute little stuffed toys seemed cruel to me,” she said. “A trip to the store with wiggling toddlers in tow has made me re-think my use of a baby leash. There are times a stroller alone just isn’t enough especially when my husband isn’t around to help with the kids. It’s those times that have caused me to rethink the use of a toddler leash.”

The blog writer continued to explain that strollers have five-point harnesses to strap children in and no one bats an eye about strapping them in that way. When it’s for a leash, though, she said parents are very divided about what they think about her using leashes on her children, and strangers will come up to her and comment on her choice to use them.

Even some parents who don’t like leashes and don’t use them themselves have experienced times where they admit they could have used them.

“I will admit that there was a time before my oldest boy could walk that I swore I would never use them. I haven’t, but never say never. If a leash can save a child from being lost, taken or hurt…then they are fine…whatever it takes to keep them safe,” said a poster named Jennifer on familycorner.com.

Another poster, writing under the name K.M., on the same thread, disagreed with the opinions of the other posters who said leashes were good for their children.

“Why even use them? Whenever I see a child connected to a leash, it kills me,” she wrote. “(Our) children are not animals! People who use these are, in my opinion, totally irresponsible anyhow. A friend of mine uses them and she pays less attention to her children because of it. Train your child in the way he or she should go…don’t chain them up like animals!”

One poster on BabyCenter –she uses the screen name Krash 023 – said she’d heard a doctor on a radio talk show describe how much physical damage can be done to children by holding their hands everywhere you take them.

“They were discussing this topic about how bad it can be for a young child to have their arm held up in the air and/or pulled for long periods,” she said. “Think about how you would feel with your hands held up over your head for an hour on end… Anyway he was saying how the leash eliminates the need for kids to have to walk for long periods of time in such and ‘unnatural’ position.”

While pediatricians agree that harnesses are safe and many parents have used them effectively, some people equate using leashes on children with child abuse or child neglect. In a comment on the blog jealousbrother.com, one parent said the leashes are inhumane and that parents should just learn to watch their children when they’re out in public. In addition, she said parents should teach their children to listen to their parents, so when a mother tells a child to stay right next to her, the child follows orders.

Another poster on sodahead.com said she was shocked and appalled when she took a trip to get the mail one day and saw a mother with twin girls on leashes. She also mentioned the mom was on the cell phone not paying attention to the kids.

“What kind of people have we turned into the put our children in leashes?” asked the poster, who goes only by the name of Lexy. “I mean…that’s like treating them no better than your dogs!! I don’t care how restless and uncontrollable they might get.”

A comment on that blog entry, from a poster with the name Goddess Child, said that leashes can be both good and bad. They can be good if the parent using them is still attentive to her children, watching them closely and teaching them how to stay still during the toddler years, using the harnesses for safety while you’re teaching them to stay with you and follow your commands.

Older by two minutes twin Harry is leading his great gradmother around with his leash. She said she liked the leash because it allowed the toddler to roam around the play area without having the freedom to run out in the parking lot.

“Children leashes have no excuses really unless you are just a parent that doesn’t care and only uses it because you are stuck with the child. That I find WRONG in every which way,” she wrote. “It is simple, easy and effective and I am sorry, but any normal parent would believe that a harness is useful in these kinds of situations outside the home.”

Most child leashes are available at department stores or discount big box stores and range in price from $10 to $100, depending on how many options you want included in the backpack portion.

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  • Brittany

    I have to be honest, I babysiit and when I want to take five kids under three to the park leashes would be amazing!