Anyone who’s ever pushed a crying toddler in a stroller while simultaneously chasing an ever-curious preschooler may not see leashing as much of a leap in child rearing. But some parents—and psychologists—argue that not only is leashing a kid demeaning (hello, that’s a future astronaut, not your golden retriever), but that the answer to wandering kids isn’t a rope—it’s firmer discipline.
Ugh, parenting. It’s complicated. So, we’re looking at both sides of the leash. Here’s what we found.
The “Teach, Don’t Leash” Camp
According to Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, a psychologist who spoke to the Today show, while the practice may put parents at ease, it could cause future embarrassment for the child. Dr. Susan Newman agreed and added, “To me, it’s like treating a child like a dog or an animal when, in fact, as a parent your job is to make the rules. The perception is, this is a parent who can’t control her toddler.”
But to some, there’s more than just perception or feelings. Peggy Drexler, an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College, argues that leashing is a short-term, Band-Aid solution that leads to more distracted parenting.
Leashing our responsibilities would simply give us more freedom to be less present. Wrap a leash around your wrist and guess what: You’ve still got two thumbs to text…To the question of how can parents keep better track of their kids in these kinds of potentially dangerous places? The answer is, simply, parent. Do your job.
The “Harness the Hell Out of Them” Side
In contrast to the “Teach, Don’t Leash” camp, some parents are just willing to accept that, yeah, controlling kids on your own can be borderline impossible. Chicago mom Katy Maher set off a firestorm when she blogged about the topic:
I have 14-month-old twins and you can bet your ass I will do whatever I have to in order to keep them safe. If there is more than one adult around (without kids of their own to keep watch over) to help chase kids, that’s one thing, but many times it’s just one adult and two kids and until you’ve been there, I urge you to reconsider your judgment. Even if you HAVE been there and you have somehow split your body in two to run after two toddlers at the same time, you must be a superhero and good for you, but maybe cut me a break here, huh? We live in the city and I’m not going to keep them inside… I’m also not willing to risk them running into the street or heaven forbid the train tracks if I can help keep them safe, WHY WOULDN’T I?
Father of three and family blogger Clint Edwards wrote a Facebook post on the topic that launched a thousand comments:
The real difficulty with having a wild child is that you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Because the fact is, if I didn’t put Aspen on a leash while at amusement parks, the zoo, a crowded mall, or the farmers market, she’d be the lost child announced over the intercom... Because I can't, for the life of me, keep her from moving. And sure, I get dirty looks from strangers. In fact, I'll probably get some “I'm the perfect parent and this is why you suck” comments on this post. And to you I say this, “I'm keeping this kid safe while maintaining my peace of mind, and that is 100% worth it.”
Maybe the best way to sum up the debate is with one of our favorite comments on Edwards’ post. It reads: “Parenting was so much easier when I raised my non-existent children hypothetically.”