kids

“My partner wants to get a leash for my son. I don’t.”

Rie Williams probably knew she was going to spark a debate when she posted this question on Facebook group, Midnight Mums.

“My partner wants to get one of those children leashes for our son, as he’s worried about him running off when we are out,” she wrote. “Now, I’m highly against them, as I believe if you are watching your child properly, then them taking off shouldn’t be an issue, and I feel like I’m walking with a dog, not a child.”

Putting a kid on a leash is an issue that divides parents all over the world, and has done for years.

When US daddy blogger Clint Edwards revealed in June that he sometimes put his daughter Aspen on a leash, he drew thousands of comments on his Facebook post and even made the TV news.

The anti-leash brigade condemn leashes as lazy parenting. The anti-leashers tend to be the people who have calm, reasonable kids that respond to those parenting techniques you read about in books. Or maybe they’re people who aren’t parents yet but know an awful lot about parenting.

The pro-leash brigade tend to be parents just trying to keep their kids alive. “Lazy” is one thing they’re not.

Becoming a parent makes you an expert in your own children. That’s it. If you have a toddler who is happy to hold your hand or walk calmly next to you wherever you go, congratulations. Just don’t take too much of the credit.

There are calm, reasonable kids, and then there are bolters and wanderers and wild children.

My daughter was a wanderer when she was little. Never saw any need to stay anywhere near me.

With two kids, I got by with a lot of hand-holding, fenced playgrounds and family outings where it was one parent per child. I didn’t use a leash, but I could certainly see why other parents did.

The sad thing is that a lot of the pro-leash brigade feel like they need to justify what they’re doing.

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“My four-year-old is fearless,” wrote one woman on Facebook. “He has high-functioning autism. A leash is a must in very crowded places.”

“I thought we had outgrown the leash… then a couple of weeks ago, my daughter literally tried to jump in the damn river,” added another woman. “No fear. Not a single f— given.”

“I was a mum with mobility issues (ie, there is no way I could run after them),” wrote a third. “The tether was a godsend. No one should judge anyone until they have walked a mile in their crutches.”

LISTEN: Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo break down what parents are talking about on this week’s episode of This Glorious Mess (post continues after audio…)

The judgement is out there. Some parents are so worried they’ll attract critical looks and comments that they’re afraid to buy a leash.

“I have always been too scared of judgement to put one on my (extremely) wild two-year-old daughter,” wrote a mum on Facebook. “But I barely ever go out because she is such a nightmare and keeps running away every chance she gets and refuses to hold hands!”

This is when being judgey goes too far: when parents are judging other parents for trying to keep their kids safe. The decision on whether or not a child needs a leash can only be made by the parent.

Honestly, what’s the big deal? It’s just a temporary solution to a very real problem. It’s like having an extremely long, skinny arm with a grip that won’t let go. Or, as one mum online called it, a “love line”. Parents only ever use it because they care about their kids.

What about Rie Williams, who posted on Midnight Mums, to ask advice on whether to get a leash for her son?

“We decided, as he’s a bolter, to trial one and see how he goes,” she told Mamamia.

Would you put your child in a leash? Why/why not?

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