Friday, July 27, 2012

To Leash or Not to Leash?

Ever since seeing the episode of Modern Family where the family takes a trip to Disneyland and Cam puts Lily on a "child safety tether", this controversial choice has been on my mind. Before having a child, I thought that people who used leashes were crazy and lazy. But after listening to some parent discussion about it, I was a little more receptive to the idea. Right after this episode aired, there was a segment on Good Morning America discussing the pros and cons of leashing your children.
There were the usual and common sense cons: you are treating your child like a pet and it's embarrassing for the child. But then there were the pros: children have the ability to explore in a more independent way, they can walk freely without holding hands, and most of all, it keeps them within a safe distance and gives you the power to keep them out of unsafe situations.
Like Lily on Modern Family, Liam can be a runner at times, and I worry about his safety when we are out and about. What if I can't reach him fast enough? What if he gets lost? and some of the pros sounded like they may be just good enough to try it. What if all of those disgusted, dirty looks are unwarranted? What if the leash really is the best way to go? But then we went to a local park with a fountain for toddlers and babies, and all the evidence I needed to make an informed decision, was right in front of me.
Like all of the other kids at the park, Liam was playing in the water and running a muck. At one point, I noticed that he was playing with a little girl who must have been about a year old. I also noticed that the little girl was crawling around in the fountain attached to a leash. Liam kept trying to get her to follow him, and when the little girl tried she had to pull her mother along with her, which slowed her down considerably.
It wouldn't have been quite so difficult for her to keep up with Liam, if her mother were paying attention to her daughter and not having, what seemed to be, a very focused phone conversation. I realized that the mother wasn't even looking at her daughter most of the time. She even had her back to her on a regular basis. At this point, I realized that I was right about this topic from the beginning. At least for this mom, putting her child on the leash meant that she could take that phone call and ignore the actions of her child while she was playing. It helped her to be a lazy parent!
Every pro that was listed in the morning news segment is only present if the parent is still involved, and the observations that I have made do not support that this is the norm. Although this woman was the most blatantly distant parent, I have witnessed many similar situations: a child wearing a leash while climbing on a fence, the mom having a conversation with a friend, back turned from the child; a kid trying to pull their parent through the store, while the parent ignores them; (now this is gross) a baby eating something off the ground while the mother eats lunch. Obviously, it's not always safer for a child to be on a leash.These observations made me realize, that maybe lazy parents are not always the ones who pick to leash their children, but the leash gives parents a false sense of safety and security, so they become lazy and disinterested. 
When at the park I discussed earlier, my husband and I were engaged in play with our son, we enjoyed observing his play with other children, we have memories of that day that make us smile. It makes me sad that the mother of the young girl doesn't have that. I came to the same realization at the end of this trip, that Cam and Mitchell came to at the end of the hilarious episode. Parents keep their children safe, not a leash. Safety is my number one concern for my son, and I believe that it is safer for me to be an interested and engaged parent than it is for me to put him on a "child safety tether".

Modern Family: the leash episode


  1. Your last line summed it up beautifully. I mean, when you read the words "put your child on a leash" how does that sound? Not very good. Child safety tether is just politically correct rhetoric for leash. We put dogs on leashes because they don't understand our language. Children do. People found ways to keep their children safe before someone had the bizarre idea of leasing them. I think you have made some excellent points.

  2. I agree, "child safety tether" is just a parent's way of making the whole idea sound less nuts! Leashing your child is just an excuse to be a less observant parent and I will never do it. I understand that it's exhausting and stressful to watch your child 100% of the time, but it's a part of being a parent. Thanks for your comments. It's nice to know that there are others out there that feel the same way.