When you see a toddler or child on a leash, you may be quick to judge the parent who has their child on such a contraption. Why can't they just control their kid without it? Is it that hard to use your words and actions to keep your kid from darting off? How can any parent justify using a leash or harness in public? These questions and many more are likely in the minds of bystanders.
But some parents have defended their decision to keep their child on a leash or harness as a parenting tool. A recent albeit fierce debate continues to grow online among parents on the leash versus no leash discussion. Many parents have defended their use of a leash out of concern that without it, their child will dart into traffic and be struck by a car. In other words, it gives the parents peace of mind that their child is safe. Other parents have explained that certain medical conditions make it much harder to chase after their darting kid, or that it gives their kid a chance to burn off some energy in a safe and controlled manner.
Of course, there still continues to be a large group of people who demonize leashes and harnesses. They're most likely the same individuals who would either quietly or not-so-quietly judge a parent for using one. The idea of putting a leash on a child in the same way one would put a leash on a dog is both disturbing and offputting, to say the least. It immediately makes people judge the parent using the leash as unwilling to fix their child's behaviour, and instead deal with it in a lazy manner.
The idea of child leashes and harnesses was first seen as far back as the late 1930s, thanks in large part of a 1939 cover of Women's Home Companion that depicted a child on a leash. At this point in time, using such an item was actually seen as socially acceptable. But by the late 1980s and going into the 1990s, society began to turn against the use of a leash. Suddenly, a parent who used a leash on their child was viewed in a more negative light.
This is despite experts expressing some support for parents who put their kids on a leash. While many understood the concerns of naysayers, they also felt that if parents believed it would best protect their kids from getting hurt, then using a leash is okay. Other experts later pointed out that how a leash is used matters, too. Having said that, there are experts who disagree with leashes, saying that kids need to learn how to properly behave in social situations, and using a leash doesn't allow that.
So, do child leashes and harnesses work as a good parenting tool? The answer is not as clear as you may think. In certain social situations such as amusement parks or crowded shopping malls, putting your child on a leash may make you feel comfortable with their safety (despite all the judgemental stares and/or remarks you'll most likely receive)