Should Parents Use Leashes To Keep Kids Safe?

How can we prevent unforeseen accident with children?

girl peaking over fence

The news in 2016 showcased a few tragedies involving children. One happened in a Cincinnati zoo when a 3-year-old boy was hospitalized after falling into a gorilla enclosure. Zoo workers had to kill the rare gorilla to protect the boy. The mother of the child stated that it was an accident, that she only took her eyes off the child for a short time.

Another story, with a much sadder ending, happened in Orlando, Florida.

A 2-year old boy was wading in a man-made lagoon, part of the Grand Floridian Resort, at night when he was snatched by an alligator and dragged into the water. The boys parents were both in close range at the time of the incident and the father tried to fight off the alligator but failed. The boy was later found dead due to drowning.

Many people on social media were quick to blame the parents, calling them "irresponsible." Both of these stories are incredibly sad and scary and involve rare situation with animals, but what about more common stories about children getting lost in crowded areas or getting abducted from playgrounds or shopping malls? In reality, all parents have moments where they are preoccupied with their phone, their other children, or their minds are simply elsewhere. It only takes a few seconds for a toddler to run off. These accidents could happen to anyone, so how do we protect our children and keep them safe?

Using Leashes to Keep Your Kids Safe: What Parents Think

A leash is one way to keep your kids close to you. It can keep kids safe while still allowing them to interact with their environment. It allows them to touch things and walk around, which they otherwise cannot do while sitting in a stroller. A leash can also control a toddler who has a tendency run off.

The security of knowing your child is connected to you via a leash might be comforting and necessary for some parents.

These parents feel that kid leashes are a must-have when you are in a crowded place—for them, leashes are an effective way to ease anxiety and reduce risk. A leash-friendly parent would probably say that it takes a split-second for something bad to happen and we should do everything we can to prevent these unthinkable situations.

On the other side are parents who are against leashes. Some parents feel that using a leash is a lazy way of parenting. These parents feel that kids need to learn how to stay with mom and dad and adapt appropriate behavior for being in a crowded environment. Teaching your child the rules while crossing the street or walking around the zoo, for example, is your job as a parent. 

There are also free-range parents who think that kid leashes are ridiculous. They think children need to learn through experience. They believe kids will figure their safety out for themselves and be better off for it. Some of these parents also believe that leashes are immoral and plain mean, that leashes are for animals and not for children.

Deciding to Use a Leash

While the reasons against a leash seem somewhat self-explanatory, let's discuss a few of the more common ones you might decide to use one:

  • You are in a very crowded place: You are in a zoo, a mall, a concert outdoors or other crowded space and you are fearful your kid could run off or get lost in the crowd.
  • You have your hands really full:  Maybe you are flying alone with more than one child, or coming back from the grocery store with your hands full. Having a toddler on a leash frees up a much-needed hand while keeping him or her safe and juggling your bags. If you have twins especially, a leash might be a good option since your hands are always full.
  • Your child pulls forcefully when you hold his hand: If you have a kid who tries to pull away, and you’re holding her hand, you can dislocate her elbow or shoulder.  It’s called “nursemaid’s elbow“. This wouldn't happen if your child had a leash on.

  • Your toddler wants to explore but refuses to hold your hand: If your child will not hold your hand, your options are to make them sit in the stroller or allow them to explore on their own, without being connected to you. If they want to explore, a leash will allow this without having to battle them to hold your hand. Sometimes a leash can actually give your child more independence while assuring you they won’t run into the street.

Ultimately, whether or not you use a kid leash is a personal decision. The ultimate goal is to keep your kids safe, so let's stop judging each other and allow each parent to make the best decisions for their own family.

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