Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kids on Leashes

Every now and then I see parents walking around the mall or some shopping centre with their child(ren) on a leash. I can't really say I'm for putting a leash on your child, (I'll explain why later) but I would like to explore both sides of the argument and present my own way of dealing with this issue.

Lets first take a look at the Pro's and Con's of the issue.
Pro's
Allows parents to take a mental break from watching their kid (Is this a pro?)
Assists in control of the child
Allows child a certain amount of freedom(Does it?)
Prevents abduction
Provides security/safety


Con's
Huge negative stigma (People pointing and staring and whispering)
Lack of intimacy between parents and children
Allows parents attention to stray from child
Can trip up other parents

Here is an in depth look at some of the arguments for leashing your kids.
Parents feel they need a break from attending to their child. This reason to me is lame excuse to not watch your kids. Did you miss the spot in the “your going to be parent workshop” that stated there are no breaks ever? I guess so. Please don't tie your kid up to the safety rail.

Another reason for keeping your kids on a leash safety and preventing things like climbing on things or fall over ledges etc. Who doesn't want to keep their kid safe and uninjured? My whole argument to any of these reasons is basically the same. We should be able to teach our kids how to behave and act accordingly. I don't wish an injury on any poor child or the worry that parents go through for their injured children.

Parents argue the fact that you can't keep an eye on your kid all the time. I can relate to this issue because my son managed to get away from both his mom and I after we had miscommunicated about who was supposed to be watching him while we bagged groceries. Had it not been for a random lady paying attention outside the store, my son would have wandered right into traffic on Hastings and Nanaimo. Rather than leashing my child, I vowed to pay more attention and not let him out my sight.

Parents enjoy the security of being able to look away from their child knowing that some random stranger isn't going to scoop them up in that split second. I also feel that this is a pretty valid reason for leashing your child. I don't think I've ever really worried about this much because I know if somebody snatched my kid and ran off, I'm quick enough to catch him and beat the snot out of him. For a mother who may not feel comfortable running after and fighting a random stranger I can see how this would be an issue.

Here is a few personal anecdotes from my own life pertaining to security and safety with out a leash and how I addressed the issue with my son.

When my son was about 5, the two of us were walking down Commercial Drive headed to Britannia Pool. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a friend running up behind us (east van always look over your shoulder techniques) who was clearly trying to sneak up on Isaiah and scare him. As my friend ran up to him she picked him up and began to run off with him. As soon as Isaiah was more than a foot of off the ground, he panicked and began to squirm so much that my friend had to put him down before she tripped and fell over with him. He was pretty shook up and rightfully so. I felt bad, and it gave us the opportunity to discuss abductions and how to get help etc. Since not long after that day, he has memorized my phone number and knows how to get a hold of me by phone and what kind of people to talk to in case of an emergency (generally - people in uniforms).

The other thing I have taught my son is to keep an eye on dad. One night after coming out of the local Safeway, Isaiah decided it would be a good idea to hide on Dad. He was about 5 or 6 and was about to learn the hard way about inappropriate humour. I turned around to look for Isaiah and he was GONE. This was the first time something like this had ever happened to me. I was shocked and immediately panicked. After an eternal 45 seconds he popped out with a smile on his face and said, “Hahahahaha dad – I scared you!” I remember feeling so many emotions at once I was overwhelmed. Relief, anger and humour were the most obvious emotions. Rather than getting mad at him, I explained to him how worried I was and why it is important to always stay close to dad. I also related it to how scared he was in the previous paragraph's situation. I'm not sure he totally got it so I formulated a better plan.

On the way home from school one day, I noticed he was off in his own little world and not paying any attention to dad. So, I double backed around him and just watched him as he continued to “follow” me. After a about a minute and a half he looked up to really find me. Even from the back I could see the tension in his body as he began to realize, “I don't know where dad is.” As the panic began to sink in he began to look all over for me so I stepped in before he got really scared. Apparently I was a little too late. My poor son was crying in the fear that he had lost his dad. I explained to him why it was important for BOTH of us to always keep a good eye on each other to prevent becoming separated.

Now, an in depth look at some of the con's of leashes.

There is an incredibly bad stigma attached to leashing your kids. People do it, nobody talks to them about it and at the present time, none of the parents I know that leash their kids have responded to any of my posts, messages or comments. According to twitter, it is something black people seem to hold against white people. Google search “kids on leashes” and there is a plethora of negative opinion and equal amounts of positive marketing but no defensive statements from parents who do it. I do understand I'm painting a kind of nasty picture so I'm going to leave this one here and let people make their own conclusions.

Some child psychiatrists believe that holding a child's hand and staying close to a child is better for its development. I can actually defend this on behalf of parents who leash their kids because I have a special kid in my life (although somewhat far away from me) who is developing amazingly quick with spoken word, social skills and basics like sharing. I would agree that holding a child's hand during their infant years would be beneficial but that intimacy with your offspring can be achieved in other ways. Not all parents keep their children on leashes 24/7.

Putting your kid on a leash while you window shop and pre occupy yourself is not one of the aforementioned ways though. This example is the poison of leashing your children. This action is what perpetuates the stereotype of lazy parent and I don't doubt that laziness is the premier reason for leashing your child. But some parents work extremely hard at parenting and deserve a couple of minutes here and there to themselves at the mall or grocery store or where ever.

This has actually happened to me and it really pisses me off. Not so much when it happens with Dogs but if I'm trying to walk and your kid darts out in front of me and your looking at some jewelry and the leash cuts of my path, you might get cursed out. Please don't let your short comings as a parent impede my path to where ever I'm going. Pay attention to your kid. It might sound trivial but dammit, it pisses me off.

Feel free to make your own decisions on this one. And make sure if you have a friend or relative that puts a leash on thier child, make sure it's for the right reasons (good parents need a break) and not the wrong reasons.


And here is a bonus link to a great picture gallery of kids on leashes because I'm not biased.

http://www.smosh.com/smosh-pit/photos/25-kids-leashes

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