You’ve seen them walking through the mall, cruising through an airport, or navigating a theme park. They are the family that uses a child harness, otherwise known as a leash, for their child.
Parents and child care providers use them for a variety of reasons but the biggest one is to help keep the child safe. Parents who use harnesses are guarding against their child running off into traffic, or wandering away at a park, or being kidnapped from a public place. A harness can potentially stop those things.
In a 2014 poll on Today.com, 75 percent of respondents said they see a harness is useful and that they would use one themselves. Only 25 percent responded negatively. However, there is a sort of humiliation that stops some parents from using these harnesses.
Though some experts can see the value in a child harness in certain situations, there are others who caution parents about using the harness as a way to control their child. There are exceptions for children with special needs, however.
New York social psychologist and parenting expert Susan Newman said that a firm stance from a parent should be what keeps the child from running off or going too far away. As a critic of the harness, she said, “To me, it’s like treating a child like a dog or an animal when in fact as a parent your job is to make the rules. The perception is, this is a parent who can’t control her toddler.”
For the parents and caregivers who want to look for other ways to keep their child safe, here are three alternatives to the child harness:
1) Magic Rope
To help parents who have more than one child to keep in line, a “magic rope” can be used. It is a simple rope with handles on it which the kids hold onto. It is used at many preschools and helps teach children to stay together and walk in a line.
2) Handles on a stroller
For kids who don’t want to sit in the stroller, parents can let them out if they hold on to the handles attached to the stroller. This keeps the child within arm’s reach, but also lets him or her explore a little.
3) Backpack carrier
Many times, kids don’t want to ride in the stroller but they still love to be carried. There are backpack carriers for kids up to 50 pounds (and some beyond that) so even an older preschooler can be “worn”. As a bonus, the person carrying the child will get an amazing workout in a very short time.
Child harnesses can be useful for some families. However, there are other alternatives to help keep kids safe.
It is important to say that judging parents who use child harnesses is not helpful. Everyone has their own parenting journey and challenges and makes the best choices for their families.
Today.com. Web. 31 March 2014. “Child Leashes: Are they helpful or humiliating?”
Whattoexpect.com. 2 April 2014. “4 child harness alternatives.”
Reviewed June 18, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith