Attachment Parenting and The Child “Leash”

It is a topic that gets heated on parenting message boards:  Child Leashes, Tethers, and Restraints.  I remember the first time I saw one when I was about 12 years old.  I was horrified!  Leashes are for dogs how dare a parent treat a child like a pet!

But it isn’t just non-parents (and smarty pants pre-teens) that don’t like these devices.  In Attachment Parenting circles I’ve heard a child tether compared to a circumstraint and described as distinctly NON-AP.  I disagree.  First and foremost, AP is about being in tune with the needs of your individual child and trusting your instincts.

So, here’s my shocking confession:  I’m a child tetherer.

Yep, I walk my 2 year old on a leash!

Freak on a leash

It was awesome and I wish I’d had the guts to buy one earlier!  Shame on me for caring so much what other people think!  If I made all my parenting decisions based on public opinion I wouldn’t be a very good mother.  I certainly wouldn’t be breastfeeding my toddler in public if I cared more about what Joe Schmoe thought than about the needs of my child.  The whole breastfeeding in public, in my opinion, stems from adults projecting adult connotations onto a pure act.  You’ve probably heard “if they can ask for it they are too old” implying some type of sexual inappropriateness to nursing an older child.  This is a complete projection of an adult hang up.  To a child there is no connotation there is only nutrition and nurturance and mama.

I think the same thing is at play with the leash.  We see a kid on a leash and connotations about subjugation and degradation spring to our adult minds.  A child doesn’t think this though.  He’s never heard the idiom about “being on a short leash.”  He just sees sunshine and rocks and flowers and mama.

With twins and a toddler I figure I have a few options:

  1. Babywear them all. The twins are young enough to both be in one moby on my chest and Aellyn can be on Daddy’s back in the Kelty Kids.
    Pros: The ultimate in AP – babywearing.  Complete control of where the kids go.
    Cons: The twins won’t be this small forever.  What if I want to go on a walk without DH? And, most importantly, Aellyn doesn’t want to be in the carrier – she wants to explore and get her hands dirty!  I want this too so this option is out.
  2. Use a stroller. I could get a triplet stroller or DH and I both wear a twin and put Aellyn in a stroller.
    Pros: complete control of the kids.
    Cons: Strollers  can’t go on some of the trails we go on.  Aellyn still can’t explore.  Option out.
  3. Let the toddler be free range. Let her run free!
    Pros: Complete freedom to explore.
    Cons: More open to danger, especially with both parents wearing an infant it can be hard to get to her in time before a slip or fall or before she touches poison ivy for example.  Plus, in busy places the fear of predators snatching my kid.  I’m not comfortable with this in some settings (while others, like my own back yard, a walk through our neighborhood, and some play grounds I would feel safe to let her run free).
  4. Leash. Put on her doggie backpack with a “tail” that mommy holds onto.
    Pros: Moderate control – She is in charge of where she goes and what she touches within reason.  She can’t bolt into traffic or be snatched up by someone else if she gets too far from us.  I don’t have to worry about her falling into a place that could harm her and/or would be difficult for me to reach with her brother in the moby.
    Cons: I can’t think of any in the confines of my relation with Aellyn.

So, for me, leash is the best option.  Now, it has the possibility for abuse.  As with anything you can parent well with it or you can parent poorly.  If you are going to jerk your kid around and scream every time the veer towards something you don’t want then the tether becomes a tool for dominance and control over your child.  However, if you use the tether in order to provide a safe boundary for your child to explore independence then I feel it falls perfectly in line with my parenting philosophy and goals including a love of nature.

What are your thoughts on the leash?

Here’s some more fun from our nature walk:

Aellyn and Daddy (and Boston in the Moby) look for frogs at the pond

Look Mommy, green!

Walk softly and carry a big stick!

Chasing Daddy's shadow

Nature find of the day: a cardinal



12 thoughts on “Attachment Parenting and The Child “Leash”

  1. I was totally against the toddler leash until I found myself with an almost two year old, and newborn twins! With a husband that was deployed, family across the country, I was in serious need of help. Thankfully after I found her one, grocery shopping with a double stroller, cart, and her became so much easier! Life became easier. I can understand why parents of only one child, or parents of older children and a new one may not need it, but frankly, it does come in handy when you are out numbered and don't have enough hands!


  2. I use a toddler leash! I'm not ashamed. And ours isn't even disguised as a backpack! 🙂 I know that some people don't like them, and some people will think I'm cruel, but as you pointed out, there are only so many options! I think it's actually quite AP/free-range. It allows my almost-two-year-old to explore before she's old enough to keep from hurting herself.


  3. I used one. My son learned to run at 9 months, he would NOT hold hands (you try holding your hand over your head for more than 5 minutes), he would NOT go in a stroller, he would NOT be worn.

    I live in a metropolis. I go places. He wore a leash. It also helped him from falling on his face on concrete. And it was a godsend when I was pregnant with his brother and he was still a toddler.

    No one can pay 100% attention to a child at all times. But if you've never had your child in a situation where one would have been useful either free the caged-toddler, or leave your bubble once in awhile


  4. I'm not a parent myself but I am all for parents using a leash. My mom was always out numbered with children. She had a daycare there were always 4 or 5 kids around at all times. My younger sister was a wanderer. She would never hold hands and dart away really fast. I cannot remember how many times she got lost in the grocery store or even scarier Walt Disney World. Once she wandered off and was missing for a few hours at the Ohio State Fair. If my mom had a leash she would not have been able to run off so easily. Of course by the time she was 4 or 5 she grew out of running off.

    I think it is a safe way to let your children explore in more dangerous environments. I think parents should have the right to raise their children they see fit for their family and what works for them.

    I have had this conversation many times with very passion individuals who are 100% against them. I will always remain the person who says if it makes your child safer then go for it and guess what, it is your decision. No one has that right to take it from you.


  5. My brother bought one as a joke for my oldest when he was just a baby. Later, with 2 busy boys 13 months apart, I've found that the monkey "leash" has been a life saver! Especially when hiking the metro parks.


  6. My boys loved theirs, although we lost it only a few months after my sister gave me hers that her son had outgrown. My nephew loved it too, for the same reasons that you give — freedom to roam (within reason), and not being confined in a stroller. My kids begged to get the leash on, and they would be dogs or reindeer or whatever — inside! They didn't even have to go outside to want to wear it! 🙂


  7. we used one with my fourth. i frankly was shocked at the AP contreversy. they seem much more in tune with a childs needs to roam safely than a carrier does. once my son could walk he refused to be worn, and he hated to ride in shopping carts or hold hands. Rather than descend into a battle of wills, or give up all control over his safety, or just stay home for a year, we used a leash. He was so headstrong he broke 2 leashes, so we did have to mostly stay home for a few months. I refuse to compromise safety for dogma, and i have enough children now to realize that they are all different with differing needs.


  8. As you said, it depends on the child and the parent – if the parent uses it for domination, that's unfortunate.. of course, that kind of parent may use the child's arm for the same thing, which could be even more harmful. I like the idea of a child harness, and I'm very pro-AP. It allows them to explore their environment without having to absorb the parent's worry about their safety, and therefore enjoy and focus and learn more.

    My child is just over 2 and, having tried very hard to have him (7 m/c's and 4 years), it is sometimes difficult for me to let him explore. Luckily for me, he's quite a cautious child, so I don't need the leash, but my husband had one as a child, and he (and his mom) are just great. 🙂

    Besides which, I think some parents could be far less judgmental – we are all doing the best we can, and using what works for us. I may not agree with many of the parenting decisions that others make, but I am also aware that I'm making (or will make) a number of mistakes as we go along. Nonetheless, my child is loved and respected, and at the end of the day, that makes me a perfect parent. 🙂


  9. Everytime we use the Monkey backpack tether, we get cute comments. No one has dared say anything negative. Besides, my son seems to know when he's at the end and he stops. He doesn't fight it.


  10. Once my daughter learned to walk there was no putting her in the stroller unless I and everyone around me wanted to hear a non-stop tantrum. Our monkey leash allowed her to walk "freely", but I could keep her safe from danger. A much better option in my opinion! I know some people judged me for it and frankly I could not have cared less. This option worked best for my daughter and me and really that's all that mattered.


  11. My child is free-range, I guess. I let him run 100 ft ahead of me sometimes. He's 2 3/4 years old. I've always let him explore pretty freely, so he feels confident in doing so. I've taught him to stay on the sidewalk, which he does. He stays close if I ask him to. But he doesn't like to hold hands in parking lots. He does like to walk up to the edge of the stream. If I had a baby in my arms, what would I do? Those harnesses do seem better than forcing them in a stroller or carrier if they'd rather walk. But why do they weird me out? I can't put my finger on it, but it just doesn't feel right to me. I don't know if I'll ever use one, but I guess I shouldn't say 'never.'


  12. My little one is just starting to learn to walk, but I have every intention of using a leash with her. Sure, once she learns how to figure out if a situation is dangerous and react accordingly, I'll let her run free, but it's asking a lot of an 11-month old to judge the safety of a situation.

    As well, as much as I might like to hold her hand, I know that it would put too much stress on her arm to have to hold it above her head for any amount of time longer than a couple of minutes.


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