Travel Photo (and Poll) of the Week: Child on a Leash

Posted by - May 24, 2012 | Category: Library

Would You Put Your Child on a Leash?

This post started off innocently enough – something about cute dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta. But then my mind wandered (like minds do) and I ended up focusing on this:

Child on a leash, Royal Tyrell Dinosaur Museum, Drumheller, Alberta CANADA

It’s a kid. On a leash. Oh, and a dinosaur at the Royal Tyrell Museum. (Sorry for the poor resolution – I was in stealth mode.)

Now while I don’t have kids, and I probably never will, I couldn’t help but think back to the last time I saw a fellow primate on a leash:

Monkey in chains, Koh Libong, Thailand

That was in Koh Libong, Thailand. And it made me cringe.

To Leash or Not to Leash (your kids, your monkey…)

I’m having a hard time processing what’s going on in these two photos.

I know most of the folks that normally read this blog would look at the monkey photo and think — That’s wrong, the poor monkey, whoever did that should be shot.

But what about the first photo? What are your thoughts on that one?

The monkey’s probably thinking — I’m a monkey, I should be free.

The kid? Probably the same thing (except of course the I’m a monkey bit).

In the 8+ months I spent travelling through Asia, not once did I see a kid on a leash. (Well, not an Asian kid anyway). Kids were kids – like I was when I was their age. If I ran off from my parents, I learned pretty quickly not to do that again. And if my parents thought I might run off, well, they just didn’t take me there in the first place. No leash needed.

A Leash By Any Other Name

Parents don’t like to call it a leash of course. It’s a “child harness” or a “child safety harness” or — my personal favourite — the “Mommy’s Helper Kid Keeper Safety Harness”.Mommy’s Helper Kid Keeper Safety Harness aka Child Leash

But I’ll defer definition to the pros. Merriam-Webster defines leash as:

A: a line for leading or restraining an animal

B: something that restrains : the state of being restrained <keeping spending on a tight leash>

There’s something just a little icky about the whole leash business. But what do I know? Like I said, I don’t have kids.

I just know that if I were that kid on a leash, I’d probably want to run away even more so. Same if I were that monkey.

You Take the Reigns

Now I’d like to hear from you. Just a quick informal poll to see if you believe putting your child on a leash is okay.


And I’d love to hear your comments.

Have you used a leash on your child?

Do you think it’s wrong to do so?

Do you use a leash on your child when you travel?

Can you not wait until my next post where I don’t talk about kids?

Let me know.

Your obedient servant, Raymond

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68 comments - add one
  1. There are huge differences between putting a child on a leash and staking out an animal. The kid stays safer, is less disruptive, and results in more relaxed parents who are then able to enjoy the outing WITH the child instead of finding it to be an exercise in stressful vigilance. Also, it’s about moving from one place to another.

    Tying an animal up in a stationary location is about keeping that animal in one place, not enriching its time here on earth. It’s usually about objectifying the critter, not improving the time you have together.

      1. That would be the problem of the people making the faces. I imagine these same folks get hung up on some idea of a separate human “dignity” while not understanding that non-human animals also have complex emotional relationships and feelings.

  2. I have two kids (now 15 and 8) and I never considered harnessing them. I know people who did but it just didn’t sit well with me. Perhaps my kids were less likely to wander than others but we always found that holding hands was adequate in order to prevent them from wandering away in a crowd. But like everything else in parenting, each parent has to make the decision that works best for their family – the rest of us don’t have to agree with their decisions just respect the fact that they are free to make their own parenting choices without being judged based on whether we would or would not make the same choice.

    1. Thanks for your comment Lisa, but I think there are always going to be people who judge other people’s parenting choices. I think it’s just the way we are raised. :)

  3. My mum used a leash with my sister. Trust me, it was for her own protection. When unleashed, she managed to get her toes squashed when a car drove over them, trip down the stairs multiple times, as well as get a full pot of hot water on her chest…she’s ok now…but what would have happened without the leash????

  4. Like you I don’t have kids (and probably never will) so I’ve never been in the positioning of having to decide whether or not to leash a kid. But just thinking about the term “leash a kid” sounds wrong. It’s not something I agree with, but again I don’t have experience in the area. I think there has to be some sort of psychological factor to leashing a kid especially if they’re older (I’ve seen kids who are 5 in harnesses and it just seems humiliating). I know there are safety factors, and I think the issue will vary from child to child, and from family to family, but on whole I wonder why there are so many more kids in harness now, when you never really saw that 20 years ago (at least I didn’t). I don’t think risk factors for child safety have increased so dramatically in the last 20 years that child harnesses are really necessary. I can say my parents never leashed my brother or myself, and any escaping or misbehaving we may have tried was met by “the look” from my mother – and getting “the look” meant you were in big trouble.

  5. Oh man, this is a really tough one-so tough I couldn’t vote. I used to be very anti-kid leashing. I was, like you, convinced that children needed to be taught to stay with their parents and wouldn’t have the freedom to wander until they learned that. And then my fourth child came along and he wanted to walk with the big brothers, but just wasn’t old enough to stay with the family. I was so conflicted about it that I wrote a post on my site about whether to leash or not leash.( I won’t link here, but you can read my inner struggle about leashing if you wanted.) In the end, we bought a leash and he hated it. So, I guess I am still in the camp of secretly judging other parents for using them, but knowing that I have been desperate enough to give it a try myself.:)

  6. I suppose my vote of NO on the leash might not count with some people since I’ve never had kids. But I was once a kid myself and no leash was required. :) It just seems to me that parenting, training, & discipline might be the best methods of dealing with control issues. But, I’m not an expert…

    1. While I haven’t come to a conclusion either way yet, as I’m still taking in the pros and cons, I wanted to stop to tell you that I laughed out loud at this one.

  7. Reminds me of the “story of the Weeping Camel” the little Mongolian toddler was left alone in the Yurt leashed to the center pole while the rest of the family went about their business. To answer your question I think we first worlders spend too much time judging each other’s parenting choices and far too little time fostering the kind of community where we can allow our children to run free and trust in our friends and neighbors to look out for them.

  8. In the monkey’s case, it’s really sad because probably that condition is forever. Nobody unleash it, nobody walk with it. It stays there. It’s like a prison.

    I think you should compare the kid case with dog in leash instead of monkey. Not the dog leashed forever in a spot like the monkey case (this happened), but the dog that roams free around the house, and got leashed when the master bring them for a walk. During the playing time, the master will unleash the dog.

    That will be a more fair comparison :)

  9. Most thought provoking… Many thoughtful comments here. I didn’t/couldn’t-bring-myself to vote ‘cuz I don’t view a leashed kid as abuse, and thus it’s none of my business how other folks raise their kids.

    I raised two daughters as a single mom – dragged them around the world from the time they were 5 yrs, and… it never occurred to me to put a leash on them. Nonetheless, in retrospect, it seems a miracle that they managed to survive to adulthood.

    Then again, that’s probably what they now think of me heading off solo to Mongolia… 😉

  10. I have NEVER harnessed my children. Rather than restraining them like unintelligible beings, I taught them the proper way to behave themselves when venturing out in public. From a very early age (5&7) we exposed our children to different countries, cultures, and experiences. They are now 20 & 22 and I couldn’t be more proud of the adults they have become. I was born and raised in the Deep South where manners are considered only slightly less important than Christianity. I treated my children like people, not animals and I can assure you that when they themselves become parents, they will do likewise. With that being said, I am as appalled by the second photo as I am the first. We need to stop attempting to domesticate wild animals and let them roam freely in their natural habitats.

    1. I’m totally with Dana on this one. I have a VERY busy 5 year old who has never been and never will be harnessed. We’ve traveled some, done Disney twice, piles of local museums, and busy malls at Christmas – I believe kids need to learn boundaries and what’s safe and whats not. Not how to walk nicely on a leash.

  11. Never considered putting a leash on my children. When they’re a year or two, it’s better to have them in a carrier on your back. Older than that and you can talk to them. Mostly.

  12. I had three boys within 3 years. Wild! I never had to resort to connecting them to me with a leash because they complied with my command to hold on to my skirt or slacks when we were out in a crowded place or a place where it wasn’t safe to run. But I am NOT anti-leash. Some kids just aren’t safe in public spaces, no matter how hard you try to train them. So should you leave them at home? I have the feeling the no votes come from people who have never had to care for children who didn’t know how to deal with boundaries.

      1. An easy solution from someone who never had children. It is the parents job to TRY to teach boundaries. It is also the parents’ job to teach them to be adventurous. But children have individual personalities and there are some who never deal well with restrictions. (I suspect you may have been one of those?)

        1. Actually quite the reverse was true. I would spend hours just standing in my playpen. On the first day of kindergarten every other kid ran to the door and cried for their Moms. Only me and and kid named Trevor O’Keefe stayed in our seats. I think I may have even taken out a notepad and pencil. 😉

  13. Poor monkey, but he’ll get even by flinging poo.
    If your child listens to you, let them run free! If you can’t control your child, do the rest of us a favor, and harness em’!!!

  14. I’m happy that I did not need to leash my kids but I can understand why it might be needed. I know a few kids out there who probably need them despite having good parents.

    It is concerning that in many cases I`m sure the harnesses are a result of lazy parenting. Lazy parenting is a major problem but at least lazy leashing is done partially out of love and concern. It`s the lazy parenting you don`t see that makes me more sad.

  15. I would like to thank my mother for not leashing me as a kid. I have always thought it odd to, but then again, when parents let their children run amok and run into me, I kind of wish they had been leashed.

    Depends, if the child and/or monkey deserves to be leashed, then leash. If it’s just because the owner/parent can’t handle the responsibility of the child (most likely scenario), then I think it’s a cop-out.

  16. I’ve always thought it’s slightly barbaric to leash a child, and then I started chasing around my 3 year old nephew. That kid can run – far and fast before you even know he’s gone – so I’m willing to reconsider my position. Much as I love him, I’d leash him in a heartbeat!

  17. I have never even thought about using a leash for my kids, but I have to say that I’m with Katrina on this. I think it’s completely different from the monkey situation, and we shouldn’t judge other parents. I know I learned how hard parenting is only after I became a parent. At the same time, I am glad you brought up how kids in Asia run around more…I wish Western countries would stop being so uptight about children being children.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly that it is completely different from the monkey situation, but my reaction to both was the same — I thought it was sad, it made me cringe, and I did judge the owner of the monkey, as I did the parent of the child.

      Thanks for commenting Jenna!

  18. Not being a parent myself maybe I shouldn’t comment but seriously how bad a parent are you if you need a leash!! They are not some wild animals unless you let them be.

      1. We love Modern Family too but we tend to record and watch when we have time. Just watched the episode that Sabrina is referring to last night after reading this post and it was hilarious. Cam and Mitch disagree on using the leash on Lily and Mitch’s Dad comes up with a unique solution quite similar to your heavy sneakers comment! :)

  19. This makes me think of the last episode I watched of Modern Family. You should look it up and try to watch it if you can. I don’t condone putting kids on a leash, but they showed (in a funny way) why someone might be inclined to do so.

  20. I’m 61 years old, well respected, well adjusted, intelligent….humble :) My Mum used to use a harness with me when we went to crowded places (we lived in the country and I still don’t like crowds), especially when she had my little brother in his pram. We’ve both turned out to be pretty decent people with no hang-ups methinks.

  21. This is definitely a concept I have never understood, but then again I don’t have kids

  22. Not something I would personally do if I had kids. However, you never know, there could be a very good reason for the leash. Maybe the kid likes to scale tall buildings:)

  23. My boys are 18 months apart. I put harnesses on them when we went to crowded public outings (malls, special occasion venues, etc). Even lake outings at certain moments. It was not all the time, however.

    It was the mid 90’s, so I was not sidetracked by phones, ipads, texting, calling or browsing the web. I never thought a thing about it and if someone gave me a dirty look I can honestly say I didn’t even notice – much less cared.

    It was like having twins, so they constantly fed off each other. To me it was a chance they could kind of run some energy off without me holding their hand constantly – or having to keep reminded them to stay close. We all had the opportunity to have a good time. Never once did I drag them on the floor with it – never even came up as a issue.

    I didn’t want to be that person. The one that lost their child because they looked away for one second. It was always a safety issue for me.

    I hear the degrading argument quite a bit and honestly it is a ridiculous one. A child that age doesn’t even understand the concept of degrading. They could care less. It is the adults that put that there.

    Both my boys are grown and in the Military. One is done with boot camp and one is just in. I can honestly say they never had a boundary issue problem. The youngest seemed a little autistic which was labeled as ADD, however I never medicated him.

    I think they did okay in my opinion.

  24. Also the Asia argument holds little value because the media and internet is highly regulated and always has been. The fear of a child’s safety in public is not the same as ours.

    Also the mindset toward children in general is a lot different.

    No offense. Just pointing that out.

  25. Since I’ve seen a few other people do it and understand their rationale, I didn’t have the same reaction you have. But since I don’t have kids it’s not a situation I’ve had to confront until now. I don’t think I’d put my child on a leash. It just feels like the easy way out, bad parenting or me saying I can’t control my child.
    The monkey on the leash is just pathetic.
    Speaking of leashes on people: I was shocked when I saw a gay couple one wearing a leash around his neck and the other holding the end. It was back in the 70s and I had just moved to the US. I remember staring in absolute amazement.

  26. I don’t have children, but I feel like whether you use a harness for your child should be a personal decision and we shouldn’t judge parents one way or another.

    Some children seem to be very obedient and are fine to hold hands with and stick close to their parents, while other children are easily distracted and have a tendency to run off. Using a harness can be a way of protecting the child from getting lost/hurt and make a visit to a museum go more smoothly.

    I also think there’s a big difference between an animal kept in captivity and a child on a harness. The animal could survive on it’s own in the wild – the child could not.

  27. Never used a leash on mt children, but sometimes I wish I had, children are so unpredictable.

    I remember my youngest running in to the road, a glass door, he also used to think it was a good idea to play hide and seek in the shopping mall, course he never told you it was time for hide and seek.

    So in some respects I think it is a good idea, both for your child’s safety and your personal peace of mind.

  28. I traveled with my 2 kids ,(1 and 2 years old),could be terrible if I did not had those leash’s ,you must be a parent to understand the feeling ,that for one moment of distraction you can lose your kid,and trust me ,there many maniacs out there witting for that moment.I will protect my children’s with my own life ,and what people think about my way to protect them it not matter to me.Some people had nothing to do with there life ,so they will look on other people life.By the way my kids are 29 and 30 years old ,happy and healthy and when they travel the use same leash to protect there kids.And my dear friend Rose still crying for her 3 years old child that she lost in Orlando on1980 ,and she never found.