Let your children off the leash!

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If you have to put her on a leash, at least use it to keep her off the cycling lane!

This is what I saw the other day on my way home from the supermarket. Yeah, look closer. And don’t let her atrocious boots distract you from the even more heinous lapse of having her child on a leash!

The appalling bit is, here in the UK, I see this all the time! When I last visited Germany, I specifically paid attention to how often I would see parents with their kids on a lead. Well, yes, there is the odd occurrence, but it doesn’t even remotely compare to how frequently the average island monkey does it.

I was curious whether I would be able to unearth more facts to back up my observations. So I typed into Amazon.co.uk ‘harness and reins’ and was ‘rewarded’ with a horrifying number of 95 different products. Type the German equivalent search term into Amazon.de, you get 30 results! What does that tell you? That’s right, we Germans don’t care about our kids. We want to see them in pain and unsafe.

Sure, I could, with a lot of imagination, conceive of situations where a rein might possibly be useful. Like when you are at the airport, trying to check in your bag and therefore waiting in the slowest ever queue, and your little monster is convinced that running around and challenging the definition of ‘authorised personnel’ is way more fun than standing in line with Mommy. Or when you are at a busy supermarket and the beckoning of the muffin aisle is so much more enticing for your offspring than your pleading to stay with you.

But in the pictured situation? Just walking down the road, hardly any other people around, and not even any hands occupied by lugging grocery bags/pushing pushchairs/holding siblings in check? To what purpose does this little girl have to walk on a leash? Is she prone to run away? Fall over? Bump into other pedestrians? Pass on the germs from her grubby hands to her moms’ clinically clean ones? I’ll never know.

My other ‘favourite’ observation of this kind happened at the park and I didn’t dare take a photograph lest the lens burst with indignation. Or maybe I just didn’t have my camera on me that day. In any case you will just have to take my word for it: it was disgraceful!

Another lady, another little girl on a leash. But this time not next to a road with all its terrible dangers but – you might want to sit down or hold onto something – on a PLAYGROUND! The little one, probably about 2, tried to use the slide but that would have meant that said lady would have had to get up onto that thing as well, which of course she didn’t.

OK, in this case it was clearly not the little girl’s mother, but her grandmother, on the reigning end of the rein. And she was probably just uncertain how best to rein in a dinky, shy 2-year-old other than with a, well, rein. Mind you, here in the UK, the average mother is probably about 19 years old, so this granny was not that much older than myself and would have been able to keep up with her granddaughter. But what if, god forbid, the girl would have fallen over and possibly ended up with a bruise (cue shocked outcry, preferably with your hands on your cheeks)? Mommy might have gotten so angry that gran would have been forbidden to ever again take her granddaughter to the playground. Ever!

I mean, children running around freely on a playground? Without the safety of a Safety 1st Safety Harness that “Comes complete with walking rein to give your child the freedom to walk around safely”?! Whatever next?!

Eventually the girl had to climb down the stairs again because granny just wouldn’t let go of the bloody reins! I would have laughed at the ridiculousness of the scene if it wouldn’t have been so sad!

Again, I confess that I have been in situations where I wished I had one of these things to keep my little monster in check. However, both times I made the conscious decision not to buy one. I feel that putting a child on a leash lacks the dignity and respect I wish to concede to any person, regardless of their age.

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Hey, you've got a monkey on your back. Erm... Never mind, my bad, it's just a DOG LEASH!

Oh, and making them pink for girls, camouflage them as little backpacks or use stuffed animals for the extra cuteness factor doesn’t change the fact that your child would be happier without it!

By the way, if you were wondering whether there is anything that could take the concept of leashes for children over the top, yes, there is! The newest must-have is apparently a retractable rein. Yeah, you’re reading correctly, just like the ones for doggies!

Newsflash, people: Your little one is not a dog that needs reining in! So, you claim it’s all about your child’s safety? Sorry, but I don’t buy it. Because in this case you would be saying that all the parents that don’t use them don’t give a rat’s arse about their kids’ wellbeing. Not the case! To be honest, to me it just looks like you are trying to dodge one of your responsibilities as a parent.

Granted, I am by no definition an expert in this field, but common sense sounds pretty convincing to me when it argues that holding your child’s hand, talking to him, giving him reasons why he can’t do certain things, explaining situations and dangers to him and – please don’t stab me for this one – letting him actually run around as long as you can keep an eye on him seems to be a much more sensible way of raising him to become an independent, responsible, self-reliant person who can confidently assess risks and judge situations.

Also, you don’t do your little one a favour by shielding her from each and every possible danger, imagined or real. I read the other day that empowerment is the freedom to fail. So, please, let your child make their own experiences. Yes, falling down does hurt, but it also teaches them valuable lessons that will reduce the likelihood of them falling again the next time.

And if you absolutely have to use a rein in certain, particularly dangerous situations, please make sure you restrict its use to these instances. And please, don’t forget that you have your child on a leash, it could look funny…