The Controversial Toddler Harness: To Leash Or Not To Leash

You’re lazy! You should teach your child about limitations and to listen! Hold his hand! It’s child abuse! They aren’t dogs! You should be jailed!

All of these statements I’ve either heard, I’ve read all over the internet or have ran through my overactive mind, especially when Cruz began to walk and I started entertaining the idea of the…dare I say it??? THE TODDLER LEASH!

Cruz is a active, curious, explorative little guy who is living his toddler life to the fullest.  He likes to be in his stroller or in a shopping cart for about 10 minutes then wants out immediately, which I usually don’t mind if I’m with a friend or my husband.  So when he’s out of the cart I now have a toddler on the loose in public. I need the ability to chase after him, but with the stroller/cart/whatever I’m holding that could mean I’m running right out the front door. What about when his sister arrives this month? What will I do when trying to getting them in the car in a busy parking lot?

FACT: I am an 8 month pregnant mother who has an active little boy (21 month old) and personally I don’t want to restrict his independence. Sure, I tell him “no” but sometimes I feel like I say it so often that I’m teaching him that he’s constantly doing something wrong (he’s not) or that the world is a fragile and scary awful place that he can’t explore. But I want him to explore! To learn about the world first hand, to say hi to other kids and touch the big red balls in front of Target, with a few safety limitations. So naturally I started looking into toddler links/harnesses/tethers/leashes…whatever you want to call them.

The Options

Below are a few of the different types of toddler attachments that I found:

  1. Simple Harness
  2. Backpack with removable tether

3. Safety Wrist Link

4.  Toddler Walking Handle for Stroller


So, after much contemplation I did it. I placed my Amazon order for the toddler harness and honestly it’s the cutest little thing ever. It’s the Brica By-My-Side Safety Harness Backpack (pictured above #2), essentially it’s a backpack with a tether- so he can carry his snacks and a couple of diapers and whatever else we will need for the day. Honestly my stress level has gone from a 10 to a 2 (I’m never stress free with a toddler!) and it’s already made my life a little easier.

What was going through my head?!

Now, he can walk everywhere. I don’t have to worry try about him bolting away from me in a busy parking lot or his little hand slipping out of mine. He’s happy, he’s independent and he’s nearly free to go where he chooses. So let’s address the arguments of why (some people think) I’m a bad mother. Ugh.

1. Leashes are for Dogs:

And why, may I ask, do we put our dogs on leashes? Why do we have fences around our yards? Isn’t a well-trained dog supposed to know it’s never to run into the street in case a car comes? A leash helps teach boundaries in moments of inconsistency. I love my dogs, I walk them with leashes because I want to keep them safe. I don’t trust them enough to let them go, same with my son. It eliminates the “what if.” Or that one instance when we’ll say “I should have…”

2. It’s Child Abuse:

Seriously? the definition of child abuse is…and you really think I should be jailed for keeping my son safe? IMmnot yanking on his tether, or causing any physical or mental distress. This one makes me so upset for so many reasons. I can’t even…

3. Lazy Parenting:

If I was sitting down in the middle of a horse corral lunging my toddler while I peacefully updated my Snapchat story then sure, I’ll give you that. But I’m walking NEXT TO HIM- step for step, 2 feet away. He’s not on a 10 ft. retractable leash or at the hook end of a fishing pole while I reel him in.  Sure Im tired, duh I’m a mom. I’m also extremely pregnant and doing my best to show my child the world with a few limitations.  I personally believe that for Cruz and myself, being outside the house is better than always inside and this is the safest way for us to do it. In case you didn’t know, San Jose has over 1 million people living here. IT’S BUSY AND DISTRACTING whether you’re a toddler or not, but we’re not staying inside.

Why I did it

1. The tether covers the “what if’s.” What if I lose my grip on his hand? What if a stranger tries to take him? And what if I need both hands to do something like pay the cashier? What if he gets the impulse to play hide and seek in the middle of a department store?

2. Independence independence independence! I personally don’t think keeping an active and pissed off toddler bound to a stroller is promoting independence.  To me, having him experience the world first hand IS.

3. More opportunities with others. My father-in-law has muscular distrophy and has always shied away from taking Cruz on a walk anywhere for fear he wouldn’t be able to chase after him. NOW, he has the capabilities to take Cruz to the park or wherever (with help). Before this was not an option. Now they can build they’re own relationship and have memories of just the two of them.

4. Now I don’t always need a friend to go with me to the mall when I want to go clothes shopping, though it’s way more fun that way. I can now try on clothes without Cruz trying to sneak out under the changing room door!

5. It’s a safety precaution. Cruz is impulsive. I don’t pull the tether when I want him to come closer, I talk to him and still teach him to listen and know that I set the rules.  He’s sometimes a runner. He’s a toddler. I’d rather have my son safe than lost. Boom.

Every parent has horror stories- those terrifying moments when they experienced pure and utter panic. I call my stories my parenting fails (everyone’s got them, they happen unfortunately and it’s gut wrenching). Today, my cashier at Walgreens told me her story of when her son darted into a clothing rack while shopping in a department store.  She genuinely couldn’t find him and so security was called. The fear, the tears, the emotions…she told me she wished she had a harness. It’s an awful feelingJust saying…

I’m not here to try to persuade anyone to tether their child, but I do think it’s time to parent the way that we want and to not be afraid of what others will say or think. No one else knows what it’s like to raise your particular child yet there’s so much judgement in a quick side glance.  We’re getting too involved in HOW others parent their children… and it’s awful. I hate being afraid to parent the way I want to: to breastfeed or formula feed, to harness or not, to co sleep or cry it out. I believe it’s important to be educated about your decisions and most importantly trust your instincts. And if a person is parenting differently, so be it! Someone will always try to tell me I’m doing this wrong or give me the evil stink eye, but I’m just a mom doing the best I can. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t and you know what? I just brush it off…

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This Article Has 5 Comments
  1. This is so well written. As someone who was in your exact situation, I contemplated a leash. In fact my good friend is thinking about it right now and I’m sending her this link. I chose not to buy one and she chose to get one. Now I’m insanely stressed and she’s not. I decided not to get one bc of other people’s thoughts. But being truthful about this, your child safety is your number one priority. And if you think wrapping them in bubble wrap is an appropriate choice, who is anyone to tell you not to. Thanks for the read!

    • Silicon SAHM says:

      Thank you, Dee! It took me a while to amp myself up and buy one. It’s funny/weird/disturbing that I had to prepare myself mentally for any backlash I would receive by putting my son in it then I thought who cares what others think. No matter what I’ll always be doing something “wrong” according to someone else when it comes to parenting! Bottom line- Raising kids is TOUGH so whatever we gotta do is what we gotta do! I do wish I had bubble wrap…and an air horn lol

  2. Kate Y says:

    you hit every nail on the head with your points which is why whenever we are out and about with the kid, the harness goes on. we use a simple harness but my biggest complaint with many commercial child harnesses is the ring for the leash attachment is often below the child’s center of gravity, which means if I pull on the leash to either stop the kid from falling or just get them to stop, the kid is likely going to fall on their face, or put them so off balance that they end up falling. also holding hands advice which many people may give is uncomfortable for the kid, I mean it, stretch your arm up as high as you can and walk around like that for a while. Having that arm pulled up constantly feels about the same if not worse.

  3. Megan Rowsey says:

    I’m really amazed that anyone takes issue with a mom putting a leash on a toddler. They are crazy and who knows when they will run in front of a car. Or just disappear. I actually had a very cute giraffe backpack for my son, but he ended up not needing it because, unfortunately, he’s afraid of everything and would never run away from me. But every child is different and every parent has to choose what’s right for them. Good for you for doing the right thing for your family.

  4. Ginger says:

    I think they are a great idea. I never used them for my kids but if I had a child who wandered often I would have in an instant. It’s not like kids are going to be 16 on a tether!

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