European vs. American Parenting: You May Be Embarrassed

Is tbkbshafsd
all European parenting like this? Probably not. I hear of helicopter tendencies creeping in. Nor are all American children on leashes. And yet, there IS a cultural difference and this video — so simple, hence so powerful — packs a punch. It seems to be attracting another one million views each day.

How I love the clear and sympathetic link it makes between media constantly hyping danger and parents reacting with understandable terror.

If anyone is in touch with the guy behind these ATTN: videos — Matthew Segal — let me know. I want to connect! (And not JUST because Wikipedia tells me we went to the same high school.) – L.


Are American parents the laughingstock of Europe?


, , , , , , , ,

65 Responses to European vs. American Parenting: You May Be Embarrassed

  1. Jenny Islander December 7, 2016 at 10:49 am #

    OK, I have to raise my hand here and argue with the use of a child leash as a symbol for overprotective parenting. Consider four scenarios:

    1. Small child at that dash-away age is walking beside busy street/past climbable hazard with parent. Parent is constantly frazzled, calling the child back, not daring to look away for more than a second because small children–whether or not people think they should–do dash away. Child is always being interrupted in their explorations.

    2. Small child at that dash-away age is being held by the hand. That leaves one arm always up in the air and limits their exploration radius to the length of the parent’s arm.

    3. Small child at that dash-away age is stuck in a stroller. Boooooorinnnnnnng. Plus the parent has to push it around.

    4. Small child at that dash-away age is on a leash. They dash ahead a little way, they dawdle briefly, they stop to poke at an interesting rock. If they trip, the parent grabs the harness to keep them from falling, instead of yanking their arm; if they don’t want to move, the parent can swoop them across the street like Superman. (I did this once.) Parent can safely look away, talk to another adult, answer a phone call, etc., because child can’t dash away. Also they can have both hands free.

    Leashes aren’t even a new thing! Google “leading strings.” They’re described in modern dictionaries as a way to help a child learn to walk, but if you look at the art from the days of leading strings, they’re pretty obviously for letting the child forge ahead safely. It’s even in the name.

  2. Anna December 7, 2016 at 10:59 am #

    Okay, I like the video in general, but in the interests of truthfulness, I have to mention that the only time I’ve seen child-leashes for real was among my Danish relatives. We in the North American branch of the family were flabbergasted by them, but my Danish grandma thought they were quite normal. I have NEVER seen an American using one. So that aspect of the video seemed almost backwards.

  3. Richard December 7, 2016 at 11:16 am #

    Agreed, Jenny. Please, don’t see the leash as an alternative to freedom, see it as an alternative to being carried or tied down in a stroller – it adds limited freedom where otherwise none would have been possible. That’s a huge difference.

    NOTE: Most, if not all, of the parents who gave dirty looks when we used one on our eldest had their kids strapped down in a stroller. Still not sure why that’s better.

  4. Richard December 7, 2016 at 11:17 am #

    ps: leashes were far more common, and strollers far less common, when I was growing up in England during the ’70s.

  5. Another Katie December 7, 2016 at 11:18 am #

    I also have to disagree on kid leashes. A lot of kids go through a stage in toddlerhood where they bolt or run. In the US, where people drive everywhere, a toddler bolting into a busy street or across a parking lot can be a fatal error. If, God forbid, a child is hit by a car, EVERYONE will blame the parent/caregiver for not keeping the kid safe. We keep our dog leashed to keep her safe because she’s too dumb to stay out of the street, and we’ve used a kid leash to do the same for our kids before they were old enough to listen and be aware of the danger of passing traffic.

    What are the alternatives that let the kid explore the world in a more safe way? Well, the toddler can be firmly held by the hand, but that limits their ability to actually explore very much and the adult’s hand isn’t free. The same goes for a stroller. The kid on a leash is safely contained close to the parent, but is able to explore their immediate area unhindered while the parent’s hands stay free. It’s a win-win in my opinion.

    Our kid leash is actually a little toddler backpack with a chest strap that looks like a bumblee and a detachable leash. Oddly, the only people in real life who ever expressed a negative opinion about it are non-parents! My parents had a wrist leash 30+ years ago, and many older folks have seen our toddler backpack/leash and said that they wish they’d had it when their children were young.

    There are a lot of signs of overprotective parenting in the US, but I don’t see the use of a kid leash as one of them.

  6. Rob December 7, 2016 at 11:39 am #

    Hi Jenny, Richard etc…. ever tried holding your child’s hand? Or in areas of danger pick them up and carry them for the duration of that small danger? No…

  7. Stephanie December 7, 2016 at 11:43 am #

    I am also a reluctant lease user. I have actually worn out a kid leash. I’ve got 6 children and at least three of them have been a danger to themselves and others at the toddler dashing stage. I bought our first one when I was going to be taking my oldest through an airport and having him slip out of my grasp simply was not an option. It saved us a huge amount of angst and as he and my other dashers matured, the leash got retired.

  8. Sally December 7, 2016 at 12:00 pm #

    I have used a leash- for my 2 year old in a busy airport. JFK maybe? I usually held his hand but knew the interesting airport might be too much distraction for a normally well behaved child. I wouldn’t let kids that age (or even now a year later) walk around the airport without being sure that he or his younger sibling won’t run away. Strollers work but I would prefer them exercising and feeling like they can explore. But he won’t accidentally get on a flight to Timbuktu.
    But on the streets? We live near a busy shopping area with crazy drivers. There he must hold my hand or stroller. But on a quieter street he walks independently until we hit the corner. He knows about looking for cars but he’s short and can’t see over parked cars to know if a car is coming. So that stage isn’t here yet.

  9. AmyO December 7, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

    I also used a leash on my daughter when she was shy of two years old. She HATED holding my hand and would throw herself on the ground if I tried to take it. Yes, I was trying to teach her to hold a hand to cross the street, but she was just too young to grasp the rule. Plus, she was a runner. She was the kind of kid who didn’t notice steps or anything and would just take off and tumble off a curb or down stairs. The combination made going on walks impossible! So I got a leash so she could walk independently and I didn’t have to worry about her taking off into traffic. In fact, when we went to the beach I could see her just running into the ocean and ending up in England, so I bought a 15 foot one to clip to her child one, and tied it to my beach chair so she could walk around without going too far. Believe me, I heard it from my family and friends about how cruel I was. But the leash allowed her to be independent, otherwise there would have been no outside and no exploring.

  10. Shan D December 7, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    Those leashes can save a parents sanity. We used one when traveling to Germany years ago. Had to fly through Atlanta and NYC with a 1 and 3 year old. Strollers weren’t a good option and trying to carry bags as well as a squirming toddler would have been a nightmare. I understand they are not for everyone but they do have there place.

  11. Ater December 7, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

    I have never and will never put my child on a leash. My oldest was never too much of a problem, my youngest is a wild child who keeps me on my toes. It has been suggested that I get a leash for his safety and my sanity. Yes, I have to be extra vigilant when we’re walking by a street. Yes, he has ripped his hand out of mine while crossing the road and attempted to run into oncoming traffic more times than I can count. Yes, he is exhausting, fast, and slick.

    I will never leash him. I respect him too much as a human being, not a dog.

  12. Annie December 7, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

    @Rob, ever had your toddler yank his hand away and bolt off? Yes….?

    My parents used a leash/harness on me when I was a wee squirt back when Moses was a kid, to keep close, but give me some freedom. And in the car the lap belt went through the back (back in the Dark Ages before 3-point shoulder seat belts and bucket seats were invented), which kept me from bouncing around the car. Somehow, I survived, am alive and enjoying life. I can’t recall if my parents got dirty looks, but they had the bonus that I was healthy, alive and not a grease-spot on the pavement, so I’m sure that outweighed the judgment of others

  13. BL December 7, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

    I wouldn’t be holding up Europe as a model.

    Here’s a quote from an article recently linked in this blog:

    “Surveys show that the share of German 6-year-olds who walk to school alone declined to 17 percent in 2000 from 91 percent in 1970. Figures from the United Kingdom show a similarly dramatic decline.”

  14. Jess December 7, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

    This all goes back to “don’t freaking judge!” I’ve never used a leash with my kids, but heaven knows I wished for one plenty of times (my 5yo still tries to run in parking lots) . Again, how about we try believing that parents who use leashes aren’t lazy and that parents who don’t use them don’t care for their kids’ safety.

  15. Jana December 7, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    We had an opportunity to spend almost one year in Britain in late nineties. It was there where I saw for the first time those (in my opinion terrible) children leashes. My daughter was a very energetic toddler by that time, but I would NEVER put her on anything like this. I just used to follow her everywhere and made sure she was safe. She is a fine and smart young lady now, living happily on her own, and not afraid of anything! I always thought that the leashes are for parents’ sake, not their children’s…

  16. Linda December 7, 2016 at 12:53 pm #

    I love the Stranger Things clip at 1:06.

  17. James December 7, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    Hm….Thought I posted, but apparently not….

    My wife and I used leashes. And will again. Our children started walking at 9 months of age, and being like their parents wanted nothing to do with being tied down or carried–they had legs, they had new skills, and blast it they were going to USE them!! At home, at parks during normal visits, etc that’s fine; we let them run around and look after them. But for large gatherings in busy areas, we leashed them.

    To give an example: We got to a local Christmas tree lighting ceremony each year. It takes place in an outdoor mall, and involves walking to local shops to get pictures, faces painted, hot chocolate, etc. Having the leashes allowed us to provide our toddlers the freedom to explore, while allowing us to set very careful limits on what risks they were exposed to. (To be clear, the risks included busy parking lots, police on horseback during a parade, water fountains the kids wanted to climb into, that sort of thing–real, immediate dangers.)

    I’m not going to let a 9 month old wander loose among 5,000 people in an outdoor mall; doing so would be negligence, pure and simple. But at the same time, I wanted to teach my kids skills such as climbing up stairs, or walking through stores without grabbing everything that catches their eye. The leash allowed me to do that.

    My oldest is 3, and my youngest is 1 and a half. At this point, we no longer use leashes. Our children understand that they need to listen to my wife and me, not because “We’re your parents” but because we’ve built a level of trust–they understand that if we say “Don’t go that way” it’s because there’s a real danger, like cars driving by. And that’s because we used the leashes as teaching tools. In fact, our oldest now helps when grocery shopping, by pushing a small cart. I can’t say for certain the leash was the cause, but it’s certainly one of the tools we used!

  18. James December 7, 2016 at 2:00 pm #

    Rob: I’ve held my child’s hand. That’s how we handle things these days, in fact. But that interferes with how a 9 month old navigates. They use their arms and legs to climb over even fairly small curbs (which is adorable, as long as no cars are coming by). Plus, having the leash means that hey can clap their hands to the music of the marching band (the tree-lighting ceremony I mentioned includes a parade), or eat a snack, or carry a drink, or do a whole host of other things as easily. It turned into a constant battle of wills, which was unnecessary and useless.

    There’s also a size difference. My kids are tall (90th percentile), but I’m nearly 6.5′ tall; holding a toddler’s hand means constantly bending over, which becomes painful.

    As for holding them, YOU can have fun with that. My children are opinionated, and have remarkably good (or, from my perspective, bad) aim, if you get my drift. Trying to do so would quickly turn a pleasant outing into a frustrating, painful experience for everyone. They’re active kids; they want to interact with the world, not just be spectators–and my wife and I encourage that!

    Given all that, putting them on a leash was our best option. It combined the independence and exploration they craved with the ability to set limits that we as parents needed. And like I said in my last post, it’s not like we did this forever–at 18 months my youngest is leash-free, even at events that include large crowds and busy parking lots, and my oldest is actively helping in situations where many kids his age are still acting like lunatics. This is in large part, I believe, because we used that time to teach our kids to listen.

    Are there other ways? Sure. I’m not saying this is the only way to handle teaching these lessons. I’m just saying it worked for us, given our situation and our kids.

  19. that mum December 7, 2016 at 2:13 pm #

    Count me as another advocate for leashes in certain circumstances. My mum had them for us in the 60’s too so not a new thing.
    I was definitely not overprotected!

    I see them as useful when going to a big fair or festival, airport etc. I would walk a kid in the park on one though, but I could definitely see the usefulness for some of the toddlers I have known. Parks sometimes have lakes and traffic coming through.

    I had one for my youngest but never used it—I should have. We missed a flight when she was 2 because in the airport as she did one of those toddler go limp drop things when my partner was holding her hand… She popped out her elbow. You can imagine the screaming, we had to find a doctor and we just happened to get to the clinic as the doc was headed out the door—he popped it right back in and we got on the next plane. That would not have happened with a leash…. Food for thought.

  20. JulieC December 7, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

    Hey Rob: Ever had a toddler wriggle out of your hand and bolt towards a busy street while you are 8 months pregnant with your second child? I didn’t think so!

    Thankfully a stranger saw this and managed to grab my son and keep him from making it out into the street while I waddled over to say thank you. That’s when I bought a leash. It came in handy when I was in the last stage of pregnancy and for several months thereafter. It only took a few months for my son to mature enough to realize keeping close to me was preferable to having the harness on.

  21. LED December 7, 2016 at 2:44 pm #

    Another vote for “leashes are fine.” Maybe it’s because I have twins, but I fortunately never had anyone give me the side-eye or make a snarky remark in my hearing. I didn’t use them all the time, but they are REALLY helpful in crowded places, or when a bolter might end up in the street. It doesn’t strike me as better to make a toddler walk with their arm up over their head all the time. and that actually hampers their movement. IMO, a leash is a good way to actually give them a little bit of freedom while keeping them safe. Also, have you ever watched a small child pretend to be an animal? It doesn’t hurt their dignity, and neither does a leash.

    I agree with the other stuff in the video being crazy overprotective, but quit freaking out about leashes, people.

  22. Workshop December 7, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

    When our youngest was about 18 months old, I bought a “child restraint device” (I called it a leash, the sales person smiled and said “some people call it a child restraint device, and yes, we have them . . .”). We were flying to Orlando, and there’s no way I’d try to manage carry-ons and a toddler.

    I think that was the last time we used it. My wife should have used it, as our oldest was a bolter, and carrying an infant around (or the carseat/cradle thing) meant that when he bolted she couldn’t catch him.

    There is a time and a place for such things. Especially when Homeland Security is looking for out-of-normal behavior from passengers.

    So chill out about the leashes. Be glad I was dissuaded from buying the electric shock collar used to train dogs. They’re not all that expensive, and work to quickly silence screaming children.

  23. Rebecca December 7, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

    I have to admit, I was anti-leash until I saw a young child hit by a car (thankfully okay after an overnight stay at Children’s Hospital). I’ve got my oldest (5) trained really well about staying 3 feet away from the curb and waiting to cross (haven’t worked on crossing by herself… she’s still skittish about that). My younger one (17mo) I wear in a carrier when I’m concerned about her safety.

  24. Ellenette December 7, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

    Leashes are for dogs. Possibly for some cats who learn to tolerate them. Period.

  25. Liz December 7, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

    I have used, and will use, the leash again. It’s a learning tool – not a punishment!

    My daughter is 1 1/2 and will not hold my hand. Will. Not. She goes limp or yanks away and runs. Seeing as she’s a baby there isn’t much point in trying to reason with her, although I’m sure the *perfect* parents would suggest I try. Usually I just let her walk and follow her, but in some places that just isn’t possible. So I can either strap her in to her stroller which is boring for her, or let her have a little freedom. I would think that would be right in sync with the whole *free range* idea… having age appropriate freedom so that she can learn safely!

    I’m sure I’ve gotten side eye while using it – especially since I’m heavy so people probably already assume I’m lazy human garbage. But luckily, I don’t actually care what other people think. 🙂

  26. James Pollock December 7, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

    A vote here for “parents know their children best; if they’ve decided that a kiddie-leash is appropriate, they probably know better than I do.”

    I didn’t use one. I also had only one child, who was not a fugitive risk.

  27. James December 7, 2016 at 3:38 pm #

    “…having age appropriate freedom so that she can learn safely”

    Well put, Liz. It’s all about us, as parents, determining what risks are appropriate for kids to face. There’s no need to go overboard, like our culture is forcing us to do–but it’s just as wrong to forego useful tools merely because they limit the child. And each child is different.

    I also note that the anti-leash arguments tend to be emotional, typically accusing us of treating children like dogs in order, I assume, to shame us. The side arguing that leashes aren’t evil (note that no one has said they’re necessary!) is giving reasons for their conclusions.

  28. pentamom December 7, 2016 at 4:06 pm #

    “Leashes are for dogs. Possibly for some cats who learn to tolerate them. Period.”

    You are entitled to your opinion, subjective and unreasonable though it may be.

  29. pentamom December 7, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

    “My daughter was a very energetic toddler by that time, but I would NEVER put her on anything like this. I just used to follow her everywhere and made sure she was safe. ”

    I assume you had only one child incapable of safely moving independently? No baby to carry or other preschooler to mind?

  30. Alanna December 7, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

    Overall, I think it is a good video. I don’t know if I agree with what the video seems to be saying about the leash. Those of us who have used them call them harnesses, not leashes. I think that a harness actually gives a toddler more freedom, not less. Most older children would not need a harness and should, therefore, not be forced to wear one.

    I remember when my daughter was a toddler we used to go to the children’s shows presented by a local mall. After the show was over, she would, while wearing her harness, go around and help the staff roll up the mats. This would have been difficult to do if I was holding her hand, and with such a crowd, it would have been difficult for me to keep an eye on her without the harness.

    Another time I chaperoned a school dance, and I brought her with me in the harness. When the teens at the dance asked me why she was harnessed, I said, “if she wasn’t she be half way to Albany by now.” She’s still running only now she runs cross country and track on university teams.

  31. Workshop December 7, 2016 at 4:28 pm #

    One of the last clips, where the dad is holding onto the leash while his daughter is pulling forward is the “problem” that should be mocked. There’s no reason for the device at that point: he is perfectly capable of being in control and the girl is old enough to know better.

    The point of the video isn’t that “OMG leashes are bad”, it’s comparing the best of a European model against the worst of an American model. And the media does their part to dutifully shame parents into being overprotective.

    I’m sure none of the Finnish parents in the video would put their child outside to nap when there was a blizzard going on. Such behavior would and should be called out.

    There are bright spots in the war against criminalizing parents, but part of the battle is to stop trying to shame other parents who do things you disagree with.

  32. EricS December 7, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

    “Sorry, they are a little feisty today”. “Don’t worry, she’s friendly”. LOL! That was a funny episode of Modern Family. But reflects many parents in this generation. People treat their dogs like people, and their kids like dogs. If they can’t see the problem with this, they are in more trouble than I realized.

  33. EricS December 7, 2016 at 5:04 pm #

    @Jenny Islander:

    1. Small child at that dash-away age is walking beside busy street/past climbable hazard with parent. Parent is constantly frazzled, calling the child back, not daring to look away for more than a second because small children–whether or not people think they should–do dash away. Child is always being interrupted in their explorations.

    Not all kids. Specifically, kids that are taught NOT to run off at a very young age (by the time they can walk and comprehend what you are saying). Basically, if parents actually taught their kids what they NEED to know, rather than what parents think will make them happy, they wouldn’t learn to be running off crazily. Kids will be kids, but mine knew better than to run of without me. And I always know where mine. I don’t allow non-essentials (cellphones) to distract me.

    2. Small child at that dash-away age is being held by the hand. That leaves one arm always up in the air and limits their exploration radius to the length of the parent’s arm.

    Again, see above answer.

    3. Small child at that dash-away age is stuck in a stroller. Boooooorinnnnnnng. Plus the parent has to push it around.

    Let them run. Just not in the middle of the street. Stroll them to a park and let them run. I actually encouraged my kids to walk on their own, instead of push them around in a stroller.

    4. Small child at that dash-away age is on a leash. They dash ahead a little way, they dawdle briefly, they stop to poke at an interesting rock. If they trip, the parent grabs the harness to keep them from falling, instead of yanking their arm; if they don’t want to move, the parent can swoop them across the street like Superman. (I did this once.) Parent can safely look away, talk to another adult, answer a phone call, etc., because child can’t dash away. Also they can have both hands free.

    lol. You ever try to stop a kid from falling while harnessed, and 4 feet in front of you. You can’t. Harnesses aren’t built that way. And they WILL fall. Again, teach them young, and you won’t need to do all of these.

    In my experience of seeing parents every day, many are LAZY. Instead of putting in the time and effort to teach their children to fend for themselves (and they can starting at an early age of you teaching them), they try to make things easier for themselves. These harness parents, many I see aren’t even paying attention to their kids. Their either chatting away with other parents, or on the phone. The harness is really so that they can be lazy, and not pay attention to their kids, without worrying about them running off. For some, it’s just paranoia. They are afraid someone will run up and snatch their kids. With a harness they can just hold on. lol

    Did you need a harness growing up? I didn’t. In fact, no kid I knew ever had a harness. And we grew up in a time that was much more dangerous than this day and age. Our parents didn’t teach us to avoid, they taught us to confront, learn, and adapt. Because they understood these are the things that would eventually have to face on our own. And even though they weren’t psychologists, they knew that to have successful kids, they needed to teach them very early.

    Just like many people have been mentally conditioned to think the way they do just in the last 15 years, it’s the same principle with a child’s developing mind. They are the product of their environment and what they are taught. Regardless of what you believe, everything you do and say to your children they will learn, and do as well. So if you are fearful for and around them, they will learn to be fearful of the things around them as well. Worse part, they won’t even know why they are scared. Other than mom and dad are scared, so I should be too. This mentality sets them up to fail from the get go.

  34. Kenny M Felder December 7, 2016 at 5:06 pm #

    Shared that one right to Facebook. So great to see others voicing the same issues.

  35. FreedomForKids December 7, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

    I think the leashes are great! My mom used one on my brother in the fifties. It has got to be exhausting for little ones to hold hands with a big person for too long. More freedom to bend and explore and toddle!

  36. Donald Christensen December 7, 2016 at 5:54 pm #

    “One of the last clips, where the dad is holding onto the leash while his daughter is pulling forward is the “problem” that should be mocked. There’s no reason for the device at that point: he is perfectly capable of being in control and the girl is old enough to know better.”

    This is a huge problem and it’s not exclusive to a lease. We have become so dependent on safety devices, rules, and procedures that:

    1. Parents don’t bother teaching children how to act safely (as if the leash wasn’t there)
    2. If the knowledge bumps of skinned knees and booboos are eliminated at age 2, they don’t learn that actions have consequences. Therefore they spend more time trying to push their boundaries and lose tract of, ‘WHY THE BOUNDARIES ARE THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE’.

    Traffic safety, drugs, and teen pregnancies are examples of how important it is to understand consequences and not just focus on trying to see how far you can stretch the rules.

    Problem 1 and problem 2 perpetuate. It becomes a circular argument like the chicken and the egg. Children don’t mind their parents because parents don’t try to make them because it’s so hard to make them mind because the kids push so hard at testing the boundaries because parents authority has been greatly undermined because……


    Parents have to be so protective because the dangers become greater. ( Traffic safety, drugs, and teen pregnancies )

    *Skinned knees are only a small example. What I really meant is when we focus too hard on eliminating tears and disappointment, we take away an important learning opportunity.

  37. James Pollock December 7, 2016 at 6:21 pm #

    ” Specifically, kids that are taught NOT to run off at a very young age (by the time they can walk and comprehend what you are saying). Basically, if parents actually taught their kids what they NEED to know, rather than what parents think will make them happy, they wouldn’t learn to be running off crazily. Kids will be kids, but mine knew better than to run of without me.”

    Mine, too. Aren’t we such excellent parents that anyone who had kids who did things ours didn’t should only blame their own inadequate parenting. After all, if they were GOOD parents, like us, their kids would automatically behave the way ours did. The notion that kids are little people, with different skills and abilities, and different tendencies, is just silly. If little Junior does things that we don’t like, it’s not because little Junior has a mind of his own or anything. It can only be because the parents are too lazy to teach him to our standards.

  38. JP Merzetti December 7, 2016 at 6:55 pm #

    Have to agree with pentamom on this one.
    Leashes are for dawgs……..I’m still capable of bletching even at the sight of a cat on one – and yet, I have lived in the age of leash-less dawgs!
    “If dogs run free, then why not we”…..(you said it, Bob.)

    I was actually tied to a rope from the veranda that reached to approximately a centimeter or so from the public sidewalk……by my mom at age two (I was, not her.)
    This rope – kept me from harm. It did not keep me from climbing the picket fence into the garden, where I harvested vegetables and fed them to Duke… best bud and redbone hound dawg who lived next door.
    He was also on a rope.
    I probably thought I was sorta related to him or something.

    Any child will be saved and protected in divers ways deemed fit and proper.
    Though I was roped to wander my front yard during tender years…..
    I was never walked on one.

    And I must ponder…..if dozens of generations of toddlers and other hardboiled miscreants have managed to survive childhood nicely enough to achieve adulthood without leashes – then where and when did we fall off that wagon?

    Footnote: Had I been leashed and walked (as a direct motivation to learn how to walk like a man, as opposed to a child, or worse, a pooch) I suspect I would have learned the trick in one session.
    Invention is definitely the mother of necessity, all things being free and equal.

  39. E December 7, 2016 at 7:12 pm #

    @James – yep. We have one kid that for whatever reason, never ever looked for cars as we exited a grocery store back to our car (which means there is a lane of traffic right in front). We spent years, telling him to “look for cars” and “don’t run in this parking lot” because of how many cars are coming/going/backing up.

    We honestly had to have this discussion many many years beyond what you’d think is reasonable. I suppose I could have punished him or come up with some way to get him to finally take our instruction, but I guess we are sub-par.

    Just recently I went to the grocery store with him (which is unusual because he’s away at college) and I had a flashback as we left the store because it so ingrained that he might not look! ha!

    But yeah, don’t judge is the best way to proceed here.

  40. SteveS December 7, 2016 at 8:17 pm #

    My parents had a leash for me as a toddler and I am in my late 40s. Apparently, I was quite the escape artist and they got it when we vacationed at busy tourist spots. They got plenty of dirty looks and on,y used it a few times. Count me as one of those who thinks parents know their own kids the best and can decide what is appropriate.

  41. pentamom December 7, 2016 at 8:28 pm #

    “And I must ponder…..if dozens of generations of toddlers and other hardboiled miscreants have managed to survive childhood nicely enough to achieve adulthood without leashes – then where and when did we fall off that wagon?”

    The ones who survived, of course survived.

    Many small children have died in accidents, have they not?

  42. Jessica December 7, 2016 at 9:17 pm #

    I visit this site when I need a reminder that literally no matter what I do, there is a horde of people ready to damn me for it. Hold my son’s hand? “Let him explore, you’re stunting him”. Get a harness? “He’s not a dog; a good mother would never….” Let him wander off by himself? “Back in my day we knew to stay next to mom and we never needed reminders.”

  43. K December 7, 2016 at 9:21 pm #

    I’m actually in agreement with the people who are saying that if you teach toddlers not to run off, they won’t. My son knew before 2 to stop at corners. We worked on that as an early element of pedestrian safety every day for months. I was a SAHM, and we live in a walkable neighborhood where we didn’t have a car most days. We went for looking walks, both for recreation and for errands, on a daily basis. He got to practice at a dozen corners each day. Now that I’m working full time, he encounters a corner once day in the trip from daycare back to the car. There would never be enough reinforcement for me to teach him stop at corners if we were starting now.

    And even though I have him very well-trained in terms of street safety, I still bought a leash this summer. We were going on vacation, and even a kid who knows that you stop at street corners doesn’t necessarily know that you stop before you get close to the edge of the Grand Canyon, where there no guardrail. Use common sense, and use the tools that are available to you as needed.

  44. diane December 7, 2016 at 10:13 pm #

    Here’s a thought: do the best you can as a parent, expect that all the other parents are doing the best they can, and offer help and support whenever possible to a struggling person. Be gracious, as in, treat encounters with as much grace as you can muster.

    I tried a leash a few times with my eldest when he was two and I was very pregnant and slow-moving. It didn’t work any better than without – he still fought against it just as he did holding my hand or being imprisoned in a stroller. He’s just a hard-headed, freedom-loving person. I had family members and friends advise me on how to discipline him, i.e., he just needs a good spanking/he needs more quiet time/he needs more stimulation/you name it. Hardly any of those people offered to take him to the park or the zoo themselves, much less to their homes.

    It’s hard being a parent. When we encounter a child who seems hard to manage, we try to reach out more, not less. Thank you to those of you who have weighed in on “don’t judge”.

  45. Jenny Islander December 7, 2016 at 11:02 pm #

    To posters preaching discipline over leashes: Why not both? I started practicing “We stop here and look both ways” as soon as my kids could walk, and they wore safety harnesses until they stopped dashing away from me.

    To those preaching the virtues of bumped knees: Yes, but there’s plenty of time for that at home, where your child becoming a limp noodle of sorrow won’t turn a simple outing into a trek featuring a 30-pound rucksack with no straps and a runny nose.

  46. James December 7, 2016 at 11:38 pm #

    “And I must ponder…..if dozens of generations of toddlers and other hardboiled miscreants have managed to survive childhood nicely enough to achieve adulthood without leashes – then where and when did we fall off that wagon?”

    A lot of kids didn’t. Childhood mortality has been extremely high (by modern standards) until the last century. I grew up in a backwoods sort of place so other parts of the country were different, but in my grandparents’ time it was expected that you’d lose two or three kids before they were five. Even in my parents’ time the loss of a child was tragic, but not uncommon. That’s not to say that leashes are necessary in today’s world, or that leashes would have eliminated child mortality back then; I’m just saying that “We survived just fine without them” doesn’t work here.

    I’m also not saying that our children should never be exposed to danger. In fact, those of us who are okay with leashes have all said the opposite. The idea is to limit exposure to risk to age-appropriate levels that work for you and your child. This is hardly coddling our children; it’s acknowledging the self-evident fact that toddlers are too ignorant of how the world operates to not be supervised, and devising a way to encourage them to interact with the world in a way that allows us to limit the risks they are exposed to to age-appropriate levels. We’re not talking six year olds here; that’s pretty obviously absurd. But a nine month old? Yeah, I’m putting some serious limits on what that kid can reach.

    I won’t get into the “children aren’t dogs” nonsense; if you genuinely think insults are the way to go, there’s no discussing this with you. The insult demonstrates a complete unwillingness to discuss the issue like an adult.

    In regards to letting kids get hurt: What makes you think those of us who use leashes don’t? I can only speak to my family, but I imagine it’s the same for most people who use leashes: We don’t use them all the time. They’re for specific situations, with known and demonstrable hazards that we haven’t been able to teach our children to avoid yet. Once they know to avoid them (and what we mean by “Stop”, “Come back here”, and the like), we stop using the leashes. My wife and I never used the leashes at home; they rarely even made it into the house. And my kids have fallen down and bonked into things often enough that it doesn’t even slow them down anymore. The fact that we are willing to limit certain risks by using certain tools in no way indicates, much less proves, that we don’t allow our kids to take risks.

    You get to see, what, five minutes of our interaction with the kid? Maybe–MAYBE–a half hour? I refuse to feel guilt about stories you’ve built up in your mind about how parents interact with their kids the rest of the time based on such limited data. I know it’s a radical idea, but maybe instead of hypothesizing, you should actually discuss it with us? Ask our reasons? Find out what’s going on in our heads? Reality is quite different from what you’ve imagined.

  47. Abigail December 8, 2016 at 12:54 am #

    The parent shaming is such a waste of time. And I’ll be one more person with a content-less reply as I complain right now.

    I am quite heartened to read the number of comments reminding us all to stop the judgement. Free Range parenting includes embracing our kids’ resiliency & resourcefulness. Leash or not – a toddler will grow up and likely be fine. Better than fine. And if their biggest problem is that they were leashed as a 2 year old…well, that sounds like a trauma free childhood to me.

    If the leash symbolizes helicopter parenting, it is a soft marker at best. The institutional helicopter culture is much more disconcerting and can be noted by SHAMING!!

  48. test December 8, 2016 at 2:55 am #

    @EricS Yeah, any parent who does something the easier way is lazy and wrong. All parents should do things the harder way no matter what context. I did not used leash. However, I agree and use a lot of freerange ideas precisely because they make my life easier. Seriously, what it is with demanding that people do their life harder when there is no harm documented?

    As I told, I did not used leash. However, I found it uncomfortable and tiring to be near bigger roads and other places where you need to watch every second. Avoidance was where I lived. I absolutely get the need of parent sped a lot of time on such places and is afraid to has her/his attention slip. Or just want break to play a bit with the phone.

    If another parent can relax a bit more with it and thus be able to work or read in the evening, more power to him. I think that hate for leashes is mostly emotional – the fear of “kids not learning consequences” seem a stretch to me.

    Seriously, Americans are workaholic nation that self imposed gazillion additional rules on parents lest they are lazy. I think that American parents need to hear that it is ok to do things easy way and take a break. Not another one saying them to do things in an even harder way.

  49. sexhysteria December 8, 2016 at 3:01 am #

    In my experience it’s certainly true that many European kids (and parents) have more freedom than Americans today. Consider that a photographer in Belgium has been photographing children posing completely nude for years, and he has never even been accused of producing “child pornography.”

  50. Cerellia December 8, 2016 at 5:17 am #

    Europe is not so homogeneous. My experience:

    Germany: Children walk alone to school from class 1 (6 years), play in the streets/run errands from the same age. Very recently a minority of parents have become weird about this, but authorities generally assure them to let them go. (e.g. police comes into the pre-schools, teaching the children how to cross roads alone to prepare them for school).

    Switzerland: Children are expected to walk alone to Kindergarten from age 4/5, this is seen as a learning experience so schools usually insist on it (but they have traffic wardens everywhere).

    Ireland: No small child walks alone to school, 10 seems to be the earliest and even this is rare. Many children are driven all through their school life. You see some kids playing in housing estates, but mostly immigrants or “travelers”. Toddlers on leashes are a common view. Many kids can’t cycle properly.

  51. Andrew December 8, 2016 at 6:28 am #

    I consider myself to be reasonably “free range” but I used a leash – what we usually called “reins” in the UK – when my children were smaller. Particularly with the ones who were keen to run off, particularly if we were in crowds or near busy traffic. Better for them to be walking under control and within reasonable limits, rather than confined to a pushchair. The reins came off once they could be trusted to stay reasonably close and come back when called, although still kept nearby as a reserve threat (behave, or the reins go back on). The aim, remember, is to get from helpless babies to confident adults who can look after themselves.

    Clearly cultural norms differ from place to place and time to time. Some parents are overprotective, and some parents are neglectful. On the whole, either way, children will grow up to be productive adults. I am not going to indulge in the popular spectator sport of second guessing another parent’s reasonable choices.

  52. BCG December 8, 2016 at 12:23 pm #

    Count me among the occasional leash users. Yeah, to all the sanctimonious ones here, I did work on teaching my daughter to not run off, but she did anyway. She was later diagnosed with ADHD, and still, at age 10, gets distracted on her way to pick up something two feet away and forgets what she was doing. So in airports and large crowds, out came the leash. (I also had her pop her elbow out of joint while attempting to hold her hand.) My son, on the other hand, is naturally a very cautious kid, and NEVER strays from my side, so no need for the leash for him. It’s almost as if I based my decisions on the skills and abilities of individual kids, rather than making blanket judgements about what was best…

  53. Daniel December 8, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

    The anti-leash parents seem to love to look down their collective noses at the autism families who have children with “elopement” issues. Those who don’t have autism in their families always seem to think they know that those are just bad parents, that the autistic child just needs better discipline or whatever. Don’t judge the use of the leash unless you have walked a couple of miles in that parent’s shoes.

  54. Jenny Islander December 8, 2016 at 5:07 pm #

    Do not EVEN get me started on so-called coddling of autistic kids. If I had a nickel for every time somebody told me I was acting precious or being a diva or something equally contemptuous when I reacted like an autistic kid to a massive sensory onslaught, I would have a new Moped. Because, guess what? Being told to stop having a problem doesn’t actually solve the problem of experiencing a shock to the brain. And letting a kid wear their earmuffs indoors may actually (gosh!) help them stop cringing all the time.

    Now I’m an adult and I wear headphones whenever I need to. I’m not a special snowflake. I’m trying to stay on task. Anybody who can’t stand seeing me in headphones that aren’t connected to anything can buzz right off. Same goes with using child harnesses in public.

    Speaking of on task, I have to go start the stroganoff now.

  55. Katie December 8, 2016 at 6:01 pm #

    Although I like the concept there are several problems with this video as others have pointed out.

    First, the Dutch (European) girl on the bike is a grade schooler. The American child in the video looks to be about 2, maybe 3? It would be ridiculous to keep a girl her age on a leash, but it would also be ridiculous to let a 2 year old ride a bike by themselves unsupervised.

    @BL Perhaps BL touched on this, but didn’t exactly make this point. Different European countries are different and some are very range and others not so much. Sadly the ones with the larger populations maybe no so much/as much. I’ve been to 5 different European countries in the last 5 years and they are all to me vastly different. I hate how so many American stereotype by acting like Europe is all the same. It’s like saying because sometime is true in Grenada or Guatemala that is now it is in the United States too. As for free ranging per country here’s what I observed over the past five years:

    UK: Didn’t really remember seeing kids going places alone-put was only in London perhaps others areas are different.

    France: Was only in Paris. Saw tweens going places alone, but don’t remember grade schoolers. They do let the pee of their toddlers flow freely in the streets though. That I did see!

    Hungary: Was only in Budapest. Didn’t really see many kids at all there.

    Now for the more free range. Put keep in mind the combined population of these 2 countries is probably less than 5 million, not a large percent of Europe.

    Ireland: Kids walk together with teachers to field trips, which they seem to go on often. But once in a museum the kids are allowed to wander freely. I also saw parents drop kids off/kids went places wo parents.

    Iceland: Now there is a true free range country. Grade school kids walk from school to the public pool in icy 30 degree weather and go swimming outdoors. They then shower and dress themselves and walk themselves back to school crossing at least one street. But I will also say in Iceland drivers actually stop for kids and care about not running them over, unlike too many selfish texting SUV driving morons in the United States and Canada.

  56. baby-paramedic December 8, 2016 at 6:41 pm #

    Amused by the people saying “if you train them not to run, they won’t”.
    My twin brother was a runner. An escape artist too. A stroller couldn’t keep him in. Holding his hand isn’t an entirely realistic option in all circumstances (especially when there is more than one child to deal with, even good children like I was would have the occasional bad day). He was the child who brought about more neighbourhood searches than probably the rest of the neighbourhood children combined.
    So, he got a leash.
    It was the 80s, I don’t remember anyone else having a leash. (Apart from me, as I was mightily upset my brother had something I didn’t, so I got one as well. I wore it a few times then decided I didn’t much like it).

    Funny how all the other children in our family, and in our extended family (and there are a bunch of us), learnt to not run into traffic, yet this one child just took much longer to learn.
    Children are different. This one child in our family was a problem child. I am kind of glad there were so many of us, so when my parents were being told it was a parenting issue, that they were just bad parents, they could show them the rest of us, who were turning out just fine.

  57. Katie December 8, 2016 at 8:18 pm #

    @Eric S”In my experience of seeing parents every day, many are LAZY. …. Their either chatting away with other parents”

    Wait so you are saying having a conversation with another parents makes you lazy? Helicopterish much? Seriously, what do you do if another parent starts a conversation with you? Tell them I have to stare at my special snowflake with absolute silence to make sure I don’t miss a moment?

  58. Katie December 8, 2016 at 8:20 pm #

    Leash, stroller, baby carrier, holding their hand, carrying them…pick which ever works best for you…all better than driving kids ridiculously short distances in some oversized wasteful gas guzzler SUV.

  59. diane December 8, 2016 at 11:43 pm #

    @Katie, I agree with most of what you’ve said in your posts here, and found your European observations interesting. But I have to ask: what about the people who drive their kids ridiculously short distances in their SmartCars? Do they also merit your contempt on the free-range issue, or is it just the SUVs? What about 6 cylinder sedans? Those drivers could’ve saved a couple of miles per gallon going with a 4 cylinder, you know. 😀

  60. James Pollock December 9, 2016 at 3:44 am #

    “But I have to ask: what about the people who drive their kids ridiculously short distances in their SmartCars?”

    My dad lives in a community where A) they have signs on the roads reminding drivers to share the roadway with golf carts, and B) most of the houses have a double garage, one regular sized and one golf-cart-sized, and C) Where people do, apparently, drive their golf carts around town and not just on the fairways and greens.
    Now, if there WERE any kids to speak of (the community has one elementary school and at least 50 cardiologists’ offices) they’d have to be driven from place to place. Dad says it’s also necessary, at least once per year, for the Sheriff’s deputies to pull a tourist’s car out of a flash-flooded gully, because the signs that say “do not proceed if sign is under water” are somehow too confusing. When my daughter and I visited, there was literally nothing for her to do within a 5 mile radius (the previously-mentioned elementary school was on the far side of town. Just letting her play outside was dangerous because she had no experience with the dangers… snakes and scorpions… and how to avoid them. Also, it rained every day we were there. (Yes, I spent 4 days in southern Arizona, and it rained every day.
    So, my dad prefers a performance car over an SUV, but, if he DID drive an SUV, that would have been what I ferried my child around in because that’s the car that was there, and my dad was one of the few who did not have a golf cart as a second vehicle (he still preferred to walk, at that time, when he was playing at whacking a little ball with a stick until it was time to go inside and drink.)

  61. Qute December 9, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

    The only time I employed a wrist leash is when I was travelling from North Carolina to Ohio with a layover in New Jersey with a 2 year old and a 3 year old by myself. My husband had to work and couldn’t get time off and I was getting homesick so I took the boys back home to visit my parents for 10 days. I had only one umbrella stroller and used that for the 2 year old and used a wrist leash for the 3 year old so I could manage the completely unfamiliar New Jersey airport alone without worrying about him sprinting off somewhere. Generally, by this age, he was very good about not taking off but that was NOT the day to take chances. I used it on the way back and then I don’t think I ever had need for it again.

  62. Papilio December 9, 2016 at 12:48 pm #

    Hahaha. I’m Dutch and yes, when I was age 1 or 2 or so, my mother kept me on a leash sometimes. She’d get comments from other people, and answer ‘better on a leash than under a car’. I can only agree…
    Some of the kids in the video did seem too old to still be on a leash, but in principle, I don’t see why putting a leash on a toddler would contradict letting an 8-year-old ride to school by herself.

    I agree with Katie that, of course, Europe isn’t one country, there are different cultures, different levels of development, and I’m guessing Iceland has a lot less traffic than Germany.
    BL, I also wouldn’t be so hung up on what parents let their 6-year-olds do – it doesn’t tell you anything about the differences (or lack thereof) for 9-year-olds or 12-year-olds or 16-year-olds between countries.

  63. Donna December 11, 2016 at 8:15 am #

    Why is it okay to leave a child strapped in a car seat for 20 minutes while the parents shop for lights because it is more convenient for the parents, but not okay to put a child on a leash while out in a busy place because it is more convenient for the parents? Either doing things because it is convenient for the parent is okay or it is not.

    And why do so many insist that kids are all exactly the same? Do you really have that limited of an exposure to children (limited only to your 1 or 2) to not realize that there are as many different personalities as there are children? Kids range from extremely compliant to extremely strong willed and there are kids to be found at every point on that range.

    And why do so many have such a great need to pat themselves on the back as such great parents that they need to tear other parents down and insist that kids are all the same and parents with lesser results than them must just be lazy?

    I never used a kid leash. Not because I am amazing parent of the year, but because I had an extremely compliant child with little interest in wandering and only had one of her. If I had had a different kid or multiple little one to keep an eye on, I probably would have made a different decision.

    These leashes are not new. My mother had one for me, an extreme wanderer, in the early 70s. My mother did not use one on my brother in the mid-80s because he was … wait for it … a different kid with a different personality. Nor are they anti-free range as my childhood was more free range than most of the people here describe theirs to be. In fact, leashes are for toddlers and there is little free range about being a toddler. Now if parents are still using them on their developmentally normal school age child, there is a problem. But normal toddler use does not in any way predict the free rangeness of the childhood … or the skills of the parent … or anything else.

  64. Catherine Caldwell-Harris December 11, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

    I have been told, “If you can’t control your child, you are obligated to use a leash when you are in public.” Here is the background.

    When my son was almost 4 he knew perfectly well how to not run into traffic if a car was on-coming and he knew how to look both ways. One day, to but test, tease me and defy me he strategically ran back and forth across a somewhat busy street in my small, safe suburban town. I acted completely unconcerend about his saftey when a store-owner confronted me that this was dangerous. I was unconcerned about his safety because I knew my son was crossing safely (and only doing it when no cars were oncoming) and he was doing it to defy me. The onlooker was so upset about the combination of my son running across a street and my lack of concern that she called 911 on the spot. She told the dispatcher that the child’s mother was neglectful and the mother’s behavior was a danger to the child. Within 10 minutes two cruisers pulled up next to me and my son. Perhaps because I was parenting while white, thin, and educated, the policeman in charge (who was black actually) backed down and never even asked me my name, just told me to be careful about what I said to local business people (like, I should been more remorseful about my child running into the street). Later, I wrote a hurt email to that store owner. She responded that if I couldn’t control my son, I needed to use a leash. All this time I have thought that was a terrible thing to say — use a leash. But now that I read your comments perhaps it wasn’t so odd of the person to tell me to use a leash. Still, glad i never did.

  65. hineata December 11, 2016 at 11:31 pm #

    I proudly used a leash several times with my kids, especially in busy airports. Can’t believe there are some super sanctimonious types even here. I actually wish I had used one more often on the middle child – she could have done with walking more, but the childcare scheme I worked for made it all too hard at the time (full of sanctimonious twits who played the whole ‘dog’ argument ) and as I wanted money I caved and put her atop the buggy a lot of the time (she was too short to hold the buggy handle and holding the strap was hopeless – that put her right under my feet and was dangerous for all of us).

    Go leashes – unless you don’t feel like using them yourself, in which case don’t.