For one mum, her son's safety tether gives her important peace of mind when they are on family outings.Our first son, Darcy, was 10 months when he began to walk and 11 months old when he began to run. At that age, he didn’t have the common sense to know what was dangerous, but was fiercely independent and would protest violently about going into the pram or holding hands. After a month of his tantrums and our frustrations, we bought him a monkey backpack with a tether for us to hold on to. It was the best compromise we could think of, as the angst the alternative was causing all of us just wasn’t worth it.
The backpack allowed our son the freedom to walk and explore and gave us the peace of mind that came from knowing he was only ever a metre away from us and couldn’t run off or get into any danger. Shopping trips and other outings became far more pleasant for everyone involved. He loved his backpack because it was a monkey and he saw it as a toy, not a restraint. He wouldn’t go anywhere without it, always asking for “monkey” before we left the house!
Our second baby, Connor, was born when he was a little over two years old. Our pram was capable of taking both of the boys, but Darcy was as independent as ever and it was a rare occasion when we could get him to ride in it. He would hold hands for a few minutes then squirm or protest until he was released. The monkey backpack was a great way of allowing him limited freedom without him running loose.
We did, unfortunately, experience some dirty looks from people in shops or parks when we used the backpack. We didn’t let that worry us though, as we are firm believers in not knowing someone else’s situation until you have walked a mile in their shoes. Darcy’s safety and happiness was all that was important to us.
If people had stopped and looked at the delight on Darcy’s face at being allowed to walk or run with a calm Mummy and Daddy tagging along behind, they would have known it to be the best solution for us. We won’t hesitate in using the tether with Connor if he turns out to be a runner like his brother. In fact, the hardest part will be taking it from Darcy!
On the other side of the fence is a mum who prefers to focus on teaching her daughter not to stray using other methods.My daughter, London, is now 20 months old and getting to that age of independence, curiosity and plenty of confidence. As wonderful as this is, it’s also sparked a new love of running away from me when we’re out and about! Of course this is incredibly worrying and although I’m aware of her intentions, I’ve developed a fear that I’ll take my eyes off her for a split second and something will happen or she will be gone.
When we’re out, London thinks it’s loads of fun to run off and hide in the clothes racks at department stores. It may be the source of giggles for her, but it makes my heart stop and I’ve had to consider all options to ensure her safety. I know child safety tethers offer parents peace of mind, but I have to admit I’m not a fan. I associate them with leashes and would never feel comfortable strapping London into one.
One of the main reasons I don’t like these restraints is that I see parents tethered to their children and they seem so disconnected as they drag their little ones along, unaware of how they are behaving. I want London to understand that it isn’t safe to run off and to learn to walk by my side while holding my hand. I’m trying to teach her to walk on her own to encourage good behaviour and independence, but also so I can identify what catches her attention and understand why she feels she needs to create attention on herself. It means I have to work harder to reinforce what she needs to do, it’s certainly frustrating at times, but I believe the end result will be worth it.
A strategy that seems to be working for me at the moment is to let London walk by my side with my hand softly on her head or shoulder. It doesn’t make her feel restrained and I know exactly where she is! Treats and encouragement to reward her good behaviour don’t go astray, either. This may change in the coming months as she becomes increasingly independent, but I guess that’s part of the parenting process and of being able to adapt and change to your child’s individual personality as she gets older.
"I think they are fantastic!! My eldest son was a runner and i nearly lost him once. I swore i would never use one before that happened, but afterwards I never looked back."
"I think it's better to be safe than sorry, my 13 month old runs everywhere, he hates being confined to his pram. He is too young to understand why he needs to hold my hand so a safety harness is the best thing for us."
"I used one for my eldest daughter at the local shops as she used to run off. I'd rather get dirty looks from people who think they are wrong than my child getting hit by a car! It's about safety for the child!"
"The lead was a lifesaver for me! Please think about those of us who use them for kids with intellectual impairments, like my daughter."
"I'm for them, I have a child with Autism and using it gave me peace of mind whenever we went out shopping. When you have a child with Autism, you don't care what others think."
The argument against:
"I don't like them, it's not necessary if you teach your child about road safety and teach them to stay by your side. My eldest used to walk off, but I just called her back and asked her to hold the pram, she didn't like it, but I just told her that if she wants to be a big girl and walk by herself she has to stay by me at all times.. It's not hard to do."
"I'm against them as I think of them as like a dog leash. That's my own opinion though. My kids will walk and hold my hand and if they won't we do not move until they do. No negotiating with that."
"Lots of things can ensure safety but regardless of how safe they are some things are just too much. It's a LEASH. Chasing your child through the shopping centre is just a milestone in motherhood."
"My daughter was a runner, she ran off at any moment. Car parks, etc. I never used one as they remind me of a dog leash. I would just hold her hand everywhere we went. She soon learned."
"It's not what we would choose, personally. We feel it would hinder our son's exploration."
Where do you sit on the debate? PP wants to know. Please leave us a comment below - would you use a safety leash on your toddler?