Is it OK to put your child on a leash? Answer—It’s complicated


I have never put any child on a leash. As a young parent, when I witnessed others doing so, I judged them quite harshly. I assumed that the child’s parents or caregivers either didn’t know how to discipline the little one properly or were simply too lazy to try.

Of course, we all know what happens when we assume, right?

My own parents were extremely loving. They were also strict. We went to bed by 8 p.m. every night, even in the summer when our friends were out playing in the street until the sun went down. And in the morning, we couldn’t get out of bed until my mother told us it was time to get up. Our friends’ parents and other relatives welcomed my siblings and me into their homes and on outings because we were so polite and proper. One look from our mom or curt warning from our dad was usually enough to settle us down when we started to get out of hand.

baby angel wings photo
Flickr | RTD Photography

Let’s be real, though: We were not angels by any stretch of the imagination. We were normal kids. We beat each other up at home, made messes and mouthed off to our parents on more than one occasion. We just didn’t (often) act that way in public.

When I had my own daughter, she was seemingly well-mannered and well-behaved from birth. I once took her to work with me to pick up a paycheck when she was about 2 years old. As she walked past my supervisor, she said in her tiny voice, “Excuse me,” to which my boss replied, “Did that baby just say excuse me?”


Eventually, she grew up and started a family of her own. Holding my first grandbaby was heavenly.

Then they came home from the hospital.

It quickly became evident that this was not your average newborn. While we soon discovered he was exceedingly smart and exceptionally sweet, this precious little boy also familiarized us with a new term: high needs.

screaming baby photo
Flickr | sawamur

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No matter what anyone tried, he could not soothe himself. He either had to be rocked swiftly in his swing or tightly wrapped in someone’s arms in order to fall asleep. When he did drift off, he kept his arms up in the air as though he was constantly alarmed.

He never rested more than a few hours, even when he was several months old. We took shifts holding and rocking him, often to the sound of his high-pitched, abrasive cries.

The doctors found nothing physically wrong with him. They simply stated that he was a high-needs baby.

As he grew, we watched him become a highly intelligent, extremely intense, very sensitive and utterly energetic toddler. Someone always had to keep an eye on him to make sure he didn’t run into the street, climb whatever was in his path or take off to check out something that had captured his attention.

climbing the furniture photo
Flickr | ShanMcG213

While he was a joy to be around, he could also be wholly exhausting. The methods my own parents — as well as my husband and I — had used with such great success went out the window. They simply did not work with this kiddo.

As far as putting him on a leash, it never came to that. Thankfully, even after his two younger siblings came along, there always seemed to be enough adults around to keep them all safe (which is no small feat when you have three kids under the age of 5). His parents (and grandparents) learned to anticipate issues, generally nipping them in the bud before they became problematic.


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However, after experiencing those trying toddler years, I have learned that every child is different, every situation is unique and, above all, most parents are simply doing the best they can. Sometimes, that means letting your preschooler wear pajamas all day long. Other times, it could mean keeping your kiddo on a leash.

kids in pajamas photo
Flickr | Bike SLO County

Let’s face it. Parenting is hard! Kids don’t come with manuals. Everyone is learning as they go along. As long as a child is healthy, safe and loved, who are we to judge?

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About the Author
Tricia Goss
Tricia Goss is a Texas-based writer and editor with nearly two decades of experience. She is passionate about helping readers improve their skills, gain knowledge and attain more happiness in life. When she’s not working, Tricia enjoys traveling with her husband and their dog, especially to visit their five grandchildren.

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