Yeah, I used a child harness…that’s right – not a leash, a HARNESS!

A nice, brisk, spring stroll along the lakeshore at Burlington’s Spencer Smith Park was just what the doctor ordered after a long winter of kids constantly sick with tonsillitis.   My mood was as grey as the endless weeks of dreary weather we endured that snowless year with no tobogganing or fort-building to make it all worthwhile.

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It was a few years ago when my daughter was 4 and my son just 2 – her happily walking alongside me like a little soldier, ready to obey my every command and him constantly seeking that tiny window of opportunity to make a mad dash and do a cannonball into Lake Ontario.  She had never been the type to bolt and was exceptionally compliant from day one.  He… ummm…not so much.  That hasn’t changed to this day.  She needs very little supervision – he needs LOTS.  That’s just the way they are.

But, back to my story…we’re walking along and I notice stares and the occasional “evil eye” (or the “malocchio” as my mother-in-law would call it) from the folks around us.  I feel a little weird and check that my kids haven’t puked on themselves and that my fly is done up – all is seemingly well.  Finally a passerby says with disgust, “Nice kid on a leash – what, do you put your dog in a stroller too?”

I won’t share the exact words contained in my response, as I prefer to r0emain employed, but I was very offended and shocked to say the least.  I work in health promotion and disease prevention.  I know that physical activity (and LOTS of it) is the key to a healthy mind and body.  In light of a recent report (updated 2015), essentially telling us our kids don’t move around enough and in the face of sky-rocketing childhood obesity rates in Canada, why would I want my 2-year-old son to sit down in a stroller for hours during our outdoor excursion, when he could be walking, jumping, exploring, touching stuff…a million things to build brain cells and a healthy body – none of which happens when he’s SITTING?!?!

This experience opened my eyes (not that I didn’t already know but it reminded me) of how judgmental people can be of one another’s parenting and how hurtful words can be – how a person’s intentions can be so completely misunderstood and how really hard it is to be a parent sometimes.  Really though, are we all that different?

Parents sit children in strollers for the same reasons I tethered my son’s cute little Elmo harness to my waist – for safety and convenience and for the simple fact that sometimes you need your hands free to do what you gotta do; especially when you have more than one kid and the one in question can outrun you!  Whether a stroller or a “leash” (ahem…I prefer to call it a “harness”) it provides physical containment nonetheless.  Why not let kids move around while safely contained?  Kids are naturally active – we grown-ups impose a sedentary lifestyle on them.  Maybe the reason why they fight so hard not to get into the stroller is because they know what I know…once they’re in there…they’re not gonna play…they’re gonna sit…for a long time.

P.S. Check out this Huffington Post article about the “kids on leashes” debate.  Very interesting!

Share your experience:

Where do you stand on the great harness debate?  Share your experience!  There are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:

  • Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
  • Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
  • Email us at
  • Call the HaltonParents line for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About this blogger:

Paula D’Orazio RN is a public health nurse with the Early Years Health Program.  Wanna know more about her?  Read her blogs!  She’ll tell ya!  (She kinda likes to talk.)

This entry was posted in Keeping Your Toddler & Preschooler Safe, Parenting, Parenting Your Toddler & Preschooler, Play, Growth & Development, Toddlers & Preschoolers, Toddlers & Preschoolers with Special Needs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Yeah, I used a child harness…that’s right – not a leash, a HARNESS!

  1. Natalie Di Santo says:

    First off–leashes are for dogs and keep the public safe, not the dog. Harnesses are for children and keep them safe from the risks that are out there. I have 3 boys and yes, I used a harness when they were younger and a wristlet when they were older. My niece was also on a harness as she would walk away and talk to anyone that smiled at her. This was common practice in England when i was younger.
    I wholeheartedly agree with Paula that children need safe exercise and not 2 hours of rolling around in a stroller–the only one benefitting from that is the one pushing the stroller. Do I not take them out because I don’t have three hands to hold them with? As a parent I have the right to maintain the safety of my children the way I see fit. I have seen many a parent running after their child that they were holding the hand of, just before they got hit by a bike, car, grocery cart or another person.
    We need to stop judging the parenting of others and worry about the parenting we are doing for our own children. Kudos to Paula for loving her children enough to care about their safety regardless of other people’s opinions.

    • ettinacat says:

      Leashes keep dogs safe, too. My dog doesn’t understand how fast cars move and how it could affect her if she got hit by one. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I leash her.

  2. JayNine says:

    Thank You! Its a very interesting subject filled with many different vibrant opinions! 😉 Quick as I can: I used to be judgemental of those dressing their little ‘Angels’ in a ‘Dog Leash’ & Id laugh, stare, wonder Why?!, & grumble under my breath–THEN, I had MY SECOND Child!! And boy was I in over my head! My tube changed the day she took her first steps–I have MANY examples of my own experiences to explain as to WHY, but I don’t have time–I have a child to keep up with 😉 lol! I will tell you one VERY important thing I have learned throughout my 14 Years Personal Experiences in Parenting: I DO NOT Judge Others. Most of the situations I have (admittedly) judged in others, in my past: I have had the ‘pleasure’ to RE-live in my OWN experience.. I cannot help but think it was a “lesson from the Universe” or ‘above’, or Karma; (what ever you want to call it) I have walked in many of the shoes Ive (so harshly) judged…its a hard pill to swallow! Eating Your own Words can not taste so good as serving the Bad Opinion out there–so be careful what you ‘dish out’. Thats not to say I am perfect or don’t judge but, the process is a rigorous honesty (within self) now when the judgemental thought comes in, I have HARMLESS ‘tools’ to process the thoughts, then let it go; in safe ways for judger and judge. Always, ‘Ye Who is Sinless, Shall Cast the First Stone” immediately comes to mind…good day, J9;)

  3. Pingback: NO Room for Judgement | j9sopinion

  4. Paula D'Orazio says:

    Thanks for your comments – they make me feel “normal” (whatever that is)! LOL! 🙂

  5. Nikki says:

    Like the country song says Paula…..”you gotta know when to hold em”, and if that means using a harness (disguised as a cute backpack) so be it. It is challenging these days to keep some kids safe, and that is by far our first priority. I use to think and wonder quietly to myself (yes I used my inside my own head voice) what those parents using harnesses were doing. That was before I had 3 children of my own. I want to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to all those who I silently judged in my youth, when I thought I knew it all, and realize now, how little I understood. It is so important for parents to do what they think is best for their children, and ignore the perceived glares, and overt comments of others (who by the way, you will likely not see again) who know nothing of your lives or your children. Thank Paula. Thought provoking and entertaining as always!

  6. Paula D'Orazio says:

    Wow, how a little bit of understanding from other parents goes a LONG way! Thanks for the encouraging words!

  7. Pingback: Autism Spectrum Disorder and wandering: A parent’s biggest worry | HaltonParents

  8. Jo says:

    I would never put my child on a harness/leash EVER. My job as parent is to teach and interact and when I’m giving my full attention to my kids they don’t need to be restrained. I also don’t feed them McDonalds. Everyone parents their own way.

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