You wouldn't listen to a vegetarian telling you how to prepare a steak dinner would you?
Bare with me here... there's a point to all this. I promise.
Last week, out with my 2 year-old and my 6 month-old, I decided to put Matthew (toddler) into his harness, so that he could walk beside me.
At any given opportunity, Matthew will take off, forcing us to race after him. So basically we have three options:
1. Strap him into a stroller and keep him there for the duration of the outing.
2. Let him run loose and chase after him like a lunatic, hoping people don't accidentally step on him, or that we don't loose him altogether.
3. Strap him into a toddler harness and let him walk safely by our side.
So for the first time last week, I chose the harness. It was a great experience. Matthew loved it. He actually squealed with delight as he part-walked, part-ran beside me, clearly enjoying the freedom, yet still within the limits of the reins and close to me.
Then, a few days ago, a woman was caught on tape dragging her child through a store in Alabama. She was later charged with child cruelty. Very, very stupid indeed, not to mention incredibly cruel to the child.
In light of this, a flurry of articles appeared, like this one, in which the writer has basically taken the situation and twisted it into an excuse to condemn any other parent that uses a harness. He compares using a toddler harness (which he calls "leash" repeatedly to be provocative, I assume) to handcuffing one's child to a shopping cart or chaining them to a post.
In the article he says "It's my feeling that effective discipline -- and by this I mean behavior management tools that are actionable, functional, and operative in the long term -- defines clear boundaries and repercussions in advance, and puts the onus on the kid to figure out how to comply and find their own center".
I have to say, reading this article has really pissed me off.
First, it's an ignorant perspective. And, quite simplistic I think, to take a stand-alone event and blow it up into such epic proportions so as to then use it to unjustly vilify other parents.
Second, his statement about creating "behavior management tools" - utter crap. The extent of our communication with our toddler does not stretch to achieve such things. I mean, of course, it would be great if I could reason with him, if I could take him to one side and calmly explain that instead of tearing around in every direction, he should consider his options and ultimately choose the wisest, safest bet.
But you see, the thing is, HE IS TWO.
The writer thinks I/you should "allow the child to rationally engage with your demands and figure things out, rather than just be told what to do."
If we're talking about teaching valuable lessons about independence and responsibility, then I can vouch from first-hand experience that the harness is absolutely the way to go. One of the main benefits, as I discovered last week, is that the harness has helped us teach Matthew the value of restraint and self-control when walking along a road, or among a crowd of people, or anywhere really. Without the harness, he could simply have run off and hurled himself into any number of dangerous situations.
And no, I don't use the harness because it's "adorable" or an "accessory" to match my son's outfit, as was suggested in the article. In fact, the harness I own is an ugly blue one given to me as a gift.
And then it occurred to me as I was reading the writer's superior theories on parenting best practices that he was probably not, in fact, a parent himself. A quick check on his web site confirmed this. At least there was no mention of him having children on there anyway.
Fancy that! A non-parent harshly judging actual parents for doing something they themself have no real experience with? Never!