Recently I saw an appalling example of a parent using baby reins (also known as a baby harness) that summed up why people often refer to them as baby leads.
The parent was with a friend, two adults to one child, who was around three years old. The mother and her friend were engaged in conversation, and not once did either of them look down to acknowledge the child’s presence. They were walking fast, which meant that he had to run to keep up.
When he slowed, his mother would pull hard, forcing his head and shoulders forward. He had to resume running to prevent from falling face first on to the pavement. When she wanted him to stop, she would pull sharply, yanking him back. When she wanted to turn a corner, instead of taking the time to talk to him, she would steer him, and again, his head and shoulders would be dragged in her desired direction before his legs caught up. I was following the same route as them for around ten minutes, and not once did they speak one word to him, nor look in his direction. He may as well have not been there for all the notice they took.
I must admit, I was bewildered by the need for reins at all with two adults to one three year old, my initial thought was that surely someone could have simply held his hand or walked beside him?
I know from experience that things are not always as they seem, and it is not my place to cast judgement on the parenting of others, however, in this incidence I felt so sad for this small ignored child, and the whole scenario looked far more like dog training than parenting.
I know for some parents, they feel that reins are a must. They may have multiple toddlers, a child who likes to run, additional needs that limit road safety awareness or they may be somewhere extremely busy where a child could easily become lost. But the trouble with reins/baby harnesses and wrist straps, is that once your child’s warm hand is no longer in yours, it is much more difficult to be mindful and present with them, keeping conscious of their needs and communicating with them. It is very easy to fall in to bad habits, yanking them up with the reins when they fall, pulling them away from what they are exploring without taking the time to explain why.
So the question remains, can reins and conscious parenting ever go hand in hand?
I think the tentative answer is yes…
They should be used only when there is a real need, not at the expense of communicating and discussing road safety, and most importantly, only as a back up method. Use the reins if you feel you must, but how about looping the strap over your wrist or through your belt whilst continuing to hold their hand. This way, in an emergency, you have your safety back up, but you are remaining conscious and not relying on the reins to parent for you.
What happens if you use reins without bothering to teach road safety?
One day, the reins may break, the child may wriggle out or them, or simply run outside before you have hold of them. If the child has never had a chance to walk freely and learn about the hazards of the outdoors, if they have never had to think because it has been done for them with “rein training” then they will likely have little awareness or care for danger. They may run straight out into the road, resulting in tragedy. Reins and conscious parenting can work together, but only when used responsibly.
Be mindful, and if you feel you are relying on them too much, reassess your need for them and try to cut back, placing your focus back on to your child once again. You may find that once you are focusing on being present with your child, the need for reins is eliminated entirely.
What do you think of reins/baby harnesses? Do you use them with your children? How do you ensure you stay mindful of your child when using them? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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