To strap or not to strap?

It’s always important to find the middle ground. That’s the best advice the experts give in any situation.
But, as I have mentioned previously, I don’t consider myself an expert in any field. I see life as a learning curve. And so, in the past few weeks I have learnt that there really is no middle ground when it comes to the controversial children’s harnesses, reins, leashes and wristbands.
Parents either swear by it or swear at it.
Where do I stand on this?
I can honestly say that I often joked that if my child was anywhere close to as naughty as I was as a child I would have to rein him in, literally. I was one of those children. Run, fall down, get up and run again. At pre school I had this tendency to run and pinch children. Often, the children would run away from me. Oh, and my cousins too!
Yes, my son was naughty, but not by my standards. So, I never felt the need to use a safety contraption. Given that, I decided to ask Facebook and Twitter users for their take on these devices. And there was an overwhelming response.
The first to respond was a successful blogger and wonderful human being Verushka Ramasami. She related an incident that almost sent her 8 month pregnant mother into labour.
She went shopping with her parents on West Street, but got bored and decided to take a stroll.  This stroll was across the road. Her frantic parents looked everywhere for her and eventually found her at a store,  trying on clothing in between the racks.
After that, there was no question about it. A harness it was.
“My brother and I are two and a half years apart so we were a handful. I was a terror, very spoilt and always wanted my way! “, says Verushka.
She says after how crazy she was as a child, she would get a harness when she does have children. Visit her blog here
Here are some other opinions shared on my Facebook and Twitter feeds :
Candice Stacey Yon
“Rather be safe than sorry! It takes less than a second for kids to be kidnapped or “snatched”. I’d rather look paranoid and over-protective than stressed and heartbroken!”
Bhavna Maharaj
“Kids are being trafficked and toddlers are all Houdini. We have three.”
Chantal Motilall
“My neighbour used it on her son years ago. He was a good kid, but really hard to handle on the roads/malls. He’s now a young man, and one of the most polite, well-behaved teenagers I’ve met. I personally don’t see a problem with it. If it keeps my child safe, in this period of child trafficking and violent crimes, I’d get it in a  heartbeat.”
Larissa Utham Maharaj
“I used the body harness on my kid, worked well till he learned that lying flat on the ground throwing a tantrum meant he could have it removed. Definitely worked on holiday to keep him from running off though.”
Kohen Naidoo
“That’s like you’re leashing your animal. It’s not acceptable. Kids should be holding their parents hands! If you want to use a leash, get yourself a dog, or something similar.”
Yeshina Govender
“Don’t have kids yet.. But will definitely consider it… For safety and security”
“I am totally against this. For me personally I never found a need to leash my boys, I go back to old fashion parenting. I don’t hit them either, I prefer talking. I sit them down and explain to them why it’s important to hold my hand , how many children get lost, stranger danger. If they are too young, like the terrible twos, reading a book with pictures helps a great deal. When I see kids at the mall with a leash, this sounds like a, stereotype but it reminds me of a dog being pulled around. What happened to holding hands? We need to make time for our kids; just talking and educating them creates awareness and eliminates the need for these devices.”
Verushka Rajagopaul
“I don’t have kids, but I’m pro it. I would rather have my kid safe and near me. As long as you don’t treat them as an animal and still allow them to be themselves.”
Rivonia K Naidu-Hoffmeester
“For me it’s all about safety. Our kids are in tremendous danger more than ever before. So we have this contraption that is attached to our hand and hers. She hates it. But we are able to control her movement. I’m pro any form of this. People just don’t understand, and it’s generally people with no kids.”
Ashika Kaliyan
“My kids are teenagers now, but I would highly recommend it. I have seen parents use these and the child is given the freedom to walk slightly away from the parent but still within a safe zone. For the kids safety and parents sanity, I would recommend it.”
Clearly, being a parent in South Africa today is scary. There are horror stories, many that are reported and some that don’t make it to the media. While there are hundreds of books on parenting, there are no set rules. Often parents are told to trust their instincts and intuition. So do just that when you are trying to decide whether or not to use a safety device for your child. Stand by your decision and know that you are being a responsible parent.
I was glad, but not surprised, when someone who often works with children and parents called me to share his input.
KZN Emergency Medical Services spokesperson Rob McKenzie says,
“As parents this is an emotive issue. If it’s a leash, it’s a leash. If it’s not, it’s not.  But as parents, we know what’s best for our children and we need to do that.  We need to respect each other with regards to that. ”
He also offered some advice on how parents can prevent and deal with a worst-case scenario. “People don’t realise how quickly children can go missing or get abducted.  You need to keep children as close to you as possible at all times. If they do go missing don’t wait to raise the alarm. This concept that you have to wait 24 hours is from American movies. You must report this immediately.  Always keep a recent photograph of you child on your cellphone or somewhere that can be easily accessed. If they do go missing, this can be circulated immediately.”
These are important discussions that parents need to have with their children. And if you strap them up or not, explain to them why you have taken this step. Forget about the pointed fingers or judgemental comments in hushed tones.  Ultimately, it’s about what works for you as a family.

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