My husband and I were brave or crazy enough to travel to Bali via Singapore last year with 3 children under the age of 7. My youngest was a wee baby of 11 months so that meant a pram was a necessity. My 6 year old was fairly well behaved and could stand still for about 10 minutes without asking “are we there yet” and my 3 year old was – well, a 3 year old. Explorer of airports, with very little stranger danger instincts, a runner in the alternative, a thrower of tantrums (if such a linguistic term exists).
Planning was essential. We had 4 arms to navigate 3 children through 3 airports, twice in that trip. That’s a lot of airport time for tired parents and crabby or energetic children.
And plan we did. Mum would push the pram with baby strapped in. Six year old would stand on the foot rests at the back. Dad would push the luggage trolley holding two large suitcases, baby bag, vanity bag and camera bag. (We have since learned to pack much lighter.)
But how would we manage the natural instincts of our 3 year old? And then the debate started. To leash (I prefer the word harness) or not to harness? And if we chose to, what form would this harness take?
From the outset I want to say that I am not wholly opposed to child harnesses, nor am I wholly in favour of them.
Many people are shocked that parents use harnesses because:
•they look so much like a dog leash and our children are not dogs.
•they ruin an opportunity to teach your children how to behave in public.
•they say to your child “I don’t trust you and I’m in charge”.
•they say to your child, “the world is a dangerous place, people are not to be trusted”.
•they control your child as a leash would control a dog.
Others are for it because:
•toddlers don’t know any boundaries and can’t discern between danger and safe spaces yet.
•it’s a great way to keep control of your toddler when you have more than one child.
•it’s useful in busy people filled spaces where your toddler can become lost.
I agree with both of these opposing views – because I have to weigh them in different settings.
Our busy 3 year old was never harnessed at home or in very normal circumstances like outings or shopping etc.
It’s in these places where we teach her proper behaviour for public spaces.
In other places, like busy airports where many different things call for your attention- finding the right terminal, checking in or collecting luggage, completing forms with more than one child in tow, standing in ques, harnesses definitely have a place. We found that this was especially in the case when children outnumbered the adults.
We chose this route against the risk of losing her amidst the throng of people.
We researched the options.
We read and heard that controlling your child with a harness on her back is safer because it’s more comfortable and because wrist harnesses can ( if jerked) cause pain to the child’s arm, and in some cases even dislocate it.
We tried this option. The harness was connected to a back pack. I didn’t like the feel of it – it felt flimsy. The fabric on the back pack was thin and I dident trust it to do the job. Also, if it was pulled back suddenly, the child would land on her bottom. And the width of the strap that would go around the child’s wrist was too broad, allowing the child to take it off quite easily.
We also looked at wrist harnesses. We found the Moose Noose Toddler Safety Harness to be most useful because:
•it’s telephone type cord is attached to the wrist of the child. It pulls out to a meter, thus allowing your child to explore, but not stray away too far.
•it’s not easy to take off and is made with double sided Velcro strap to strap around the wrist. .This strap is comfortable.
•it’s cord is “cut proof”. It’s super strong.
Our child was less opposed to this than being controlled from the back.
I think it’s because she may have felt that her wrist or hand was held and she could walk alongside us. It gave us piece of mind.
What was most noticeable was that we did not so much as catch a blink of an eye from South Africans. But in the rest of the world people would gawk in astonishment. Some would even take pics. It certainly told us that South Africans take strong precautions and are on a whole distrustful of people and places. I can only attribute their behaviour to the high crime rate in SA. Perhaps this is one of the greatest disadvantages – the message harnessing sends to our children.