Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Keeping kids on a leash

A mom in Georgia is now under public scrutiny for dragging her toddler by a leash through a store. At first glance, the tactic seems brutal, but after watching the video I am convinced people need to cut this mom some slack - at least until all the evidence is presented.
My biggest pet peeve is how the masses make snap decisions based on initial data, popular opinion, or what is politically correct.
In handling children, there are some that believe a higher road should be taken. They seem to have a zen approach, talk calmly to little ones, and never use corporal punishment. My experience with such saintly parents has been that they are 1) oblivious to the unruly and disruptive behavior of their children; 2) don't have children and are working from theory; 3) are blessed with sedate tots; or 4) they are lying about how they raise their kids.
Instead of assuming the woman with a toddler on a leash is the reincarnate of Irma Grese, let's provide the benefit of the doubt with a more viable option. Assuming the child is wearing a harness, and not a choker, he quite possibly has previously demonstrated the need for restraint. The mother is not yelling, running or struggling, but instead is walking deliberately, keeping her head held high. Such stature reflects the determination of other moms when they ignore, rather than give in to, a child's tantrum.
When I was a toddler, my parents took the family to visit the USS North Carolina. I was about three years old and can remember bits of our visit. It was the early '60s, the days before car seats and seat belts, but my mom believed in safety. A harness was available that could be secured by a seat belt, so mom bought it. A nifty gadget, I could have range of motion, but if she had to slam on brakes, I was secured to the seat. When we arrived at the ship, mom used the harness as a "leash" because I was extremely active and she envisioned me getting away and falling overboard. My parents heard people make comments under their breath and saw heads shake in disapproval. Still, I was safe and mom was thankful for the restraint. I remember wearing the harness and was only bothered because I knew I couldn't get away!
Payback is hell, and my own daughter graced me with the same unruliness I had provided for my mother. Except, Elizabeth's antics were laced with the thread of "no fear."
My mom could squeeze my hand in public and I knew the signal meant, "stop misbehaving." Getting my daughter to hold my hand was a challenge and when I tried squeezing a warning to her, she responded by collapsing to her knees and yelling, "Owwwww! STOP squeezing my hand .... you're HURTING me!"
She threw a tantrum in the grocery store so I ignored her and went around the corner. I waited for her to come running in fear. HA! When I feared for her safety and peered around the corner, she was happily playing with the stock.
Elizabeth's dad and I tried to calmly discipline her while we were shopping at JC Penney's. She was around three years old and enjoyed hiding in the racks of clothes. Exasperated, we decided to use a "scare" tactic. "Where's Elizabeth?" I asked, feigning concern." Her dad responded, "I don't know, maybe she's gone forever." We backed away, keeping an eye on the rack where she was hiding. We watched, crouched behind another rack, expecting her to pop out at any moment, with a look of terror at the prospect of being abandoned. We waited, stifling giggles of expectation. We watched, but there was no movement. Giggles turned to concern and we moved closer. She was gone. Fortunately, we guessed her direction correctly and caught up with her a few hundred feet down the aisle. She was happily toddling through the store without a care. So much for teaching her a lesson.
Watching this video only brings back the emotions tied to my own experiences and I absolutely can imagine myself in this woman's shoes. If I could go back in time, I'd do things a bit differently. Surveillance videos would catch me doing the same thing this woman is, with one difference - I'd have a smile on my face!