When you think harness, what do you think of?

This?

dog_harness
This?
cat_harness

Sure you might. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Instead, I’m talking about what’s euphemistically marketed as a “child restraint backpack”:

child_backpack
Back when my two-year-old sister had one, they were just called harnesses.  Now they’re disguised as backpacks.

So, about my sister. She was a selectively active child. That is she was calm at some times, and then would get more and more hyper as my parents became more and more irritated and adamant about calming her down. She thought it was funny — quite the calculating two-year-old.  I’m not exaggerating when I say she would take off in one direction and laugh while she was running and my parents were struggling to capture her.

In a theme park — she would run. In a mall — she would run. Here, there, in a house, with a mouse, on a plane, on a train — she would run. And laugh with the glee that only a toddler who was doing what she wanted at that moment in time to the chagrin of her parents would laugh.  I asked my sister about what she would think as she ran away just yesterday and she smiled wryly and said, “Oh, you know, I think I just liked to make ’em mad.” Premeditation confirmed, ladies and gentlemen, premeditation confirmed.

And there are kids out there like her, oh, I’m positive there are. That baby needed a harness/”restraint backpack”. But there’s apparently some contention on the use of these backpacks. And my response was…”Really?” Really. Some  New York psychologist says that it makes the parent “look out of control…(the backpack) is embarrassing the child.”[1] To which I say — yes, the child is out of control at that moment. That’s what toddlers do. Sometimes they go wild for no reason and with no provocation. They don’t care if it’s in the middle of a shopping mall, a parking lot, a plane, or a train…some children are runners. They bolt, they don’t listen.

You know how older people lament that the myelination of an adolescent’s brain isn’t happening fast enough? That their “prefrontal cortices” aren’t developed enough? What about two year olds’ cortices? I’m no neuroscientist — or an opinionated-on-the-status-of-adolescent-brain-development older person — but I do know one thing. A two year old’s brain is far from completely developed. This would partially explain why it’s difficult to discipline children this young by reasoning with them.

Why is it that these backpacks get wayward looks, but tracking an adolescent through his cellphone isn’t given a second thought? Children in restraint backpacks are in the immediate vicinity of their parents unlike teenagers being tracked via cellphone. However, just as it’s the teenager’s parents’ responsibilities to protect their child we find that it’s the toddler’s parents’ responsibilities to protect their child.

Toddlers’ brains are far from developed. In fact, if they felt a distinct and consistent sense of embarrassment in relation to certain activities it would be easier to reason with a toddler as a form of discipline. They would also be rapidly socialized. Indeed,  this is how socialization takes place — we receive feedback from ourselves and others to form standards of what is and isn’t socially acceptable through feelings of discomfort — and we inch away from behaviors that cause us discomfort. Unfortunately, empirically and anecdotally, this is not the case with toddlers.

As proof of lack of inhibition or shame of a toddler, I offer you this — an image of my sister leaning forward, straining her harness as my , yelling enthusiastically, “Mush, mush!”…my mother pulling her back in disbelief.

You’re welcome.

So, let the parents with child restraint backpacks on kids have their child restraint backpacks on kids. It seems like a very minor issue to gripe or judge about regarding the child’s wellbeing, and it’s no surprise why many children actually require one for their own safety.

As another opinionated older person once said, “Mind your own beeswax!”

[1] http://www.today.com/parents/child-leashes-are-they-helpful-or-humiliating-2D79453155

mm

A pre-med student from Gainesville, FL.