'Is Your Child a Dog?'—Woman Sparks Debate for Comments About Kid's Reins

A mother who confronted a stranger, and "snapped" at her with a comment about the woman's use of reins, a child harness device, has divided users on Mumsnet.

In a post on the U.K.-based online forum, the mother (under the didsomebodaysayyyjusteat name) said her one-year-old is "steady on her feet and has been walking for months" but she uses "a back buckled harness" on her young daughter.

"She's short so when holding her hand she really reaches up ... also with the weather being hot her little hands get a bit clammy so if she bolted her hands can easily slip from my grip," the user said.

One day at a local pharmacy, she "noticed a woman making comments under her breath," so she asked "Are you talking to me? I can't quite hear you."

A toddler seen in a harness
A toddler seen in a harness device while walking along a street with a woman. iStock/Getty Images Plus

The woman allegedly "snapped" back saying: "Why have you put your poor child on a dog lead, is your child a dog?"

The mother explained she was "pissed off," by the comment, noting "no one's ever said a bad thing about reins to me and I've never thought they were an issue."

While it's understandable that parents want to protect their baby from falling or wandering off with the use of reins, it's also important to offer toddlers a chance to do some "exploring" for their development, says KidsHealth, the website founded by Nemours Children's Health, one of the largest integrated pediatric health systems in the U.S.

According to the KidsHealth article reviewed by Dr. Mary L. Gavin: "Between the ages of 1 and 3, toddlers are literally scooting away from babyhood in search of new adventures. They're learning to talk, to walk and run, and to assert their independence.

"Exploring the inside and outside world—with supervision, of course—is important for toddlers' emotional, social, and physical development. They learn more about the world and how it works," also allowing them to work on important motor skills.

An October 2012 study in the peer-reviewed Psychological Science showed that babies learn to walk by falling.

The study found that: "Novice walkers traveled farther faster than expert crawlers, but had comparable fall rates, which suggests that increased efficiency without increased cost motivates expert crawlers to transition to walking.

"Measures of periodic gait and of natural locomotion were correlated, which indicates that better walkers spontaneously walk more and fall less," the study said.

The mother in the latest Mumsnet post said she ran into the stranger again in the toothpaste aisle and "just mentioned to her she ought to probably pick something up as her breath was humming and my 'dog' didn't want to be around an offensive stench...

"I probably shouldn't have said anything to wind her up looking back but what's wrong with reins!?," the mother said, adding: "I will never apologize for keeping my child safe. And I will never stay [quiet] and let people judge me and talk to me like s***, for keeping my child safe..."

The latest viral Mumsnet post, which received 251 comments at the time of writing, sparked a heated debate on the online forum.

Several sided with the mother, such as user amylou8, who said: "Reins are great, I used them with all my kids. I don't see why people have a problem with them. Surely it's no different to strapping your child into a pushchair to keep them safe. I think you were quite polite..."

User whoruntheworldgirls said: "She's a stupid b***h who should keep her opinions to herself. You were keeping your child safe, nothing wrong with that, i used reins when my daughter was little, she was also small and i didn't want her arm aching from stretching up or the risk or her wriggling free."

User that1970shouse noted the way the stranger reacted was the opposite of what they would have said. "When severely provoked, I once said 'If your child isn't trained to walk to heel, then you should keep it on a leash. If only all parents were as responsible as you.'"

GrunkleStan shared: "I'd have told her to.mind her own business...You know your own child, if you feel you need them, crack on."

Others thought the original poster could have handled the situation differently.

Antarcticant said: "No idea about the rights and wrongs of reins, but making comments like that to strangers is unhinged - I'd suggest the woman has issues. You'd have been best ignoring her, but I can understand why you wanted the last word."

Freedomfighters noted there's "Nothing wrong with reins and it's nothing to do with her. I wouldn't have responded as you did though, that's a whole new level," while user CaptaNoctem said: "Well I was on your side until you made the comment in the toothpaste aisle."

Newsweek was not able to verify the details of this case.

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