How long is your leash?


As wrong as it seems to compare our children to dogs, I see so many parallels. Children need to be trained just as much as dogs do. And we can compare the freedom we give our children to the leash we use with dogs. Yes, I mean leash in the figurative sense. The thought of putting my child 0n a leash brings up so many images, including a hilarious episode of Modern Family. But think of the leash as a measure of your child’s freedoms.

When my kids are being uncharacteristically disobedient, I tell them and my husband that they are going to be on a short leash. This is my short way of saying that I will:

  • Limit their choices
  • Make most of their decisions for them
  • Require that they hold my hand everywhere we go
  • Call their names and require a “yes, mommy” and eye contact at every turn
  • Require that they ask permission for almost everything
  • Give no leniency when they act up

They don’t need to be on a short leash for long. It works very well in reigning in their behavior. They quickly go back to the obedient kids they are. As with most everything in parenting, they will be as obedient as I expect them to be. If I actively train (or retrain) them, they will be obedient. If I slack off, they will too.

In addition to keeping our children on a short leash, we also need to recognize when to lengthen their leash. When our kids are characteristically obedient, they have earned the freedom to be on a long leash. They are kids, so they can’t be free of the leash completely, but the leash can be long. If we give the freedom and flexibility to explore their world–with the trust that they will treat it well–we can give them that freedom.


  1. Comparing you children to that of training of dogs. Not too far off for an Ezzo believer.

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