Entries in Parenting (57)


Obstacle Courses, Charades Are 'Secrets of Happy Families'

Fuse/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Could the secret to a happy family be sweating it out with your three kids while a former special ops Marine barks orders? Or is it playing a goofy game of charades? Or is it Kyle Richards, a star of Bravo's reality TV series Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, playing barefoot backyard basketball with her four daughters?

According to best-selling author Bruce Feiler, your family bliss can be found in all three.

Feiler spent years searching for the secret elixir of happy families, often using his own wife and twin girls as guinea pigs.

"I was frustrated," he said. "I felt like, as a parent, we were just stuck. We were lost. The shrinks, the self-help gurus, the family experts, those ideas were really stale."

Instead, Feiler turned to hundreds of examples of non-parenting wisdom from a variety of sources -- from bankers to Green Berets -- for his new book, The Secrets of Happy Families, out in stores Tuesday, to bring families closer together. Some advice was quite surprising: try moving the furniture, ditch date night and let the kids pick their own punishments.

"Frankly, it turns out that our girls are little Stalins," Feiler said. "We actually constantly have to dial them back. They are usually much harsher than we are."

For advice on allowances, Feiler spoke with Warren Buffett's banker, who said not to tie allowances to chores. For games, he went to the folks at the online gaming giant Zynga, the makers of Farmville and other similar spinoffs, who told him that failure can be motivation to do better. For conflict resolution, he went to the Harvard Negotiation Project and the set of ABC's TV series Modern Family.

"All families have conflict," Feiler said. "It's the families that cope with the conflict best that are the best able to function successfully. Laughter, silliness, games can be a great antidote to the conflict."

Speaking of conflict, how is it possible that the star of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, a show that thrives on screaming matches and backstabbing, could be the head of a tranquil family? Richards said her family life is "very real."

"The moms at school who know me as showing up in my pajamas and slippers know how real it is," she said. "I'm a mom and a wife, that's what I do, number one, that's my number one job."

It's a job she takes seriously, raising daughters Farrah, Alexia, Sophia and Portia with her husband, Mauricio Umansky. Turns out the Umanskys instinctively live by several of the happiness secrets that Feiler uncovered for his book.

"Having four kids is not -- especially as they get older -- is not easy to get them, all four, at the same time to sit down to dinner," Richards said. "We have to fight for that all the time, but it's worth it."

But those hard-fought moments create memories -- a stitch in the tapestry of the larger family history, which is something Feiler also talks about in his book: The more your kids know about their family's legacy, the more resilient they are because it gives them a sense of pride in who they are and where they come from. In the Umansky family, for example, Mauricio told his daughters he was born in Mexico and his father was Russian.

"I lost both my parents, so it's really important for me to talk about them a lot with our daughters," Richards added.

In another chapter, Feiler writes that successful institutions have mission statements and wacky family traditions can also breed happiness. And when researchers asked 1,000 kids "if they could have one wish about their parents," many of the kids said they wanted their parents to be less tired and less stressed.

"The week we introduced the morning checklist into our family, we pre-cut parental screaming in half," Feiler said. "So if the standard here is parental stress, our stress went in half."

And to maximize team spirit among family members, Feiler said the Green Berets believe in pushing everyone's physical limits in pursuit of a common goal.

That's where the kids of ABC's Juju Chang come in. Tune into Nightline at 12:35 a.m. ET TUESDAY NIGHT to watch ABC's Juju and her family put some of Feiler's The Secrets of Happy Families to the test.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


'14 Steps to Follow Before You Have Children’ Makes Rounds of Parenting Blogs

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you think you’re ready to have a baby, first try walking around for nine months with a giant bean bag under your shirt, going to the grocery store with a goat or stuffing an octopus in a bag.

That’s the advice an animated “parent test” gives for couples looking to become parents. The test is called, “14 Steps to Follow Before You Have Children,” and is making the rounds of parenting blogs. Several of the blogs say that friends or readers forwarded the list, so it’s unclear where it originated.

The list caught‘s creator Jenny Witte’s eye. The mother of three ages 5 and under has been blogging about parenting for a year and said the 14 steps resonate with all mothers.

“It made me laugh out loud,” Witte, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., told ABC News. “It’s the comic relief side of parenting. You know, the idea of taking goats to the grocery store -- you do feel like that sometimes."

“I think it’s the camaraderie too,” Witte added. “Everybody goes through this and everybody sees how silly it can be, especially in an age of super moms, and everyone thinks everyone should do it all and look great doing it. This says it’s OK because everybody does it and you can poke fun at it this way.”

Chet Patel, of England, posted the list on her blog, Mamami by Chet, because it ran so true with her parenting of her two daughters, who are 2 and 5. The step that resonated with her the most was “Knowledge” which suggested berating other parents for their parenting skills.

“I remember my husband and I were like, ‘I can’t believe they do that, I can’t believe they behave this way,’” she said. “Now it’s like, ‘Oh my good God, I’ll give them anything to keep quiet.’”

But for her husband, the “Dressing Small Children” step hit close to home.

“With tights and hair, he’s just like, ‘You do it. What is this?’” Patel said. “Most of the time, I’ll take them out and then I’ll realize he’s put their clothes on backwards.”

Patel said the tongue-in-cheek list is clearly meant to give a laugh and not to offend anyone, which is why she knew her readers would enjoy it.

“I would never change my title as ‘mommy,’” she said. “But you need a sense of humor when you become a parent. Either that or you become mad.”

The test says that if you can pass the 14 steps, you are ready to have a baby. Are you ready?

Test 1: Preparation

Women: To prepare for pregnancy:
1. Put on a dressing gown and stick a beanbag down the front.
2. Leave it there.
3. After 9 months remove 5 percent of the beans.

Men: To prepare for children:
1. Go to a local chemist, tip the contents of your wallet onto the counter and tell the pharmacist to help himself
2. Go to the supermarket. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office.
3. Go home. Pick up the newspaper and read it for the last time.

Test 2: Knowledge

Find a couple who are already parents and berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience, appallingly low tolerance levels and how they have allowed their children to run wild. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child’s sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners and overall behavior.

Enjoy it. It will be the last time in your life that you will have all the answers.

Test 3: Nights

To discover how the nights will feel:

1. Walk around the living room from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 12 pounds, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious sound) playing loudly.
2. At 10 p.m., put the bag down, set the alarm for midnight and go to sleep.
3. Get up at 11 p.m. and walk the bag around the living room until 1 a.m.
4. Set the alarm for 3 a.m.
5. As you can’t get back to sleep, get up at 2 a.m. and make a cup of tea.
6. Go to bed at 2:45 a.m.
7. Get up again at 3 a.m. when the alarm goes off.
8. Sing songs in the dark until 4 a.m.
9. Put the alarm on for 5 a.m. Get up when it goes off.
10. Make breakfast.

Keep this up for five years. LOOK CHEERFUL.

Test 4: Dressing Small Children

1. Buy a live octopus and a string bag.
2. Attempt to put the octopus into the string bag so that no arms hang out.

Time Allowed: 5 minutes.

Test 5: Cars

1. Forget the BMW. Buy a practical 5-door wagon.
2. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there.
3. Get a coin. Insert it into the CD player.
4. Take a box of chocolate biscuits; mash them into the back seat.
5. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.

Check out the full 14 test here.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Parents Can Let Sleepless Babies Cry It Out: Study

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Nearly half of mothers with babies over six months of age report problems with their baby's sleep. This common problem not only leads to sleepless nights for parents, but it also doubles the risk that moms will suffer from feelings of depression.

Now, a new study released today in the journal Pediatrics suggests it is OK to let babies cry while trying to fall asleep -- a finding that may help settle a long-running debate among both parents and experts over whether allowing a baby to cry itself to sleep harms the child in the long run.

Australian researchers looked at 225 babies from seven months to 6 years of age to compare the difference between parents who were trained in sleep intervention techniques and those who were not. Specifically, researchers allowed parents in the sleep intervention group to choose one of two sleep training techniques to use with their baby. Parents who chose "controlled crying" responded to their infant's cry at increasing time intervals. Parents who chose "camping out," also called "adult fading," sat with their infant until they fell asleep, removing themselves earlier each night over three weeks.

Parents in the control group were not taught the sleep training techniques and instead provided their own routine care.

What the researchers found was that children and mothers in the sleep training group had improved sleep, and the mothers were less likely to experience depression and other emotional problems. These benefits lasted up to the time the babies turned 2.

Moreover, the study looked at various factors to determine whether harm was done to children in the sleep training group, including mental and behavioral health, sleep quality, stress, and relationship with their parents. They found no differences between children in the two groups, leading researchers to conclude that these sleep training techniques are safe to use.

"[P]arents can feel confident using, and health professionals can feel confident offering, behavioral techniques such as controlled comforting and camping out for managing infant sleep," the researchers write in the study.

Experts not involved with the study said the findings make sense.

"It's kind of like having the ability to get a rental car at the airport, but why would you get one if a limo shows up?" said Dr. Ari Brown, an Austin, Texas-based pediatrician and author of Baby 411. "The parent is the limo."

"While stressful for the infant, it almost certainly falls under the 'positive stress' heading," said Rahil D. Briggs, director of the Healthy Steps program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. "Positive stress creates growth in the child, in the form of coping skills and frustration tolerance that serve to be critically important throughout the life span."

But for parents, the message may be even more important.

"This study empowers parents to be active in shaping their infant's behavior to be consistent with appropriate developmental milestones," said Dr. John Walkup, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at NY-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hot Car Hazard: Parent Forgetfulness Can Be Deadly

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- One hot summer day, Brandi Koskie strapped her 2-week old daughter Paisley into her rear-facing car seat and drove off to run some errands. As her daughter slept peacefully, Koskie parked, got out of the car, locked the door and walked away.

Fortunately she remembered within a minute that she had left her baby behind.

"I ran back, unbuckled her and held her. I was sobbing and shaking for probably 10 minutes afterwards," said Koskie, who is from Wichita, Kansas. "I kept thinking about how the worst might have happened."

Most parents think they could never make the mistake of leaving their baby in the car in sweltering heat. Yet according to the advocacy group Safe Kids Worldwide, Koskie was right to be upset. The outcome can be tragic.

In the first week of August alone, according to another group, Kids and Cars, eight children across the United States died from heatstroke in hot vehicles; nearly 40 children die this way each year.

Heatstroke, also known as hyperthermia, happens when the body's thermostat is overwhelmed with heat. Safe Kids USA says children are at the greatest risk because their bodies heat up 3 to 5 times more quickly than an adult’s.

What sort of parent could be so negligent? Although often portrayed as monsters in the media and sometimes even charged with manslaughter or child abuse, Jeff Brown, an assistant clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says they are often otherwise loving and attentive parents who feel hassled, distracted and confused.

"It can happen so easily if someone is overwhelmed and hyper-focused on what they have to do. When you're trying to multitask and do too many things, the brain goes on overload. The responsibility of caring for your child just slips from your mind," he says.

One San Francisco University report that recorded 424 heat related deaths of children in 12 years found that slightly more than half occurred because the parent simply forgot the child was in the car.

Jeanne Cosgrove, the Sunrise Children's Hospital coordinator for the Safe Kids Coalition in Las Vegas, adds that kids are also more likely to be left behind when there is a change in routine and the other parent has responsibility for the child. "They go about their normal day not realizing the baby is still in the back seat," she says.

Rear-facing car seats may also be a contributing factor in parent's forgetfulness. While experts agree that a rear-facing seat increases a child's safety during a collision, the website Parent Central says, "the last time experts pushed a new campaign to put more children in rear-facing seats - in the 1990s, to cut the chances of being killed by air bags - the number of children who died in hot cars spiked."

Brown says some tricks that can help spaced out parents: Leave your purse or briefcase in the back seat so you have to retrieve it before leaving the car, play children's music on the radio as a reminder that your bundle of joy is along for the ride, and set your phone alarm with reminders that it's your day to babysit.

In some cases, parents believe it's OK if they run a quick errand and hustle back to the car. They don't want the hassle of unbuckling a seat belt and wrestling with a squirming child. But they may not realize how quickly the inside of a car can become an oven. Cosgrove says a car can heat up at a rate of more than two degrees a minute. And opening the windows does little good because much of the heat radiates off seats and dashboards.

While being in a hurry is understandable, experts agree that it's no excuse for negligence.

Richard Gallagher, an associate professor at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NYU Langone Medical Center, says he believes the solutions for time-strapped parents are obvious -- either leave your children at home or get them out of the car and bring them with you, even if you only plan on being gone for a few minutes.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Parents: What to Watch Out For at the Dentist

Design Pics/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As detailed in a report on Thursday's Nightline, an ABC News investigation found that American children are being put at risk by inadequately trained dentists who often seek to enhance profits by sedating their young patients for even routine tooth cleaning and cavity treatments.

There is no national registry of dental deaths, but according to the Raven Maria Blanco Foundation, more than a dozen children have died after being sedated by dentists. Some experts say many deaths go unreported or are never officially tied to dental sedation.

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To lessen the risk for young patients, the American Dental Association has prepared the following list of questions that parents and guardians should ask about sedation or anesthesia for children.

Questions to Ask Your Dentist about Anesthesia and Sedation for Your Child

The ADA offers the following questions that parents and guardians should ask concerning in-office sedation or general anesthesia for their children provided either by the dentist or by a separate sedation/anesthetic practitioner in that dental office. The ADA recommends talking to your dentist about any concerns you might have about the treatment plan prior, during and after the procedure:

Prior to the procedure:

  • Who will provide the pre-operative evaluation of my child including their past medical history such as allergies, current prescription medications and previous illnesses and hospitalizations?
  • What is the recommended time that my child should be without food or drink prior to the procedure (with the exception of necessary medications taken with a sip of water)?
  • Will any sedation medication be given to my child at home prior to their coming to the office and, if so, how should they be monitored?
  • What training and experience does the sedation/anesthesia provider have in providing the level of sedation or anesthesia that is planned for the procedure? Does this training and experience meet all of the standards of the ADA Guidelines for the Use of Sedation and General Anesthesia by Dentists?
  • Does the staff assisting in the procedure have current training in emergency resuscitation procedures, such as Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers, and other advanced resuscitation courses as recommended by the ADA Guidelines? Is this training regularly renewed?
  • Does the state dental board require a special sedation/anesthesia permit or license that allows for the sedation/anesthesia provider to administer this specific level of sedation or anesthesia in the dental office?

During the procedure:

  • In addition to the use of local anesthesia (numbing), what level of sedation or general anesthesia will be given to my child? Is it minimal sedation (relaxed and awake), moderate sedation (sleepy but awake), deep sedation (barely awake) or general anesthesia (unconscious)?
  • How will my child be monitored before, during and after the procedure until the child is released to go home? Are the appropriate emergency medications and equipment immediately available if needed, and does the office have a written emergency response plan for managing medical emergencies?

After the procedure:

  • Will the sedation/anesthesia provider give me instructions and emergency contact information if there are any concerns or complications after returning home?

For more information on oral health topics for you or your family, please visit the American Dental Association's website

The Raven Maria Blanco Foundation, which seeks to alert parents to the potential dangers of the use of oral sedatives on young patients, has its own recommended sedation checklist for parents. CLICK HERE for the foundation's "Pediatric Dental Care Checklist."

The foundation is named for 8-year-old Raven Blanco of Chesapeake, Virginia, who died after her dentist, Dr. Michael Hechtkopf, gave her "three times the average range" of sedatives, according to the Virginia Board of Dentistry.

The dentist had his license restricted for three months and was ordered to complete seven hours of continuing education in record keeping and risk management. He has since retired.

A lawyer for Dr. Hechtkopf said the dentist "regretted" what happened.

Raven's parents, Robin and Mario Blanco, set up the foundation in their daughter's name to urge dentists to be better prepared for emergencies and to warn parents that what happened to their daughter could happen to others.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Parenting Debate: Waxing for Girls Younger Than 15?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Young girls are growing up faster than ever before, wearing makeup and high heels. But what about a cosmetic treatment that many middle-aged women find painful?

More teens and tweens today want to get waxed, a grooming technique that involves applying hot wax to remove unwanted body hair.

And a new ad for a salon chain that offers discounts on waxing for girls 15 and younger has reinvigorated the debate among parents about how young is too young.

The debate erupted after a 50 percent-off promotion began running for Uni K Wax salons up and down the East Coast, targeting teens 15 and younger to celebrate their independence this summer by getting waxed.

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“Celebrate Freedom and Independence All July,” the ad reads. “During the month of July, girls 15 and under can enjoy their FIRST waxing experience and find it NATURAL, SAFE and PLEASANT.”

It’s not just this ad. It seems many teens and tweens – some as young as 10 – are now prepping for summer camp by removing unwanted hair.

Anna Dolgon-Krutolow, 12, begged her mother to take her to Uni K Wax Salon in New York City for a bikini wax. “I swim when I’m at camp so I just wanted to just be fresh,” she said.

For her mother, Carol Dolgon-Krutolow, the procedure wasn’t an easy sell.

“She was very adamant, you know, and she’s becoming a woman,” her mom said. “She’s very concerned about how she looks and it’s important that I listen to her.”

But some, including Atlanta-based therapist Tiffanie Henry, fear that waxing could be over-sexualizing teen girls. “I just really have a difficult time stomaching, inviting girls, specifically girls who are 15 years of age and younger into a salon to be waxed,” said Henry, co-host of ABC’s The Revolution.

Uni K Wax stands by its promotion. In a statement to ABC News, the CEO and founder Noemi Grupenmager said the promotion is intended to help young girls boost their self esteem.

“By the age of 11 or 12, some young girls develop hair on their legs and upper lip.  This can not only be embarrassing, but it often makes these young girls targets for bullying at school, especially during PE and recess,” Grupenmager said. “Uni K Wax is offering a safe solution in a comfortable environment for these girls.”

This was the case for Anna, who considers the procedure a confidence booster and said she plans to come back for another wax.

“I really feel that once I go to camp I’m going to be more self confident and less self conscious, which is a really great feeling,” she said.

Uni K Wax requires minors younger than 17 to have their parents sign a consent form before receiving any treatments.

Therapist Henry advises that tween waxing opens the door even earlier for mothers to have an important conversation with their daughters about their bodies.

“Moms need to be talking to their daughters about grooming, about their daughter’s body changing, about hair growing in places that hair has never grown before,” Henry explained.

Click here to read the full statement as received by ABC News from Noemi Grupenmager CEO and founder of Uni K Wax Center.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


My Three Daddies: California Eyes Multiple Parenting Law

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- California, the battleground state for the arguments for and against same-sex marriage, is now considering an unconventional law that would allow children to be legally granted more than two parents.

The bill -- SB1476 -- would apply equally to men and women, and to homosexual or heterosexual relationships. Proposed by State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, it has passed the Senate and awaits an Assembly vote.

Leno cites the evolving American family, which includes surrogacy arrangements, same-sex marriages and reproductive techniques that involve multiple individuals.

"The bill brings California into the 21st century, recognizing that there are more than 'Ozzie and Harriet' families today," Leno told the Sacramento Bee, which first reported the story.

"We are not touching the definition of a parent under the current law," said Leno. "When a judge recognizes that a child is likely to find his or her way into foster care and if there is an existing parent who qualifies as a legal parent, why not have the law when it is required to protect the well-being of the child?"

Parents would have to qualify under all legal standards and agree on custody, visitation and child support before a judge could divide up responsibilities.

Several other states, including Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maine and the District of Columbia, recognize more than two parents.

"Most children have at most two parents, but some children have more than two people in their lives who have been a child's parent in every way," says Leno in his fact sheet on the bill. "For example, a child raised from birth by a biological mother and a non-biological father may also have a relationship with his or her biological father.

"In such a situation, the child may consider both adults in the home to be parents, as well as his or her biological father. In such a case, it may be in the child's best interests to have a legally protected relationship with all three of the parental figures in his or her life."

Glenn T. Stanton, director of Global Family Formation Studies for the conservative group Focus on the Family, argues that the bill appears to advocate for children's rights, but in reality gives adults legal protection to create "radical families."

"We hear all this celebratory talk about 'new families,' but there is no sociological, psychological or medical data showing any of these new family forms have served to the elevate the general physical, mental, educational or developmental well-being of children in any meaningful way," said Stanton. "That job is best done for children by their own mother and father," he said.

But Leno argues that a new law would address more than just same-sex families, including one in which a man raises a nonbiological child with a woman, but the child also has a relationship with the biological father.

A lesbian couple, for example, might also want to include a male friend who provided sperm for the conception of their child as a legal parent.

Leno maintains that it is in the best interest of a child to designate multiple parents to provide financial support, health insurance and other state benefits.

Not to do so can have "disastrous emotional, psychological, and financial consequences for the child," according to Leno.

Such a law might serve not only same-sex families, but adoptive ones as well, where there may be a relationship with a biological parent.

However, Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, said situations where the law might be applicable are "pretty limited."

"Most people don't aim for this and don't need it," he said. "It's an arrangement that's created for specific circumstances -- but I don't see a big trend here."

"People in the adoption world get very concerned about a law like this," said Pertman. "One of the concerns they have about open adoptions is co-parenting and it simply is not. There are circumstances where there is a real need and individual cases where it serves the needs of the child. That should be the focus, to have a law that permits the child to get what he or she needs."

And some legal experts in California question the impact of such a law on an array of issues like tax deductions and wrongful death suits.

Leno acknowledges that the law might be applied in "rare circumstances" and only when it is required "for the best interests of the child."

"Some of the hyperbolic corners of the opposition are suggesting there could be four, six or eight parents," he said. "But I think that it will not be used when a child has too many parents, but when there are too few."

The bill was co-sponsored by the University of San Diego School of Law's Children's Advocacy Institute and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Could Spanking Children Cause Harm in Adulthood?, Canada) -- Physical punishment such as spanking, pushing, grabbing or slapping in childhood could do more harm than good, according to researchers.

A study, authored by Dr. Tracie Afifi of the University of Manitoba and colleagues, suggests that childhood spanking could be linked to adult personality disorders.  The researchers found an increased risk of substance abuse and anxiety, mood and personality disorders in adults who reported physical punishment in their childhood. Between two and seven percent of mental disorders are attributable to physical punishment, researchers reported in the study published in the journal Pediatrics.

If not a firm connection, but the researchers say there's at least an association between physical punishment of children and mental problems when they grow older.  Child psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic Kate Eshleman, who was not involved in the study, agrees.

"There is no direct link.  The study just shows that kids that have been physically disciplined are at an increased risk for these things," Eshleman said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics already opposes spanking and Eshleman says spanking is not an effective way to change behavior. She suggests other methods such as removing privileges when children are doing things they are not supposed to do.

"You know, taking a break from the things that they want to do. Or, for older kids, you know, taking away cell phones," she said.

Eshleman cautions that physical punishment affects every child differently and should be avoided despite individual cases where this kind of discipline produced seemingly positive results.

"Certainly there are kids who have been, you know, spanked who have turned out just fine. But, if there are things that we know place people at an increased risk, and we can avoid these things, we certainly want to do so," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Extreme Parenting: To Leash or Not to Leash?

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s becoming almost a common sight – and a great debate for any modern family. Should you leash small children? For parents across the country, there is no middle ground.

Mother of four and family psychologist Kristen Howerton of New York City says she was given a safety harness as a gift.

“I felt a little funny about it. We were on vacation with my sister-in-law in Seattle. I was juggling a bunch of children and worried about someone running out, and she said ‘Why don’t you put this on your daughter?’ So I did and it just kind of made sense,” said Howerton.

But when Howerton, 37, used the harness she said she got so many looks she put it away and hasn’t used it a lot. People were glaring at her and making comments about how it’s a child and not a dog.

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There were some benefits to using the harness, however.

“It was great. My daughter was walking freely she felt like she had freedom, but I felt like she was safe. It was a great experience other than other people,” Howerton said.

Child psychologist Tina Bryson explained why she believes parents are choosing to leash their kids.

“A lot of times the parents who are using it are using it because it’s based on a child’s behavior that they’ve seen,” said Bryson.

For Howerton, whose husband was hit by a car, it’s all about safety, regardless of the criticism.

“You only use a restraint like that when it’s a safety issue. You don’t use it at the park. You don’t use it when they’re playing in the backyard. It’s a time when you’re getting from A to B and making sure everybody is safe,” said Howerton.

Some people even say it’s a restriction on a child’s natural curiosity or freedom to explore. But Howerton would argue, “In the middle of a busy street or in an airport going gate to gate is not a time for a child’s natural curiosity.”

Mother of two, Lauren Jimeson, of Costa Mesa, Calif., was leashed as a child herself, and says there is never a good excuse to restrain your child.

“I remember being embarrassed. And I promised myself I would never ever do that to my children. There’s always a way to help restrain them without putting a leash on them,” Jimeson said.

Jimeson, 28, believes giving her 2-year-old daughter more freedom actually makes her a more attentive parent than those who use leashes.

“Parents can use it as a false security, thinking that okay, my kid is attached to me. Maybe I don’t have to watch them as much as I do,” she said.

But Bryson thinks differently.

“Everybody’s child is different.  And if a parent hasn’t had an experience of having a really impulsive child, they may not really understand what it’s like,” Bryson said.

Howerton hopes parents everywhere will stop the judging and start a conversation about what works best for each family.

“I think the solution here is that parents shouldn’t judge other parents. They shouldn’t be concerned about what other people are doing unless a child is actually harmed,” said Howerton.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Childless by Choice: Why Some Americans Pass on Parenthood

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Shannon Chamberlain doesn't want kids, but most people think she'll get over it.

"They keep telling me I'll change my mind," said 29-year-old Chamberlain from Alameda, Calif. "Or they assume you're infertile. At least that staves off the questions!"

Chamberlain, who's currently pursuing a PhD in English literature at Berkeley, insists her decision to forgo parenthood is both voluntary and final. And she's not alone. One in seven non-parents of childbearing age is childless by choice, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I have a great life," said Chamberlain, who enjoys exotic trips and lazy Saturdays with her husband. "Adding something else into the mix could make things worse. I suppose it could also make things better, but that's not really a chance I'm willing to take."

Chamberlain defended her stance on spawn in an essay for Slate magazine, writing, "Having kids is making a decision to live a life with strollers, diaper bags, breast pumps, sleep deprivation, and the withering looks from strangers like me, who wonder why you thought it was a good idea to bring your toddler to a Victorian painting exhibit."

It sounds selfish, Chamberlain admits.

"But I do care about myself, and I know I wouldn't be a good parent if I was unhappy," she said, describing the thought of attachment parenting as her "own personal nightmare."

Birth rates are declining, according to the CDC, as more Americans put parenthood on hold in uncertain economic times. But a relatively stable 6 percent of U.S. adults decide to skip kids for reasons beyond their estimated $234,000 per head price tag.

Heather Gentry, 26, said she chooses to be childless because kids are like parasites.

"To have my body distorted beyond recognition for an alien-looking creature to live there for nine or 10 months and use up my food and energy storage? To have doctors poke and prod at my most private places because that's where it'll be born? Then, to be free of the creature on the inside, but to have to care for it for years and years, while it eats my food, lives in my house, and takes up my energy?" she wrote in her essay for Slate. "No, thank you, I will not have kids/parasites for reasons that will probably insult you."

Gentry, who works as a waitress in Summerville, Ga., said she knew her kid-parasite comparison would be controversial.

"It's kind of a hot-button issue. Mamas love their sweet little babies," she said. "I don't have anything against them; I just don't feel like I can do it. I'm kind of glad there are people like them and people like me."

The opposing views provide a necessary balance, Gentry argued in her essay.

"If I can suffer through your alien ultrasound photo on Facebook or grin at your crying kids without vomiting, then you can be grateful that women like me will always be around to organize an occasional girl's night out and to keep the population in check."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio