Should children be put on leashes?
  • | dtinews.vn | March 03, 2011 04:15 PM

I once said that American children are spoiled and overprotected. Some people were puzzled by this.

One person said, “I thought American children were very independent.”

Le Na commented on the blog, “ It\'s funny I used to [think] that American children are self-made, not spoiled and overprotected.”

I can see why you might think this, from far away. Yes, we move away from home at around the age of 18.

But - and some Americans will probably hate me for saying it, but - children are not independent in the U.S. Not at all.

Let me familiarise you with a couple American terms:

Soccer Mom: This is a suburban mother who spends all her time managing her child’s activities.

Helicopter Parents: These are parents who hover over their kids like a helicopter.

Maybe this doesn’t sound that bad, but some parents have taken it to an extreme.

When I was young I was allowed to go outside and play in the streets and alleys. I got into a few fights. My brother played with matches and burned himself.

Now I know how to avoid fights. My brother knows not to put a burning match into his mouth.

In Vietnam when I see a child I might say “hello”, have a little conversation. They might learn a bit of English, I might learn a bit of Vietnamese. One little girl I met gave me her old Vietnamese textbook from the first grade so i could study.

In the U.S., I’ve been in the supermarket, saw a cute kid and tried to wave hello. The mother looked at me as if I was going to kidnap him. She turned around and walked away, quickly, dragging the small boy.

In the United states I have even seen children on leashes. Do you believe me? No? Well:

One mother blogged, “I can’t bring myself to think about taking them to the street without any kind of restraint. I think leashes are a fantastic idea!”

Fantastic? Really?

Leashes are for dogs!

In Vietnam I’ve seen young children walking down the street at 11pm, unaccompanied.

In Vietnam it seems like children can go out by themselves and play with their friends. Maybe they will even come home with a bruise or a little injury, maybe they got into a fight or fell down. But that’s what children do. In this way they get to learn lessons on their own.

Of course freedom for children can go too far. If you have time, watch this youtube clip:


It’s a small child, maybe in Mexico, playing with a knife, trying to open something. Very scary! Watching, I thought he might kill both a turtle and a dog. Still, he knew how to use that knife.

The U.S. exports many things: Coca Cola, technology, jobs, war. I hope that our habits in raising children is not imported here.

It wasn’t always the same in the U.S.. When I was about 8 years old we had a Halloween parade at my primary school. My mom used a cardboard box and paint to dress me up as a pack of cigarettes. I went to school dressed as a box of Marlboro Lights. It was funny. But now, if a parent did this, they might get a visit from the authorities.

There is a serious side to all this. Why would someone keep a child on a leash?

Fear, I think.

When I was back in the U.S. I really noticed the atmosphere of fear. People are scared of everything: thieves, losing their jobs, kidnappers, the bird flu.

Yes, the world is a dangerous place. But fear can be more dangerous. It can be crippling.

Vietnam has consistently been on the list of the top 10 most optimistic countries. No wonder. There are so many young people. Children go outside and play freely. Sure, they might see some bad things, but they also learn how to fend for themselves; learn how to live. They are not afraid.

In the U.S., they stay at home, protected from the outside world. They watch television and play video games where they shoot people. Sometimes they even go to school with a gun to try it in real life.

This is why I find Vietnamese children delightful, even though I don’t want to have one of my own.

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