The Importance of Roughhousing With Your Kids

by Brett & Kate McKay on February 7, 2012 · 145 comments

in Fatherhood, Relationships & Family

Roughhousing. Horseplay. Wrastling. Whatever you call it, it’s one of the best things about being a dad. I love chasing my one-year-old son, Gus, around the house or pretending that the living room is a lucha libre ring and wrestling with him. No matter how stressed out I’m feeling, hearing one of his big, belly laughs erupt as I swing him around like a monkey makes all my cares go away.

Gus-Dad Throwdown

Unfortunately, in recent years, horseplay has gotten a bad rap. Parents, concerned about safety and preventing ADHD, limit the amount of rambunctious play their kids take part in. At least 40% of US school districts have eliminated or are considering eliminating recess, because  teachers need more time to cram kids’ heads full of information for standardized tests, because they’re afraid of children getting hurt and the school being held liable, and even because play can apparently encourage violent behavior; according to a principal that banned recess at her elementary school in Cheyenne, a game of tag “progresses easily into slapping and hitting and pushing instead of just touching.”

But recent research has shown that roughhousing serves an evolutionary purpose and actually provides a myriad of benefits for our progeny.  In their book The Art of Roughhousing, Anthony DeBenedet and Larry Cohen highlight a few of these benefits and the research behind them. Instead of teaching kids to be violent and impulsive, DeBenedet and Cohen boldly claim that roughhousing “makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful.” In short, roughhousing makes your kid awesome.

Below, we highlight six benefits of roughhousing with your children. The next time your wife gets on to you for riling up the kids, you can tell her: “I’m helping our children develop into healthy, functioning adults, dear!”…right before performing a baby suplex on your daughter.

The Benefits of Roughhousing

Roughhousing Boosts Your Kid’s Resilience

Helping your child develop a resilient spirit is one of the best things you can do as a parent. The ability to bounce back from failures and adapt to unpredictable situations will help your kids reach their full potential and live happier lives as adults. And an easy way to help boost your kids’ resilience is to put them in a gentle headlock and give them a noogie.

Roughhousing requires your child to adapt quickly to unpredictable situations. One minute they might be riding you like a horse and the next they could be swinging upside-down. According to evolutionary biologist Marc Bekoff in his book Wild Justice, the unpredictable nature of roughhousing actually rewires a child’s brain by increasing the connections between neurons in the cerebral cortex, which in turn contributes to behavioral flexibility. Learning how to cope with sudden changes while roughhousing trains your kiddos to cope with unexpected bumps in the road when they’re out in the real world.

Additionally, roughhousing helps develop your children’s grit and stick-to-itiveness. You shouldn’t just let your kids “win” every time when you roughhouse with them. Whether they’re trying to escape from your hold or run past you in the hallway, make them work for it. Playtime is a fun and safe place to teach your kids that failure is often just a temporary state and that victory goes to the person who keeps at it and learns from his mistakes.

Roughhousing also helps children learn how to manage and deal with pain and discomfort. You shouldn’t intentionally hurt your kids while roughhousing (obviously), but little bumps and scrapes are bound to happen. Instead of cuddling and kissing a child’s “boo boo,” dads have a tendency to distract their kids from the pain with humor or some other task. Learning to deal with and manage minor discomforts while roughhousing can help your child handle the stresses they’ll encounter at school and work.

Roughhousing Makes Your Kid Smarter

Image by ctsnow

Go ahead. Toss your kid like a sack of potatoes onto your bed. It will help turn him into a Toddler Einstein.

Psychologist Anthony Pellegrini has found that the amount of roughhousing children engage in predicts their achievement in first grade better than their kindergarten test scores do. What is it about rough and tumble play that makes kids smarter? Well, a couple things.

First, as we discussed above, roughhousing makes your kid more resilient and resilience is a key in developing children’s intelligence. Resilient kids tend to see failure more as a challenge to overcome rather than an event that defines them.  This sort of intellectual resilience helps ensure your children bounce back from bad grades and gives them the grit to keep trying until they’ve mastered a topic.

In addition to making students more resilient, roughhousing actually rewires the brain for learning. Neuroscientists studying animal and human brains have found that bouts of rough-and-tumble play increase the brain’s level of a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF helps increase neuron growth in the parts of the brain responsible for memory, logic, and higher learning–skills necessary for academic success.

Roughhousing Builds Social Intelligence

I’ve talked to several parents, especially moms, who are afraid to encourage roughhousing because they think it will turn their kids into little bouncing-off-the-walls hellians who will someday wind up in a juvie center. I guess I can see the reasoning behind their concerns–five-year-old play fights with dad; five-year-old thinks violence is fun; five year old turns into violent sadist bent on human destruction.

The problem is that research actually shows the opposite outcome: children who engage in frequent roughhousing are almost always more socially and emotionally adept than kids who don’t. Dr. Stuart Brown, an expert on play (Yeah, you can be an expert on play. Who knew?) says that the “lack of experience with rough-and-tumble play hampers the normal give-and-take necessary for social mastery and has been linked with poor control of violent impulses later in life.” That’s right. Wrestling your kid around in a play fight ensures that he doesn’t turn into the next Ted Bundy. Keeping him away from the neighborhood cats helps too.

Roughhousing builds social intelligence in several ways. First, when kids roughhouse they learn to tell the difference between play and actual aggression. Dr. Pellegrini found in a survey among school-aged children that the ones who could tell the difference between play and real aggression were more well-liked compared to kids who had a hard time separating the two. The kids who mistook play for aggression often ended up returning their classmates good-natured overtures with a real punch in the kisser. The ability to differentiate between play and aggression translates into other social skills that require people to read and interpret social cues.

Roughhousing also teaches children about taking turns and cooperation. You might not recognize it, but when you horse around with your kids, you’re often taking part in a give-and-take negotiation where the goal is to make sure everyone has fun.  Sometimes you’re the chaser and sometimes you’re the chasee; sometimes you’re pinning down your kids and other times they’re pinning you down. Your kids wouldn’t want to keep playing if they were constantly on the losing side.  Everyone has to take turns in order for the fun to continue.

What’s interesting is that animals even take part in this back-and-forth role reversal. Adult wolves will expose their bellies and necks to their cubs and let them “win” the play fight. Stronger rats will handicap themselves during bouts of play and let the weaker rat win so play can continue. Marc Bekoff posits that roughhousing may be nature’s way of teaching cooperation to animals, a necessary skill for the survival of a species.

Roughhousing Teaches Your Kid Morality

We all want kids who end up like Atticus Finch–moral, upright, compassionate. That’s exactly why you need to body slam your kid every now and then.

When we roughhouse with our sons and daughters, they learn boundaries and the difference between right and wrong. If they start hitting hard, aiming below the belt, or becoming malicious, you can reprimand them and then show by example what’s appropriate roughhousing behavior.

Also, roughhousing teaches our children about the appropriate use of strength and power. As I mentioned earlier, when we roughhouse with our kids, we often take turns with the dominant role. Because we’re so much bigger and stronger, we have to handicap ourselves. The implicit message to your child when you hold back is: “Winning isn’t everything. You don’t need to dominate all the time. There’s strength in showing compassion on those weaker than you.”

Roughhousing Gets Your Kid Physically Active

Dads have a profound impact on their children’s physical fitness. Studies have shown that the father’s, (not the mother’s), activity level and weight strongly predict what their children’s activity level and weight will be as adults. If you want your kids to be healthy, active, and fit, then you better be healthy, active, and fit yourself.

What better way to teach your kids to live an active lifestyle than by getting down on the carpet with them for some vigorous roughhousing instead of everyone vegging out in front of the TV? All that running, tumbling, and tackling helps develop strength, flexibility, and coordination in your child.

Roughhousing Builds the Father-Child Bond

Some of my best memories of my childhood were when my dad roughhoused with my brother and I. When we were smaller he’d do the obligatory “ride the horsey.” When we got a little bigger we moved to slap fighting, which consisted of my dad dramatically swirling his hands in front of him like you see fighters do in the old kung fu movies and then very lightly smacking our heads with quick open-handed jabs. Slap fights were the best.

You probably have similar memories of roughhousing with your dad. Roughhousing offers dads a chance to physically show their affection to their kids in a fun and playful environment. When Gus and I wrestle, there are lots of hugs and kisses scattered in-between pretend sleeper holds.

When you throw your kids up in the air and catch them or swing them upside-down, you’re building your child’s trust in you. As they take part in somewhat risky activities with you, your kids learn that they can trust you to keep them safe. Just don’t be like this guy when you tell your kids to jump into your arms:

How to Roughhouse With Your Kids

The beauty of roughhousing is that there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Roughhousing is just spontaneous, improvised play that’s both rowdy and interactive. Don’t think too much about whether you’re doing it wrong or right. Just have fun.

With that said, the The Art of Roughhousing provides a few guidelines to keep in mind while you’re tossing your kids in the air:

Safety first. While you want to get rough and rowdy with your kids, you don’t want to get too crazy with them. Just be aware of your surroundings and keep your kids away from areas where they can get hurt. Also, keep in mind that a child’s joints are prone to injury when roughhousing. Save the joint locks for when your kids are older and fully developed.

Don’t roughhouse right before bed. For me, I have a tendency to want to horse around with Gus right before bed. I’m going to miss the little guy while he’s asleep, so I want to get in as much daddy time as I can before he hits the hay. But just like adults, kids need some time right before bed to relax and ramp things down so they can get into sleep mode. Unless you want a little night owl joining you on the couch to watch late-night TV, roughhouse earlier in the day.

Roughhousing is for girls, too.  While boys are naturally prone to engage in roughhousing, make sure you don’t leave your daughters out of the fun. Studies show that girls who roughhouse with their fathers are more confident than girls who don’t. And some studies even indicate that roughhousing can prevent your little angel from growing up into one of those Queen Bee, Mean Girls that psychologically terrorize other girls.

If you’re looking for specific things to do with your kids while roughhousing, I definitely recommend picking up a copy of The Art of Roughhousing. The book features some great suggestions for roughhousing fun, along with helpful illustrations showing you how to do them. Also, you can visit their website for roughhousing ideas, too.

Sources:

The Art of Roughhousing by Anthony DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen
Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals by Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce
The Science of Parenting by Margot Sunderland

{ 145 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Rick S. February 14, 2012 at 3:58 pm

I love rough-housing with my 4 year old. What I love most is when he starts laughing, it is such a joy to hear it.

102 Sean February 15, 2012 at 11:55 am

Great read! My son and I really enjoy this time together. Hearing his scream when he knows he’s being chased or about the get caught is the best. Funny enough, he’s one and his name is Gus, too!

More guys need to take active roles in their children’s lives. So, thanks for this blog. Real men love their kids and aren’t afraid to show it daily.

103 Bill February 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm

What an incredible article. I loved all of it. My brother and sister and I have the fondest memories of wresting with my dad. All of the points made in the article are true. I roughhouse with my kids now, both the boys and the girls and love every minute of it.
We typically had our wrestling matches before bed and my dad would carry us piggyback up 2 flights of stairs to bed. All three of us.
My dad is now well over 70 and I attribute his great health and young appearance to this and all of the other physical things we did together as kids.
Thanks for such a great article. Those precious memories came flooding back.

104 Rich February 19, 2012 at 9:45 am

Normally I don’t comment here but I took the act yesterday and cited many reasons from here why kids should be active, thanks AoM :D

105 Eddie February 21, 2012 at 8:54 am

I think we all forget one thing, kids are at the core “retarded balls of energy.” And I mean that in the best possible way. To stop them from venting it would cause behavior problems than it stops.

106 Angela February 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm

I love this article! We roughhouse with our kids, who just happen to be boys (1.5 and 3.5 years old). I’m happy to say that I also roughhouse; it’s fun for moms too!

107 Stacey February 21, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Awesome!! I rough house with both my girls (2.5 yrs and 8 months) granted with the baby its just tickling and wiggling her around.. My 2year old loves it.. I throw her on a big bean bag thing we have.. and I push her back on it.. And she comes back for more every time.. That little girl has so much energy that it helps wind her down somewhat lol.. Daddy rough houses with her too and will with the baby when he comes home from Afghanistan.. So for now its just me.. So i try to make up for what he can’t right now:) I didn’t know there were ppl saying rough housing was bad.. Guess I grew up with it so I am used to it. Im 28 yrs old and still rough house with my siblings from time to time..

108 Brian February 21, 2012 at 11:35 pm

One only has to look at the animal kingdom for reaffirmation of “rough housing” as natural and needed. Most mammal children engage in rough housing regularly. It’s an integral part of their development and likewise it should be in this mammalian species as well!

109 Tom February 24, 2012 at 4:42 am

Great article. I have two boys, 4 and 5 and roughhousing has always been a big thing for us – we even got to the stage of inventing special wrestler type names!

110 Scott February 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I could not agree with you more. I would like to know, WHAT Dad doesn’t like rough-housing with his son? That is making him a Man just in doing that plus it is showing him Love at the same time. A boy thrives off of that kind of stuff. Want to know how I get my son to want to run back to our bed if he has a poopy diaper on or just needs one changed? if we’re in the living room, I can say, “Sam lets go change your diaper……Ready…..Set..GO!!!” and clap my hands and we are both running back to the other side of the house as fast as we can laughing because we know that is fun and something I’ve developed in him.

111 Will February 26, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Excellent article! We have a safe word when rough housing. If my five year old son says “Uncle” we stop wrestling and I let him get up. We also finish rough housing with a handshake!

112 East February 29, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Please do roughhouse with your kids and treat it like a big happy game. Our dad would always treat it like an attack and he had to win against 5 year olds at all costs– so now I freak out and feel like I’m being assaulted if someone wants to tumble.

113 Mal Bicker March 4, 2012 at 9:06 am

my brother and I wrestled from as early as I can remember. He, three years younger than I, would fake a cry when I had him pinned and I would let up a little and he would immediately ferociously try to pin me down. That was 60 years ago and we still love each other. Andrew, your Dad and big brother; Steve, and I had some fun roughhousing as they grew up. I never knew of them maliciously trying to seriously hurt each other. We were a loving family. I enjoyed the blg. Andrew, I know you will be a great father and teach your sons how to fight fairly without being mean.

114 Mal Bicker March 4, 2012 at 9:15 am

Delete “I enjoyed the big” It doesn’t make sense.

115 Allen Butcher March 6, 2012 at 9:22 am

I truly understand the importance of rough housing with your kids. I have done this with my children since they were little. Just a word of caution: When your children get as big as you are, learn to block correctly. I have a torn ligament in my hand from roughhousing with my 5’6″ 170 lb 13 year old…lol.

116 David in SLC March 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Wonderful article, thank you.

You hit on it many times in the article but I wanted to just state it fully: the main reason that roughhousing works in all of these ways is because it comes from a place of love. From that the rest can flow.

There is no malicious intent, violence, or intimidation involved. Just love.

117 Martin September 23, 2012 at 11:26 am

It also teches children to learn about pain. They learn what things hurt them and they can better judge what situations are harmless dangers and which ones can be really dangerous to them. Kids who are not good at that have few accidents, but then they are often worse.
It also teaches to understand when they are causing pain to others. Kids who are not allowed to fight and sometimes even make other kids cry do not learn how much damage and pain they can cause others. Those who don’t learn this are the ones who become excessively brutal and cruel because they don’t know when to stop.

118 cashdoller October 19, 2012 at 5:52 am

Absolutely agree 100% this is entirely a father thing and my daughter is a more confident awesome pre-teen because of it. I never thought about it till I read it here. Great article guys.

119 Dov October 24, 2012 at 7:19 pm

I love this! I’m 15, and my Dad and I still “rough” house. Since all my siblings are older, I haven’t had someone younger than me to rough house with. But, then I see my little cousins and we’ll wrastle and it’s so much fun for everyone!

120 Ray November 1, 2012 at 4:54 am

I’m a personal trainer, so physical fitness for my son is vitally important for me. He’s also an only child so he doesn’t have the same rough-housing opportunities as some other kids. That’s why we have nightly “Thunderdome” sessions. You know: Two men enter, one man leaves. The rules are, there are no rules. He’s almost four now, and strong like bull! And when he laughs his butt off while he tries to pin me, I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.

121 Lisa January 16, 2013 at 11:43 am

I’m not so sure, while we roughhouse, or horseplay as we call it here, my 7 year old boy hates when rough play gets hurtful, and he doens’t like being hurt. I am very careful how I play with him and if by accident he gets hurt I always stop and apologize, which I suppose would reflect the adult world: not to see how far we can go before we are told to stop but to be aware and to stop and say sorry as soon as we hurt somebody else, even unintentionally. i think this is important, as he would need to know for example that slapping someone while playing, is not really “fun” as slapping in itself is a hurtful gesture, which extended ends in abuse. Play should never incorporate forms of abuse as acceptable forms of play. Play should role play and model interaction that considers others safety, feelings and gentleness at all times, whether for girls or boys, I believe this stems into better world relationships, where both in friendships and in relationships the other’s person’s feelings are considered and how we are transmitting to other people. Therefore as physical interaction has to be guided and controlled also, same as how we behave and speak to other people. Otherwise anything goes. By role playing any act that simulates violence, even if done “out of love”( “i’ll slap you becuase I love you and you know I am joking) is to me further disfunctionality, that then leads to teasing, putting people down later on or can even in relationships. It can lead to boys being men who put their wives down or wives who put their men down for example as a “joke”, where relationships have no respect, but of course it’s meant to come from love however it can create gaps that widen eventually in fact. therefore, I think horseplay is great for kids, either sex, so long as it is guided and that the child always feels totally safe with the grown up and that nothing wierd or hurtful or unsafe will happen. The grown up should provide the role of protector, at all time, as that is one of their functions as grown up in charge. Obviously chasing around is great fun, the child is clearly aware that it’s a game, the thrill of being chased, but that in the end all is alright and nobody will be hurt intentionally. It’s a pretend scare, within parameters acceptable to the child and therefore fun. I strongly believe that any violent or agressive behaviours even mild or pretend ones in so called “Play” are teaching the opposite: that it’s ok to be abused in play, therefore it is ok to be abused in the world outside of play either by family, freinds, schoolmates, or especially the one close protector available. This sets the child up for parallell real-life situations where the child will learn that if there is some abuse, even a small amount they should just put up with as eveyrbody does and just get over it, which to me us unaccepable. Therefore any horseplay the grown up is in charge, responsible and should be very careful how they play horseplay and enjoy, without setting the child up to tolerate even mild forms of abuse in the form of “play”. From this I would personally leave out any slapping, kicking or punching and not encourage with my kids or my kids towards me or anybody else, evne as boys, however chasing, lifting, sliding and rolling and carrying and all of that , anything that’s fun and has them laughing and not confused, uncomfortable or even worst case scenario in tears is of course ok in the horseplay. This from toddler age on, as behaviour will be repeated learnt at home around the school yard and beyond into workplaces, relationships etc. We have great fun in horseplay without any form of agression, as for me agresssion is agression even in a mild form and can never ever be written off or excused as play or fun or love. For me for someone to tell me they love me, while they are showing me this love by slapping me in any way or hurting me is setting me up for an abusive relationship and having been down the road of this type of relationship in domeestic violence scenario, where this type of behaviour was presented to me as “play” until it escalated into something more sinister I could never condone it, nor would I encourage my boys in any way to “try out” boundaries of violence, however much mild or a joke or “play”….Anyhow, each to their own.

122 Ann February 2, 2013 at 10:03 pm

“[b]oys are naturally prone to engage in roughhousing”? Yes, they are. So are girls. All CHILDREN are naturally prone to engage in roughhousing.

There is no fighting gene.

123 Victoria February 4, 2013 at 8:27 pm

I have no kids and never knew my father but I love a bit of roughhouse.
I did it with my younger brother and cousins and even some friends kids and they love it I still roughhouse with them I am 24 and five foot and even do it with my boyfriend (not in a sexual way) and I love it too but as I am a woman would it be ok for me to roughhouse with my kids in the future or is this the dads role only?

124 paula February 6, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Ummmm . . . okay Dad plays rough with our toddler and now my son is playing rough with me . . . so much that he jumped on me at full force only 3 yrs old and accidently knocked a microphone into my mouth . . . ??? . . . . now . . . he wrestles down his 1 and a half yr old brother and it seems too rough . . . how the heck do you get the balance right . . . and how long does it take because it seems like his rough and tumble play is getting way out of hand???

125 David Goncalves February 7, 2013 at 11:59 am

Um, it’s spelled ” rasslin’ “

126 Stephen February 7, 2013 at 5:36 pm

One of my favourite articles. Wrestling was lots of fun growing up. I have all sisters though so I missed out on the torments that an older brother can offer.
Is there a way you could do an article on the benefits of playing rough with your mates?

127 Ian February 7, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Great article. I am a father of four, 2 girls, twin boys. They have all enjoyed roughhousing and I swear my twin 2 year old boys seem to be pulling out some BJJ moves when they roughhouse play with each other.

128 Keri February 12, 2013 at 9:35 am

When I was little, I roughhoused with my uncle (appropriately nicknamed “Bubba”) and my Dad. I can remember my Dad tossing me up in the air and catching me and putting me on his shoulders and riding me around. And my older step-brother and I constantly wrassled and smacked each other around; we stayed bruised and scraped up.

Despite commenter Lisa’s fear that such violence will lead to adults who want to hit or accept being hit, neither my stepbrother or I grew up to be violent people. Neither of us has ever seen the back of the police car–for any reason. In fact, my stepbrother got his Master’s degree and became a Methodist minister and I went to private school and was the first person on my side of the family to get a 4-year degree.

The fact that I know how to fight with someone larger and stronger than me, I think, keeps me from having a victim mentality. If I was ever attacked by a man, by God, I’d make him hurt. He’d certainly rethink his career as a rapist–probably because he wouldn’t come out of the fight with his tackle still attached.

Just as the article says, I know quite well the difference between playing and true aggression. And because I’ve played (aka practice), I can respond seriously if I need to. So, Daddies, wrassle with your little girls; it may be the best thing you ever do for them.

129 Toni February 15, 2013 at 2:19 pm

I agree that roughhousing is beneficial to both son and father, but at what age does can a boy understand that it’s not appropriate to roughhouse with other kids, particularly at school?

130 Lonamis Group March 10, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Loved this article!… One thing I noticed that was highlighted by Bill in his comment, is the benefits of rough housing for the parents, which was touched on but not emphasised in the article.

My dad rough housed a lot with me when I was a kid and he is in his 60′s and still looks like he’s in his 40′s…. same goes for my wifes father, she loved wrestling with her dad, and they are both still enjoying the benefits of that time to this day.

131 BearClawz April 17, 2013 at 10:26 am

It’s not a father’s role exclusively. My wife and I tussle with our kids.
Also, at a certain age, and our wife can tell us, that you need to be careful how we tickle and touch our developing daughters.
The girls will be uncomfortable and too scared to tell dad that he touched her chest.

132 Bruce Egert May 4, 2013 at 7:39 am

I used to rough-up my two sons all the time when they were pre-K and beyond. Jumping, throwing, twisting, turning–you name it, I did it. Today both of them are practicing lawyers in NYC who go into courtrooms and conference rooms, never afraid to speak their mind or take on a challenge. Was I intuitively correct? I don’t know, but it sure sounds like I was !!

133 Jacob May 5, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Unfortunately…..my 3 year old Son can already take me! I gotta start working out.

134 tim_lebsack May 7, 2013 at 10:07 am

Very good article and video. As the child grows, roughhousing should develop or come to include other activities such as camping, fishing, sports participation, study, vocational guidance etc.

135 RFB May 17, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Good article with well expressed ideas. We roughhouse with our 2 girls and it is some of our favorite time together. There are also some daughter specific benefits beyond those listed. As part of our rules, if one of the girls says, “Stop,” we stop. I want them to know they have a right to insist on a halt any unwanted touching. In other readings on raising daughters, the research shows that girls who engage in horseplay with their fathers are less likely to be victims of sexual violence later.

136 Jennifer May 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm

I agree that roughhousing to some degree is good… I think one thing more to keep in mind is the temperament of the child. I read a quote one time about how to handle teasing in a family, and I think it applies here: “If it isn’t fun for everyone, it isn’t fun.”

What I mean is some kids have sensory issues that make the SEEK that kind of physical stimulation, where other kids have sensory issues that cause them to AVOID. The one who can’t handle too much stimulation shouldn’t be made fun of or taunted for not being able to handle it. I think roughhousing is still good for this child, but the parent needs to realize that they have to build the child up with very minimal roughhousing until they can handle more and more….

Also, when parents tease to the point of tears or do something that purposely brings tears, they need to realize that they are also setting up a stumbling block in their relationship with that child, making it hard to trust them.

And, parents who roughhouse more seriously really need to talk to their kids about not tackling other people’s kids, as I have seen some bad situations come from kids who did not seem to understand that it was meant to be something between them and their dad.

137 Mrs G June 14, 2013 at 2:40 pm

My two daughters, aged 8 and 6 are having rough play with their dad at this moment. It is loud,raucous and definately rough, a mix of tickles, threats, squashing, several OWs! More tickling, both of them launching themselves at him, and above all constant laughing, which is the key ingredient to this kind of play. Every evening you wil hear “Daddy, Daddy, rough and tumble time please” This is how kids unwind and let off ( a lot of) steam. Often someone gets hurt, usually Dad, but soon they will consider themselves too old for this kind of thing, and physical contact of this degree will be a thing of the past :(

138 BearClawz June 15, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Roughhousing can be done with both parents. When I am away on trips, this doesn’t mean that my children need to do without play, until I return. Mothers’ touches are just as important, maybe more so. Remember mothers are the ones who give birth and do the original hugs and cuddling to thier children, long before dad gets involved. I love to watch my wife run and then turn around and then turn back to our toddler and pick him up as they giggle and laugh. This notion that children only need dad’s fun and play should not be given to parents.

139 beenie June 15, 2013 at 5:08 pm

I liked this article. I was very surprised at it the things it’s saying (at first) but I passed it on to my husband to read . It’s very interesting and makes some excellent points.

140 cjwntaw June 25, 2013 at 5:47 pm

We have a five year old son and a three year old boy with a heart condition. And two girls. Our youngest boy always wants to do everything his older brother does, so how do we roughhouse with a child with heart problems that has already had open heart surgery at two weeks old, and soon to have another?

141 Angela August 6, 2013 at 11:38 am

Great read, I love your humor. I am a mother who fills both mom and dad roles and have been having difficulty with how others see my 3 year old and his interactions with his 2 girl cousins. I knew that my sons actions were normal but not how to keep him from constantly being seen as an aggressor. I have totally ignored my need to fulfill the dad role physically. I will be roughhousing with my son now to teach him boundaries and that it is okay to be himself.

142 Stephanie November 15, 2013 at 11:02 am

Love this article. We (my sister and I) grew up roughhousing with my Dad and each other. We were all very close. My sister passed away but I still hold fond memories of our romping. I roughhouse with my kiddo every chance I get. Her dad lives a long distance from us but I know when she is out for her visits with him they also roughhouse. My kiddo is a very compassionate and loving person at 9yrs old. Yes, we still wrestle and roughhouse and do our TaeKwonDo (we are both trained) moves on each other. So keep roughhousing, wrestling, tickling….IT IS GOOD FOR US ALL!!!!

143 Dave O' January 4, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Very good article, and one that I agree with very much. One commenter, Lisa I believe, appears very concerned about correct levels of respect being shown during any type of play that has a more physical side to it. I agree with this, and I’m terribly sorry to hear that she has experienced true violence in her own life.

Perspective and context is important with any conversation built around appropriatness around children. The author of this article is clearly a well-adjusted person who takes a careful viewpoint of parenting with a high degree of common sense and a love of life and his children. In other words, it’s a perfect storm to try something like rough-housing, as the love, trust, and confidence in himself as a parent is already in place.

Another commenter had mentioned the balancing act around this type of play. She said that her three-year old is exhibiting more aggressiveness toward her and a younger sibling. I think in a case like this, you have to look again at the context and perspective of the situation. What is the relationship between dad and son like outside of the rough-housing? Is there other behaviors that are alarming outside of the aggressive behavior? Is it just a phase?

I rough-house with my six-year-old son, my two-year-old daughter, and my wife, all at the same time. Our context and perspective seems to be much the same as many commenters and the author – there is a solid foundation of trust and empathy between us all so that when we just wanna let loose and wrestle for 20 minutes after dinner we don’t really have to think about it too much. We don’t overanalyze it at the time (except for when we write in these forums), it’s just a cool thing that our family likes to do.

Ulimately, I believe that every single act within a family must have a foundation of trust and empathy between all involved. If one of these things is missing between the people involved, there is a power imbalance; it’s only then that the slippery slope begins.

Other than that, IT’S ON!!

144 Alyssa March 15, 2014 at 2:48 am

I am a vision impaired woman so rough-housing with adult role moddles – particularly male role moddles was not only invaluable in every possible way mentioned in this article, it actually helped with developing my co-ordination, centre of gravity etc etc… self-defence strategies were learned and no my uncles, siblings etc never gave me an extra head-start, if my uncle or my stepfather had a mind to wrestle, there was no warning… it was on, and the next minute I’d be in the air or draped over a shoulder, being swung around, being tackled… so in response to the comment re: the heart condition, yes, please even if you do have to adapt it slightly, continue rough-housing it will help him in the long run. Wrestle with your kids with disabilities… not only does it build up trust between you and your children, it encourages interactions between siblings which transitions into the school yard. Of course there were boundaries, stop meant stop, and the face and private areas were no go zones. I’ll also say that my partner and I now wrestle.. he’s just as ruthless and I’m reasonably light-weight so I’m either being pinned or tossed/tickled even now. alas I don’t have children to wrestle with, but we are big children, and his children (my stepchildren) often used to join in… I think I’ll be enjoying a good wrestle til my dying day :)

145 Noémie March 25, 2014 at 10:26 am

I have the best “roughousing” father ever. When my sister and I were little, we used to play (hardcore) hide and seek around the house with him, he would toss us on the bed (what we would call the “pancake”), and he would even make a human rolling pin where he’d roll on the bed and we would have to jump in order to avoid being rolled on! I have the best daddy. Mind you, we still play rough to this day! Just no more pancake tossing and rolling pin, that would be a little bit harder.

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