For many parents, playing rough with their kids can seem scary. No parent ever wants to do anything that could possibly harm their child. Sometimes, however, it’s okay to get a little rough. Don’t you remember how exciting it was being scooped up for a piggy back ride with your parents! Children need to play, and by playing rough with your child you are not only helping to meet that need but also aiding in their mental development. This type of physical interaction is called roughhousing.

Roughhousing with your child will also help to strengthen your relationship. Don’t just take our word for it! Is there anything better for a child than being able to spend quality time with their parent. The fear to roughhouse comes from not knowing how to do it safely, but by setting boundaries and communicating with your child during play you can create a safe environment to play in.

Getting a Little Rough with your Child Isn’t a Bad Thing

Roughhousing is not fighting, it is a type of rowdy play that promotes safe physical interaction between parents and their kids. This can be pillow fights, imaginative play, throws, flips or anything else that involves physical interaction with your child. However, a lot of schools and parents are hesitant on the idea of physical play.

Schools across America continue to put more restrictions on the type of play that students are able to participate in at recess. One elementary school in California recently banned tag and other high contact games saying that “students are expected to keep their hands and feet to themselves. The rationale behind this is to ensure the physical and emotional safety of all students.”(1)

Unfortunately, it seems that banning games such as tag is doing more harm than good. In fact, it can cause children to miss out on all the benefits that interactive play has to offer. 

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3 Surprising Benefits of Roughhousing

Rough play has a huge impact on the positive development of children. Besides the obvious benefit of physical fitness, roughhousing can have emotional benefits too!

1.Helps Build a Stronger Relationship with your Child

Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen, the authors of “The Art of Roughhousing,” explain in an interview with The New York Times that “it helps dads and children tune into each other.” Through play, parents and children  gain a sense of each other’s emotions and cues, which can foster a sense of unity.(2)

2.Makes Your Kid Smarter

DeBenedet and Cohen also share that kids who roughhouse with their parents perform better in school and “make better friends”  than those who don’t. The revving up and calming down of rough play helps the child to develop an emotional intelligence. This can come in handy for your child when making friends and building relationships at school.(3)

3. Teaches Ethics and Builds your Child’s Morality

This lesson comes mainly from the parent who is leading the rough play. When the parent holds back their superior strength and shows control over their actions they are teaching their child to do the same. There is an emphasis on having loving physical contact during play that children need to receive from their parents.

DeBenedet and Cohen explain that this is especially important for boys because “they need to learn there is more to physical contact then sex  and violence” and for girls, it develops “a sense of inner strength.”(4)

Rules for Safe Roughhousing

For good roughhousing, it is important to follow rules and pay attention to how your playing with your child. Pay attention to joints and always play on a soft surface like a mat or carpet. Make it clear to your child that no moves like headlocks, eye gouges or gut punches are allowed. Lastly stay close to your child so that you can spot them to make sure they don’t fall or hit themselves accidentally.

Some other tips can include starting to roughhouse earlier on in the day to give your child time to naturally wind down before bed. It is also a good idea to have timeouts during roughhousing. Calling “freeze” will help your child get used to calming down then revving backup which trains their brain not to spiral out of control.(5)

For more information on roughhousing be sure to check out Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen’s book The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It.”

 

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