Embracing Rough Play – Without Too Many Tears

A male friend of mine was puzzled as to why so many women seem to misinterpret rough boy behavior as “bad.”
He shared stories of playing play-fighting and tumbling with his son, and that for the two of them, wrestling was a form of intimacy and learning.

It is well documented that boys and girls behave differently, with some exceptions on either side.

Why are some boys so aggressive, and how can parents react in a way that supports their sons’ development?

And what about little girls who have a similar zest for expressing energy physically?

Did you ever hear your parents say something like, “You’ll be crying in a minute!”?

They were acknowledging that they could see you were having fun, but they feared the roughhousing was about to get out-of-hand, leading to tears or broken items.

We can understand that physical play is enjoyable, and also realize that someone or something could be hurt.

How do we put it all together in a helpful solution?

Roughhousing does have benefits. It can:

  • Provide sensory and motor stimulation
  • Help children learn emotional regulation
  • Promote bonding
  • Enhance self-esteem
  • Allow development of some social skills such as following the rules.

So what can moms and dads do to get these benefits safely? Here are some ideas for setting ground rules:

  • Anyone, including the parent, can say “Stop!” and the game is over
  • No hitting in anger
  • Use safe areas for rough and tumble play only
  • Repairs and make-ups are made if needed

Like any behavior, overly enthusiastic expressions of energy can also be your child’s way of telling you something.

  • He may need more physical activity (how much time does he spend sitting every day?)
  • She might have had a tough day at school and is working out her feelings, and might need your listening ear and empathy
  • He may want attention from his sibling, or she may want to connect with you.

Most importantly, when you take part in the game yourself, it is a terrific opportunity to connect and bond with your children, and help them get their giggles and wiggles out.