My husband doesn’t know it, but he regularly helps my kids explore the edge between safety and feeling unsafe, to find out how physically and mentally strong they are, and makes them smarter and more emotionally intelligent–otherwise known as wrestling. Roughhousing.
It’s true. According to The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It by Anthony T. DeBenedet, M.D. and Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D, “roughhousing activates many different parts of the body and the brain, from the amygdalae, which process emotions, and the cerebellum, which handles complex motor skills, to the prefrontal cortex, which makes high-level judgments.” (13)
Not only that, but roughhousing builds self-confidence when they beat the more powerful adult, teaches kids that they don’t always win, builds trust between adult and child and sets an example for how to regulate yourself when you are the more powerful one.
I never knew that so much was involved in horseplay or that roughhousing was so important to our children’s development. So the last three nights, when I found myself looking forward to when my husband would crawl down onto the floor next to our sons. Instead of being annoyed by the noise or worrying about someone getting hurt, I began to see the lessons being learned–lessons that have apparently been passed down from father to son for generations, because my husband hasn’t been reading any articles on roughhousing. My first-grader punched him during their tussling, but instead of punishment, there was a playful reminder not to hit, naturally teaching respectful boundaries. The two took breaks to catch their breath, naturally teaching my sons how to calm themselves when too revved up. They took turns being in control, naturally promoting confidence and how to regulate themselves. And it seems to bring the boys closer to their dad.
I am so glad my husband loves to roughhouse and push our boys beyond what they think their limits are, to wrestle on the floor until they are laughing, panting and exhausted. I’ll stick to the more tame roughhousing like This Little Piggy.
Check back tomorrow for the second part of my roughhousing blog, featuring more of the benefits of horseplay and a list of roughhousing ideas.