Whenever my children engage in playtime, it seems like the vicinity they inhabit is strained by the weight of the noise and movements they produce. My daughter who is almost 12 years old and my 9-year-old twin daughters and son are energetic and playful. During their playtime, they are noisy and active. They engage in physical activities like wrestling, pillow fights, attempting backflips, and playing with Nerf guns. Even a simple game of Uno played on the kitchen table can escalate into a full-contact competition. After all, why not play a game of tag in between turns?
When my kids are outside, they engage in the same rough play as they do indoors. No matter the activity, whether it’s a sport, game, or adventure, they participate in tackles and wrestle with each other for the sake of enjoyment. My daughters, more so than my son, are very athletic and have an abundance of energy to expend. Their play is intense and frequent. I understand their behavior because I’m similar in that regard.
I enjoy spending quality time with my children by engaging in activities such as putting together a puzzle or cuddling up with a book. However, our playtime often involves tossing a ball back and forth, launching them onto a pile of pillows, or twirling around until they become disoriented and collapse.
Despite the fact that it can be tiring and frustrating, particularly when it’s late at night and there’s only one more John Cena match before a pay-per-view event, I allow my children to participate in rough-and-tumble play with each other and with me. However, I do have specific guidelines and reasons for allowing such play. As it turns out, this type of play is beneficial for their well-being. According to Kally Hartman, LMFT, who serves as the clinical director at Ocean Recovery in Newport Beach, California, rough play has a positive impact on the emotional expression of children.
Rules of Engagement When It Comes To Rough Play
Prior to comprehensively comprehending the advantages of my children playfully climbing over each other, we discussed the importance of respecting boundaries. I instilled in my children from an early age that if they wanted to engage in playful activities such as throwing water balloons or hitting each other with stuffed toys, they needed to ensure that everyone involved was willing to be touched or hit. Additionally, they were taught to immediately stop if someone indicated discomfort or said no.
I rephrased the content as follows: I preferred not to hear my siblings get into arguments or become irritated, and most importantly, I wanted them to learn to respect one another’s physical boundaries. Through asking for consent before engaging in rough play and allowing them the freedom to decline, they are able to develop skills that will help them apply the concept of consent in situations with greater risks.
Hartman advises parents to prioritize open communication with their children, encouraging them to express their likes and dislikes to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable environment. She stresses the significance of avoiding name-calling or intentional physical harm during rough play. While there may still be instances of accidental injury, having these rules in place sets clear expectations and enables children to release any negative emotions resulting from playful incidents rather than holding grudges over unrelated matters.
What Kids Get Out of Rough Play
Engaging in rough play can be beneficial for children’s physical development as it enables them to build their body awareness and confidence while they learn to control their strength and enhance their coordination abilities. Additionally, rough play can serve as an effective outlet for stress and excess energy, while also providing a fun and enjoyable experience. Physical exertion can stimulate the release of endorphins, which in turn can boost mood and contribute to a positive and relaxed state in children. Ultimately, there are few things better than having happy and relaxed kids.
Roughhousing can provide emotional and social advantages, besides teaching children about consent. Children can learn to interpret the body language of others and regulate their emotions while engaging in intense activities. This type of play can help children develop self-assurance and self-control. When children play together, they can express their emotions in a safe manner while having fun, which enables them to release their excess energy and avoid disruptive behavior, according to Hartman’s perspective.
Miriam Frankel, an occupational therapist in mental health and the creator of online learning platform Bloom, suggests that parents should participate in physical play with their children, even if it has been a while since they last did so. Frankel states that parents should not hesitate to engage in rough and tumble activities with their kids. This type of play is a wonderful bonding experience and provides children with the opportunity to understand the implicit guidelines of roughhousing in an encouraging setting.
Playing roughly is beneficial for everyone, but parents who want to challenge gender norms can teach their children that rough play is not exclusively for boys or those who identify as masculine, nor is physical touch and affection solely for girls or a sign of weakness. Human beings have an innate desire for touch, and rough play can fulfill this need in an enjoyable and positive manner. These advantages carry over into problem-solving, managing friendships, and creating relationships rooted in respect and effective communication.
What Happens When Play Gets Too Rough?
If the play becomes too intense, we put a stop to it. Ever since my children were toddlers, they have been physically active and have grown accustomed to playing with each other in this manner. However, as they grow and because they are children and imperfect beings, things can occasionally get out of control. This can result in someone becoming upset, and sometimes the rules are disregarded, necessitating me to halt the rough play.
After everyone, including myself, has calmed down, I clarify why the activity became too intense and why a timeout was necessary. We go over the rules of consent and discuss dangerous play and losing control.
Location can be a crucial factor when it comes to rough play. Whether it be at home or in school, it’s not always appropriate. A school counselor recounted an incident where one twin pushed the other while under his supervision. However, the counselor was pleased to see that it resulted in just a playful shove and laughter. While my own twins were reminded about the importance of not touching others without consent, the counselor also acknowledged that this was consensual sibling behavior. Although my children understand not to shove their peers, I still discussed with them the appropriate time and place for such rough play between themselves.
Since the early days, I realized that it’s more effective to establish secure and comfortable surroundings for my children to play and tumble together instead of prohibiting this type of activity. Initially, my decision was driven by my own peace of mind and the safety of my kids rather than the eventual advantages of roughhousing. However, I am now grateful that I made this choice because engaging in wrestling with them has been far more productive than resisting it.