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Do you flinch when you see your little ones shoving and pantingbrothers-rough-play during a wrestling match? I know I do! It makes me ill at ease when I see my youngest boy tackling his friend to the ground during play date, leaving me to wonder, “What would the other parent think of my out-of-control little boy?”

As parents, our first instinct is to break up the fun whenever we see our kids engage in any random physical activity as we do not want them to hurt themselves or their siblings and friends.

When you have two young children, who also happen to be boys, you’ll know what I’m talking about. My boys constantly engage in active physical play where, on several occasions, one or the other would sustain some form of injury during roughhousing. It could be a blister here or a cut lip there, and sounding like a broken record, no less, you’d hear me calling out to them to end their “friendly scuffles”.

I’ve lost count of the number of pillow fights I had to break up or when I had to separate both kids when one is being pinned down by the other (in fact, they are at it again for the umpteenth time today, as I write this piece!). With such daily occurrences, one learns to anticipate and prepare for the waterworks that will inevitably result from such scenarios.

While I fret over these skirmishes, my husband and even my parents say it’s OK for the boys to “have fun” as that’s how children play. Sometimes, I wonder how did I become the person I am today – a jittery and overprotective mum who worries about the little things. Growing up in a household where boys outnumbered girls, I’ve had my fair share of roughhousing, but I had always managed to hold my own, and even have a couple of scars to remind me of the falls and tumbles I took along the way, but not without dishing out the same to the other party.

Even my mum never enforced a ceasefire whenever we “roughed it out”, but once I grew older, she reminded me every now and then on how a girl ought to behave around boys!

So, it caught me by surprise that there are benefits to roughhousing. According to authors Dr Anthony T DeBenedet and Lawrence J Cohen who penned the book entitled The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It, roughhousing lets kids learn through play, while further stating that such active physical engagement “makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful”. And if you go online, there’s even a slew of scientific research to back up this type of activity. Well, how about that!

It seems that roughhousing not only stimulates the brain but also enhances one’s memory, learning, language, and logic. And that’s not all – it keeps kids fit as it involves complex motor learning, concentration, coordination, body control, cardiovascular fitness, and flexibility. The authors also advocate roughhousing between parent and child as nothing communicates a bond better than positive physical contact, which I’m sure most parents can relate to.brothers

According to DeBenedet and Cohen: When we roughhouse with our kids, we model for them how someone bigger and stronger holds back. We teach them self-control, fairness, and empathy. We let them win, which gives them confidence and demonstrates that winning isn’t everything. We show them how much can be accomplished by cooperation and how to constructively channel competitive energy so that it doesn’t take over.

Kids who engage in roughhouse activities also learn the difference between innocent play and aggression, which in turn can help them hone their social and problem-solving skills, says the authors. They also learn how to take turns, among other things.

As a parent, I’m in awe by the new things I learn each day about raising kids. For those who, like me, have prevented our kids from engaging in roughhousing, perhaps it’s time to reconsider our actions and shift our mindset.

Maybe it’s time to step back and not over-react whenever the kids engage in exuberant play. One starting point is to set up limits and safety rules, like getting the kids to yell “Stop” and “No hitting” while roughhousing, for example.

Now, who says you can’t have a good time – and a good laugh – when the going gets “rough”?

About Author

Caroline Francis

Caroline Francis has been a sub-editor and writer for over 20 years. She spent 12 years working with an awesome team at IT Publications where she was the assistant chief sub-editor for its technology pullout.

Read more about her.

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