Start Hitting Your Brother? The Argument for Roughhousing

“Me and my brother had an…interesting…relationship.  He did teach me how to take a beating.”

–My brother Dan’s toast at my wedding

Yep, Mr. Peace, Love, and Understanding over here was a serial roughhouser.  My little brother’s friends regale me to this day with stories about how I used to pick them up and throw them around like rag dolls when they came over to play.

Now, when I was a kid, I was more uptight than I am now (which is saying something, let me tell you) and when my little brother, an expert at getting under my skin, would goad me, I would often return the favor in a manner perhaps a bit…beyond the realm of quid-pro-quo.

Flotation devices recommended for pool roughhousing

Now one might think now that I’m Mr. conflict resolution, I have forsaken roughhousing for hugging and long talks about our feelings.  But while the boys and I do plenty of the latter, roughhousing is an absolutely constant part of our relationship.  Whether it’s sitting on their lap and pretending that they are Santa, to being a third-generation belly-button eater (I prefer the blowing raspberries technique), the fellas and I are always going at it.  Indeed, when Gus has friends over, I’ll be downstairs writing and then he and his friends come downstairs and he says, “We’ve decided it’s time for you to come and get us now, Dad.”  One Mel Blanc-inspired Tasmanian Devil cry later, and I’m off to be whatever monster they’ve dreamed up that moment.

Given my proclivity toward nonviolence, however, roughhousing has always felt like a bit of a guilty pleasure.  It was a great way to connect with my boys and his friends, but, certainly, it didn’t seem to be helping to teach any particularly valuable conflict partnership skills.

Well, the good people over at 8 Bit Dad have reviewed a new book titled The Art of Roughhousing which, to this Dad, is something of a revelation.  Written by two doctor Dads, Anthony T. DeBenedet, M.D., Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D. the book shows how rough-and-tumble play can nurture close connections, solve behavior problems, boost confidence, and more.  Though it feels a bit counter-intuitive when thinking about it intellectually, there is something in my experience tossing my kids onto the bed or sofa that makes that conclusion feel right.

Other than the validation, the other interesting thing about this book is the fact that they put together a whole guide to roughhousing, giving examples and safety tips because, as the authors say, “roughhousing is great fun because it’s a little dangerous.”

I’m definitely going to buy the book as if for nothing else I’m curious about the social skills they feel their examples can help kids learn.  The review goes into more detail on how the book is laid out and gives a couple of specific examples as well.  Well worth checking out.

Now, where did I put that tickle monster puppet?

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