Rough and tumble...a long musing out loud

Are you one of those parents who jumps right in and mediate or "advocate" constantly for your kids? dh and I have been viewed irresponsible parents because we don't "control" our kids or "discipline" them enough in eyes of our "controlling" society. We spoil them, give them too much freedom, and permit them to get away with murder (figuratively speaking of course.) We don't intervene immediately when kids are having rough and tumble play. Why not?

Rough and tumble play allows kids to take some risks, as far as physical activity. Reason parents are sometimes uncomfortable with rough and tumble play because, to them, it symbolizes aggression, whereas to children, it symbolizes competence. There is no malice intent (at least not the kids we've encountered or fostered.) Parents have forgotten how to play and instead construe the rough play as aggression and conflict. Rough and tumble play is different from aggression. Kids aren’t always smiling during rough and tumble play-–sometimes they’re working hard to demonstrate their ability to be competent – but generally, it’s in the spirit of play. Aggression has a spirit of dominating and intimidation. Boys find it especially appealing because rough and tumble play addresses their need for power and motor skills competence. They’re imitating what society gives them as male role models. Often, they’re imitating how parents play with them at home. For boys, it gives them an opportunity to touch each other. Society doesn’t give men and boys the opportunity to touch each other. Young boys and girls across the nation (as young as 7 years old) were expelled from school because they violated the school district's "no-touching" policy. Rough and tumble play enables men to have contact with each other in a way that society agrees with. Should we constantly supervise the play and have children help come up with the rules?

Rough and tumble play doesn’t have to always involve touching other children or being combative. It can be a noisy center with cans to kick, or plastic bottles to throw against. It may be an obstacle course or even a punching pillow. It could be lifting medicine balls or running with a bag of 5-pound flour. We parents may assure the play doesn’t turn negative by checking in with them regularly. Ask the kids, “Are you playing or are you fighting? Do you both agree with this play?” Give both of the kids an opportunity to opt out of the activity. Children are exposed to too much media violence which could negatively influence their rough play. Our society is moving toward where everything needs to be more and more extreme. It’s something society has to reflect upon as far as the images that are presented to children. Kids can wind up getting frustrated, however, if you don’t let them have an outlet for their energy. Rough and tumble play may help provide such release.

Sometimes, their play gets rough. They pretend to ght and to wrestle which may appear to be serious. However, you can usually tell if they are really ghting. Playing children usually smile. Children in a real ght usually wear an angry or mean face. Toddlers applying physical force and hit others because they haven't expanded on their verbal skills yet or they are not heard or understood. They realize they have physical power and strength even at young age in a small body. Most of the time, rough play is harmless fun. But don’t count on children to understand when play is getting too rough. It is up to you to help them learn the limits of play and to put an end to rough play when it gets out of hand – especially if there is a risk of someone getting hurt.

Rough play has a purpose. Preschoolers like physical activity and usually want to play rough sometimes. This is natural and not all bad. Rough play helps children explore and understand their developing physical strength. Rough play provides an outlet for active children, especially young boys. Children usually become less active as they mature. Children like to feel control over their bodies. Rough plays lets them feel more power and control over their surroundings. Children see and experience a lot of aggression around them. Rough play, if under control, may help them enact and gure out aggression in a safe setting. Rough play may be an outlet for children to express feelings of anger and excitement that they may have trouble expressing verbally. But children don’t understand that rough play also has limits because they don’t yet know their own physical strengths; children may easily push rough play too far and lose control. Young children also don’t understand that someone may get hurt when play gets too rough. Teach your child(ren) what are dangerous behaviors. You child needs to learn that certain activities can hurt people. Use the word “dangerous” to describe things that your child should not do. For example, if your child(ren) wants to jump on your stomach when you are lying down, say, “No jumping on me, please. It is dangerous.” Teach safe rough-and-tumble play by playing with your child(ren) yourself. Rough play with your child(ren) gives you a chance to set some safety rules that will guide your child when he or she plays rough-and-tumble with others. Try this:
First, make sure when you are going to play rough, you do it in a safe place. Before you start, ask your child, “Is this a safe place to play?” Then look for things your child might bump into such as sharp corners or breakable objects. Agree on a word, such as “Stop,” that your child(ren) understands as meaning it is time to end play. Say, “When you say ‘stop,’ I will stop. When I say ‘stop,’ you will stop.’ Then, wrestle and practice stopping. If your child stops playing roughly when you say ‘stop,’ make sure you offer a bit of praise. Say, “Thank you for stopping.” Then, explain why you wanted to stop. Ask your child to ‘stop’ when he or she is getting out of control. Children may get very wound up when playing roughand-tumble and may have a hard time stopping. When you think this is happening, say, “Stop, we need to rest for a minute.” Take a short break. After your child(ren) seems settled, start to play again. Remind your child about safety when he or she is playing. Young children need to be reminded of the rules of play. If your child and a friend are playing roughly, you may stop them to ask if they think they are playing in a dangerous place or not. Then, you may remind them to say “stop” to each other when one of them is getting hurt or needs to rest.

It's bad enough when your child is out of control, but reacting to all that bad behavior may make you feel out of control, too. Anger, pleading, blame, guilt, and other emotional reactions to your child's actions are not only ineffective as parenting tools but make you feel stressed out and upset for hours afterward. Break the cycle of provocation, overreaction and regret by taking charge of the one thing you can: your own behavior. Mastering your reactions makes your discipline more effective, models good stress management techniques for your child, and leaves you feeling calm and in control. Be prepared. Know your limits. Know your child(ren). Stay emotional neutral. Be active, not reactive.

2 encouragements:

Stephanie said...

Be prepared. Know your limits. Know your child(ren). Stay emotional neutral. Be active, not reactive.


I have a very intense, explosive child and when I remain calm it makes all the difference. Thanks for the reminder I was getting a little uptight today

Radical Unschoolers Live in FREEDOM said...

I hope you're not all work-up by the earnest parenting mom! LOL My craft makes me sane especially at this time of the season.

True learning-learning that is permanent and useful,that leads to intelligent action and further learning, can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner.
John Holt
Real heroes are men who fall, fail and are flawed, but win out in the end because they stayed true to their ideals, beliefs and commitments.
Actor Kevin Costner

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