Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

On Roughhousing and Throwing Your Children Around

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

On Roughhousing and Throwing Your Children Around

Article excerpt

The last thing you would expect to read in Exceptional Parent Magazine is the suggestion to throw your children around.

Readers of EP are all well too familiar with the terms "medically fragile," "compromised," "vulnerable" and "brittle," words that are seemingly in total contrast to "roughhousing." But maybe not. The key might be simply in how "rough" the roughhousing should be.

New research in Australia suggests that dads roughhousing with their kids may be critically important in their development. Being the bastion of "inclusion," I thought I would throw children with special healthcare needs (CSHCN) onto the pile.

While the traditional picture of roughhousing includes fathers, in a pinch, mothers can throw their children around with the best of them. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, "the percentage of fathers who live separately from their children has doubled in the past 50 years, but dads also tend to spend more than twice the amount of time with their children than they did in the 1960's."

Richard Fletcher, the director of the Fathers and Families Research Program at the University of Newcastle in Australia, conducted research on the interaction between fathers and their children roughhousing in a game, where the kids would try to remove a sock from their father's foot. The aim was to ascertain what effect it might have on children. Fletcher reported, "rough and tumble play between fathers and their young children is part of their development, shaping their children's brain so that their children develop the ability to manage emotions and thinking and physical action altogether. This is a key developmental stage for children in that preschool area between the ages of about two-and-a-half and five. That's when children learn to put all those things together." While boys are the likely culprits to engage in roughhousing, the researchers saw similar engagement action with girls. The roughhousing is a modality to experiencing the joys of achievement and winning.

The researchers are in agreement that the "neat" (not necessarily a bona fide research term) aspect of the "roughhousing" is that it gives "the children a sense of achievement when they defeat a more powerful adult, building their self-confidence and concentration." Conversely it also teaches them that sometimes in life you don't always win.

A new book, "The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It," is an excellent primer on roughhousing. …

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