I can fondly remember the fun times I had with my Dad when I was a boy. My brother and I would wrestle Dad on the lounge room floor. The punishment, if either of us got caught, was being in the hands of the proverbial Tickle Monster.
Tickling was horrific but joyful torture at the hands of Daddy – the Tickle Monster, but little did we know at the time, that such a form of ‘Dad Play’ made us smarter, more emotionally intelligent, loveable and likeable, ethical, physically fit and joyful. This is according to Dr Anthony DeBenedet and Larry Cohen and who, and who am I to argue with them.
I will let the indomitable Brett McKay from the Art of Manliness give you the facts:
Roughhousing. Horseplay. Wrastling. Whatever you call it, it’s one of the best things about being a dad. I love chasing my one-year-old son, Gus, around the house or pretending that the living room is a ‘lucha libre’ ring and wrestling with him. No matter how stressed out I’m feeling, hearing one of his big, belly laughs erupt as I swing him around like a monkey makes all my cares go away.
Unfortunately, in recent years, horseplay has gotten a bad rap. Parents, concerned about safety and preventing ADHD, limit the amount of rambunctious play their kids take part in. At least 40% of US school districts have eliminated or are considering eliminating recess, because teachers need more time to cram kids’ heads full of information for standardized tests, because they’re afraid of children getting hurt and the school being held liable, and even because play can apparently encourage violent behaviour; according to a principal that banned recess at her elementary school in Cheyenne, a game of tag “progresses easily into slapping and hitting and pushing instead of just touching.”
But recent research has shown that roughhousing serves an evolutionary purpose and actually provides a myriad of benefits for our progeny. In their book The Art of Roughhousing, Anthony DeBenedet and Larry Cohen highlight a few of these benefits and the research behind them. Instead of teaching kids to be violent and impulsive, De Benedet and Cohen boldly claim that roughhousing “makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful.” In short, roughhousing makes your kid awesome.
Below, we highlight six benefits of roughhousing with your children. The next time your wife gets on to you for riling up the kids, you can tell her: “I’m helping our children develop into healthy, functioning adults, dear!”…right before performing a baby suplex on your daughter.
The Benefits of Roughhousing
Roughhousing Boosts Your Kid’s Resilience
Helping your child develop a resilient spirit is one of the best things you can do as a parent. The ability to bounce back from failures and adapt to unpredictable situations will help your kids reach their full potential and live happier lives as adults. And an easy way to help boost your kids’ resilience is to put them in a gentle headlock and give them a noogie.
Roughhousing requires your child to adapt quickly to unpredictable situations. One minute they might be riding you like a horse and the next they could be swinging upside-down. According to evolutionary biologist Marc Bekoff in his book Wild Justice, the unpredictable nature of roughhousing actually rewires a child’s brain by increasing the connections between neurons in the cerebral cortex, which in turn contributes to behavioural flexibility. Learning how to cope with sudden changes while roughhousing trains your kiddos to cope with unexpected bumps in the road when they’re out in the real world.
Additionally, roughhousing helps develop your children’s grit and stick-to-itiveness. You shouldn’t just let your kids “win” every time when you roughhouse with them. Whether they’re trying to escape from your hold or run past you in the hallway, make them work for it. Playtime is a fun and safe place to teach your kids that failure is often just a temporary state and that victory goes to the person who keeps at it and learns from his mistakes.
Roughhousing also helps children learn how to manage and deal with pain and discomfort. You shouldn’t intentionally hurt your kids while roughhousing (obviously), but little bumps and scrapes are bound to happen. Instead of cuddling and kissing a child’s “boo boo,” dads have a tendency to distract their kids from the pain with humour or some other task. Learning to deal with and manage minor discomforts while roughhousing can help your child handle the stresses they’ll encounter at school and work.
Roughhousing Makes Your Kid Smarter
Go ahead. Toss your kid like a sack of potatoes onto your bed. It will help turn him into a Toddler Einstein.
Psychologist Anthony Pellegrini has found that the amount of roughhousing children engage in predicts their achievement in first grade better than their kindergarten test scores do. What is it about rough and tumble play that makes kids smarter? Well, a couple things.
First, as we discussed above, roughhousing makes your kid more resilient and resilience is a key in developing children’s intelligence. Resilient kids tend to see failure more as a challenge to overcome rather than an event that defines them. This sort of intellectual resilience helps ensure your children bounce back from bad grades and gives them the grit to keep trying until they’ve mastered a topic.
In addition to making students more resilient, roughhousing actually rewires the brain for learning. Neuroscientists studying animal and human brains have found that bouts of rough-and-tumble play increase the brain’s level of a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF helps increase neuron growth in the parts of the brain responsible for memory, logic, and higher learning–skills necessary for academic success.
Read more of this excellent article including how to roughhouse with your children.
There you go! You now have scientific proof that playing with your children is the best way to get them a great education. Don’t forget to do it now. Practice makes perfect.
When you play with your children over the next few days, make sure you take a photo, and then post it on Instagram before midnight on Wednesday 30 September. You could win $1,000 in the Dads4Kids Instagram Competition. All you have to do is follow @dads4kids and then post your photos to Instagram #dads4kids to enter.
Yours for more happy children
PS. Only 4 days to go to get your entry in, or to tell your friends about the Dads4Kids Instagram Photo Competition.
Both the photo and the caption or the story behind the photograph are important but the inspirational and creative impact of the photo is paramount. To enter the competition you must follow @dads4kids on Instagram and then post your photos to Instagram and #dads4kids to enter. You can enter as many times as you would like up to midnight on Wednesday 30 September 2015. The Dads4Kids Instagram Photo Competition is open to all fathers who are residents of Australia.
For more information, competition rules and guidelines click here:
Our simple goal is to create more moments of love for our children.