Growing up in a family of three sisters, there have been many things about raising boys that I have adjusted to along the way. The “VROOM! VROOM!!!” that erupted spontaneously from my one-year-old as his chunky toddler hands drove the toy car around the coffee table. The innate need to jump on and off the couch day after day, despite constant reminders of safety. The obsession with Star Wars and Batman. The physical response to happiness, excitement, frustration, anger … or need for connection. Some of these traits can be seen in little girls, too, of course. But the intensity of them in my household has sometimes taken me by surprise and made me rethink some of the assumptions I had about what life with my children would be like.
One thing that has been shifting in our household lately is my children’s physical play with one another. Some people call it roughhousing. Some people call it wrestling. For a long time, I called it inappropriate. Pushing and pulling, throwing their bodies on one another, grunting, laughing for a moment … and then, without fail, someone would take it too far and tears, shouts, and aggressive punching would ensue. I didn’t need that in my life and didn’t know exactly how to handle it, so I just shut it down as soon as it started so not to get out of control.
Through learning more about the development and needs of children, I am also beginning to understand the need for physical roughhousing on an emotional level. Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting
promotes roughhousing wholeheartedly. She says it builds self-esteem and helps release emotion, aid children in managing their aggression more effectively, and it helps them bond with others while venting anxiety. Hand in Hand Parenting advocates “Playlistening
“, where parents roughhouse, cuddle, and physically connect in a playful manner with their children. Playlistening has been shown to “ease tensions and help parent and child have fewer power struggles and daily upsets.” Our family had experienced this emotional release and increased bonding with physical rough and tumble play during Special Time
, the time my husband and I set aside to connect one-on-one with each child, but hadn’t allowed it to carry over into sibling play until recently.
As my children began to take part in more and more “wrestling”, I began to sit back and observe rather than jump in and demand them to stop. I noticed their smiling faces and peels of laughter. I heard them communicating to one another about the plan of what was to happen or their needs of more or less contact, and I listened to them console each other if things got a little too rough and someone got hurt. I saw them practice giving and taking … sometimes the Oldest One would be the victor and sometimes the Youngest One would have the upper hand. What I was witnessing was sibling bonding the way that they wanted to connect with one another. Who was I to get in the way of that?
I do have some guidelines of this type of play as they are still learning how to communicate with one another and how to roughhouse without hurting. It is my job to be aware of their physical, emotional, and mental well being. I make sure that their dad or I am always in the same room as they play so that we can help out if things get out of hand. Usually they wrestle on our king-sized bed, so I just occupy myself with a task in the vicinity to be available when needed. If one of them start dominating the other, I help the other one speak up for themselves and remind them to listen to one another so that it remains fun for both of them. (We want sibling bonding, not one as the bully and the other as the victim…) Lastly, I am there for them to remind them that it is a game when things go sour, as things sometimes do in any activity between brothers.
Although I love the quiet of a peaceful house, I also love the sound of my children connecting with one another, learning about give and take and communication in a relationship, and above all else having fun. To this I say, “Ding! Ding! Let the wrestling match begin!”
About Amber Sparks
Amber Sparks is a mama of two homeschooling boys and a Mommy/Baby and Family Yoga Teacher. She blogs about her families’ adventures in and out of the wrestling ring at Heart Wanderings.