Roughhousing

Hmm… you know the old “Do as I say, not as I do?”… I can be a bit guilty of that one!

See, it’s been a long time since I was introduced to and began to fully understand the value of roughhousing. Since then I have been a strong advocate and it’s one of the first tools I recommend to parents asking for help with behavioural issues (particularly aggression) but recently I stopped focusing on it in my own home.

I had excuses (don’t we always) – “Not enough time!”, “My son does this in his Special Time, anyway!”, “Not sure what to do!”, “My daughter refuses to do it!”, “They do Krav Maga!”

But I know in my heart of hearts that roughhousing brings out some really great bonding hormones, that it often facilitates laughter (which is a great emotional release) and that it’s a healthy outlet for aggression and/or aggressive tendencies. So I went ahead and bought The Art Of Roughhousing by Anthony T DeBenedet and Dr Lawrence Cohen (who wrote my favourite book, Playful Parenting) for some inspiration!

I have only just started it but now I also know that roughhousing has been shown to improve both emotional and intellectual intelligence and social skills!!!

So a few days ago I decide to ditch the excuses and I started with 10 minutes of Special Time with one child and when the timer went off we did 5 minutes of roughhousing or what we call “Rough Time”.

In this case I chased my child around the house, missing comically (you always fail and fail spectacularly as this is the power reversal they need to offset all the imbalances they experience throughout their day) and accidentally hugging myself and pretending I meant to do that or taking a big run at them and ending up missing and running right to the other end of the house. Because my child who is very rigid in Special Time and roughhousing options saw the fun of this game before their turn, I was able to do the same game with them.

We had so many laughs and I felt like I got a great workout but actually felt very energised after. When Dad came home shortly after that they requested a family “Hide & Seek” and the mood was so different from most bedtimes for all of us.

The next day I did the same and we ended with Hide & Seek and family “Stacks On!” where we all piled on top of each other with the kids on top! Again… SO… MUCH… FUN… and the kids moods were lifted! I’ve also seen a general change in mood and behaviour. I do have one who struggles with aggression and I’ve seen that child holding back.


There are some families who say that there’s one parent who primarily does the roughhousing in the family. I highly recommend each parent engage on one-on-one “Rough Time” for the hormones alone! You don’t want to miss out on that connection and bonding!

It’s also good to have additional rough play as a family, especially where there are opportunities for siblings to work together!

How does this help with aggressive behaviour? Isn’t that counter-intuitive?

The reality is we all have aggressive impulses and roughhousing provides a safe space to explore those. It also teaches children to assess risk and to develop decision-making skills and empathy as they decide how hard and how strong to be. It is important that we as parents are good at reading how much resistance our kids want (one of mine wants VERY little). This forum is provided also to give them some power reversal, the chance for them to be bigger and stronger and overpowering. So we never win the game and you want to ham up the losses as much as possible. There may be injuries and tears which then might lead to some Staylistening.

You can also steer aggressive behaviour into “Rough Time” so if a child was hitting or kicking you can say “Do you need some Rough Time? Let me go get my boxing pads!” or “It’s not Rough Time right now but we can do it later today.”


So where to start?

This is one of the things that can feel tricky! I think one of the easiest starts is pillow fighting and that’s also a great family one. Play wrestling is also great… when my daughter wins she likes to do a victory dance and I say “Oh, no! Victory dances are NOT allowed! Please, no!” or sometimes she says “You lost now I get to ride you like a horse!” and I say how humiliating it is whilst she rides me around the bed. Sometimes I pretend to call the police and say how a child isn’t allowed to beat their parents at stuff and please help me and they always ask to speak to her and she tells me they congratulated her and said they will send her a pile of lollies (haha) and I lament the justice system!

The Art Of Roughhousing and Playful Parenting are brilliant reads and will provide more games and inspiration. I will also collect some suggestions on the Aunty Ask Facebook page so please have a look for that thread!

For any other info, inspiration or information JUST ASK!

Aunty Ask xx