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Family Values

I just don't get it. My brothers did it. My sons did it. My husband and his brother did it. The neighborhood boys do it. My husband and his "little brother" do it. Males on TV and in movies do it. Despite its pervasive nature, this male phenomenon escapes my common sense. So, I did a little research to help out my sisters, who like me, cannot relate to the male ritual of wrestling!

 

Some general rules for big body play:

  • No hitting
  • No pinching
  • Hands below the neck and above the waist
  • Stop as soon as the other person says or signals stop
  • No rough play while standing—kneeling only
  • Rough play is optional—stop and leave when you want 

 

Frances M. Carlson, writing for The National Education of Young Children, names wrestling/rough-housing as "Big body play." She reminds, "from infancy, children use their bodies to learn. They roll, kick, wave their arms, some-times alone and sometimes alongside another infant. They crawl on top of each other. They use adults' bodies to stand up, push off and launch themselves. Preschoolers run around, dancing, swirling, rolling on the floor, the ground or hopping and skipping along."

Turns out, books are written on the topic! Who knew? Anthony T. DeBenedet, MD, and Lawrence J. Cohen, PhD, a licensed psychologist, co-authored, "The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It." They claim: "Play—especially active physical play, like roughhousing—makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likable, ethical, physically fit and joyful."

Roughhousing fertilizes brains and physical play "releases a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which equates to fertilizer for brains. BDNF stimulates neuron growth responsible for memory, learning, language, and logic," they surmise. This increases intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence is another benefit of wrestling. Children have an opportunity to practice reading emotions. Physical interaction teaches them to assess expressions, body language and guttural sounds. This translates to understanding people better and makes them more likable and sensitive to non-verbal cues. It is easy to see this translating into classroom and employment successes.

"Play—especially active physical play, like roughhousing—makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likable, ethical, physically fit and joyful."

DeBenedet and Cohen also espouse roughhousing makes children ethical and moral. They write, "When we roughhouse with our kids, we model for them how someone bigger and stronger holds back. We teach self-control, fairness and empathy. We let them win, which gives confidence and demonstrates winning isn't everything. We show how much can be accomplished by cooperation and how to constructively channel competitive energy so it doesn't take over."

I can agree that there are some impressive benefits to this quasi-barbaric behavior. I vow to help set some ground rules, look the other way and attempt to refrain from screaming, "Stop that right now!" I prefer the dancing, swirling, skipping segment of big body play. But, then, I am a girl!

Elaine Stone, mother of three, lives in Spotsylvania. Write: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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