On Father’s Day, while sitting in our backyard having breakfast, my husband, Kevin and I reminisced of Father’s Day of old. We tried to recall what we did to celebrate the six Father’s Days we have had the privilege to commemorate.
We fell on the memory of one special day at the park, years ago, when we had just one child. I distinctly remember watching my husband throw my son in the air and catch him. Connor was nearing 16 months old and was ascending about five feet above Kevin’s head with a smile from ear to ear and a pleasing squeal unlike anything I had ever heard.
His giggle echoed throughout , and I, seven months pregnant with our second child, felt my heart beat faster when Connor rose in the air followed by an inner gasp and a sigh when Kevin’s hands caught him firmly. Internally I felt the same torment that shocks your body after a near-miss fender bender. I was not a fan of this game, but when Connor was caught, safe in his Daddy’s arms he immediately began chanting, “Again, Daddy, Again!” This game seemed to go on for hours…
This type of play was much different than the block building, reading, Play-doh playing, push-me-on-the-swing at the park-type of play I routinely engaged in with my toddler. In fact, it was not at all typical of the play that most of my mom friends engaged in with their children. Moms, by nature, employ a more nurturing method of play, while dads like to wrestle, swing, throw the kids in the air, give horseback rides and piggy-back rides – rough and tumble-type behavior.
This has always been big part of my husband’s play with our kids. When Daddy comes through the door, no matter how quiet and reserved the kids are – it’s Game On! It can be pillow fights, physical hide-and-seek or a bucking bronco on Daddy’s back… All the while I have always watched on the sidelines, somewhat unnervingly, waiting for someone to get hurt or be upset that their turn was taken by another.
I had never considered the true benefits of this type of play until I stumbled upon a book recently released in defense of roughhousing. “The Art of Roughhousing: Good Ole-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Everyone Needs It,” by Drs. Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen is gaining national attention for its science behind the benefits of a father’s horseplay with their children.
The book discusses in-depth methods of roughhousing with illustrated instructions and approaches to engage your child in spontaneous physical play. Well-researched and scientifically backed, the book suggests many benefits of getting down on the floor and wrestling with your kids.
I had never considered the advantages gained from the nights filled with the play directed by Kevin and my three relentless, sweaty, red-cheeked giggling children.
Key benefits include:
-- Developing self-regulatory skills
-- Helping kids manage themselves because when they’re playing rough, they have to defend themselves.
-- Learning self-confidence and how to manipulate and handle their young bodies
-- Aiding children in learning how to interact with others, developing empathy and reining in personal aggression
-- Building trust; establishing a more physical relationship with another adult
-- Increases emotional intelligence, as children have to regulate their ability to hype up and wind down
-- Furthers critical thinking and problem-solving skills by forcing immediate choices and results
-- Encouraging physical play, keeping their little bodies fit
-- Laughter and joy: Children enjoy this type of play, which results in giggles and requests for more
-- Teaching children to handle victory and defeat and provides them with a sense of accomplishment
-- Teaching a valuable life lesson that you do not always win
-- Forces child to concentrate and execute desires with unknown consequences
Now, I am not certain that Kevin is aware of all the benefits of his horseplay with our kids, but I do know that he enjoys it just as much the kids do. So the next time he decides to tackle the kids and play piano on their little chests while they howl in delight, I will be a bit more encouraging. Let’s just hope my release on this type of behavior doesn’t result in any trips to the ER.
Cheers to all you dads out there, who may know what you’re doing after all. Happy Belated Father’s Day!