Some roughhousing may benefit kids

By John Michaelson
Minnesota News Connection

It’s an order that has passed through the lips of many a parent: “Quit that horsin’ around!”

But a better option may be to loosen the reins a bit.

Licensed psychologist Larry Cohen encourages roughhousing, contending that physical engagement between children gets them some of the physical activity they need and can also help with mental and emotional development.

“There’s been some research that children who do more roughhousing at home and with their peers do better in school,” he said. “They have more emotional intelligence, which is basically knowing your own emotions, understanding them and being able to read and understand other people’s emotions.”

For children, especially those who are shy, roughhousing and wrestling around can be one way to help build inner confidence, he said, adding that roughhousing also can help build bonds between parent and child.

“We think of roughhousing sometimes as a free-for-all, but you actually have to tune in to each other and that’s great for building a connection,” he said. “I think in our society now we are just pushing children so hard to achieve and perform, and they don’t get enough time to just roll around on the floor.”

On the issue of roughhousing and safety, Cohen said he prefers supervision and knowledge rather than too many rules. It’s an approach that set in when Cohen’s daughter was younger and climbing around at a playground — and he kept telling her, over and over, to be careful.

“And my friend said, ‘You know, Larry, she’s gonna recover more easily from a broken arm than from being timid and fearful her whole life.’ Yes, there’s a risk that a child could get hurt,” Cohen said, “but a loss of an adventurous spirit, a loss of excitement, a loss of confidence is worse than a broken arm.”

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