Using roughhousing as a tool to help your children have a successful school year
August 7, 2023
[Kyle]: In today's podcast, we're going to talk about the power of roughhousing and how helpful it can be to your kids’ development. I think it's crucial, as you're raising the kids, to implement this soon.
[Kyle]: Hello, and welcome to episode 80 of The Art of Raising Humans. I’m Kyle.
[Sara]: And I’m Sara.
[Kyle]: And summertime's coming to an end.
[Sara]: It is.
[Sara]: I'm not ready.
[Kyle]: Yeah. This podcast should be dropping near the first week of August, so for many people listening, school will be starting up.
[Sara]: I'm sure, like us, you're getting all your gear together and preparing and getting ready for it.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and know last year, if parents are interested, we did a whole two-part series about going back to school and how to prepare your kid for that and thinking about what we wanted to talk about going into this school year. I was thinking about the same way of kind of helping prepare families for school, but I thought we kind of already did that. So, I wanted to hit something that I think comes up time and time again in session or talking to families or even that we're experiencing ourselves throughout the summer, and one of those things that I think is really helpful that a lot of parents don't maybe put a lot of time into thinking is roughhousing.
[Sara]: I know. This one's actually kind of fun today to the me because it's so focused, but it's so just wild, roughhousing.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, and what made me think about it, Sara, is summertime means a lot of swimming for us. So, we have a local neighborhood swimming pool, and the kids love to go swimming and the kids definitely swim a little different with you than they do with me. I've noticed that with you. Is there a lot of roughhousing that goes on?
[Sara]: No, they probably like it, but yeah, that's so foreign to yeah.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, it's not something they do with you. When we go, I almost have to say “hey, we're not wrestling in the pool today”. Because they want to be jumping on me, teaming up against me. Typically, Abby our oldest, and Brennan, the middle, they'll team up and want to battle me and try to chase me across the pool, maybe even get out of the pool, jump towards me. Where Ellie, the youngest, she'll team up with me, and she'll use her feet to splash them and try to keep them off of me. But this can go on for quite some time and so, as I was thinking about what we wanted to talk about in this podcast, man, we had an issue just a few days ago where I lost my cool and I got kind of upset, and I got probably more angry than I have in a while and it was over something really stupid.
[Kyle]: But I'll give you a hint, it had to do with a cookie and a dog eating that cookie, and I really wanted that cookie and somehow, I was blaming the kids for the fact they gave him that cookie instead of the bone I intended for the dog, but anyway. So, long story short--
[Sara]: Small hint.
[Kyle]: Yes. There was some anger expressed and even though there was some great healing afterwards, even though we did follow up and there was some great connection after this angry outburst on my part, when we went swimming the next day, I felt like there was a lot more wrestling. I feel like the kids really wanted to beat the snot out of me in a fun way.
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah.
[Kyle]: So, I think they really wanted to somehow-- You know, and I even came back and kind of joked with you, where I said “man, I thought we'd resolved the issue”.
[Sara]: Kind of “Maybe a few things were still kind of repressed in there”.
[Kyle]: Yes, yes. So, I think the kids saw the swimming as a way to like, attack me and get all those-- But that's why I want to talk about roughhousing, because it was such a healthy way to do it.
[Kyle]: I mean, the kids felt much better afterwards. Nobody got hurt. I bet there was some frustration they had towards me getting expressed in that moment.
[Sara]: And it doesn't even-- Real quick. It doesn't even have to be at you.
[Kyle]: Yeah, of course.
[Sara]: I mean, anytime a kid has a full backpack or a load of emotions that they haven't been able to express from a day at school. Speaking of school or maybe they've been at grandma's house or a friend's house, or whatever it might be. Camp. They come back with things that they behaved or they managed or they got through, but all those feelings they didn't have anyone to talk to or any way to express gets stored in their bodies and it's fantastic to get those feelings out, because we don't want them stored in the body, we want to process through those and roughhousing is such a great way to do that.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and I know, Sara, a lot of kids I'm helping right now as-- Thinking about school, a lot of the parents are kind of nervous about how the school year is going to go, and the kids are equally as nervous. Some of them haven't had good experiences at school. So, I was thinking this would be such a great, thing to implement a week before school starts or a few days before school starts, is for mom or dad to intentionally do some roughhousing to kind of get some of those feelings out.
[Kyle]: So, today we're going to be pulling upon some really great information from a book by Dr. Cohen and Anthony DeBenedet-- I can't totally know if I'm pronouncing it right, but I know Dr. Cohen is correct because I've read lots of Dr. Cohen's books, but it's called The Art of Roughhousing and so, it's a really great tool that I think you could seek out before the school year starts, maybe read-- But we're going to try to hit upon the nine specific ways that roughhousing can benefit your kids. So, hopefully inspires you to start this before school starts and even as school starts, because I bet there'll be a lot of anxiety and nervousness and all types of feelings coming from that new school year starting. For you to really help them work that out with you, you know? It'd be a great way.
[Kyle]: I'm even thinking, I remember one time with Brennan and I, when he was really little, we were at the library and I had left him for a minute, Sara, and Abby and I were looking at some books for her, and he was over there playing with some kids at the library and then he came over in tears, and apparently something negative had happened between him and another kid. A kid had pushed him or something, and you could tell that he felt-- Like, his backpack was definitely full and so, when I came home, I purposely engaged in some roughhousing. You saw those feelings kind of get less, but then later on the day, as he still seemed a little bit on edge, I said “hey, let's do some more of that”. So, we did some more roughhousing, and it seemed to finally help him work out some of that anxiety or fear or whatever it was he felt and he was then better able to communicate what had really happened between him and this kid, because I think it was really confusing to him why this kid had been so mean to him, why this kid had pushed him for seemingly no reason at all and so, I think he was confused by that and so, the roughhousing helped him be able to express that, you know? But before we get into these--
[Sara]: Well, just on that point, I love how you bring up the fact that sometimes we have to remember that kids don't always have the words. So, it's stored inside of them and we may even ask “What's wrong? What happened?” and they really can't. We think “come on, come on, just put it out there”, but they can't. It gets stuck in their body and they don't know how to put words to it, especially when they're young. But even as they get older, even when they have great language skills, we have to remember that sometimes they can't match up what happened and what they're feeling in their body with words to express it and so, we have to give them-- You know, we did that podcast recently about play and the importance of play and this sort of tag teams onto that, and that play gives kids a way to have language for what's going on inside of them, what they need, what they want, what they can't express and roughhousing just kind of slides into that category too. It's just amazing how it gives them language where they can't find it.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and so, before we jump into those nine specific ways that will benefit your kid through roughhousing, I want to make sure that if you are liking the content, please like this podcast, please share it, comment on it, tell your friends about it. Sara and I are also ramping up our speaking schedule coming up in the fall 2023. Spring 2024. So, if you're listening to this and you're thinking “man, I'd love for them to speak at my local school” or “I'd love for them to speak at my church” or “I have a small group of parents, we'd love to have you come to do that”. We have courses we could also help you with as well. So, all those. We just try to provide as many pathways for you to get the help you need as possible. Reach out to us through the website, which is parentinglegacy.com. You can go there and you can email us there, but there's a lot of ways to connect with us. But we just appreciate your support and I want to make sure that we emphasize that, even though in this podcast, Sara, a lot of times we'll be talking about how I roughhouse with them, because that's typically more how we roll in our house, right?
[Kyle]: I do more of the roughhousing and you do a much better job than I do about the nurturing and empathy and all that stuff, right? And so, we realized both of us add something unique to that, but I don't want to limit that discussion to just “dads are the only ones who roughhouse”, you know?
[Kyle]: I think there are some moms I've met who do a great job roughhousing and some dads who do a great job nurturing and empathizing, right? So, it isn't just specifically along gender roles, but I may be sharing it with that kind of emphasis just because that's how we work.
[Sara]: Well, and I think I did more roughhousing when they were little. It does feel different to me and then, there wasn't much roughhousing in my family either, so it feels a little different. I work out-- And I think also roughhousing. You say roughhousing, but that can include pillow fights.
[Kyle]: Yes, of course.
[Sara]: It can include-- I do this funny thing where I don't really roughhouse, but yet, we get that physical where I'll kind of trap the kids, like I'm hugging them and I say “oh, you can't get away. I love you; I'm just going to keep you forever”.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Yeah.
[Sara]: And it's like, this joke we have and so, they're trying to get away, but I'm constantly capturing them and so, right now, roughhousing would look like that with me, but look very different with you. So, roughhousing can look a lot of different ways.
[Kyle]: Yeah, that's great and I want to point out this quote here, Sara, that comes from that book where Dr. Cohen is claiming that roughhousing makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likable, ethical, physically fit and joyful. Those seems to be some really great outcomes, right?
[Sara]: Yeah, really great. Let's all run out in roughhouse. Oh yeah.
[Kyle]: And as I read that, like you said, when you were looking over this info, it just gives words to something we already felt, you know?
[Kyle]: I mean, I'm thinking, when-- You know, we homeschool the kids and there was days where the kids, especially Abby, had a really hard time transitioning from when they were little, from playing in the morning to then doing school and I remember being very frustrated by that lack of ability to transition and finally when I realized “wait, it's just-- They're just having a hard time doing that, they're just anxious about going from having fun, doing what they want, to then doing this more structured type thing” and so, that's when I started trying to tap into-- There was a specific song I love from the movie Tron Legacy and I turned on that music and was able then to turn that up really loud and the music was about three and a half minutes long and I told the kids this three and a half minutes is about getting all that out, you know? And so, that was just another way. We'd wrestle and then after the three and a half minutes, we'd stop the music, lay down, take a deep breath, and then they were better able to transition to doing the schoolwork, you know? And so, that's where I first started kind of experiencing how roughhousing wasn't just me just playing with them, but it was actually a tool I was using to help them manage their own anxiety or feelings, you know?
[Sara]: I remember a long time ago now, but I was reading about-- They've done studies on the importance of dads in kids’ lives, which-- You know, because we do have this thing where sometimes dads can be more absent or not participate as much because they feel like “well, the mom needs to take care of the kids”.
[Kyle]: Especially when they're younger.
[Sara]: Yeah, and I feel like that is largely-- I think as a society, we're moving away from that, but there still can be those feelings and you see that happening in families. But I remember-- So, I was reading about the importance of dads. They did say that they notice that in the study, how much dads seem to bring that to the table. They seem to help kids learn about these instant transitions that can happen and moms are maybe more gradual, but dads will do more of the “now we're doing this! Bam! Switch! Now we're doing this. We're in a roughhouse. Now we're done, we're doing this instead”.
[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah.
[Sara]: And how that is a hard thing for kids to learn, but this is a skill we all need, where this thing's happening. Switch. Now this thing's happening. Sometimes we don't have time for that transition, and that is hard and sometimes that is the case and so, we work to build that skill and how dads bring that to the table and so, this roughhousing reminds me of that.
[Kyle]: That’s great. So, now we're going to get into those nine specific ways and I just want you to know we're getting this from the book The Art of Roughhousing, but I'm also accumulating it from other blogs I've read about roughhousing and kind of taking all information together. So, it's not necessarily our own unique information. I am kind of just giving--
[Sara]: You want to give credit. Yeah.
[Kyle]: I'm synthesizing all that and then bringing it to the audience. So, number one, the first thing that I saw consistent, was it rewires the brain, making kids smarter. Yeah, and there's a quote from a biologist named Marc Bekoff who has a book called Wild Justice, and he says this. There's a quote “the unpredictable nature--” Kind of like what you were saying of roughhousing, “actually rewires a child's brain by increasing the connections between neurons in the cerebral cortex, which in turn contributes to behavioral flexibility”. Learning how to cope with sudden changes while roughhousing trains your kiddos to cope with unexpected bumps in the road when they're out in the real world.
[Sara]: Well said.
[Kyle]: I know. Cool. But it kind of--
[Sara]: Much smoother than when I was--
[Kyle]: Yeah, but it says exactly-- It makes them more ready for those unpredictable situations, you know?
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah.
[Kyle]: Because really, when you're roughhousing, it's so unpredictable, you know? I have no idea which kid's going to get on the couch and jump on my back or where a pillow is going to come flying from to get me, or if all three kids are going to team up against me and all those kinds of situations--
[Sara]: And they don't know.
[Sara]: They don't know. Moment to moment, it's changing, and then it's done and then we're done roughhousing and now it's time for bed or school or whatever it might be.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and then able to then quickly switch that. So, it makes the kids smarter because it's making those connections, and those neuron connections in those cerebral cortexes, to increase their flexibility, their behavioral flexibility, to move from one moment to the next.
[Sara]: And just remember, our brain, we do things one time and it creates a little tiny pathway of neurons, and then we do it again, and it gets a little thicker and a little thicker and a little thicker until we're able to do things well. Walking, whatever it might be, it includes this. It's something where we want to build this, we're going to have to keep repeating it so the brain can build those connections over time.
[Kyle]: Yeah. That's great and so, number one, it rewires the brain, making your kids smarter. That's a good reason to roughhouse, right?
[Kyle]: So, number two, it teaches children about taking turns and cooperation.
[Sara]: A skill we all need.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Very important and what I think it does, what I've seen is, especially I love doing this with families, Sara, where maybe kids are at odds with each other, where they don't seem to be on the same team. I think you put them on the same team against you.
[Kyle]: So, if I ever saw Abby and Brennan kind of nitpicking at each other and they seem like they're arguing, I'd be like “you know what? You and I need to go at it. You two against me, let's go” and so, all of a sudden, they would be communicating, they’d be like “you take him from this side, I'll take him from that side” or “I'll get this pillow and you get him” and so, it was really fun to watch them go off and they sneak in the kitchen, whisper, whisper, whisper, and then come back and they looked so confident. They finally figured out how to destroy me. How to defeat me.
[Sara]: Yeah, it builds that cooperation, that working together with another person towards a shared goal.
[Kyle]: Well, and he says in the book, he says physical games require the give and take of negotiation to establish the rules upon which everyone needs to agree in order for all of us to have fun. So, really in that roughhousing, there is a lot of ways in which you're setting some rules, you know?
[Kyle]: We'll get more into that in just a minute, but there is this sense of what is appropriate, what is inappropriate. Roughhousing also requires taking turns with the dominant role. So, sometimes maybe one kid is the more dominant one and we're all teaming up against that one, right? And so, I know even in the pool at times, Abby is the more dominant one. Or I'm even thinking of games like, we just with-- Some relatives came over on July 4 and we played the game of-- What? Chicken? Not chicken, but one's on the shoulders--
[Kyle]: Is it? Yeah, we're on the shoulders and we're fighting each other, right?
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah.
[Kyle]: And so, stuff like that how each of the siblings got to be a more dominant one there, depending on who was helping them lift them up. So, all that kind of stuff. You just see so much joy and so much fun happening and it was fun for them to get-- To take part in that because typically they're not the more dominant one. Typically, the adult is, the parent is. So, it's kind of even fun for them to be the one who's stronger, like you were saying, in the holding them and then they're the one beating me up and I'm like “oh my gosh! You’re so strong!”, you know?
[Sara]: Well, in mine, when they overpower and get away and they laugh and I think we have to remember too, how important it is for kids to have a sense of power that builds that self-confidence, that builds that sense of self. That I can go into the world and tackle hard things and kids learn this in play. So, if I can wrestle and beat you, then I believe it builds that sense of “I can go out and tackle other hard things and also be successful”.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, I love that when they're really little too, the whole like, you chase them and they're screaming, running from you, and all of a sudden, they chase you and you run and scream and it's like-- You're like “scared of you!”, you know?
[Sara]: Yeah. Look at the power that they can experience in that moment of play.
[Kyle]: And then, of course, you're not running as fast as you can and they catch you. Like, “look how fast I am. I got you”, you know?
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah.
[Kyle]: So, number two was it teaches children by taking turns and cooperation. Number three, it toughens kids up. So, it toughens kids up. Why would that be beneficial, Sara? What do you think?
[Sara]: Well, I think kind of what we were just saying, how you want kids to feel like they're strong enough for this moment, for whatever life brings to them and we all know life brings hard stuff sometimes and sometimes you feel like you're kind of under the water and you want them to go be able to pull from something inside of them that says “I am strong enough, I am tough enough. I have what it takes for this moment”.
[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah.
[Sara]: “I can handle it” and so, when it says toughen kids up, it's referring to that sense of “I can do it”.
[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah, and I think it also is referring to-- I know this happened a lot, and I had to learn how to be better at roughhousing, because kids are going to get hurt during roughhousing.
[Sara]: Right, right.
[Kyle]: Sometimes, almost inevitably.
[Sara]: And that's it, right? I can get hurt and--
[Kyle]: Yeah. I found it was weird. Almost inevitably, Brennan seemed to get hurt more than his sisters did, but I think lots of times I was actually being rougher on him.
[Sara]: You were.
[Kyle]: I somehow had this idea with my daughters--
[Sara]: That “I get my boy to be strong”.
[Kyle]: Yeah, I didn't need toughen on my daughters, I needed toughen on my son. So, I felt the freedom to like, toss him further or throw him higher and so--
[Sara]: I wish I had video to couple with this so you guys could see. We had couches and Brennan would just be launched across the living room. He was like three years old.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and so, I think part of me was thinking “I need to toughen my boy up”, you know?
[Sara]: yeah, yeah.
[Kyle]: But it was fun to see how he could rebound and he needed to know that. To like, even though he got hurt there, he got cut or he got bruised, that he was able to come back.
[Sara]: So, there's that physical side, which translates then even into the other challenges in life, you know?
[Kyle]: Sure. Yeah, yeah. These minor scrapes and bruises aren't going to knock you down forever, but you can get it.
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah.
[Kyle]: So, number three was, it toughens kids up. Number four, it teaches kids to take risks. So, he says here, Sara, “roughhousing becomes a safe place to make mistakes”.
[Sara]: I love that.
[Kyle]: It's a safe place to learn to be braver, and also for them to stand up for themselves.
[Sara]: Yeah, I love that.
[Kyle]: You know, I like that idea that it's a place where they get to go in and they get to really show up and be brave and be strong and sometimes make a mistake and lose the battle, right? But there's very little to risk there, you know?
[Sara]: Right. It’s practicing risk for the real world.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and it's practicing showing up and being strong, you know? Like, I don't know how many times the kids have decided they finally are stronger than me and they'll be like “okay, let's go get him!” and I’ll be like-- And then, I'm able to maybe either say “oh, you did overpower me” or go “oh, you think that's as big as I can go? I can go bigger” and then, they'll be like “oh, whoa, I thought we'd reached his max”, you know?
[Kyle]: And so, it was really-- Especially in the pool, you see their face light up when they think they've got me and then I throw them across the pool and they splash, and Abby's laughing her head off and like “I didn't know dad could pick me up still”, you know? And it also helps them go “hey, Dad's getting older, but he's still able to do these”, you know? And it's actually “dad's a safe place in this moment to be fully aggressive like this and dad can handle it. It's not going to hurt him”.
[Sara]: I love too the mistakes’ part, where maybe they make a plan and it doesn't work out or you overpower whatever the situation is. I love that it's so important to learn that I can make up something and I can try it out and even if it goes bus, I can come back and come up with a new one. I take that information and weave it into my new plan and, man, don't we want that in life? Or where something doesn't knock us down, we just go “okay, I'm down for a second, but I'm going to make a plan and go back in”. I love that.
[Kyle]: Well, like this one guy was talking specifically, like you said, about fathers doing this, and this quote I got from him was this “fathers play a particularly important role in the development of children's openness to the world. They also tend to encourage children to take risk while at the same time ensuring their safety and security, thus permitting children to learn to be braver in unfamiliar situations as well as to stand up for themselves”.
[Sara]: Yeah, because I got my dad, my safety net is there, I can go ahead and try.
[Sara]: It reminds me of kids going on a playground, you know? Where they're climbing that big pole or reaching things, they haven't been able to do. You know, you watch your little kids do that and how you're standing below them, like “go ahead, give it a shot. I'm right here”.
[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah, and I think maybe I resonate with that because I think at times I'm just not as smart as you about what those risks should be. I remember Abby as like, a little kid climbing up some playground and then going “she's really high. I don't think Sara would ever let her do this” and it wasn't like “I don't think I should be either, maybe, but I am. It's already happened”. But it was like she saw me climb it, so she said “I can climb it too”, you know?
[Kyle]: And so, that was really-- I began to notice the power I had in modeling to her, that what I was trying, she wanted to try and so, I had to be like “I got to be careful what I'm showing her”. Okay, so number four was it teaches kids to take risks. Number five, it helps kids manage aggression. So, lots of times, parents are afraid when I've recommended this to them, they think it'll make kids more violent and more aggressive. But what the research shows is it doesn't make kids more violent because they learn the difference between healthy roughhousing and aggression. They learn what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.
[Sara]: Yeah, that's so good. It's kind of the idea of if I just say “oh, a stove can burn me, so I'm just never going to use this stove”. Instead, it's like “oh, no, you can still approach it and just learn how to use it”. So sometimes there's times I can be rough and I can do this stuff, and I learn the boundaries and the parameters of that and get to experience that.
[Kyle]: And one study out of Germany said children who roughhouse at home are actually less violent, presumably because they feel a strong connection with their fathers and because they learn the difference between healthy roughhousing and aggression and it goes on. A psychologist named John Snarey from How Fathers Care for the Next Generation; His book. He says children who roughhouse with their fathers quickly learn that biting, kicking, and other forms of physical violence are not acceptable, you know?
[Kyle]: And so, I think that's true. I think that so many times when kids are doing those forms of aggression, I quickly want to say “hey, are you guys’ roughhousing with this kid? Let's show them how to do this in an appropriate way. Let's show them how." I mean, many times if a kid is biting or a kid is hitting, I say “man, if that kid starts to come out, you grab a pillow and be like ‘let's go at it. You want to rough out? Let's do this’” and then the kid's like “oh, I was really mad and I thought the way to communicate that had to be through aggression and violence, but instead, I can communicate that by hitting you with a pillow and we can do that in a way that isn't so harmful to each other”.
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, you can weave it into a healthy expression instead of just a response. Even dogs do that. Little puppies, at first try to, and you'll see the older dogs putting that-- Telling that dog “…too far, that bite hurt”, because dogs actually bite each other when they play, but somehow they've learned, they've communicated to that younger generation “this is how hard to bite. No, don't bite that hard. You can jump on me, but don't do--”. You see that with our dog, had to go through that training.
[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah.
[Sara]: Same idea.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, number five was it helps kids manage aggression. So, if you have an aggressive kid, this would be a great way to help fine tune that. Number six is it increases social and emotional intelligence and the way it does that, Sara, it talks about how roughhousing requires the child to learn to get an accurate reading of social cues when things have gone too far, you know?
[Kyle]: Like when it's gone from “now we were having a good time and now we're not. We were just having fun and playing, but now it looks like there's fear and anger”, you know? So, the ability to see that, to read that in a sibling or even in a parent or whatever. To model that, for them to say “whoa, whoa, we need to pause for a moment because it looks like we've gone too far”. That's important for them to learn.
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah. So good. Again, back to those just healthy boundaries in our behaviors.
2441 [Kyle]: This one quote I love from a play expert. He's the founder of the National Institute for Play, Dr. Stuart Brown. He said this. He said “the lack of experience with roughhousing hampers the normal give and take necessary for social mastery and has been linked with poor control of violent impulses later in life. When kids roughhouse, they learn to tell the difference between play and actual aggression” and I think at times, I've even had to learn that. Like you said, when Brennan would get hurt, I'd be like “oh… Did I…?”
S0 “Took it too far?”
K0 Yeah, “was I trying to be too strong and show my kids ‘no, look how strong I am’. Maybe I need to pull it back a little bit and read their faces a little bit” and so, I encourage-- We'll get into it in just a minute with some kind of boundaries that you can set. But I think it's important to even have like, a light system. You can be like “hey, red, yellow, green. Green is we just go, yellow is let's pause and take some caution here, because look at their face”. So that's such a cool way to teach those social cues, is through the roughhouse.
S0 Yeah, yeah.
K0 Okay. So, number seven, Sara, is it teaches kids about boundaries, ethics, and morality. It's a big thing to teach, right? I mean, they make the contention that it teaches them how to learn the difference between right and wrong and the appropriate use of strength and power.
K0 So, I thought this was a really cool thing that he said. He says it teaches them self-control, fairness and empathy, but it also models for them something they're calling self-handicapping, which means the kids learn that actual strength is showing compassion to those weaker than you. So, it kind of goes back to this idea that my kids know that I'm stronger than them. They know that if I went full force-- So, many times, I would actually-- If you remember, Sara, when I would do this, I'd get on my knees and wrestle with them, right? I wouldn't stand up above them. So, I'd try to make myself smaller so they had a better chance, you know?
K0 So, I was self-handicapping and showing them that if I wanted to get stronger and bigger, I could. I'm choosing not to for your benefit.
[Sara]: Yeah, and I think that's a lesson we all need, right? There's times we need to-- We could overpower or hurt someone and physically, but in other ways too and we step back, and that's a skill. We need to be able to read that moment and show up in the way.
[Kyle]: Well, this one guy I read, his last name is Bekoff, he said “this is moral behavior, because the larger the animal cares more about both players having fun together than it does about winning”. So, the larger animal is saying “hey, I care more about us enjoying this than I do about beating you” and so, kids learn how that strength is showing compassion. So, I just think that's a really cool attribute to have.
[Sara]: Yeah, I agree. It feels like it even could play an important role later in a dating relationship.
[Kyle]: That's true. That's great. So, number eight, it makes kids physically active and can protect them from depression, right?
K0 So, I thought this was a cool study, actually, from a Norwegian University of Science and Technology, where they were saying being active-- They were thinking being active, getting sweaty, and roughhousing could offer more than just physical benefits. So, the researcher examined just under 800 children when they were six years old, and they conducted follow up examinations with about 700 of them when they were eight and ten years old, to see if they could find a correlation between physical activity and symptoms of depression. So, they found that the more the kids engaged in activity that caused them to sweat and pant, the less incidence there was of depression.
[Kyle]: So, helping your kids experience that like, physical-- You know, going-- Getting all sweaty and-- We definitely would get sweaty. When we and the kids, I'd have to turn on the fan. We'd all lay there and just sweat. But I didn't know I was helping them possibly with depression in the future.
[Sara]: Yeah, I love that. Yeah, because just like, exercise, it releases that stuff in your brain that says “all's well, I'm doing well, I'm happy”, reduces stress. It's great.
[Kyle]: So, the last one, number nine, Sara, is roughhousing builds a better bond and so, I put down-- As I was reading this, this one I definitely have experienced above all the other. That rough play that fathers engage in-- The guy was saying in this one book that rough play is just as important as the gentle mothering that mothers do, you know? I think I stumbled upon this because I would see how good you were at being so nurturing and empathetic, and I just thought “man, what is my role? I try to do what you're doing, and sometimes I'm successful, but a lot of times I'm not”. But then I found “wait, my roughhousing is the way that I'm helping connect with them” and he was saying like, things that we did as kid when they were little, was throwing your kid in the air, swinging them upside down. He said these are all important activities that help kids learn that they can trust you and that you can keep them safe.
K0 That we can engage in some kind of scary thing like, that's terrifying to the kid that's fly in the air. You can see it on their face, but then you catch them and I just think that's so powerful that when you do that and every time you're catching them-- Of course, if you drop them, that's a big mistake.
S0 Yeah, don't do that.
K0 That you're doing and you catch them, that they go “wow, my parents have me, they'll keep me safe. I can try and risk and do scary things, but they'll be there” and actually, just neurologically, the closeness and the physical activity that you get from the wrestling and also, actually releases the hormone oxytocin, which is the attachment chemical in our brain, and it boosts feelings of bonding and closeness, you know? So, I think that's why the kids at least I meet, most of them really crave it. Most of them when I talk to them and say “hey, have your parents doing this? Is your dad doing this?”. They're like “no, but I wish he would do more of it”.
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah. No, I see the difference in our kids and-- I mean, after you guys have roughhouse and since they were little to now, you almost feel like you can see a layer of stress has fallen off of them. I don't even know that they seem super stressed, but then afterwards, there's just this peace and calm and you can tell how connected they feel to you and their well-being is higher after that.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, I want to encourage you to get the book The Art of Roughhousing. Dr. Cohen is one of the co-authors. This will be a great technique to start implementing mom and dad before the school year starts and as the school year begins. It'd be a great way to work out this big backpack of feelings that they're definitely going to have pre-school. You know, before they go to school and then after school begin.
[Sara]: Yeah, especially those days they come home and you just feel like something's a little off or they're a little quiet or they're a little maybe aggressive. Whatever it might look like for your child, plan in those sessions and again, how long does it need to be?
[Kyle]: No, I'm talking like three minutes. Yeah, three to five minutes, and I typically--
[Sara]: Yeah, turn on a couple of laps.
[Kyle]: I typically would put a boundary on it. I picked a song I liked and told them “This is how it's going to happen. We're going to just wrestle, we're going to pillow fight, and then we're done. We're going to relax and then we're going to talk about your day”.
[Kyle]: So, that could be a cool technique in the morning if helping them prepare for school or afterwards when they get home. I just think it'd be just really great to start implementing that soon. So, that way then you have that in your tool belt with them, and they can ask for it if they need it.
[Kyle]: Okay? So, I hope that you found this podcast really helpful today, and especially in preparation for your kids going back to school and just so you feel like you can be helpful in making that big transition. So, once again, if you like this podcast, please share it, send it to your friends, and we appreciate you listening.
[Sara]: Have a great day.