Wednesday January 20 2021
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Roughhousing – It's really not that bad, mom!

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“Roughhousing” has been making moms nervous for centuries, probably. And while you've obviously got to be careful when goofing around physically with your kids—just as they do with their siblings or their friends—there may actually be some benefits to horseplay.

In the book, The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It, authors Anthony T. DeBenedet, MD, and Lawrence J. Cohen claim there are six distinct benefits to roughhousing.

Brain fertilizer
Fun physical play releases a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which stimulates neuron growth within the cortex and hippocampus regions of the brain. Those are the areas that are responsible for memory, learning, language and logic. In addition, studies have found that only the most intelligent of animal species engage in physical play. So maybe roughhousing does make kids smart.

Emotional intelligence
Roughhousing involves reading the emotions of others as well as managing your own emotions and self-control. Obviously emotional intelligence is essential to navigating through the adult world later in life: dealing with every day family issues or reading the mood of a co-worker. Horseplay also involved the need to distinguish between innocent play and aggression, which are skills adults need to develop problem-solving skills.

Lovable and likable
The authors write that roughhousing makes kids “lovable and likable.” This can be looked at in several ways. One is that physical play builds friendships, especially in males. For men—and boys—who don't convey their feelings verbally, playful roughhousing can be a show of affection. It also involves the ability to get along and to take turns – no one likes to be “it” all the time. This also leads to the concept of negotiation – a wonderful skill for professional success as well as committed relationships.

Does roughhousing make children ethical and moral? Maybe so. Again, the animals with the highest level of moral development also engage in the most physical play. Watch two dogs tussell on the living room floor. The bigger dogs lets the little dog have his/her way much of the time. We do this too, especially parents and older siblings, when physically engaging with their kids or younger brothers and sisters. This teaches “them self-control, fairness, and empathy,” write DeBenedet and Cohen.

Physically fit
This is pretty clear, but it goes deeper than simple physical activity. Complex motor skills, coordination and body control are also practiced when roughhousing.

C'mon, Mom. We're just havin' fun!

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