Wrestling, Or ‘Rough-And-Tumble Play’ Is Important, But There Are Rules

Psychologists have coined the term rough-and-tumble play (RTP), which is a common form of play between fathers and children. It has been suggested that RTP can contribute to the development of self regulation. Some people often confuse RTP with genuine aggression but research has clearly distinguished these two types of behaviors and demonstrated that they arise from two distinct motivational systems, one associated with affiliation and the other with competition. Fathers tend to stimulate their children physically, emotionally, and cognitively during play. They also push them to take risks and reach for their physical, cognitive, and emotional limits. However, using their increased size, strength, and cognitive abilities, fathers can provide a secure environment for these interactions by asserting their authority and setting limits on their children’s behavior.

So, does RTP promote self-regulation or aggression? Research tends to say it is OK, just so as long as there are rules.

Dads who regulate RTP set limits on how aggressive children can be. They make sure it was fun and not overly competitive. They watch for whether children get over-excited or overwhelmed, and can bring kids back down to a calmer level when needed. When dads play like that, rough play did not increase aggression in kids.

So, in other words, wrestle away, but don’t forget to be the parent and set boundaries….and make sure it is in the name of fun, not competition.

Research shows that playing is key to a healthy father-child dynamic. Think of all the physical contact that takes place during play wrestling and rolling around. Now, that is connection!

OK, Padre Cadre family, let us know about your experiences engaging in RTP, whether there are specific RTP ‘games’ you play(ed) with your children, or just any other thoughts you have. Take care!

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