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Roughhousing-Is it okay?

Updated on July 27, 2014
Jacob playing dress up
Jacob playing dress up | Source

Are we creating a little animal?

My husband is an amazing father-he is loving, attentive, a good provider, and engaged with our young son. Everyday he makes time to interact with Jacob, and participates in his day to day care. He bathes him, feeds him, dresses him for bed, and cuddles him every night. They are very close, and I call Jacob my husbands mini me. Sound perfect, right?

On the negative side nearly every evening my husband is roughhousing with our son. This has been going on since he was a few months old, and they both seem to enjoy themselves. They giggle, destroy the living room, and very seldom have injuries. The play has also helped my son develop physical skills quickly and stay well ahead of the physical development curve. He started to pull up on furniture the same day he crawled, he walked before turning one, he climbs, balances, and can get into anything and everything. He has complete trust that when he jumps at us we will catch him. At a year old I walked into the living room to find him piling all the pillows off the couch onto the floor around our ottomans. He then proceeded to climb onto the ottoman and jump off landing on the pillows-all the while giggling while I suffered a mini heart attack. He is tough and doesn't often cry when he falls down and hurts himself. He gets back up and keeps going. I read an article during the past year that encouraged rough housing with your children as a way for them to develop trust in you. By showing that they can trust that you will not drop them they are learning that they can depend on you

My son also does not have good self control and doesn't know when to stop roughhousing. He is a big boy-off the charts on height-which means when he is with peers he is the largest. Is all this roughhousing going to lead to him being a bully? He is too young to understand he can hurt others. Is my husband teaching him to be overly physical, or is this harmless bonding and trust teaching?

I have already been told twice by daycare providers that he is not as gentle as he should be with the younger children. I have corrected him several times for pushing, but this is a common behavior for children his age. Behavior issues are also showing up and my husband isn't handling it very well at all. He throws everything, climbs on everyone, and hits. Jacob will laugh when he is corrected, and time outs are spent with him giggling. He is out of little animal in the making.

So is this normal toddler behavior, or in response to excessive roughhousing? In today's society when school bullying is all over the news I feel a parent should be concerned. I don't want my son to become a bully and lose his sweet loving side, or to be fearful and be bullied. What is the right balance and how do I develop a loving child and not a little animal?

My Plan

For now we are going to continue to roughhouse while attempting to teach limits. Roughhousing is okay sometimes-such as at night with dad-but not while at daycare with younger children. Anytime someone says no or stop you stop. I will continue to monitor Jacob for aggressive behavior and establish boundaries and rules that both his father and I will enforce.

1. No hitting or throwing.The only time this is okay is while playing football or baseball.

2. No biting

3. No pushing

4. Stop means stop

Parenthood is an ever changing journey, and this might work for now and not work later. I acknowledge that, but I hope that by teaching boundaries and balance we can have a happy, friendly little boy.

Do you allow it?

Do you rough house with your kids?

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    • momaoak profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Greenwood, AR

      Thank you for the feedback shea duane. It is funny but I usually end up hurt as well.

    • momaoak profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Greenwood, AR

      Thank you for the feedback songbirdmom. I remember roughhousing with my brother and dad all the time, so I agree it is natural. I just hope to be able to get a handle on it.

    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 

      6 years ago from new jersey

      We always play, have lightsaber fights, wrestle... it's fun and we're careful that no one gets heart (most of the time, mommy gets hurt lol)

    • songbirdmom profile image


      6 years ago from florida

      I think its male instinct to wrestle or rough house. I grew up with three guys in the house constantly roughhousing. It's a masculine thing to do, its almost primal. I think it will just require a lot more restraint on your part and teaching him to be gentle with other kids.

    • momaoak profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Greenwood, AR

      Thank you Samantha Gold and Shauna for the feedback. I appreciate it. I am finding parenthood to be a giant maze with several options that will get you to the end, but all with different results.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      As part of my job I am well trained in respectful caregiving. I have firm beliefs in not throwing a child in the air or ticking them, I feel that it is me using my adult power over the child and as a mother not something that I wanted to do. That being said, I struggled with Scott rough housing with our children especially Maren and I had to do a lot of soul searching on this topic. The conclusion that I came to is Scott's relationship with our children is his own and as a mother I should not expect him to do things "my way". Dad's naturally interact with children in a different way and much of the time that involves rough and tumble play that as women we find dangerous but it actually very necessary and beneficial to young children. They need to learn to take appropriate risks and that is a huge benefit to that type of play.

      I would not worry for a second that your son's behavior is automatically going to turn him into the class bully. Hitting, Kicking, Biting, etc. are all normal parts of a Toddlers development. They do not yet have the words to express their feelings and showing frustration via physical means is perfectly normal. The caregiver telling you that he is not "gentle enough with younger children" sounds like it is based upon some unrealistic expectations on her part. He should not be expected at less than two years old to understand that he is hurting another child when he hits them. You can continually guide him with words like "Soft touches Jacob." and then demonstrate what that is. Holding him accountable for his actions with "time out" at his age is just going to frustrate you and him. A child his age cannot understand why they are being placed in time out and are not going reflect on why they are sitting there and why they should not do whatever they did again. That type of thinking does not emerge in children until much later. However, you can always tell him, “I am going to put you here where you can be safe.” and remove him from a situation. My advice would be to reinforce all of his actions with positive guidance: "Soft hands", "Walking Feet", "You may kick the ball, but you may not kick Mommy". Young children respond best when you focus on the positive and avoid words like "No" and "Stop", that are more abstract concepts to them.

      I work with child care providers everyday and teach classes on this type of thing so I apologize for how long this is. He sounds like a very happy, normal little boy and the best thing that he has going for him is that he has two parents that love him and are invested in his well-being. Children who bully other children usually do that out of a place of personal fear and hurt not out of a place of being loved and cared for which is what your son has in his life everyday!

    • Samantha Gold profile image

      Samantha Gold 

      6 years ago

      Roughhousing is fine by me! It is a great way for your son to build a strong relationship with his father. The fact that you are setting rules/boundaries says a lot about you... Handling it before it becomes a problem. You may still run into issues, as most parents, but I am sure they will easily get resolved.

    • momaoak profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Greenwood, AR

      Thank you for your feedback LauraD093. We are hoping that we can get a handle on this and raise a well behaved son. I have seen girls as well as boys who like to roughhouse, but it does seem like boys are expected to behave this way more than little girls.

    • LauraD093 profile image

      Laura Tykarski 

      6 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

      Although without children I have observed all my friends and how they dealt with this particular issue over the years. While in school I also did a paper on studies done on how parents often handle child-rearing in accordance with the sex of the child. Boys always are according to most studies handled more roughly then females based on a preconceived notion that females are more fragile than males even at birth. Proven to be hog-wash this still doesn't deter a lot of parents. It seems that you and your spouse may have arrived at a workable medium. Your son as he ages should also be capable of setting his own boundaries. Thanks for a well written and informative hub, voted it up.


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