Fathers at Play

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The results are in. According to a recent global study, roughhousing is critical to a child’s development. Maybe the best gift you can give to your young kids is to roughhouse with them a little bit more. 

Dr. Richard Fletcher is the leader of the Fathers and Families Research Program at the University of Newcastle in Australia. In a recent ABC news story he said, “Rough and tumble play between fathers and their young children is part of their development, shaping their children’s brain so that their children develop the ability to manage emotions and thinking and physical action altogether,” said Fletcher. “This is a key developmental stage for children in that preschool area between the ages of about two and a half and five. That’s when children learn to put all those things together.”

Fathers who understand this are often found tickling, wrestling and throwing their children high into the air. Typically in our house, my wife is the one saying, “Not so high!”. Fathers are more likely to chase their children, sometimes as playful, scary monsters, and be more physical in their play with the kids.

Roughhousing is not just all fun and games. It’s also a place to teach your young children many important lessons such as restraint. Children who roughhouse with their fathers learn that biting, kicking and other forms of physical violence are not acceptable. They learn self-­control by being told when “enough is enough” by their fathers and when to settle down and call it quits, often right before bedtime. Sons and daughters both learn a healthy balance between being timid and being aggressive through this kind of play. 

Dad’ here’s your UNCOMMEN challenge for this week: put a note in your weekly schedule to roughhouse with your kids a few times this week before bedtime. And make sure it ends with lots of tickles, hugs, and high fives. (And maybe a few tears every once in awhile if you have multiple sons in on the action.) You will be amazed at how it will teach them lifelong lessons and how they will look forward to that with you. And if you aren’t careful you will come to realize how much fun it is and how it helps you bond with your kids. 

About the author: Sam Casey is the Managing Partner at Banyan Creative. As the father of two small children, he is a self‐proclaimed undefeated champion in roughhousing his two kids in the last four years. Although, he knows that record is in jeopardy because the kids are getting stronger each year.


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