Why Rough Housing with Dad is Important to Children

Josh The-DadMile Markers

There’s so much good information in The Boy Crisis by Warren Farrell PhD and John Gray, PhD that we could devote the contents of the Real Good Dads blog to it for the next six months. At the same time, we do have other topics we want to cover and writer dads we want to hear from. With that in mind, I want to cover one last topic that also coincides with our latest podcast with Dr. Farrell, namely the importance of the roughhousing dads do to their child’s development.

I’m a mom, so I’m very familiar with those anxious pangs occurring when my husband went what I considered as “over the top,” wrestling with our children.

“Somebody’s going to get hurt,” I might said. “Keep it down,” I instructed. “Watch what you’re doing. You’ll be sorry when someone starts crying.”

Typically, my instructions and suggestions were ignored. Our kids loved wrestling matches with their dad. In fact, they begged for them. In their minds, the more full-body contact the better. If these episodes also involved a bit of danger and risk, e.g., being thrown in the air and flung over water, so much the better. I see the same sort of behavior with all eight of our grandchildren and their fathers.

According to Dr. Farrell, “Researchers consistently find that fathers who spend time with their children give their children the gifts of self-control and social skills” (p. 145). He believes that roughhousing contributes to children, and especially to boys, being less aggressive and having more social skills as an adult.

Dr. Farrell also asserts that it’s challenging for many moms to “get” roughhousing and the importance of ways in which dads challenge kids limits. I know. I used to cringe at some of the competitions and “bets” my husband set up with our children. “Why do you need to do that?” I wondered. “Why does everything need to be a game?”

Dr. Farrell asserts, “A dad’s tendency to turn everything into a game is the way dad makes it palatable to challenge his children’s limits” (p. 147). In other words, it’s the way a father helps his child see he can do more than he believes. She can work harder than she imagined.

I’m not saying I didn’t challenge their limits, too. I’m just admitting my husband did it differently—and sometimes his way was better. Kids need both—mothers and fathers working together to give them what they need. Ideally this occurs with mom and dad living in the same house, but even when it doesn’t children need contact with their dads because they gain things from their father they don’t typically get from their mothers.

As Father’s Day approaches, I hope we will remember this and thank a good dad we know for his contribution to our life. You can also recognize a special dad in your life on the Good Dads web page. You can help more fathers become the good dad they want to be by contributing to the work of Good Dads. Just go to www.gooddads.com to give.