Monday, 2 May 2011

The Art of Roughhousing

When I was contacted and asked if I would like to review The Art of Roughhousing, I was really keen to see if it would be a common sense approach to actual physical play with boys (and girls) or just some new fad  that would result in me flinging the book across the room.

Described as a good old fashioned horseplay and why every kid needs it I was encouraged.  To my mind "old fashioned" is good when it comes to lots of things children; education, manners, play, I could go on. 

The book is written by two fathers Dr Anthony DeBenedet and psychologist Lawrence Cohen.  Anthony in his Preface tells of always interacting in a physical way  with his father whilst growing up.  Larry on the otherhand did not.  It is really interesting to read how these two different styles of parenting moulded the views of these men as they grew up.

Within the first few pages I was hooked on the philosophy of this book. In The State of the Art paragraph on page 12 this sentence sums up for me what life has become for many of our children today :

"What was once a motto of Safety First has evolved into a fretful new motto of Safety Only "

Children are over protected within an inch of their lives, are frowned upon if they play "rough" at school.  We had an example of this at the last school parents evening for our twins where we were told on the form that they give you,  both our boys are "too touchy" and their aims for next term ?  Not to improve reading or writing etc but to "learn to keep their hands to themselves " and by this the teacher meant hugging and touching in any form not "hitting".  My husband and I were horrified by this, it immediately made us feel as though our children were "thugs"  when the reality is that they are tactile and intelligent children who use touch as a communication tool.  Don't most six years olds ?  When language skills are still being developed, isn't it a common form of communication ?

I was a single mum with No 1 son for six years and spent great chunks of our "playtime" flinging him down the stairs in sleeping bags or quilts, dragging him down the hallway by his feet, rolling, "fighting" bucking and play "scaring" the wits out of him to screams of laughter and "more mummy more" !  In the days before we spent vast amounts of time playing on computers we made our own entertainment in ways I felt were suitable for a boy.

When friends or family visited they would often comment that I "was being too rough" or "it will end in tears" it rarely did.  I knew then as I know now how much is too much and more importantly to read the signs of when my children have had enough and are getting overstimulated by all the rough and tumble.  Even today No1 son  now (nearly 16 years old and a good six inches taller than me, will grab me for a playfight on the sofa !  I have to be wary of these ninja attacks especially when the twins join in the fun ! I'm not as young as I once was!

We all rough and tumble around the house together, running around hiding and jumping out on each other.  I had the living daylights scared out of me when I opened my linen basket last week and out jumped one of the twins. We hugged and rolled on the floor laughing so much I had tears rolling down my face.  They and I love it.

The book tells of the importance of rowdy, physical interactive play and how it was first observed in young rhesus monkeys during the 50's and 60's, it even makes the bold claim that physical play makes children smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likeable, ethical, physically fit and joyful " !  and gives you the facts both scientific  and otherwise to back up the claims.

By page 17  I could be heard muttering "yes! yes! yes!"  "this is so right" "OMG Nigel you HAVE to read this"   "listen to this " and "this"   to the amusement of the people sat around us at Bicton Park .

By Chapter two I was in total agrement with this book and would encourage anybody who has ever enjoyed rolling around with their children to buy a copy.  A lot of the content is common sense and something we already do in the course of bringing up our children.  But to some parents these days it may not be and maybe a helping hand is needed.    There are paragraphs on how to get started with accompanying picture diagrams !  Recommendations for suitability for ages, difficulty level and essential skills !

The book is jam packed with facts, stories, evidence and is written in an interesting no nonesense way.  If you have ever felt that trying to keep up with all the crafting, cooking activities, swimming, football, dance, cubs clubs etc  was exhausting not just for you but your children too.  Then this book might just be for you.  Our children don't have their lives all "clubbed" out but we do play with them an awful lot and I am glad to find that actually, in this modern over stimulated world we can feel that we are actually doing something right !

Due for release on the 17th May - its available on Amazon and many other good book sellers : )


  1. What a great review, I think I might get that book, I was thinking about this just over the weekend.

    My son is almost 2. I was swinging him around the garden and he was giggling his head off!

    Joseph was born at 27 weeks and its taken me a long time to realise that he's now just a normal toddler and he doesn't need to be protected in a plastic box anymore, and if I'm not careful, I am going to over protect him and that's not good.

  2. Many thanks for taking the time to comment Kylie. I think when you have problems at birth (both my twins were in SCU for the first week of their lives) you can tend to be over protective.
    One great success story is a teacher at my son's school his son was a small sickly child when he was little, his dad (the teacher) is an ex Middlesex cricket captain and he played "rough" with his son all the time. His son now plays junior cricket and rugby for England !
    If your children enjoy this kind of play then do it, if they don't then don't. Its that simple xx

  3. Great review. Sounds like a really interesting book. I used to love it when my Dad played 'tackling' with me, (which basically involved rolling around on the carpet!) but would be interested to read if there is more to it than just good fun.

  4. I'm currently reading 'Playful Parenting' also by Lawrence Cohen and finding it so interesting to consider how 'rough' play has lots of subtlety to it and can be used to make connections with kids and work through any issues which they might be experiencing. 'Playful Parenting' is the book of the month at the No Time For Flashcard's blog bookclub and there'll be a discussion of it in the next week or so - maybe of interest?

  5. Thanks Cathy, will pop over and take a look.

  6. Having read the pitch for this I was unconvinced but this is a good review. I watch the way my young sons play together and naturally most of it is like this. My five year old says the boring bits at school are when he has to 'sit still', many children aren't designed for that. And it's not confined to boys either, my toddler daughter likes to pile in with her older brothers too. I think I'm wary of a book which tells you how to do these things as in our family they seem to come naturally. That said, in many families it doesn't and health and safety is definitely extreme at times.

  7. Thanks for commenting Emily and I agree with you most of it just reinforced what we have always done naturally with our children too, but I suppose like all the books out there telling people how to fed, teach, train to sleep, potty train etc there are always going to be people who would not think to "play rough" with their children and the book is much more than just that.
    Times have changed and we see the camparison graphically having a 16 yr old who has had a private education in a traditional school where rugby, rough and tumble competitive sport is actively encouraged versus our 6 yr old twins state educated no competitive sports policy.



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