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I have a question about the way my children play at home and if I should be concerned? I have a two boys, one is two and the other is almost four. We had our children close together so that they could be playmates and companions, as an only child myself my husband and I thought it would be ideal for our kids to have a sibling close in age. Now I wonder if we did the right thing. Both boys will start wrestling in the living room. As soon as it starts, they get very loud and eventually one of them gets hurt or something gets broken. I have tried everything to get them to stop and haven’t been able to find a punishment that works to make them get along, can you help me?
Dear Concerned Parent,
Rough and tumble play among siblings and peers can be difficult for any parent. As parents and caregivers, we are moved to protect children from harm. Loud yells and minor injuries from play, can understandably cause anxiety for a parent and test our patience.
Rough and tumble play in young children is common and in fact necessary for a child to develop and grow. Rough and tumble play helps to develop children’s fine and gross motor skills, assist in sensory integration and practice social skills. This type of play also allows children to release energy and get exercise. Children generally participate in this type of play with children or adults they are close to, like a parent or a sibling. Because rejection is unlikely in these situations children are able to develop an understanding of their own physical limitations as well as those of others.
What Adults Can Do to Help?
Adults who engage in this type of play with children are encouraged set limits regularly and hold to them. For example if a child, in their excitement does something dangerous or harmful to another person they could be told not to do that because it is not safe. When the play is over the parent can state that rough play is done for now. When children are playing together, parents are strongly encouraged to closely monitor the play to ensure that children remain safe. Having certain areas of the house that are off limits to rough play, like an area with sharp edges or breakables would also be appropriate.
Children that are extremely excited or remain escalated after this type of play can be coached on how to calm their bodies afterwards. Often a calming activity can follow active play, which can help children practice calming themselves after a stimulating activity.
Play involving angry or mean faces, screams of pain, humiliation or fear is not play and parents are strongly encouraged to stop play immediately. If you are concerned about the amount of rough and tumble play your children participate in, a child’s ability to calm down after active play, or the amount of injuries to a particular child this might be something that a counselor with experience working with children can help with.
Sherry Tucker, BA, BSW, RSW
Director of Family Services