Two Frequently Asked Questions

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When interviewers and reporters ask us about The Art of Roughhousing, two questions come up most frequently: Is it safe? and Do people really need a book about roughhousing?

Yes and yes!  Here’s why.

Is roughhousing safe? Like any contact sport—in fact, like any aspect of life—there are some risks associated with roughhousing.  However, most injuries can be easily prevented or minimized with a few simple guidelines.  First, be there.  Most roughhousing accidents happen when there is no adult supervision.  Second, tune in thoughtfully to your child.  Tuning in means being on the same wavelength, being aware of the surroundings and each other.  Don’t swirl your child around in a room full of glass shelves and cabinets.  (In other words, use common sense!)  But more importantly, tuning in means paying attention to the emotional climate.  Is your child getting too revved up—add in frequent “freeze” moments to the roughhousing.  Is your child aggressive?  Be prepared to catch the punch before it lands, so that you redirect that energy without any need for punishment or abruptly ending the playtime.  Notice your own emotions also—some injuries occur because a parent is getting too frustrated, competitive, or intense to roughhouse safely.  Finally, keep in mind a few simple rules:  When lifting a child, hold them under the armpits to avoid pulling elbows and shoulders out of the socket.  For complex moves, always use a spotter.  If a child is going to be hanging head down, make sure there is a very soft surface underneath.

Why do parents need a book on roughhousing; isn’t it natural? These safety tips are some of the reasons that we believe a book like The Art of Roughhousing is necessary.  But many people still wonder whether families need a guide to horseplay.  Isn’t it natural and intuitive?  Well, it is for some parents, but many of us need guidance and encouragement, and we all need specific ideas so that it doesn’t get stale.  When we lead roughhousing events, we always ask families to show us their favorite physically active games.  We’ve learned lots of great moves that way, but we’ve noticed that many families only have one way to roughhouse. They always love learning a big variety of new ways to roughhouse.  We’ve also noticed that roughhousing isn’t intuitive for a lot of parents—either because they didn’t do it at all when they were young, or because they were hurt by violence that was masquerading as roughhousing.  For these parents, we recommend starting with games and moves that are nothing like playfighting, things like Knock Your Socks Off (everyone sits on the floor with their shoes off, and tries to keep their own socks on while getting everyone else’s socks off.)  Finally, many parents assume there is always something “better” or more “constructive” that their children should be doing.  No way!  You don’t have to choose between learning and play.  Play is learning!  In fact, it’s a deeper and more important part of learning than drills or flash cards can ever be.


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