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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tough Love

It's not an act of defiance...
My boys love to wrestle. I think most boys love to wrestle, and I think a lot of girls love to wrestle, too. A few weeks ago I discovered that my 2 year-old-niece loved being socked with a pillow by my four-year-old. She stood there screaming with laughter as he repeatedly hit her in the head. I can't explain the mysteries of what entertains children (the enigma that is Fireman Sam in my house) but some just alerted me that researchers are validating my belief that I'm not a bad mother when I let my kids beat each other up.'s developmentally appropriate... body-slam your brother.
When I was still a mother of only two boys, I read Michael Gurian's The Wonder of Boys. I learned some eye-opening tidbits! I constantly remind my husband that boys hear less (their range of hearing) and hear less well (their quality of hearing) that girls do, but I'm never sure if he hears me. 

I also learned that if you warn a boy that a behavior is too dangerous and he might get hurt, then he is basically a mindless zombie overcome by an evolutionary urge to engage in the risky behavior. Finally, I learned that competition and aggressive rough play are deep-seated needs in the healthy development of boys. 

It's a classic case of, "it's not you, it's me." My boys aren't actively defying me, they are just fulfilling their testosterone-tainted destinies. Gurian argues (and I can't believe I remember this so clearly. I forgot two massively important things this morning but my brain retains THIS information) that the problem isn't boys' behavior but how society (or Mom and Dad) responds to their behavior. 

With that in mind, I have laid off some of my rules against wrestling, tackling, tumbling, and play-fighting. I do maintain a strict "no karate in the van" policy mostly because I can't karate chop and drive at the same time. 


  1. As a child care provider and child development specialist this subject poses a dilemma. While I certainly understand the need for rough play there are children in our child care center that bring those "moves" to the center and often end up actually hurting another child because they have not learned (nor would be expected to) how to adjust their behavior for playing rough with same-aged or even younger children. So we typically have to say "no rough housing" when they are with us. Parents could help this situation by talking about how that activity is a "home" game and if the child care teachers tell them it's causing a problem in the group, perhps toning that down a bit until the child is a little older and has more self control.

  2. You make a good point. As a parent, though, I know that there are things I tell my kids not to do at school (i.e. build guns with legos) that they ignore and do at school anyway. I'm not denying your point is a good one, just saying I hate that feeling when teachers say "please tell you child not to do this at school" and I think, "I already have. He forgets/ignores me. I'm not there at school to reinforce it."
    As a child care provider- have you experienced this kind of situation? I'm curious because I am working on a guide for parents to better communicate with daycare teachers and professionals.