Daddy's guide to rough housing with kids
You can improve your participation from being the “assistant” nanny whose main task is to dispose of soiled diapers. You can be your baby’s playmate.
There are times when you may feel a bit jealous of how the kids are closer to the wife than to you. How can it not be? Being inside the womb of the mother is the closest anyone can be to another being. When the child is born, he literally grows comfortably tucked in the warmth and nourishment of his mother’s bosom. And you can just hover around like the insignificant other, as if saying, “Hey guys, I’m here too … hello.”
On some occasions, you may be called upon to lend a hand, “Hon, can you watch over the baby while I cook?” And in those rare occasions, you carry your baby and he looks at you blankly as if asking, “Who the hell are you? Where’s my mom?” The little brat!
The good news is you can improve your participation from being the “assistant” nanny whose main task is to dispose of soiled diapers. You can be your baby’s playmate. While the wife occasionally plays with the baby, it’s never like how we dads play – we play hard! In fact, this is a natural tendency for dads. Since we don’t spend much time with the baby as much as moms do, we tend to make up for it by being more fun. Daddy = fun! When you do this, expect your baby’s face to light up whenever he hears your voice or sees you coming.
The fun gets even better as your child grows older. As soon as the child is strong enough to support his back, you can carry him around on your shoulders while you run around the house (while the wife gives you the look – she’s either just jealous or she’s horrified for her ceramics and china). You can roll with him on the floor more freely, and more often than moms would (if they ever do). Dads tend to be more physical and more intense with rough-and-tumble games.
And while mothers tend to be very protective, fathers tend to be more adventurous. While mothers are more concerned about keeping the house and the kids in their best appearances and behaviour, dads are more unconventional, more unpredictable, more arousing, and more exciting.
Daddy’s sweet revenge
While you clown it up, growl, tickle, and wrestle, and while your child/children shriek and giggle, moms usually are contented just to be in the sidelines laughing and watching over the ceramic and china vases. And then you and your brood holler out to mommy, “Mom, can we have some juice please?” Hah! Now, who’s the “assistant”?
Benefits of rough physical games with kids
Without intending to, you are teaching your children a lot about life during rough-housing with them. In fact, I believe we are making them learn a lot of lessons at play than when we are just talking to them. We teach them restraint and self-control. Kids are a powerhouse of excess energy. Rough-housing can help them become more aware of their strength and limitations, e.g., that they can hurt someone or themselves. They learn this early on when they get hurt, or when someone else cries (not you, hopefully) and they learn how to be careful next time. This translates to the child’s learning and improving on his social skills when he deals with peers.
Studies have shown that the father plays a very important role in a child’s language and cognitive skills. Compared to our wives, we talk straight – and in a collegial manner – to our kids. Notice the “Hey, buddy” from dads to their kids? And the most important part – fathers generally don’t talk down to their children as much as mothers do.
The gentle giant
When you roughhouse with your kids, you show them another part of you that they can associate with – the playful part. You’re much stronger, much bigger than they are but in playing you show them self-control (that’s a lesson!), you show them that you should always not use force that could hurt simply because you can. Kids learn this as a guide in how they play with peers, especially the smaller, weaker ones. When you allow them to subdue you, tackle you, and catch you breathless, you become part of his inner circle of play friends – not just a figure of authority. Figures of authorities are awesome, but we tend to distance ourselves to them, right?
The child is not the only one who benefits from rough physical games with his kids. Think about those times when you come home feeling tired. You think you have no energy left so how can you play with your child? The truth is, most of the time, you are just emotionally and mentally drained – not physically tired. Do you know that we rid ourselves of the troubles and weariness from work when we play with our kids? Playing boosts our happy hormones called endorphins – these peptides secreted by the pituitary gland in your brain work like how opium affects your mood and energy.
When you get home drained, you have two choices: 1. greet everyone with a weak smile or a grumpy face to warn everyone at home you’re tired and you don’t want to be bothered; or 2. Greet everyone with your broadest smile that says, “boy-am-i-so-glad-to-see-you!”
If you choose 1, you can stay grumpy and no one bothers you. Your wife gives you that sympathetic smile, and your child greets you then stay out of your way. And then you try to rest while you continue to carry the world on your shoulder. It doesn’t look good to me.
If you choose 2, your wife smiles back and your child throws himself on you for a bear hug. Do you know how that hug melts all your troubles away? Then he engages you with his stories with that tiny voice of his, and maybe even tries to play with you. Do you think you’re still tired? It’s just like the beginning of a jogging session: the first steps are difficult – then you get the high.
So, go ahead. Make mom a little crazy. Tumble with your child in a rough play. Just be aware of the possibility that kids may overdo it. If they do, be sure to address these and make them understand the limitations.