My husband is the oldest of five siblings. His brother, John, is only 17 months younger than David. My mother-in-law warned me early on of how tough they were on each other…the stitches, bb guns, arrows, and fist fights. Raised as an only child, these exploits seemed so foreign to me!
Fifteen children later and I can tell you all of that roughhousing growing up has been one of the most integral parts of making David the type of dad he is. Constantly wrestling, tossing, pinning down, scrapping, fighting, and all out tackling–not just the boys but the girls too– has really helped form them into strong, capable children. Studies have shown that children raised with a father who playfully tussles with them and tosses them in the air builds trust. These children are able to build better relationships and generally do better socially.
In my own home I can tell you it has built the kind of children who do not go looking for a fight, but they don’t shy away from one either. They are able to handle themselves well physically because they have been “roughed up” (or “ruffled” as Ransom calls it) by Daddy. When they are little he places them up high on the nursery shelf and teaches them to fall to his arms. As they grow they enjoy hiding and tackling him any chance they get. I wouldn’t say he takes it easy on them either! But they always walk away with a giant smile and a little more confidence in their step.
I don’t think we do children any favors by always being so gentle and coddling them. Young boys need to be physically strong and willing to defend themselves and eventually their families. Young girls need to have confidence in their physical strength as well. The best example have of this was when Daly Kay was 14 and on the swim team. Years of wrestling with dad as well as swimming miles per day had made her one tough little lady. A particular male teammate, 2 years older than she, decided to swim right up next to her and physically pin her in between the wall of the pool and his own body. She promptly made a fist with two hands and elbowed his chest so hard it literally knocked the wind out of him. David was on deck and witnessed his “close encounter” and then saw him gasping for air. Needless to say, this young man left her alone from that point on and her intimidating reputation on the pool deck protected her from any further advances by other “interested” parties. I don’t know that if her father had not been teaching her how to defend herself through all those nights of “roughins” before bed, she would have been so confident and swift in her reaction.
So wrestle. Tussle. Tackle. Fight. Play hard. Be rough. Teach them to defend themselves and give them confidence. End with a hug and an “atta boy”…or “good job, honey!” Dads, do your part. Make ’em strong physically and confident emotionally by regularly rough housing with your kiddos.