You’ve seen it time and time again. Your kids start roughhousing and then all of a sudden one cries out “Mom he hit me!” and your other child cries “No I didn’t, we were just playing!”
What started out as innocent play ended up with one kid crying, the other angry and defensive, and you stuck in the middle trying to figure out what happened.
When they were younger this seemed like typical play, but now that you have older kids on your hands you’re more concerned about this roughhousing. I completely understand. Roughhousing between tween and teen siblings can be pretty problematic!
Roughhousing is common and siblings often do push, grab, bump, and wrestle. If one child is injured, it’s no longer play, it’s just fighting.
However, as I’m sure you’ve seen, even if roughhousing doesn’t end in physical injury, it does often end in some sort of argument, and someone’s feelings are hurt. And then you’re called into the foray to be the referee.
In these instances, having a “no-touch play policy” is a good idea.
“How can a no-touch play policy help my kids get along better?”
Simply, it means your children play together without their bodies making physical contact.
The reason why children get upset during roughhousing is that the initial touch was consensual, but then somewhere down the line the roughhousing escalates past one of your kid’s comfort zones. For instance, your son and daughter like to play slap with each other but when that slap turns into a hit, which gets returned by a punch, than you have a full blown fight on your hands!
Since roughhousing doesn’t allow for a dialogue about consent, it’s just a recipe for disaster.
“So how do I keep my children from roughhousing?”
Your children likely share a lot of space together on a daily basis: bathroom, bedroom, dining table, couch, car, etc., that their bodies are used to being in close proximity. So it’s going to be a little difficult for them to get used to the idea of being near each other without touching each other.
Sit down as a family and talk with them about the problem you’ve been noticing. It’s always important to let your kids know why you think there needs to be changes. Encourage your children to brainstorm alternative ways of playing. Some ideas are:
- board games
- video games
- riding a bike
- building a fort
- arts and crafts
- listening to music
- making slime
Think more creative and less physical. You never know-they may be fully on board with having a no-touch play policy, and have ideas of their own!
“But my husband likes to roughhouse with the kids too.”
I hear you! Wrestling and roughhousing is a common way dads connect with their children (especially sons). Unfortunately, it’s difficult to say to your kids that they can’t do something if you or their other parent is doing it too.
So it makes sense that Dad needs to be on board with this change.
Before you meet with your kids, meet with Dad. Tell him how you noticed the roughhousing has become a problem and how it’s been affecting you. He may not know how stressful it is when the kids roughhouse and how much you’d like it to stop.
Let him know you appreciate that he spends time with his kids, but how he spends time with the kids needs to be tweaked. Help him think through alternative activities that he could do instead: “What are other ways would you’d like to connect with your children?”
Bottom line: The best part of a no-touch play policy is that it helps your children direct their attention away from each other’s bodies. This can be helpful if your children have a tendency to hit or kick or throw objects at each other when they are angry. So if you have a son or a daughter who demonstrates anger in a physical way (throwing objects, hitting or kicking) this policy should help lessen that.
If after implementing this policy you are still struggling with a child who is aggressive toward his sibling, seek help from a mental health professional who can help give your child alternative ways of communicating his anger. There might be some underlying issues there that the professional can help you and your child sort through.
Please comment below: Do your kids rough house until it spirals out of control? How could a no-touch play policy help your household?
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health. Her proudest accomplishment is following her dream of opening up a practice that is designed to focus on the whole family. She currently serves families in Southern California.