Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day II: License to Wrestle

The Wall Street Journal's Work & Family column by Sue Shellenbarger reports on studies showing:
...fathers have an additional impact, over and above that of mothers. Also, men have a tendency to behave differently with children. After defining good parenting for decades as what warm, nurturing mothers typically do, researchers now are also beginning to see how behaviors characteristic of fathers can shape children too.

Fathers tend to engage kids in more rough-and-tumble play, for example. Researchers say this can have a powerful positive impact on children, fostering curiosity and teaching them to regulate emotion and enjoy surprises.*
Cut through the jargon: wrestling and goofing off are good for kids! YES!!!

These are the areas were dads excel. I always viewed it as a practical matter. It seems counter-intuitive, but wrestling is less exhausting than most other father-child activities. "Candyland" is not physically demanding, but after Game 2 of the "Candyland" World Series I am ready to slash and burn the candy cane forest. But wrestling is easy. You usually don't get off the floor, you just toss them around a bit. When you get tired, you just lie down and they jump on you a little. Mine are still small enough that they don't do much harm (when the get close to 100 lbs. the physics change.) But don't let on. You can use the "hurt back excuse" to get out of mowing the lawn for a couple days.

Mom always frowns on this - it makes the kids wild and encourages aggressive behavior. Now, a renown source tells us this is exactly what we should be doing. We are fulfilling our biological and social mandates as teachers. We are preparing our children to interact with an exciting world. So, in that vein, I'll spend the afternoon teaching my children. My daughter has a drop kick with real potential (to annoy my wife.)

Another pointless goof-off game at our house is "bump heads". Pretty much like it sounds, mom hates it (especially when she hears the disturbing thump of my children and I bashing our skulls together.) But it is just goofing off, and it will serve them well come rutting season.

Random tickle attacks, pouncing, running around the house yelling, "La la la!" and just severe cases of what my son calls, "Goofing out" are now recognized as healthy, development activities. What could be a better Father's Day Gift than an endorsement of what dads do best?

* This is echoed by this report on CNN.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

If you haven't already, I'd recommend reading "Why Gender Matters" by Leonard Sax. It has helped reduce the stress my wife suffers in seeing how much our sons enjoy seeing explosions on TV, how they reject almost anything feminine, and the deep obsession each has with machinery (rockets for the 3 year old, cars for the 19 month old).

Best of all, she turns a blind eye to the gun battles when I have them watch old episodes of the Thunderbirds with me, and even bit her tongue when I pulled out Star Wars for the first time last week! (The 3 year old wants to call it "Robots and Space Ships", but he's slowly coming around).

It was in Sax's book (or one of many similar ones my wife insisted I read) that referred to a fascinating result from a study that showed that preventing boys from exhibiting any aggressive behavior correlates strongly with aggression in adulthood. School yards may not allow any kind of aggression, but I think that learning what is acceptable vs unacceptable aggression is vital for boys, and I figure it's my role to teach it. Getting jumped on is just an added bonus (or penalty - depending on where they land).

At least wrestling it's easier than the feats of engineering my son expects me to master in applying "Builders and Benders" components to the latest structure he thinks I can duplicate. (Last week it was the ISS. Tonight it was an X-wing fighter. I'm so proud.)