Teach your Kids the Hard Way

"You know," I said to my seven-year-old son as I sat next to him on the couch, "it occurs to me that I haven't body slammed you into the ground for at least a day or two."

He shot me a fiendish look. "You want a piece of me, buddy?!" he shouted.

The next few minutes were a blur of arms and legs, body slams, and my wife telling us to "take it easy." The more we wrestled, the more fun we had. We were lost in the moment, focusing only on who would gain the upper hand.

This ritual with my children has been going on for many years. Not only is it something we thoroughly enjoy, but it fills a developmental need for children--to play with their Dads. This play can be quite rough at times, which makes many mothers uncomfortable. But according to Stephen Suomi, M.D., of the National Institute of Child Health and Development, this kind of rough play helps children in many ways. "Fathers teach their children when enough is enough. If the play gets too rough, they (children) have to learn how to stop it before it gets out of hand."

Whether you have boys or girls, most children are naturally aggressive. Fathers who play roughly with their children teach them the difference between appropriate and inappropriate aggression. This allows children to learn the lessons they need to avoid being shunned by their peers--not only today, but in the years ahead. "In nature, animals that can't play nicely get dumped by their friends," Suomi explains.

Here are some guidelines for fathers rough-housing with their children:

  • Wrestle with both your son and your daughter--it helps girls to feel more assertive, and lets them know you think she can handle it.
  • Make specific rules when you're wrestling--no biting, hitting, kicking, etc. Then, you've got to follow them.
  • Let your kids win often--it will keep it more fun for them, and encourage more future wrestling
  • If you're married, wrestle in designated areas in the house--it will make your wife a lot happier!

I took my son by the waist and lifted him onto the couch. "Here comes the pile driver!" I bellowed, and I drove my shoulder into his stomach. He tried to wiggle free, but I pinned him down to complete my victory.

After all, I didn't want him to be shunned by his friends.

© 2007 Mark Brandenburg

Other Father Issues, Books, Resources

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To this day I can remember my father's voice, singing over me in the stillness of the night. - Carl G. Jung

Mark has a Masters degree in counseling psychology and has been a counselor, business consultant, sports counselor, and a certified life and business coach. He has worked with individuals, teams, and businesses to improve their performance for over 20 years. Prior to life and business coaching Mark was a world-ranked professional tennis player and has coached other world-ranked athletes. He has helped hundreds of individuals to implement his coaching techniques. Mark specializes in coaching men to balance their lives and to improve the important relationships in their lives. He is the author of the popular e-books, 25 Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent Fathers , and Fix Your Wife in 30 Days or Less (And Improve Yourself at the Same Time ). Mark is also the publisher of the “Dads Don’t Fix your Kids” ezine for fathers. To sign up, go to or E-Mail

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