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Why Roughhousing with Dads is Important to Children

Why Roughhousing with Dads is Important to Children

‍This week we bring you a blogpost from the Good Dads archives. This article was originally published in 2018, but we think you’ll find that the topics we cover here are just as relevant in 2023!


​There’s so much good information in The Boy Crisis by Warren Farrell PhD and John Gray, PhD that we could devote blog topics to it for the next six months. However, this blogpost limits the scope to something Dr. Farrell and I discussed in an episode of the Good Dads Podcast: the importance of dads roughhousing with their children.

LEARN MORE: Episode 94: The Boy Crisis With Dr. Warren Farrell

I’m a mom, so I’m very familiar with those anxious pangs occurring when my husband went what I considered to be “over the top,” wrestling with our children.

“Somebody’s going to get hurt,” I might say. “Keep it down,” I instructed. “Watch what you’re doing. You’ll be sorry when someone starts crying.”

​Typically, my instructions and suggestions were ignored. Our kids loved wrestling matches with their dad. In fact, they begged for them. In their minds, the more full-body contact the better. If these episodes also involved a bit of danger and risk, e.g., being thrown in the air and flung over water, so much the better. I see the same sort of behavior with all eight of our grandchildren and their fathers.

According to Dr. Farrell, “Researchers consistently find that fathers who spend time with their children give their children the gifts of self-control and social skills” (p. 145). He believes that roughhousing contributes to children, and especially to boys, being less aggressive and having more social skills as an adult.

Dr. Farrell also asserts that it’s challenging for many moms to “get” roughhousing and the importance of the ways in which dads challenge kids’ limits. I know. I used to cringe at some of the competitions and “bets” my husband set up with our children. “Why do you need to do that?” I wondered. “Why does everything need to be a game?”

Dr. Farrell asserts, “A dad’s tendency to turn everything into a game is the way dad makes it palatable to challenge his children’s limits” (p. 147). In other words, it’s the way a father helps his child see he can do more than he believes. She can work harder than she imagined.

I’m not saying I didn’t challenge their limits, too. I’m just admitting my husband did it differently—and sometimes his way was better. Kids need both—mothers and fathers working together to give them what they need. Ideally this occurs with mom and dad living in the same house, but even when it doesn’t children need contact with their dads because they gain things from their father they don’t typically get from their mothers. 

About the Author

Dr. Jennifer L. Baker is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in marriage and family therapy. She is also the Founder and Director of Good Dads. She can be reached for question or comment at [email protected].

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