With Father’s Day just ahead, two dads are honoring the beloved tradition of roughhousing.
Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen have just published
“The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It,” (Quirk, May 2011). It’s part how-to, part polemic.
Roughhousing, according to the authors who are a doctor and a psychologist, will make kids smart, more likeable, more moral and ethical. It will teach them emotional intelligence, bring them joy and make them fit.
Not for nothing, it will also transform adults. One of the benefits for the parent, according to the book, is that roughhousing staves off dementia.
I kid you not, that’s in the book.
Luckily, the intellectualizing is background noise to the heart of “The Art of Roughhousing.”
After a disclaimer that calls for readers to use common sense, the authors offer dozens of roughhousing moves: flips, rolls, jumps and games. With names like the Balboa, Houdini, Red Tornado and Yakima!, some are familiar, some exotic, some ho-hum, some brilliant.
DeBenedet and Cohen exchanged e-mails with me on the book and said they came up with the moves by drawing on martial arts, yoga, dancing, gymnastics, and circuses as well as friends’ suggestions.
They rejected a few ideas, such as “Ram head butting.” DeBenedet described it this way, “Essentially adult and kid would put pillows on their heads and then run into each other.”
That might also be called Bad Idea. But what do I know, I’m not a dad.
By the way, the book does try to extend its reach to mothers. Some of the diagrams explaining moves show female figures, for instance. It didn’t help me much as I happen to fall into the stereotype on this one.
When I first looked over the book with my husband, we turned to a page and spoke aloud at once.
I said, “That looks dangerous.”
He said, “I’ve done that!”
The book’s point, really, is that we should remember in our nervous times that roughhousing is a hugely fun part of childhood and of parenting.
“When parents feel that they have to choose between learning and play, many of them will choose learning every time (dare I mention Tiger Mother?),” wrote Cohen, who has previously written “Playful Parenting,” (Ballantine, 2001).
“But the truth is that there isn’t a choice, active physical play promotes learning at every level, from academics to emotional learning to taking turns and making friends -- the real building blocks of success in life.”