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Letting Kids Be Kids - The Benefits of Roughhousing

PHOTO: At times it can seem little more than controlled chaos, but when it comes to roughhousing, be it peer to peer, or parent and child, there are numerous benefits. CREDIT: Sharon Mollerus
PHOTO: At times it can seem little more than controlled chaos, but when it comes to roughhousing, be it peer to peer, or parent and child, there are numerous benefits. CREDIT: Sharon Mollerus
September 17, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio - It's an order that has passed the lips of many a parent - "Quit that horsin' around!" But a better option may be to loosen the reins a bit. According to Larry Cohen, a licensed psychologist who encourages roughhousing, physical engagement between children gets them some of the physical activity they need and can also help with mental and emotional development.

"There's been some research that children who do more roughhousing at home and with their peers, they do better in school," Cohen said. "They have more emotional intelligence, which is basically knowing your own emotions, understanding them, and being able to read and understand other people's emotions."

Roughhousing can also help build bonds between parent and child, Cohen said.

"We kind of think of roughhousing sometimes as a free-for-all, but you actually have to tune in to each other and that's great for building a connection," he said. "And I think in our society now we are just pushing children so hard to achieve and perform, and they don't get enough time to just roll around on the floor."

Now, when it comes to the issue of roughhousing and safety, Cohen said, he prefers supervision and knowledge, rather than too many rules. It's an approach that really set in when Cohen's daughter was younger and climbing around at a playground ... and he kept telling her to be careful, over and over.

"And my friend said 'You know, Larry, she's gonna recover more easily from a broken arm than from being timid and fearful her whole life.' Yes, there's a risk that a child could get hurt, but a loss of an adventurous spirit, a loss of excitement, a loss of confidence is worse than a broken arm."

Cohen, author of "The Art of Roughhousing," said that for children, especially those who are shy, roughhousing and wrestling around can be one way to help build inner confidence.

More information is available online at AttachmentParenting.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH