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Kids Playing Rough May Be A Good Thing

PHOTO: Expert says roughhousing can be good for kids. CREDIT: Sharon Mollerus
PHOTO: Expert says roughhousing can be good for kids. CREDIT: Sharon Mollerus
September 20, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY – It's an order that has passed through the lips of many a parent, "Quit that horsing around."

But a better option may be to loosen the reins a bit.

Larry Cohen, a licensed psychologist and author of “The Art of Roughhousing,” says physical engagement between children gets them some of the physical activity that 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,” he explains. “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."

Cohen says for children, especially those who are shy, roughhousing and wrestling around can be ways to help build inner confidence.

And, he says, roughhousing can also help build bonds between parent and child.

"We kind of think of roughhousing sometimes as a free-for-all,” he explains. “But you actually have to tune in to each other and that's great for building a connection.

“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."

When it comes to the issue of roughhousing and safety, Cohen says 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.

"And my friend said, 'You know Larry, she's going to recover more easily from a broken arm than from being timid and fearful her whole life.'” Cohen recalls. “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."

More information is available online at

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT