I wrestle with my kids

dad and ella wrestling
Photo Credit: Dinko Mitic

My 4 year old son is a pretty calm kid compared to some other boys his age. As a baby he sat still, never cried, and smiled all the time and that temperament has remained to this day. He is also super cuddly and tells me he loves me all the time with genuine feeling.

But sometimes, he just needs to wrestle. 

At first, I was tentative about joining in on the wrestling situation. My husband usually obliged him in this area and he seemed happy enough, so I just sort of let him take that on as his job. But one day, while my husband was still at work, my son just needed to get some of his aggression out, so…

I grabbed a pillow, charged at him playfully, and swung.

The look on his face was priceless. He seemed happily surprised, and then there was this moment of genuine connection between the two of us, like we were conspiring mischief together, and it just filled me with joy. We continued like this for a while, growling and swinging pillows, and rolling around together for a while until we fell on the floor together laughing and tickling.

Some of you out there might already wrestle with your kids, but for me this was a bit out of my comfort zone, and since I have been challenging myself to take on uncomfortable things, I decided to give it try.

But what I didn’t expect was how big the payoff would be!

After our wrestling match, he seemed to listen to me better and to respect me just a little bit more. And as I continue now to wrestle him and play with him in other ways, he and I seem to have an understanding. I’m not just the parent that tells him what to do and what not to do, I’m a playmate now, a wrestling partner.

I’m no longer above getting my hands dirty and acting like a kid, and that makes him feel heard and validated. 

I still sometimes choose to do housework or deal with the baby instead of playing with my son, but I make a concerted effort to join in on his play as much as I can, whether it be playing legos (what the what?!), blocks, cars, duplos, or just plain jumping or running around, and I really notice a difference in my son’s behavior that day when I do.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still have thoughts that get in the way of me playing with him, like “I don’t know how to build Legos” or “what if I hurt him when we wrestle” or

“there’s more important things for me to do”,

but I know that there is only a small window where he is young enough that I can play with him or that he even wants me to play with him, so I try to make it a priority by changing my thoughts to “my son just wants my attention for a few minutes, and it doesn’t matter how good I am at whatever he’s doing” or “what will they remember when they get older, how clean the house was, or that I respected them enough to engage them in how they wanted to play?”, and this helps to me to feel open and calm enough to take moment and pay attention to him.

If this is something that challenges you, and you struggle to take time to play with your kids, or even if you love playing with your kids, but just need to make a more conscious effort to make it a priority, remember that it’s your thoughts that ultimately trigger your actions, so take a look at what you’re thinking when you’re around your kids and they ask you to play. Ask yourself if you like your reasons for saying no to playing and then you decide not to play with them, try to plan a 15 minute window where you stop what you’re doing and really focus on your kids.

Who knows? You might even have fun!

And if you want more reasons why roughhousing is good for you and your kids, read this great article from PsychCental.

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