Rough-housing is one of those irritations that creep up on a mother. What starts out innocent jostling can quickly turn rough—especially for siblings of approximate age. I officially retired from the business of nagging six years ago, yet my nag reflex was still getting triggered by the sounds of rough play. Over the past two-ish years I have calmly talked to the boys each time rough-housing started looking for the critical moment at which playfulness turns south. The culprit seemed to be one of two things:
- One-upmanship that escalated a prank to an ego-threatening gauntlet throw-down.
- An ignored signal to stop something that was sliding sideways.
I saw both reasons as issues of respect; one a disrespect of feelings, and the other a disrespect of someone’s wishes. So, respect became my focus: finding ways to create habits of respectfulness.
Fixing the problem
Our focus worked to create great habits of respectfulness and yet, we still had a rough-housing problem. I figured the delay in my peaceful home was just the lag-time between making a change in attitude and enjoying a changed environment. I was wrong.
Spontaneity is fun!
During—yet another—rough-housing debrief the boys realized that respect wasn’t it after all; the real culprit was the fun of spontaneity. It is just so much fun to allow a game to evolve without limitations. Moving something mid-stream to the basement (where rough-housing is allowed) compromised spontaneity. Ah, very interesting.
Of course, I completely understood—and said so. I also acknowledged that I didn’t have a clue how to transfer the fun of a newly developing game to the basement without limiting spontaneity. We were all stumped, but something amazing happened anyway: rough-housing went way down anyway.
The best of both worlds
Amazingly, as I listened for the tell-tale signs of jostling going sideways, I started hearing footsteps down the stairs mixed with playful creativity as the game heads to the basement. And here’s the beauty: I’m not involved.
Though I can’t be completely sure why this amazing result has happened, I’m pretty sure it’s because I got out of the way.
- We started with respect; respect for feelings, and wishes.
- We talked about the ultimate outcome; peace in the house and engaging spontaneous play.
- We acknowledged our ignorance; no one knew how to accomplish two seemingly opposing outcomes.
- We assumed willingness; everyone wanted to be happy and we to trust each other.
The operative word is “we.”
It isn’t easy to stop and calmly talk with your kids when they get rough and loud. It takes an investment of time and energy, and to rally those resources, you’ll need to focus on your parenting promises. Making good on such big promises takes more than you alone, so if you’re struggling to keep order try adding ‘we’ to your efforts. You’ll be amazed at how that shift can really pay off.
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Photo by Imagery Majestic
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