Does Your Partner/husband Play-wrestle Your Kids?

Updated on October 31, 2011
D.S. asks from Cambridge, MA
27 answers

I have read in "Raising boys" (by Steve Biddulph) that fathers can teach their boys (and i expect their girls , too) self confidence and fairness by play-wrestling with them and challenging them to be good and fair wrestlers. This made intuitive sense to me. I sometimes playwrestle my children, but we do not really get into it very much (we end up cuddling...), i guess it is more of a guy's thing. However, my husband never play-wrestles our son or our daughter. My son recently said that he does not know what to do at school when children mock 'fighting', and he's uncomfortable. Even though i like that he is so peaceful and "innocent", i think the danger is that he does not learn how to react in a playful way, or if it gets serious that he is less able to stand up for himself. I had hoped that at home he could learn how to demand fairness or to stop a fight by being self-assertive, or to fight/defend someone knowing that he could be strong too, if he chose to fight.

My husband's reaction: i have old-fashioned gender stereotypes that are unhelpful today. Maybe. But my gut tells me this is different. I just want my son to have some guidance on strength and how to feel ok, or even playful in normal "rough-housing". Is that bad? What do you believe? What does your partner/husband do?


What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Thanks, so many responses -- this was great! You have inspired me to do two things: leave my husband alone about this ;-), and let my own impulses to play wrestle become truly alive! I have just had a great match today. My son at first was very timid, then he got into it and seemed to enjoy it very much. So did i. I could practically see him learning stuff about his strength, fairness etc. It was good.

Featured Answers



answers from San Antonio on

My husband played rough with the boys when they were young, and my youngest (18 and 6" 1' !!) still likes to try to take on my husband sometimes. There is a lot of valuable interaction, lessons from rough housing.

* Men communicate physically, where women do not.
* Learning how rough is too rough and to control frustration/ aggression is important. My husband has always been very clear on "these are the rules" and these are examples of taking things too far.
* the "alpha dog" idea. My 18 yr old can just about pin my husband's arms behind his back. Not quite but very close. When the son can take the dad, he is "alpha" I guess. But there is still respect shown to each other.
* "stop" means rough housing or in any relationship....good for young males to learn, especially as they start to have male-female relationships.
* yes, the kids have gotten bumped and bruised while rough housing. When they were little, they cried --- now they attend to their bruised egos instead. And then they have to move on.....

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Savannah on

My husband does not wrestle . . . my son attacks his father! Whenever my husband is laying on the floor, my 10.5 month old will leap onto him and wrestle with him! It's so cute and he giggles the whole time!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Burlington on

My husband does wrestle with both kids (boy and girl) and they love it. Keeps them active, and they get to roll around and feel super strong. I will join in the fun as "Mommy Monster" As I pound each step of the stairs to warn them of the impending attack...they scream and hide, and ready themselves, and hide behind Daddy and get ready to defend each is just good family fun! I am on crutches right now, and I can tell you that they miss it. My husband really enjoys his "cuddle time" with the kids, and I think he especially enjoys when they run and hide with him for "protection" from the great Mommy Monster. It forces me to put the dishes down or stop the bills for a few minutes to just play and connect with the kids.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Santa Fe on

My husband does not play wrestle with our 7 yr old son either. He does love to spend time with our son doing all kinds of things from throwing a ball to doing an electricity project (their newest thing - using a potato to generate electricity. It is just not in his personality. My husband's father is not a wrestle kind of dad either. I can't even imagine my FIL ever getting down and dirty and wrestling!!! Anyway, my husband is a very successful guy with lots of friends and seems pretty well balanced to me! (I have wondered this same thing bc when my brother comes to visit he LOVES to wrestle with our kids and my son loves it! He goes wild and it always goes a little overboard!)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

My children are pretty well protected. We don't swear around them, I speak to them appropriately. I remember being their age (like 7 or 8) and being told I'd have big boobies when I grew up because my grandmothers did. My family teased a lot. We dint really do that, well...not to that extent, in my house. Not sure if that's good or bad. Just the way it is.

That being said....I LOVE the way my father in law plays w my girls. Totally wrestles with them...and not nicely!! He doesn't hurt them, but he's not anything close to gentle either. And the way he talks to them!!! "you're such a big baby...why don't you go cry to mommy, you big baby! What?! Do you need your pacifier? You're such a sissy!". And you know what?? They eat it up!!! They love love love it! They know he's kidding and just have a blast ripping off his socks, whipping him in the head with them, kicking his butt, giving him noogies....all while he's tackling them and pretending to rip the heads off their stuffed animals. Oh yeah...I have video proof of THAT one!!

Now...he's taught them to be such brutal wrestlers that neither my husband nor I will dare wrestle with them. They hurt!! We tell them only grampi will wrestle. Sad when an almost 70 year old man can take the punishment 2 little girls can dole out when the parents are too whimpy!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

My husband would play-wrestle with his sons when they were younger and now that they are 17 and 18, sometimes they still get into it! And I have to make them stop before something gets broken! Hubby does not do so much with our daughter though. If you are that concerned though about your son having self-confidence and being able to defend himself, and hubby isn't on board with the whole play-wrestling thing, maybe you should sign him up for karate or tae kwan do. Both boys and girls can gain a lot from learning martial arts.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I wonder if grampa didn't wrestle with your husband and now He's the one that is uncomfortable. He might not really know how to even do it. He might be afraid to hurt the kids. He might just be defensive because it didn't come naturally to him, so he feels like he is not meeting his requirement as a dad. Easier to downplay the importance than admit you can't do it.

My husband does play wrestle and fight with them and I SEE for myself that it builds self confidance. I look at it like the daddy lion play fighting with the cubs, letting them sharpen thier claws and teeth on him. Remember the Pouncing lesson in Lion King? Thos old fashioned gender stereotypes have stood the test fo time for a reason. It's human nature and a part of human child development. A lot has changed in the last 50 urs, but not our human nature and biological hard wiring.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I tend to rough-house with my 2 daughters (4 and almost 2) more than my husband. I don't think his family rough-housed at all when he was younger. I have 3 older brothers, and we all did, so it comes naturally to me. (And I do like smashing those gender stereotypes to pieces.)

My daughters love, love, love it! I do need to teach them to be more gentle though. (ouch!)

I think it's all good. I want my daughters to grow up and be strong and smart. If rough-housing helps, all the better.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

My husband has already started and our little guy is only 9 months old. Just the other day I had to explain to our nanny why our son kept tackling her while she was laying on the floor, trying to read to him. We rough housed as kids with my dad and in general I think it is good for kids to have this outlet.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

My husband and my son (age 5 1/2) beat the living snot out of each other daily. They love it, thrive off it, and I detest it. I'm constantly afraid my son will get hurt, either by my husband not being careful enough, or by my son just going balls-to-the-wall nuts trying to 'beat' my husband. This is my life, everyday. They can't walk past one another without one of them initiating some kind of horseplay. Last night, my son was laying in bed, getting ready to go to sleep (tv was on still...) My wonderful husband throws a pillow at my son. Of course son gets up out of bed and throws a pillow back at my husband, and all hell then breaks loose. At bedtime. I'm standing there, yelling at both of them that this is NOT the time! It's bedtime! They both laugh at me, and my son goes back to bed...

I have completely lost control. LOL

Honestly, though, I do understand what you mean. I do think this kind of play-fighting has taught my son a few things... he does know how to interact in that way with males, play-fighting, horseplaying, etc. But also, since my husband is obviously so much bigger and stronger than my son, my son can go at him full force, which does allow him to explore his strength in that sort of arena... not that I'm condoning him fighting... I certainly am not... but I do have it in the back of my mind that if he finds himself in a situation where he has no choice but to physically defend himself, I do believe he could (at least against someone his size.) In fact, I did make the statement to my husband - not in front of my son, of course - that I'd hate to see my son up against another 5 year old, which I understand is completely ridiculous to even say and I would never wish that to happen, but I was just noting how physically strong and aggressive he can be when he is allowed to act out that way, which is only with my husband, of course... Seeing my son that way gives me some confidence that he could hold his own, if he had to.

It's totally foreign to me... I had no brothers growing up, and my dad didn't play fight with me, probably since I'm female... but it seems so natural to them... it's just what they do, men and boys... at least that's the way it is in my life.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Des Moines on

Perhaps your DH is a gentler soul, as is your son. Nothing wrong with that!
After growing up with all brothers, I chose a sweeter guy to marry!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I think it is more of a personality thing as some other folks have stated. You wont' change either your husband's or your son's. However you may consider seeing if your son would enjoy some martial arts.... physical and discipllined... best of luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

My husband and my 3.5 yr old DO wrestle together. Just last night they were on the bed. We'd just finished reading our son his two books before bed. Son decided to sit on dad, so dad tickled him, son pretended to fart on dad so dad pinched him playfully, son jumped on the bed and landed on dad, dad pushed him so he'd fall onto the cusions. Son was giggling like crazy. Dad was laughing too.

You can't force your husband to be something he's not. But definitely don't discourage it if it ever does happen! Pehraps he never grew up rough-housing with his dad so he has no idea what's too rough and is worried he'll hurt his kid?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

constantly, lol. It does come quite natural to men.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My husband does roughhouse with our girls. I thinkit is good to be physical for a variety of reasons that you mention. The thing is, I think some kids just don't like it. Even if your husband and you had always played rough, he may just be a kid who isn't physical in that way. This may be his personality, and you can help him by finding other ways for him to express himself though language or otherwise.

That said, I think every kid needs to be ready to defend themselves from other kids or dangerous adults. I think we do our kids a diservice by not teaching them and practicing basic self defense (practicing running away, screaming for help, and poking eyes, etc.). I think it is very valuable to engage your child in discussing these sorts of scenarios, and encouraging him to pretend (actually scream or "hurt" a pretend person). My kids are learning MMA for this reason, in addition to just being great physical exercise.

Sp do I think you NEED to roughhouse? No. It is probably beneficial only if you child likes it. Do you need to encourage and teach your child how to be physical in certain situations? Absolutely. Helping him to be prepared to make smart choices under certain conditions (and not just talking about it) is very important. But I don't think roughhousing teaches that anyway.

PS - I see others have recommended martial arts. Not all are created equal in terms of self-defense although all will help him be more comfortable with agressiveness. MMA is mixed martial arts, a combination of brazillian jiu-jitsu which is a wrestling marital art and thai kickboxing. Combined this is a superb self defense program.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Oh man...I TOTALLY wrestle with my boys. We get sweaty and bean each other with pillows, blankets, stuffed animals. It's an all out war. I love wrestling with my kids like that. There's lots of yelling and flipping the kids on the couch, floor, name it. They are getting big now, my 9 year old is up to my chest!, but we still wrestle. now, I certainly don't think it's necessary in order to teach fairness or how to stand up for yourself. I mean really, how often are kids going to have a pillow fight on the playground? Giving him a voice and letting him know to deal with mock fighting is more important.
Play wrestling and real fighting are nothing alike.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

My younger son is not the wrestling type, perhaps your son isn't as well. Nothing wrong with that. My daughter is all over Troy and they play rough, usually someone gets hurt. Troy doesn't have to do anything it is the child's personality that drives it.

I guess your post makes me feel like you hope this will change your children's personality where it will not.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

My dad did... and so does my husband.

If your husband is uncomfortable another option is to put your child into Martial Arts...they show defensive moves, but most of all build condidence and teach the right v. wrong ways to use their skills.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Yes my husband has always wrestled with all of the kids, even his daughter. When I was a single mom, I used to consciously make sure that I rough-housed with my son, so I do think it's important.

Is he otherwise physically affectionate with your son? For a lot of dads, wrestling is how they are really comfortable getting physically close to the kids. Yes his hugs and cuddles with them, but he also physically connects by wrestling and play fighting. I am more likely to have a child curl up on the couch with me, but I too make sure that I get on the ground play with the kids. If he is physically close in other ways (hugs, sitting on his lap, taking a nap together) then maybe you can enroll him in karate or another martial arts class so he gets more exposure to "fighting." If your husband is physically distant, then I think it's worth pressing the issue with him. Loving physical contact is so important for boys - when boys and girls get older, girls will still hug each other and hold hands and be physically affectionate all throughout life while boys (really teenagers and young men) often get to a point where their only physical contact is sexual (with girls) or aggressive (by sports or fighting). Sometimes physical contact from a parent is the only touch that young men get that's not sexual or aggressive, so it's important to establish that early and keep it up even when they get older. There's more on this idea in a book...I think it's "Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys."

From your husband's response and your question, you both sound like educated, enlightened people. Perhaps you can read a book or two together and get on the same page about this.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

We all wrestle! And the kids are in martial arts so they know how to rough house really well. Maybe that would be an option for you to check out if hubs isn't into that sort of thing.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Syracuse on

My husband does "rough house" with our two boys 22 months and 3 just about every night when he gets home from work. They love it and love to climb and jump all over him. I never really thought of it as a way to teach self confidence and fairness but I guess in a way it does.

If your husband isn't into "rough housing" with the boys, then that's fine if it's not something he's comfortable with. I think there are other activities that can teach these life skills...trying a sport would be a great way (soccer, football, even wrestling is often offered at the elementary level, karate)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Providence on

At least once a week, usually at weekends and after we've eaten, my DH will, with the help of our sons, clear all the furniture from the center of the room and have a 'Saloon Fight'. Of course he does this gently but at five and seven, the boys give it all they've got!. If this carries on, I can see the day coming when they have enough strength as teenagers, they will start to hurt him and he'll call it a day. LOL! :-D

IMHO I think this is an important part of father/sons bonding. Physically it helps develop their reflexes, although I don't want them to become fighters at school but just have enough confidence to stand up to bullies. Even now they take accidental small knocks and learn that fighting hurts. DH plays the good guy/bad guy thing and teaches them to show restraint as well as courage. Laughter prevails and energy is lost. All good lessons I think.

It's interesting that a lot of animals - puppies for instance - engage in this friendly mock fighting. I'm sorry your DH doesn't feel he can participate in this, but don't push him. The same goes for your son at school. Peace and innocence are laudable too. We are all different and I guess both have other virtues which will come into play when they discover common interests.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My husband doesn't "rough house" with the boys. He plays baseball with them and helps them with their forms in Tae Kwon Do.

You need to have a talk with your husband about your expectations and what you see and what you desire for your son to be taught. You need to tell him about what your son said about being uncomfortable at school when mock fights are happening...

Your husband does NOT have to rough house with your son in order to teach him to fight, defend himself or be assertive. If you don't feel like your son is getting that - then enroll him in a martial arts class.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Self defense skills are extremely helpful, great ability. Several boys on my husband family side got wonderful scholarships to great schools through wrestling.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

He does. My my son prefers to wrestle ME because he's getting to the point where it's an even match!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

What a great question you really made me think.

First, I've taught my kids that i am a delicate princess and i don't wrestle. you have me rethinking that one, I guess i was trying to teach them that mothers are for gentle loving.

My DH will wrestle with my DD because she is so very tactile, DS has his nose in a book and doesn't initiate it. So no DH and DS don't really wrestle. Funny my Dh will often try to tackle his own dad, A 60yo grandpa who weighs seriously Half of what DH weighs, He even pushes his mom around too in a playful way. You've given me new perspeactive because i never liked when he woudl do this at Thanksgiving or what ever. I guess it's affection.

I do have fond memeories of my dad tickling me and playing.

I do want my kdis to have some self defense skillstoo. I think alot of that starts with using words or walking away as a first line of defense but there might be somethign to knowing your own strength. So the short of it is, I agree with you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I had two older brothers and a dad that wrestled with me. I think it was helpful, in some ways, to learn how to be physical and stand up for myself.

What has helped me much more is training in martial arts as an adult. My daughter (now 9) and I have trained for four years on karate. It has helped me gain self-confidence and body awareness. If your son is not comfortable getting physical, and you think your children are missing out on this, I would strongly recommend looking into a martial arts school. There are several different styles, but all involve physical contact, learning techniques for self-defense, and body control.

Also, does your son have play times with other boys? I mean open play, not structured at all. I would think that would be another time he would experience rough housing.

1 mom found this helpful
For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions