How Can I Get My Boys to Stop Wrestling and Being So Rough?

Updated on December 21, 2010
B.D. asks from Houston, TX
14 answers

Hi Moms,

I have three boys...9, almost five and a little over 3. I'm having a really hard time reigning in the rough-housing and wrestling that's going on. It all seemed to start when they saw some boys/brothers down the street who play very rough with each other. Now it is an issue at home and apparently has become an issue at my two younger one's daycare as well. I've only been told that they would rough-house with each other when they were combined in the same room in the late afternoon. Now I get a call today that my almost 5 year old did something...not exactly sure what, but he was rough-housing with another kid at recess and the other child got hurt. It completely caught me off guard when she called because she has never mentioned it before except for my two doing it to one another and today she was very nasty to me. The irony is is that we have talked about this before and she has empathized because she has two boys and they rough house as well. I know that my son didn't mean to hurt the other child, and am really surprised that he did this to someone besides his brother.

I've tried talking to them about it, but they're boys...they don't listen and when I try to seperate them, they just try to get back to one another. I'm at my wit's end as to what to do here. They are not gullible at all...we've tried the whole Santa's watching, etc. and they don't fall for it.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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So What Happened?

Wow, some pretty harsh responses from some folks. Just as a follow-up, I have extremely active boys and I do the best I can. I feel like some people were really not giving advice so much as berating me and my parenting skills. I guess I'll think twice as to whether I post a question again. Not that I was looking for anyone to coddle me, but I certainly wasn't expecting to get beat up. It was a hard enough day as it was as I beat myself up all day and was very emotionally drained.

Now on to what happened. I knew that my son knows better than to behave in this manner at school. Usually it's the three year old that jumps on him when they are combined.

I got the first call at about 12:20 from the assistant director. We've had a very good relationship with no problems, so the way she treated me caught me off guard because she was extremely ugly to me. I am not a confrontational person, so I just expressed that I was sorry and would certainly work on it from our end. However, the conversation left me in tears. At around 4:00 she called me back and apologized for the earlier phone call. She explained that her adrenaline was going and that when she made the call to me she really didn't have all of the facts. She basically made an assumption and ran with it, which ended up to be incorrect. My son never rough housed and hasn't with anyone in his class. Another little boy was running past my son who was sitting down and tripped and hit his nose on the gate. My son when they came over was leaning over him trying to help him. The teacher explained later what had happened to the asst. director.

This bothers me in a number of ways. While I'm glad that she apologized, it still really affected me...definitely more than it did my son. He said that he was crying, but I'm sure not to the extent I was. Secondly, I certainly think that she should have gotten her facts straight before calling me. The damage there is done and unfortunately I've seen a side of her that I'm sure she is not proud of. Now I'm going to try to pick myself up and dust myself off.

Thanks to those moms who gave constructive advice. We certainly try to instill in our boys that they should show self-control, however, since I'm not with them all of the time, that responsibility also must fall on his caregivers.

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answers from Boston on

I agree with Denise P and S.H

You need to allow them to have a safe area and a time to wrestle. My boys do it too but they know that it is not okay to do at school. Only with Papa (FIL) or with Daddy not with me, aunties, grandma, etc

5 is plenty old enough to understand that that behavior is not okay at school/daycare. My 3 year old knows that he needs to keep his hands to himself when at school and that if his brother, daddy, papa don't want to wrestle then he will have to wait until they want to play that way.

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answers from Honolulu on

Kids play off of each other... dynamics between certain kids are more physical.... it is the personalities... combined.

Boys.. yah, they are physical.
I have a 4 year old Boy.
He just plays differently than my daughter.
He is so... active and physical.
But he is not 'naughty'... he is just being.... a boy.
But... I tell my son, that he can only play 'rough' with Daddy... I also teach him... what "limits" are.... if someone tells him stop, he must. If someone says "ow.." he must stop. If someone does NOT want to play 'rough'... he must stop. I tell him, ONLY with Daddy... can he rough-house more. He understands. My Husband, echoes that, with him.

I teach my son, that not every kid is the same, some are gentle, some are physical like him, some just want to be left alone, and that not everyone has to play the same way as him. He understands. And CERTAINLY don't expect Grandma to rough-house like him, nor do that to Grandma. Because Grandma is "fragile" and old.... he understands. He also understands not to do that with babies or younger kids. He is thus more gentle with them.

My son has a friend that is very physical like him. So at our play-dates, they play that way. Then my son has another friend that is more mellow and gentle... so when he is over for play-dates, my son is more careful with him and not AS 'rough' or abrupt. My son knows.... and I always 'remind' him about that... that his friends, are different... he understands. He is only 4 years old.

So, I teach him scenarios/differences in people, and how his actions and playfulness.... are not the thing to do, sometimes. So.. that he learns to GAUGE others in relation to his horse-play.

You gotta teach your kids, that there is a time and a place, to rough-house. They are old enough, to learn and you teach them that. They ALSO have to learn to gauge others.... and to respect boundaries.

all the best,

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answers from Portland on

A few things you've written popped up for me here. So I'll try to take them one by one.

First, I think your care provider was likely very upset that the roughhousing was continuing, after she'd pointed it out to you before. Yes, she was empathetic at first, and because your child is continuing to do this, you are making this *her* problem. She made a boundary with you, this wasn't communicated well enough to your children, and now she's got another parent who is completely pissed off because their child was hurt. Whether your son "meant to" or not is really irrelevant, because he shouldn't have been rough-housing/wrestling in the first place. Period. If he was doing this, he was choosing not to follow the rules and expectations of the teacher. (I understand the other child might have also chosen to ignore the rules, and we don't know what sort of conversation went on with that parent, because teachers are not allowed to share that information.) You were notified beforehand, so I understand the teacher's upset and frustration. As a preschool teacher myself, I never, ever want to have to call parents for this reason. And you don't mention, but do you know the extent to which the other child was hurt? In any case, a situation like this has the potential to make the care provider look negligent, and we also don't want that either, as it hurts our reputation and this is our livelihood. (For what it's worth, when I started my business, I became an LLC and picked up a million-dollar insurance policy I pay out the nose for, because I don't want to get sued, lose my business or my home because of an incident such as this.)

You say that you've tried talking to them, but "they're boys". I have a boy, and I have boys in my preschool group. They do not hit each other because they know this is never acceptable, just as much as the girls do. I am careful to explain how their actions and words affect others, and we don't allow fighting talk/play at school or home. Please do not chalk this up to gender because while boys generally may tend to roughhouse more than girls, to permit this outside of a very supervised setting is doing them a great disservice. Your youngest one,especially, is a bit too young to be able to discern when this sort of rough play is and isn't okay. If it were me, I would be very clear that this needs to take a break for now, because people are getting hurt.

I'm also going to suggest you consider what other sorts of rough acting/violence/fighting the kids might be exposed to, if any. The cartoons your oldest might be able to comprehend don't come across as "pretend" to younger kids. Even in a lot of kid-directed media, there is a lot of fighting.

Has their father spoken with them about the matter? A firmly voiced conversation about why they need to stop the roughhousing, except at home and under agreed-upon conditions, can really help, especially if they see *he's* upset (because moms tend to get more upset than dads do).

Ultimately, though, this is a question of finding some new parenting techniques to stop this rough-housing. I would explain to the children what the consequences are for their being unsafe with their bodies, and stick with them. I would also do something that really gets their attention. Do they play video games or watch television? Perhaps removing these privileges with a simple explanation "There's no television and no video games for now because we need this time to practice being safe *all the time* with our bodies" will help them understand you mean business. If you don't present it as a punishment, but as a challenge the family needs to work through to restore a sense of rightness and balance you once had, you are more likely to get the kids on board. Give them goals, too. They have to make it for 5 days in a row with no rough-housing outside those sanctioned times, and then those favorite items might return. When the kids start the rough-housing again, start the "we need to work on this, no tv/video games" again. Incidentally, families who cut back on tv/video games often find that their kids get along better.

And equally important, give them alternatives for rough play. Do they need more time outside, to run, throw balls and jump around? Do they need things to work their muscles on rainy days, like playdough to pound or indoor obstacle courses?

Rough-housing is a tough one, because kids do need rough and tumble play, and they also need to have some really clear boundaries. At young ages, this can be a bit blurred, but we have to make it clear that A. it's an activity which requires mutual consent and B. you have to check with mom or dad first, EVERYTIME, before beginning to wrestle.

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answers from Portland on

I suggest you stop it in the same way you'd stop any other sort of unacceptable behavior; with a consequence each and every time it happens. Do you use time outs? Can you send/take them to separate parts of the house so that they're away from each other for a period of time?

I do think it's natural for some boys to like to rough house and suggest that there are times appropriate for this type of play. I recommend that you allow them rough housing/wrestling time because it does help them to get rid of excess energy and negative emotions but that you limit it to appropriate times and places. Teach them when it's appropriate by setting up times for them to do it and when it's inappropriate thru use of disciplinary measures.

I don't understand the day care workers attitude. It is their job to teach appropriate behavior at school. They do have to tell you about situations when they occur and do want your co-operation in handling your child's behavior but they don't need to be nasty. Is it possible that you came across defensive and may have sounded like you didn't believe her or that it wasn't as important as she wanted you to believe.

Communication is a two way street. If the person who talked with you is a regular care taker, I'd make a point of letting her know that you too are concerned and be sure she knows that you do want to help. Do keep in mind that she was probably having a difficult time with the parents of the child who go hurt and felt caught in the middle. Often our tone of voice becomes nasty/upset when we're having a bad day and this would be a bad day for her. smile

After your What Happened I went back and reread the responses. I didn't see any that were beating you up. I suggest that because you were beating yourself up, as you described your day, that you made assumptions about what the moms here were saying. I suggest that you will feel better if you can find a way to accept that you are doing the best that you can do and not be so sensitive to what others might or might not be thinking. When you know that you're OK it matters less what others say. You are OK! Tell yourself that over and over when you're not feeling OK. I'm glad that you posted this question and hope that you continue to post others.

I suggest that the reason responses feel harsh is that we moms were not dealing with your feelings. It's difficult to do in writing. I was answering your question in a practical, fix it kind of way. Providing a consequence seems obvious to me tho I know doing so is not easy. When I reread your post, I suspect that you are overwhelmed. I didn't respond to your emotional appeal. I do see that some mothers were trying to reassure you that this is normal behavior for your boys. I'm just not sure what it is that you expected/wanted from us.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Ah...they are boys...and a lot of boys like to play rough like that.
They DO need to understand that it is NOT acceptable at school or daycare though.
What about "wrestling time" in a safe, open, padded (carpet?) area in the evening for a set amount of time, and then that's IT?

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answers from San Francisco on

This may sound counter-intuitive, but get them into a physical sport where they can get it out of their system. Most martial arts classes are very strict about when/where to use martial arts. The coaches will be on your side when it comes to rough housing outside of the practice times.
My older son is now doing wrestling as a sport and he rough houses much less with his 4 yo brother. It is taught by the Sheriffs Activity League and it is designed to help young kids (mostly boys) harness their enrgy constructively and keeps them out of trouble. The coaches emphasize that wrestling is a sport and not about fighting (and yet a side benefit is that they can defend themselves if they have to).

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answers from Williamsport on

What's to listen to when you "try" to separate them? You should be doling a firm consequence every time they disobey the very clear rule you have instilled about fighting when it's not allowed. Boys are very capable of behaving. This is your job, not the teacher's and if it is always handled firmly at home, they will know the rules stick in school too if you warn them in advance, and they won't want mom or dad to hear they've been letting the teacher down. Toughen up. Make dad take charge as the male role model. Be sure they're getting lots of rough pay every day When you say so, and behaving when you say so. This was a great wake up call before someone gets hurt worse and someone ends up expelled one day.

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answers from Atlanta on

I thought all boys did this! Seriously, I do know what you mean. Most boys are rough and enjoy rough-housing, but some don't. My oldest has been a linebacker/wrestler since he could crawl, and my youngest seems to enjoy it too, but there were a few boys in playgroup and his old preschool who were NOT into it! I just told him over and over that he could rough-house with his brother and his best friend and a few others who love it, but if he didn't know if someone wanted to rough-house or they said "NO" or "STOP" -then he had to stop immediately. I've always impressed on him that if he's playing with someone and they start crying, yelling, saying no or stop -then they're not having fun and he has to quit. He's 4 now, and it has definitely gotten in over the last 2 years. He also doesn't just run and pounce on people anymore!

With your 5 and 3 year olds, you will have to reiterate what they can do and when they're allowed to do it. My rule is that you can wrestle away at home, but you have to ask friends and other kids if they want to wrestle before starting anything. And then, as noted above, you have to stop IMMEDIATELY if someone starts getting unhappy with the situation. When my 4 year old went to all day PreK this year, he understood that wrestling just wasn't allowed at all. They get to sometime in aftercare in the gym, but not during school hours. Let them know that if they get in trouble or hurt anyone as a result of the rough-housing, they'll be in more trouble at home. Take something he loves away from him. Make it stick!

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answers from Sacramento on

HI B.,

I did not read the responses, but did read your follow up. Don't let people's opinions scare you off this site. Take what you can from what people say, knowing that they don't have all of the information sometimes, and also how hard it is to communicate through written material.

I also wanted to give some support. I have a son and a daughter and they will wrestle as hard as any two boys I have ever seen if I don't catch it quickly. I also grew up with 4 brothers, so I have seen my share or unsupervised wrestling.

I think it's really good for kids to wrestle, but only with some boundaries. First, they have to know that they can wrestle with an adult who agrees to play that way with them. Mom (if you are able to do it, my kids are getting too strong for me) or Dad. Wrestling and physical play can be a good tool to teach kids to manage their strength; to learn how much force is too much, and instill confidence. With an adult the play is controlled, with same aged peers or younger, the play is not and can easily turn into someone getting hurt. So I would try talking to your kids, and acknowledging that they like to wrestle, but that it's not a safe way to play. Let them know that you or Dad can play with them at a designated time.

I would also consider putting them in some type of martial arts class if you can. I've heard almost nothing but positives about getting very active boys and girls involved in this. It will address your problems, which seem to be your active children's energy, control, and teach them discipline and respect. I'm not saying that they don't respect you or that they are not disciplined. Martial arts teaches respect for own's own body and actions and a good teacher will teach that it's not used for fighting to hurt someone or for playing to hurt someone.

Good luck~ One boy in my house is plenty. I think they really do have a different kind of energy!

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answers from Houston on

We have two boys, 7 and 10, and they do love to get physical. One thing that has helped us is taking judo. In judo, they grapple, learn to fall, etc in a controlled way, and get their fill of wrestling. At home, I just had to keep repeating somethng to the affect - our home is not a gym, save it for judo - with consequences, and it is sinking in. I think it is just a need they have to get thier hands on someone. Its a matter of learning where and when the proper time is. Same for running inside, throwing things inside - it was cute when they were little, but not so much now so time to stop. Keep with it - it is definitely a process!

Take care, A.

goes for ru

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answers from Austin on

No harsh response here, just some sympathy. I have two, ages 9 and 7. You are not a bad parent. Boys are just crazy creatures. My boys are rambunctious and normal boys. They will have poor impulse control until they are 30. Your nine year old is more culpable than the younger ones as he knows better. Stay consistent about "No rough housing in the house." I send mine outside. Rough housing is part of brotherhood. No bruises and no blood are the rules. They mostly wrestle and play "grab _ss", bothersome to me but for some reason they like it. As for school, I have the rule that we do not put our hands on anyone else, ever. If the rule is broken, we start with the loss of video game time (my boys have to earn their time with good behavior at school.) It escalates after that. Find the things your boys like the most and use those things. They do not "get" the consequences unless they lose something they really like. I am sorry if someone else made you feel bad. Every kid is different and only you know the best way to parent yours. Good luck and God Bless.

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answers from Charlotte on

Well, her being nasty doesn't help. It is your daycare provider's JOB to handle the kids. She is angry and frustrated because she isn't successfully managing it, and it's easier for her to blame you than to work harder at her own failed approach.

You son needs instant consequences for wrestling. Forget talking about it - institute time outs where they have to sit still without talking or moving. Every single time. If you have to put them in time out 3 times in a day, then in addition to time out more than that, also take away a beloved toy. That will start to decrease the time outs when they see that they lose their toys too.

I would go talk to the head of the daycare and tell her what you told us. I would tell her at you don't expect to hear nastiness again from that teacher, but you do expect for her to be paying close enough attention to the kids in her charge so at any child embroiled in any conflict of any sort is dealt with swiftly. And that includes your son.

If your son hurts another child doing this, give him a hard punishment at home. t 5 years old, he will remember and understand. He loses his favorite Tv show for a week, something like that. Keep on the calendar every day the tally so that he can see the end of the punishment, and always mention what the punishment was for. It will make him think twice before he does it again. And no more allowing any wrestling amongst the siblings. It just doesn't work.

All my best,

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answers from Tulsa on

boys will be boys good luck getting them to stop



answers from Houston on

Is their father around? At this point, they might just consider you a soft girl who doesn't understand. It might help to have a big, strong man teach them the value in being gentle.

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