But kids grow up so much faster these days, at least, so it seems.
And they get stronger.
They get so strong that it’s hard to wrestle with them. And when your kid wants to go all out and use all their strength, wrestling is almost impossible. All of a sudden they are fully capable of inflicting serious and painful damage.
I like strong kids, don’t get me wrong. I like our girl strong. A lot. But she can really hurt me now. Things I could let her do to me only recently are now too painful. I have to ask her to take it easy on me sometimes. And I’m pretty strong.
If you’re in that position, here are some ways you can think about this problem, ways that may help you get the benefits of wrestling without putting yourself in harm’s way.
First, let’s remember that we have three main goals when we wrestle. (Well, four, and I’ll get to that later.)
- Wrestling deepens our connection. They feel closer to us and we to them.
- Wrestling helps them grow well into their bodies; they gain confidence, strength, and coordination.
- Wrestling helps move their strong feelings when they need to—and they almost always need to.
So perhaps we can separate these three from each other.
Kids don’t have to use their strength to feel close to us. If an all out wrestle doesn’t cut it anymore, how about a snuggle? Can you do shadow boxing, hide and seek, or other games that let you get together and move apart, all while limiting the amount of punches and kicks landing on you.
That you can’t take their full force any more is a chance for them to develop deeper empathy and a sense of their responsibilities in the world—greater strength requires greater awareness and greater responsibility.
You could get a punching shield. A punching shield is a thick cushion with handles that you hold in front of yourself. They can kick and punch the shield and you can still make eye contact, encourage them, challenge them.
Don’t let them hurt their wrists though. Basically, they have to make sure that they keep their wrists in a straight line, as if there is no joint betwene the fist and the arm. That way they can punch much harder and not sprain their wrists. (Some surfaces may be rough and a pair of sparring gloves could be saving the skin on their knuckles.)
Building Their Emotional Brain
If a cushion is not an option, you want to make sure that you keep filling their connection cup with regular doses of strong attention. It’s when they run dry that they need to most forceful wrestling, but if they come in basically feeling connected with you, they can more easily go gentle and still enjoy their time with you.
These are times for regular special time, outings, and silly play.
Unfortunately, one lousy day at school—and we all know about those—can undo all your hard work. Then you have to be stronger.
A boxing ball hanging from the ceiling that you stand behind can be a good step up from the cushion.
And if all this doesn’t seem to do the trick, you can try going the other direction: that of silliness.
As kids get older, they are more and more worried about your behavior in public. But in private they still love it when you can be completely silly with them.
If fighting is not an option for connection, going for silly might be a better way to go.
And that brings me back to the fourth reason to wrestle. It’s fun. They think it’s fun. I think it’s fun. Not all parents do, but I think I’m like most children, I mean, with most children.
But it’s not the only thing that’s fun. Going for the laughs in the way that you know how to do with your kid has fantastic potential in both (re)connecting and loosening their feelings.
If you can’t out fight them, you may have to out clown them.
Anyway, I’m just letting you know that if one thing doesn’t work, there are always other ways for them to get all those amazing benefits of wrestling. And you don’t have to get hurt. Ever!
Love to you, dear hard working parent,