Join us at noon CT (1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT) on Tuesday, August 2, for an hour-long health chat about the benefits of roughhousing and how to safely do it with your children, with Chicago Tribune health reporter Julie Deardorff, and panelists Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J.Cohen.

Are today’s children getting enough good old-fashioned horseplay? Physical activity has countless benefits: It nurtures close connections, solves behavior problems, boosts confidence and enhances fitness. Yet DeBenedet and Cohen argue that rough-and-tumble play "has been marginalized within our society." They point to the fact that new schools are being built without playgrounds. Gym classes are being shortened; recess periods are being eliminated. Kids are knee-padded and helmeted to within an inch of their lives. Is it any wonder children retreat to "virtual horseplay" through video games?

Anthony DeBenedet, an energetic, adventurous dad, is a board-certified physician in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Health System. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his wife, Anna, and their three daughters. An avid athlete, he enjoys basketball, running, hiking and golf. Follow him @Rowdydad.

Lawrence Cohen is a licensed psychologist and consultant, specializing in children's play and play therapy. He is the author of several books, including "Playful Parenting" and lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife, Liz, and their two teenage children. He has written for the Boston Globe, professional journals and popular magazines, and he has presented his work at professional conferences, workshops and classes. Follow him @larjack1.

If you are unable to make the chat, or would like to send your question in advance, e-mail Julie Deardorff at jDeardorff@tribune.com or follow her @JulieDeardorff.

 Health Chat: Benefits of roughhousing(08/02/2011) 
11:52
[Be Right Back Countdown]10 minutes 
Tuesday August 2, 2011 11:52 
11:55
[Be Right Back Countdown]5 minutes 
Tuesday August 2, 2011 11:55 
12:00
Julie Deardorff: 
Hello! I’m Julie Deardorff, your moderator for today's chat on the benefits of horseplay.

My guests are Anthony DeBenedet and Lawrence Cohen, the authors of the great new book “The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It.” I read it cover to cover over the weekend and tried several of the moves with my two boys, which we can discuss later in the chat.

Our first expert, Anthony DeBenedet, is a board certified physician and an adventurous father of three girls. He came up with the idea for the book several years ago while roughhousing with his own children. The more he learned about the science behind physical play, the more he realized roughhousing could, as he put it in the book, quite literally, turn a parent's world upside down.
Welcome Anthony!
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:00 Julie Deardorff
12:00
Anthony: 
Hi Julie and All! Glad to be here. Thanks for taking on this topic today.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:00 Anthony
12:00
Julie Deardorff: 
We're glad to have you! My second expert is psychologist Larry Cohen, who specializes in children's play and play therapy. He's a recent convert to roughhousing but some of the most interesting parts of the book are real-life stories of how he has used roughhousing or horseplay with his clients.

Welcome to the chat, Larry!
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:00 Julie Deardorff
12:01
Larry Cohen: 
Hello Chicago! it's great to be chatting with you today.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:01 Larry Cohen
12:02
Julie Deardorff: 
Before we get to your "bold claim" about how horseplay can benefit our children, let's start with a note of caution, which you address in your book. Isn't roughhousing dangerous?


Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:02 Julie Deardorff
12:03
Anthony: 
Not really - if it's done in a mindful and healthy way. We believe safety comes from knowledge, not prohibition of roughhousing. If you actually look at ER data, the majority of childhood injuries are not from parent-child roughhousing.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:03 Anthony
12:04
Julie Deardorff: 
OK, live readers, if you'd like to ask a question, feel free to do it now.

While we're waiting, Larry, could you explain how roughhousing can be healthy or beneficial?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:04 Julie Deardorff
12:04
Larry Cohen: 
Our bold claim is that parent-child roughhousing boosts children's intelligence, their emotional intelligence, their sense of fairness and morality, and their physical fitness--but most of all it increases the sense of parent-child closeness and brings joy and a zest for life. Research has found that test scores increase when children have a regular chance to roughhouse with their parents, and they are also better at friendships and at regulating their emotions.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:04 Larry Cohen
12:05
Julie Deardorff: 
What are some of the obstacles parents face when it comes to horseplay? Are they afraid to do it? Or do they just not know how?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:05 Julie Deardorff
12:08
Anthony: 
I think the biggest obstacle is mindset. Fear is definitely there (for themselves and their children). But when you actually take a step back and say "I can roll on the ground with my child (anyone can roll around) or I can "fall over" if my child pushes me" you begin to realize that roughhousing, interactive, physical play is perhaps at the root of our experience as humans. And WE CAN all do it. There's nothing that tell a person or a child that we are really 'there' with them.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:08 Anthony
12:09
Larry Cohen: 
And I'd add that even seasoned roughhousers love learning new moves.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:09 Larry Cohen
12:10
Anthony: 
Larry is definitely seasoned.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:10 Anthony
12:10
Julie Deardorff: 
I actually roughhouse with my kids and didn't know it. I already use several of the "instant roughhousing" moves. Do you have ideas for reluctant parents?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:10 Julie Deardorff
12:11
Larry Cohen: 
We have some moves for reluctant roughhousers, like everyone gets on the floor wearing socks, and you try to get each other's socks off while keeping your own on. Also, pushing hands, where you press into each other's palms, matching your strength to their strength, is really fun.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:11 Larry Cohen
12:12
Julie Deardorff: 
I did the sock one yesterday! It's called Knock Your Socks Off." You also have one called "Raise the Debt Ceiling!" What's that one about?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:12 Julie Deardorff
12:13
Larry Cohen: 
Well, we figured you gotta laugh or else you'll cry, right? In Raise the Debt ceiling, you hold your child under her armpits, then squat and power up, throwing her straight into the air. The squat is to make it more powerful. And like the economy, make sure there is a safe and gentle landing!
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:13 Larry Cohen
12:13
[Comment From DeborahDeborah: ] 
Do all kids WANT to roughhouse? And isn't that a guy thing?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:13 Deborah
12:15
Larry Cohen: 
Most kids do enjoy roughhousing, though some will want to watch and check it out for a while before joining in. Many people believe it is a dad thing, but many many moms have told us otherwise! We hear from moms everyday and from parents of girls that they love to roughhouse. And it helps girls develop confidence and a strong voice, which is what we want for them.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:15 Larry Cohen
12:15
[Comment From Lynda LopezLynda Lopez: ] 
I'm not a parent, but I could imagine the biggest deterrent to parents engaging in roughhousing is the fear of the stigma. Outsiders might see the behavior as "cruel" and not appropriate. What would you tell parents in order to help them get over the fear of societal stigmas?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:15 Lynda Lopez
12:16
Anthony: 
Hi Lynda- Thanks for your question. I think it's tough to see quality roughhousing as cruel. We really advocate following the child's lead and making sure parents aren't dominating the playtime, i.e. no obnoxious tickling and child wins (unless parent is told to step up their game!)
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:16 Anthony
12:17
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Hi! Roughhousing seems like a great way to incorporate active, unstructured play time into your child's day (and frankly, our own as parents too!). How can you make sure things don't get TOO rough, especially if you have multiple children of various ages and strengths ('Hey he kicked me!')?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:17 Guest
12:20
Larry Cohen: 
Absolutely! The best way to keep things from getting out of control is to frequently "freeze!" just for half a second, every minute or two. With multiple ages, you can take each child on one-on-one, with the other children cheerleading. When a child crosses the line, all you have to do is gently remind them of the guidelines (just push or pin me, don't punch or kick).
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:20 Larry Cohen
12:22
Larry Cohen: 
Continuing that concept of stopping things from getting too rough, many families have trouble stopping the roughhousing. What we like to do is include some time set aside for winding down--all children have a natural arc for revving up and then winding down, and the trouble is we don't allow them enough time. Instead, we tell them it's time to stop when they aren't ready, and naturally they resist.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:22 Larry Cohen
12:22
[Comment From DeborahDeborah: ] 
Should you roughhouse with kids who are not your own?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:22 Deborah
12:22
Anthony: 
Hi Deborah- my policy is always ask their parents first. Sometimes the answer is obvious and sometimes you're surprised.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:22 Anthony
12:23
[Comment From barbarabarbara: ] 
What if you have a bookish child who doesn't want to roughhouse?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:23 barbara
12:24
Larry Cohen: 
My tactic here is to read next to them on the couch, and accidentally fall over onto them now and then, just to insert some physicality and connection into the interaction. It doesn't have to look like playfighting to be roughhousing. It's all about connecting in a physical way. You can also act out their favorite books together.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:24 Larry Cohen
12:25
[Comment From RaquelRaquel: ] 
What would you consider "regular" roughhousing?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:25 Raquel
12:25
[Comment From RaquelRaquel: ] 
I believe it was Larry made a comment earlier in the conversation regarding test scores and having a regular chance to roughhouse. I was just wondering what type of time frame is considered regular? Thanks!
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:25 Raquel
12:26
Larry Cohen: 
Sorry I misunderstood! By regular I mean every night after dinner, or every Saturday afternoon, or just any way that a child can begin to expect and anticipate the roughhousing. This helps them "store up" some of their feelings and physicality and then get it out during roughhousing time.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:26 Larry Cohen
12:28
Julie Deardorff: 
Also, I've found the games are very child dependent. Yesterday, my four-year-old -- who LOVES construction -- refused to play "Knock Your Socks Off" but loved Steamroller.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:28 Julie Deardorff
12:28
[Comment From kellykelly: ] 
where are some of the best places to roughhouse?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:28 kelly
12:28
Anthony: 
Hey Kelly- Roughhousing really can occur anywhere but I've found open spaces work best (i.e. family rooms, backyards). Once you start mastering the art, roughhousing becomes a part of everything you do (which is a lot of fun). For instance, my kids only get out of our van by doing a move we call Flying Fox (essentially a human zip-line).
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:28 Anthony
12:30
Julie Deardorff: 
Anthony, what are you and your girls own personal favorites?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:30 Julie Deardorff
12:32
Anthony: 
My oldest daughter has really gotten into some of the more acrobatic flips like Empire Bluff, X-15, K2 whereas my middle daughter is enjoying just good old-fashioned wrestling. My youngest like Nudge and Balboa.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:32 Anthony
12:32
Julie Deardorff: 
Unfortunately, we have to say goodbye to Anthony, who has to duck out a little early. But we really appreciate his time and still have Larry to answer questions.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:32 Julie Deardorff
12:33
Larry Cohen: 
In regard to steamroller, which Julie mentioned: Steamroller is laying on your back with your child laying on top of you, stomach to stomach, then you roll. Down a hill is the advanced move! We discovered, to our surprise, that older children often love this game even more than younger children. We think it's because they usually don't get a chance for this kind of close contact. (For young children, be sure to put most of your weight on your elbows as you roll, to avoid smushing them!).
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:33 Larry Cohen
12:33
Anthony: 
Thanks for having me everyone! May your days be playful!
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:33 Anthony
12:33
Which roughhousing games have you tried?
Booby Trap: Your hand gets stuck on everything it touches
 ( 0% )
Bucking Bronco: Put child on your knee and hold him under the armpits. Lift your knee up and down.
 ( 25% )
Airplane: Lie on back; place kid belly down on shins. Move back and forth.
 ( 0% )
Almost Gotcha: Chase and miss
 ( 25% )
Lumpy Cushion: Sit lightly on a child who is sitting on the couch.
 ( 25% )
None of the above
 ( 25% )

Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:33 
12:34
Julie Deardorff: 
Both my boys loved Steamroller. I'm planning to try it down a hill.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:34 Julie Deardorff
12:36
Julie Deardorff: 
Do some people avoid roughhousing because they're worried about inappropriate touch?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:36 Julie Deardorff
12:37
Larry Cohen: 
yes, and I think this is unfortunate. It is very important to protect children from inappropriate touch. However, we have focused exclusively on that, and have not paid enough attention to GOOD TOUCH. it is actually crucial to the safety of children for them to get plenty of good touch--including playful physical play--in order to not be vulnerable to inappropriate touch. Children are flooded with the message that the only types of touch are sexual and aggressive, so they need to learn about the whole wide universe of good touch.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:37 Larry Cohen
12:38
Julie Deardorff: 
Plus, many of the things in your book really use minimal or light touch. The idea is to connect with your child.

Also, you talk in the book about how to play games with your child. Should you let your child win? Why or why not?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:38 Julie Deardorff
12:39
Larry Cohen: 
I believe that children need to be "filled up" with confidence first, at home--which means that we usually let them win--and then they can go out into the world and not need to always win. Over time, they will signal to you that they want you to up your game, so that they can see how strong or skillful they really are.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:39 Larry Cohen
12:39
Julie Deardorff: 
So my kids won't think I'm a sucker if I keep letting them win?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:39 Julie Deardorff
12:40
Larry Cohen: 
No! They kind of know when you are letting them win, and they appreciate it. This, I think, is why many children prefer playing with their parents at least some of the time--their peers don't let them win!
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:40 Larry Cohen
12:41
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
You've been talking about parent-child roughhousing. Any opinion on roughhousing between siblings?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:41 Guest
12:43
Larry Cohen: 
When siblings roughhouse, it helps to be nearby--most of the problems happen when you are in the other room, right? You can get a bell and call out "rounds" keep the rounds very short, and give them both lots of hugs and cuddles in between (or high-fives if they are too cool for cuddles). Call out "freeze" a lot. Also, if you roughhouse one on one with the older one, he/she will learn from you to "hold back," this is self-handicapping and a great skill. And if you roughhouse one on one with younger one, the younger one can go all out and still win (unlike with his or her older sibling).
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:43 Larry Cohen
12:44
Julie Deardorff: 
Great tips. How can being silly help avoid conflict? And how does this play into roughhousing?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:44 Julie Deardorff
12:46
Larry Cohen: 
Conflicts are typically caused by a feeling of disconnection, and so the solution is always reconnection. Nothing reconnects people better than silliness (except for cuddling and affection). Physically falling over is great for this.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:46 Larry Cohen
12:49
Julie Deardorff: 
Yes, falling over is always good for a laugh, as you note in the book. And you also say you should end every session with "hugs and high fives."

Tickling always seems to be part of roughhousing. Is there a correct way to do this?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:49 Julie Deardorff
12:51
Larry Cohen: 
I am not a fan of tickling because a child can feel overpowered and out of control, but looks like they are enjoying it. So definitely no holding children down and tickling them, But a quick little jab and then pull your hand back is best. And tune in to your child so that you can see if they really like it. In fact, tuning in is one of the great benefits of roughhousing. Many people tickle because they run out of ideas when they are roughhousing, so it's better to expand your repertoire of games and moves.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:51 Larry Cohen
12:53
Julie Deardorff: 
That's just one reason I love the book. It's full of ideas I'd never thought of. Have you ever had a situation where the roughhousing backfired or went awry and if so, how did you fix it?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:53 Julie Deardorff
12:54
Larry Cohen: 
The most common "misfire" I see is when Dads are too rough and/or too competitive and Moms are too anti-roughhousing and try to ban it. Instead of figuring out what will work for everyone they get locked in a battle. The real answer, I think, is to allow more time for the roughhousing, ease into it, allow time to wind down, find games that are not as aggressive (like tumbling moves or obstacle courses) and make it fun for everyone.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:54 Larry Cohen
12:55
Larry Cohen: 
We advise Dads, especially, to learn to tune in instead of swoop-in. And we advise those who are reluctant about roughhousing to dive in and try it.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:55 Larry Cohen
12:55
Julie Deardorff: 
Can you talk a little about "adventure playgrounds?" Are playgrounds in the U.S. too safe?
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:55 Julie Deardorff
12:56
Larry Cohen: 
I do think we have moved from "safety first" which makes sense to "safety only" which doesn't make sense.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:56 Larry Cohen
12:58
Larry Cohen: 
I love adventure playgrounds, there are only a couple in US but more in Europe, where families can build forts and have campfires--they are staffed which gives the safety--safety comes from supervision and knowledge, not from banning things.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:58 Larry Cohen
12:58
Julie Deardorff: 
I want to point out that for some of these roughhousing moves require the parent to be in decent shape and to have some upper body strength. Especially the extreme roughhousing ones in the back. Have you ever ridden down the stairs on a mattress? I'm thinking about trying this one.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:58 Julie Deardorff
12:58
Larry Cohen: 
Yes! You haven't lived until you've tried this one.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:58 Larry Cohen
12:58
Julie Deardorff: 
No broken bones???
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:58 Julie Deardorff
12:59
Larry Cohen: 
Start with just a couple of stairs and work up to the whole staircase. Turns at landings are awesome!
Tuesday August 2, 2011 12:59 Larry Cohen
1:00
Julie Deardorff: 

OK, let's end with that challenge. I want to thank Larry and Anthony for participating.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 1:00 Julie Deardorff
1:01
Larry Cohen: 
Thank you all for tuning in! Please make videos of your family roughhousing and send them in to TheArtOfRoughhousing.com.
Tuesday August 2, 2011 1:01 Larry Cohen
1:01
Julie Deardorff: 
This concludes today's chat; it's also the last Chicago Tribune health chat. You can find the full transcript to this chat and all the others at www.chicagotribune.com/healthchats. You can also follow me @juliedeardorff. Thanks everyone!
Tuesday August 2, 2011 1:01 Julie Deardorff
1:01