While it may be hard to believe, rumbling is an essential part of growing up for children. It is a way for kids to reduce stress, have fun, bond with playmates, siblings and parents, and even build self-esteem.

Unfortunately, it can also sometimes be loud and destructive to the environment amount them. Hence the overall negative opinion that many will have in regards to rumbling / mucking around / roughhousing. Parents must understand how kids rumble, as well as how to appropriately handle the situation.

Rumbling Benefits

According to Drs. Anthony DeBenedet and Lawrence Cohen, rumbling, also known as roughhousing, can be beneficial to children’s mental and social development. You can read more about their theories in The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It.

Rumbling is a form of healthy stimulation for children, and for that reason, it should not be actively discouraged. Children can build lasting friendships from this form of play, even if it can be anxiety-inducing for parents to watch.

Kids and fathers often bond through rumbling. It reinforces dad as a “safe place” when he can be (with his approval) jumped all over, climbed all over, pushed in gest and tickled in a loving and cheeky environment. It’s great parent-child bonding, and a unique, but important, form of one-on-one time that all children crave.

Understanding Key Differences

Parents need to learn and be able to spot the differences between play fighting and real fighting. At a glance, it may sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between the two.

However, details should become apparent upon closer examination. Are the children crying? Or are they laughing? Since you’re the parent here, you will be the closest thing to an expert. You know your kid. You know how they sound when they’re happy, scared, excited, or mad. Apply that information to good use and break up the real fights while leaving the play ones alone.

It is crucial for parents to monitor rumbling, as there is a fine line between playing and reality. However, when a parent feels like that boundary has been crossed, they must recapture that playful and cheeky tone. Try using encouragement, joking, tickling and positive reinforcement to bring kids back around to better types of play.

Set Limits

Before letting your kids run off and play, establish some ground rules and limitations. It’s essential to do this beforehand, mostly as it will help you keep your cool. These rules will benefit everyone involved.

The ground rules can be simple; in fact, simple is better. Rules can include: 

  • Consent – making sure that everyone involved is happy and having fun. Not everyone likes to rumble all of the time, and children need to understand that.
  • Rumbling doesn’t mean you can be mean. Make sure that while they are rumbling, your children are still expected to play nice. They can’t injure, bite, or otherwise harm their playmates. The reverse is also true, naturally. your child should feel safe while playing. 
  • No yelling. This rule applies to parents! When rumbling seems like too much to the parents, don’t lose your temper and start shouting. That isn’t going to help the problem and could make it worse.
  • Make sure the rumbling isn’t near breakable things (like glass or kitchenware) or hard things (like timber tables or bed frames)