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Q •  My wife and I love to roughhouse with our three kids. My mother-in-law says this is not good because it's teaching them that horseplay, which she thinks is basically fighting, will make them act out with bad behavior at school. She says it's sending an emotional and psychological message that may lead them into becoming a bully. Should we stop play-fighting with them?

From a reader • We play-fight with our two boys and two girls all the time and they're doing just fine. My dad did it with me and my siblings, and it's a natural part of life in my own family. If your kids enjoy it, tell your mother-in-law to mind her own business. — Bill Tillman in Fort Worth, Texas

From Jodie Lynn • We used to wrestle with our kids when they were young, and they loved it.

There may be people who don't necessarily like it, but if it's done in a gentle and almost silly-like way, it can provide plenty of benefits.

Some of those are:

• The twisting and turning makes for better coordination.

• The anticipation of the next move actually provides mental stimulation.

• Laughter and exercise can alleviate stress and frustration from a long day or that may have been building up over time.

• It also promotes self-confidence, awareness of one's surroundings and is a social activity.

Having rules in this activity is always a good idea. Consider these to ensure safety and fairness:

• No hitting in or around the face or head.

• No biting.

• No name calling or labeling allowed.

• No kicking.

• When a child says to stop, follow through and stop.

• Don't do it too close to bedtime. This is especially true for younger children as it may hinder their ability to go to sleep at their normal time.

As long as no one is trying to hurt anyone and the kids are willingly and happily participating in horseplay, it can build great relationships.


Why do all four of my children have such different personalities? I used to know what they liked and why. Now, it seems as if everything has been turned into either an argument or a competition. My mom says I need to pay attention to their birth order. Does this really have anything to do with our situation?

To share parenting tips or submit questions, write to: Parent to Parent, 2464 Taylor Road, Suite 131, Wildwood, MO 63040. Email:, or go to which provides a secure and easy way to submit tips or questions. All tips must have city, state and first and last name or initials to be included in the column.

Jodie Lynn is an award-winning parenting columnist, author of five books and mother to three children. She and her family live in Wildwood.