This might look scary from the outside, I was unsure the first time I saw this played, but listen to his laughs.
Many years ago I saw video of father and son playing this very intensely and I was pretty shocked I wasn’t sure if it was good roughhousing or some bizarre child abuse, but the kids reaction was so purely positive the seeming violence of the situation had to be misleading.
Some time later my niece slapped me while sitting in my lap and I remember very clearly thinking what happens next is only ok because I am not angry So I slapped her back, very careful to scale my force below what she had used on me.
She gasped and then smiled and slapped me again, harder, so I slapped her back a little bit harder, she laughed and slapped me again even harder and so I slapped her back just a little bit harder and so we continued until she had had enough.
I thought about that later and it made thing of research on dog behavior I had read that said puppies need to bite in order to learn the strength of their jaws, in order to learn how control themselves and to not be overly reactive to force themselves.
I think this is true of human children as well. My daughter started slapping me when she was less then a year old and I did the same thing with her, always careful to match her force level. Amazingly my daughter has never hit another kid, I think the behavioral control she learned from this game helped that.
She has no need for curiosity she knows there is safe place to explore what hitting and being hit means. At 4 she is less interested in fighting and rarely does this, my son though is very into it and far rougher then she ever ways, and he laughs and laughs.
Giving him this safe space to express this element of his nature to me is an enormous gift a parent can give a child. This game exemplifies so much about the roughhousing concept how we learn competition, cooperation, self control, and negotiation and empathy through movement with other humans. Its powerful stuff.
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