No such thing as violent play?

I have just read an article about the benefits of aggressive play for boys. Being a mom to a boy myself, it fascinated me that some educators in the US do encourage rough play among their male pupils. I've observed it before in my classroom, boys do have an inclination towards rough play. The girls are often found in the playhouse while the boys would go around chasing each other. Sometimes, they would roll on the grass and I just let them be. It's free play, anyway. It's one of the venues where I get to learn more about each kid's personality.

My older male students were more aggressive, though. I taught Kinder 1 and Grade 1 classes, by the way. One of my first-graders was the youngest in a brood of four boys. Unknown to the parents, the oldest teen brother watched wrestling on TV with his younger siblings. Once, this student of mine did a wrestling move that almost fractured the arm of his classmate. I almost fainted.

"There's no such thing as violent play," says psychologist Michael Thompson who co-wrote "Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys." He explains that play, even when it's rough, is not intended to hurt other people and that it's but characteristic of ever boy in every society. Violence and aggression, on the other hand, are what hurts people. So as long as boys do not intend to hurt their playmates, it's still considered healthy because it's in their nature to be rough and active.

What does that leave us, then? In my opinion, it still boils down to having parents or guardians on site. Parents should supervise play in a way that their kids will not hurt other children or damage theirs of other people's properties. When my boy was younger, I'd let him and his friends play in the living room or in the yard but never in his room. Aside from me not wanting to damage our laminate flooring, I also want them to be in a place where I can keep a close watch. It should also be the same in school. Teachers and other members of the school staff should let the boys play their rough games but also remind them that hurting is not allowed. They can impose penalties to whoever hurts a classmate or damages school property.

What's your take on this? Can boys really benefit from aggressive play? I'd love to read about what you think.

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