In a recent advertisement by Gillette – the razor company – a small segment showed a couple of young boys wrestling with each other on the ground while older men stood together watching and proclaiming ‘Boys will be boys’.
After passing moral judgements on mens bad behaviour, the second half of the video clip showed one of the older men, perhaps one of the boys parents, breaking the boys up and saying ‘Thats not how we treat each other, OK?’.
Two boys playfighting on the ground, commonly referred to as roughhousing, is a healthy and natural part of growing up.
Unfortunately, the woman who directed the ad got this one wrong. Kim Gehrig doesn’t understand what is going on here between these two boys – and that boys being boys as a reference is not a bad thing nor an excuse for bad behaviour. It’s simply accepting that boys behave differently to girls – and that’s OK.
Boys do tend to roughhouse more than girls. That doesn’t make it wrong or bad. It’s just different.
In her own words – Gehrig, the director, says she is interested in “using the medium of advertising to make cultural change where possible.“
It’s likely her ambition of ‘cultural change’ is to stop roughhousing and possibly even the use of the term ‘boys will be boys’ – because the speech police are thriving in today’s PC environment.
However, the desired outcome of ‘boys to grow up as decent, responsible gentlemen’ is actually a more likely outcome if they engage in roughhousing – and here’s why;
In the book The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It, the authors (physician Anthony DeBenedet and psychologist Lawrence Cohen) say rough play is good for the brain: It stimulates neuron growth within the cortex amygdala and cerebellum regions, areas responsible for emotional memory, language and logic. How well kids roughhouse is actually linked to how well they do in their early years of school—up to grade three. They also reveal that intense physical play helps boys develop not just cognitive intelligence, but emotional intelligence. While pinning a squirming pal down on the floor, they learn to read body language, facial expressions and other social cues, like when their friend has had enough.
In my own experience, I’ve found this to be true. Play wrestling helps you find your place in the social structure of your circle of friends. Knowing who is the alpha is important. But also knowing how to respond when you’re the alpha is just as important so you learn self control, compassion and empathy.
Also being involved when you’re not the alpha teaches you how to diffuse the situation once you’ve had enough. There’s been many a time when the threat of violence has come up in my teenage and adult life, which I have successfully avoided thanks to those early lessons in life.
Women on the other hand tend to be different to men when it comes to understanding roughhousing and how to read a ‘physical altercation’ accurately.
Research has shown that Adult men (and women who grew up with brothers) correctly assessed roughhousing as play 70% of the time (when watching video of different scenarios) whilst most of the other women incorrectly thought the videos were real fights.
Perhaps Kim doesn’t have brothers and thinks all boys are violent. It is an incorrect assumption to make and certainly an unfair judgement on this behaviour.
How that wasn’t picked up before the release of this ad annoys me.
If you’re going to virtue signal to the world in an advertisement and show how woke you are, best to get your facts straight before you do so.
- Increases intelligence
- Builds emotional intelligence
- Makes kids more likable
- Makes kids more ethical and moral
- Improves fitness
- Increases the feelings of joy
So next time your kids start roughhousing consider how beneficial it is and even jump in yourself. Evidence shows that’s healthy too.