When kids grab, push, and play too rough: What it can mean

By Amanda Morin

Why do some kids play too rough and grab or crash into things? It doesn’t mean they don’t care about other kids. Or that they have bad parents. Often kids who seem “pushy” or aggressive have challenges that make it hard for them to realize they’re being rougher than is acceptable.

Kids may roughhouse because they struggle with:

  • Knowing how much force they’re using. Kids may squeeze too tight when they hug or give a high five that stings. What they think is a light tap on the shoulder might be a shove.
  • Reading social cues. Kids may not realize they’re standing too close or that a friend is upset about how rough they’re playing.
  • Controlling impulses. Kids want that ball right now and don’t stop to think before they grab it. But afterwards, they might feel really bad about having been so rough.

It can also be hard for kids to know what’s appropriate from one situation to another. For example, maybe a concerned adult grabbed a child’s arm once in a busy parking lot. If the adult didn’t explain they only did that for safety reasons, the child may think that grabbing is OK to do with friends.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days. 

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Kristin J. Carothers, PhD is a clinical child psychologist devoted to the destigmatization of mental health problems.