Very physical 6-yo

Hi all,
I'm looking for ideas on ways to handle interpersonal problems arising for my very tactile, kinetic, physical son. It's not that he is aggressive; in fact, he's an unusually loving, easygoing kid.

But he expresses positive feelings very physically which gets him into trouble with his schoolmates, most of whom are not eager to have their 'bubble' breached. This behavior takes the form of enthusiastic hugs (often from behind), charges, tackles, gentle pushes, pokes and tickles, handholding, picking other kids up, and on one occasion, pulling a little girl he admires into his lap. Because he is friendly, kind and funny he seems well-liked, but most kids are understandably a bit wary around him and often show obvious ambivalence or resistance to his physical overtures.

His physical nature doesn't normally express itself in a hostile way, except sometimes during rivalry with an older sibling when he feels frustrated or slighted. He is strong and has managed to cause his sib injury on a couple of occasions. Also at home, since weaning him at two I continue to have a time of it keeping him from being too 'handsy' around my breasts. Hugs are fraught. He also loves to throw things--rocks, sticks, etc--not aiming at people but often carelessly and ill-advisedly.

We have, along with his teachers, tried redirecting my son's behavior, encouraging him to ask permission before touching, use his words to compliment or invite play (he's also very articulate), shake off annoying behavior, etc, with limited success. Lecturing him leaves him crushed.

He is precociously active in sports, often playing them with older kids and well-coordinated in that context, albeit somewhat unaware spatially in others.

Any suggestions for encouraging a bit more gentleness and respect and channeling a very vigorous, dynamic, lively boy into somewhat  more disciplined ways would be very welcome, whether through parenting techniques or certain physical activities (he is most drawn to basketball, baseball, and soccer and loves to dance if not following a prescribed set of steps).

Gymnastics, perhaps? I feel he is not ready mentally and emotionally for martial arts and they might render him lethal!

-Mama of a bull in a china shop

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RE: Very physical 6-yo ()

Your son sounds a bit like my boy at that age (mine is now 9 years old). Sports are definitely the way to go -- and seems you're already doing that.  My son plays organized basketball, baseball (some seasons only batting practice w a great coach and affordable price at Wheelhouse), league soccer, and lots of flag and touch football in the park w his dad and neighborhood kids (we got him the real "flags" to be worn for Xmas one year, which greatly enhanced the fun of this very physical game). We too have been wary of martial arts for fear that he might grow especially good at fighting(!); however, so many friends have recommended it for boys like ours that I may give it a try soon -- if we can find any space in his schedule given all the sports teams/activities. Needing to push/pull/squeeze often indicates a "sensory issue" -- nothing wrong w that. Therapist advise giving the kids "heavy work" to do (check online for ideas). Ours seems to enjoy gardening that involves lots of digging (he has his own shovel) and grass cutting -- w a push mower and also a weed whacker. So go ahead and have yours prep the ground for an August/late-summer planting.  Similarly, I've gotten my kid yoga sandbags (check on Amazon; we have 4 of them): make an activity of going to Home Depot to haul 2 big bags of sand back home (no need for a shopping cart!), then fill the sandbags and have your kiddo tote them around the house (build a small fort, make a bunker for army men, play strongman/Hulk by having him lift two bags over his head -- carefully! -- repeatedly until he's pooped [like a dumbbell shoulder press u might do in a gym workout]). He might also enjoy lying on the floor and having you place the sandbags on his shoulders or sitting in battakanasana and having the bags placed near his hips and/or thigh -- like in a yoga class.  Hope these ideas help: my kid has greatly benefitted from this stuff and really enjoys being athletically inclined and physically strong (he's most often picked first or second for schoolyard games, which has greatly helped his self-esteem). 

RE: Very physical 6-yo ()

Sounds like you are doing a lot of great stuff! I would also put a lot of effort into providing a lot of praise and positive regard when your son is more physically gentle and regulated to balance any lectures and time outs. Everyone especially kids thrive on constructive praise and it provides a lot of incentive to do it right so they get more. 

This may already have been done but maybe an ADHD evaluation would help?

Finally, maybe work with an occupational therapist or some such to give your son ways to dispel energy without disrupting others in the classroom. 

RE: Very physical 6-yo ()


I would recommend enrolling him in various after school sports such as a soccer league, that keep him physically active. Tae kwon do or Karate is something that he might like. Martial arts not only helps channel all that energy, it also builds self control. Most instructors are very strict about self discipline. Your son may really benefit from it.