Tickle me not

Katherine - posted on 01/07/2011 ( 16 moms have responded )

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At first glance, tickle games appear to be times of fun and joy. When you tickle a child, the child laughs. What’s not fun about that? But think about the typical tickling game:

1) it is initiated by the adult: tickle-fests are normally started by the parent. The child may run screaming and laughing away from the chasing, tickling adult. At the beginning, it probably looks like a fun game.

2) it is controlled by the adult: the child is rendered helpless under the adult’s tickling fingers. The child has less strength, less physical prowess, less control. The game stops not when the child wants it to, but when the adult decides to.

3) the child is left feeling vulnerable: sustained laughter and adrenaline from the “fight or flight” feeling brought on by the tickling leaves the child out of breath, shrieking, pulling away, or screaming “no!” or “stop!” In some instances, the child even cries or wets herself, adding to the humiliation she feels at being completely dominated and out of control. The uncontrollable laughter heard in a tickle game is usually not a free reflection of joy; it is a forced physical response. It stems from panic and anxiety.

Normal tickling – the type where a child feels out of control of the “game” – teaches a child two things. It teaches her to succumb to the violation of her own body by someone more powerful, and it teaches her that it is acceptable (even fun!) to violate the person of another. Neither of those lessons are appropriate.

Tickle Games That Empower

Tickling does not have to cause shame and a sense of powerlessness. Instead of being in control of tickle games, hand the control to your child. Here are some ideas to empower your child while connecting with a fun, physical game.

1) Ask First: give your child the power to say no to a game of tickles. We have always asked our son before tickling him – he often says no, but when he does say yes we always have fun.

2) Give the Child an Easy Way to Opt Out: if your child agrees to the tickle fest, come up with a fun way for her to end it. For example, tell her that rolling away from you means “stop!”

3) Let Your Child Control the Tickle Time: instead of the potentially scary specter of a very large adult coming at the child with big tickling hands, let the child come to you. Here are a couple of ideas to let your child be in charge of tickle time:

* Tickle Tunnel: Stand with your legs wide apart. Your child will choose when (and how fast) to run under your legs, and you can lightly tickle him as he goes by.
* Tickle Tree: Your arms are the branches with tickling leaves, your child can come dance around you, try to climb you, or even try to chop you down – but you can’t move anything except your fingers.

Our goal in being playful with our children should not be to get an easy laugh or to dominate the situation, it should be to make a connection and to have everyone come away feeling good about the interaction. Tickling can be fun, we just have to remember what it’s like to be in our child’s more vulnerable position.

Do you have any suggestions for safe tickling games?
http://attachmentparenting.org/blog/2010...

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Jaime - posted on 01/13/2011

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But I don't think tickling is a negative thing. It only becomes negative when parents take it too far and start using it as a means to antagonize their child. Tickling should be fun and most kids make it into a game of chase and tickle torture. I don't see an issue with this. I do think it's funny that when these studies come up we automatically search for a way to explain our involvement in such activities without coming across as cruel, power-hungry parents. I just don't think THIS issue is all that concerning. If you don't initiate tickling your children NOW, you did at one point in time because that is how they would have learned to initiate and game-play. I can appreciate the implications of the study in that we need to be aware of the powerlessness of a child...but I just don't see it as an innately harmful action.

[deleted account]

You know, I hated being tickled as a kid, and I hate it now as an adult, and so I never tickled our son.
My husband, on the other hand, was never tickled as a kid and he cannot understand why I laugh when he tickles me if I hate it so much.
A couple years ago, we ended up in family counseling (We always do marriage counseling, helps us communicate) and the issue came up in a conversation about trust (Our son was afraid to be held or hugged at all because he couldn't trust the person holding him to put him down or let him out of the hug). Our Doc recommended a tickle game to build trust and attachment.

Basically, either of us could start the game by ASKING "Do you want a tickle?" If he said "Yes", we tickle. If he said "No" we were to leave it at that. He could also ask us to play, but he had to give us a chance to say "yes" or "no".
Once the game began he could stop it at anytime by yelling "Monster horn!" (No was reflexive and he would often say "no" even when he wanted to keep playing, so we had to find a word that he wouldn't say unless he meant it).

J loved the unstructured chaos of this game and it gave him a lot of control :)

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Heidi - posted on 01/20/2011

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My son's favorite game is "tickle monster", which is actually more of a chasing game than a tickle one. Although I have encouraged him to be the tickle monster, he prefers to run away, I run after him, catch him, tickle him slightly very briefly, pretend to fall asleep and do the whole thing again. I agree tickle games can get out of control, but he really seems to love this one.

Krista - posted on 01/13/2011

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I think like in many things, some parents are just oblivious to their kid's very real signals, and push things too far.

I love tickling Sam, but I don't over-do it, and I never pin him down or otherwise restrict his ability to get away if he wants.

Jaime - posted on 01/13/2011

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I don't think a child should ever be forced into tickling. I'm simply saying that tickling is not done in a negative, power-hungry manner. I can understand that people get carried away...but I just don't think it's something to be overly concerned about.

Katherine - posted on 01/13/2011

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I hate being tickled too. My dad used to tickle me and not stop. Now it's a phobia...

[deleted account]

Roxanne LOVES to be tickled and we tickle her often but when she starts to get upset or says, "no, mommy!" we respect her wishes.

I HATE HATE HATE being tickled.

Katherine - posted on 01/11/2011

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@ Kelly, that's a GREAT way to build trust again in a child. Hence the reason I posted.

Merry - posted on 01/10/2011

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Eric loves being tickled but only on his terms, he says no if we tickle certain parts of him, and he will say all done when he wants me to stop. But I usually just do the action of tickling most times and he laughs without me even touching him! He will say more more more if I stop too soon, but I never make him laugh for very long at a time, I want to make sure he gets enough breathes in between or he gets really red in his face.
I think you just have to be tickling for the child, not for yourself. Their happiness has to be the goal, not making them laugh for you own pleasure.

Jaime - posted on 01/09/2011

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At first I was ready to jump on this topic and call 'bullshit', but after taking a moment to think about it, it's an interesting observation about tickling. I tickle Gray....not all the time, but never really considered his powerlessness in the situation.

Jess - posted on 01/09/2011

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My 16 month old loves being tickled so much so she starts the game. She creeps up on you and roar's at you and then runs away looking back to make sure your chasing after her !

[deleted account]

You know, I never thought of it this way. I always thought it was just a fun game but, now that you mention it, my husband HATES being tickled. All because when he was younger he was tickled so much it hurt and the person wouldn't stop when he said to.

JuLeah - posted on 01/07/2011

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Tickle games are a good way to teach that no means no. No means stop now. Teach your kid to say no and mean it. Tickle games, like many, are fun when all are laughing.

Minnie - posted on 01/07/2011

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This is good. My eldest HATES being tickled; she is very similar to me. We both have sensory integration issues and I can see how being tickled makes one feel vulnerable and dominated- if it isn't something that person enjoys. Any sort of play that makes her feel vulnerable actually terrifies her. My husband thinks it's a riot to try to turn her upside down- something that freaks her out of her mind (but something our youngest loves).



My youngest will run up to me and BEG to be tickled.

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