Tickle Me Not

by Dionna on April 30, 2010

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tickleAt 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?

Photo credit: pixelstar

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For more on tickling, its effects, and some alternatives, check out Aldort’s Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves at 213-15 and Lawrence Cohen’s Playful Parenting.

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Dionna (20 Posts)

Dionna writes at Code Name: Mama, where she shares information, resources, and her thoughts on natural parenting and life with a toddler/preschooler.


{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

The Verve Path April 30, 2010 at 11:09 am

This is a great article and something that most of us don’t actively think about. Reading this, I found that we have naturally done many of the things that you list of positive ways of playing. It is easy to forget that the laughter isn’t necessarily due to joy or fun but it is so important for us to keep that at the front of our mind. Thanks for sharing!

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mamapoekie April 30, 2010 at 11:26 am

Thank you. I never thaught of it that way. Seems logical though. Thanks again

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Kayris April 30, 2010 at 11:37 am

I had an ex-boyfriend who used to tickle me until I screamed. And I don’t think he had any intention of “dominating” me, just did not understand how it was so torturous for me. Tickling is supposed to be fun, right? As a result, I have never held down my kids and tickled them until they screamed and cried, because I know how much *I* hated it. Tickling in our house is very mild. I never made the connection before until now.

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the Grumbles April 30, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Interesting! I can totally relate with the feeling of being “out of control” when being super tickled. Especially with the yelling and screaming, no, stop! In other situations that would set off alarm bells so why is it ok with tickling!

But I don’t think tickling is a bad thing at all, as long as some rules are set in place first.

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CodeNamePapa April 30, 2010 at 12:34 pm

It’s funny how such a small thing as tickle time can respect the child or reduce them. Good things to keep in mind for other areas, too.

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Susan Betke April 30, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I am a big fan of “butterfly tickles” that are easy to dodge!!

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Dionna April 30, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Thanks for the feedback everyone! I just want to make one thing clear (because I’ve seen quite a bit of banter on Facebook about this post) – I’m not advocating for “no tickling!” That’s silly – my son loves to be tickled, I used to enjoy gentle tickling when I was a kid.
It’s the *relentless* tickling I’m referring to – the kind that takes away all control from the child. The kind that ends in panic, not fun.
Really, this is just a reminder to be gentle :)

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nats July 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm

don’t get how tickling soles for example can hurt?!?

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Krista S. April 30, 2010 at 2:02 pm

I absolutely hate being tickled. Do I like tickling my kids – yes because their laughs are so cute! But I usually start the game by saying “I’m going to tickle you”, while getting my tickle fingers ready. This gives them a chance to say no. If they say no then I don’t tickle them, we just play something else. If they start laughing right away I go ahead and tickle but as soon as they say stop the game is over. Everyone should have their words heard and respected.

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Hillary April 30, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Thanks so much for bringing this up!

I remember how horrible it felt gasping for breath and being held down by well meaning uncles for tickle torture. Exhilerating but there were horrible panic moments in there.

We play tickle, but I always stop and give tons of breathing room and make it more about rolling around and touch and some tickles here or there. I would never want them to feel that feeling.

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Pure Mothers April 30, 2010 at 2:11 pm

My mom was held down and tickled as a child and she is scarred from it. If you tickle her she will knee-jerk punch you! So with our almost-3-year-old, we give a warning by raising our tickle fingers up and saying “here comes the Tickle Monster”. If he doesn’t want us to tickle him he says ‘no’ and we honor it. When he wants it to stop he says ‘stop’ or ‘yes’ (because he used to say “no” a lot, tickling was our way to turn his negative into a positive and the positive word ‘yes’ related to his empowerment and getting us to stop.) We never continue to tickle if he wants us to really stop. This works for us.

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nicole @ much more than a mom April 30, 2010 at 2:48 pm

I love this article. My children beg to play “chase me and tickle me!” but it’s always under their control.

I enjoy all of your articles, actually, even when they differ slightly from our life, so thanks for taking the time to write & post them!

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Annie @ PhD in Parenting April 30, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Great post!

I hated being tickled as a kid. So I was shocked when my kids would beg and beg and beg “tickle me again”.

Each person has different likes and dislikes and those deserve to be respected.

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Raine April 30, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Thanks for this post. I remember I hated being tickled as a kid (and as an adult, for that matter), but nobody seemed to take me serious when I asked/told them not to do it. I think it’s easy to look at things as “just a game”, and sometimes that causes the child’s feelings to be disregarded because the adult thinks something must be fun for both. I’ll keep that in mind with tickling and other touchy games with my son.

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Nicole Lemke April 30, 2010 at 5:54 pm

My 2 1/2 year old daughter has a code word for wanting to be tickled… for some reason Doo-dah has evolved as the “tickle me” word. She will add it into random conversation or song (usually “Old McDonald had a doo-dah!” She wants it more than we want to dole it out! We will say, “I can’t hear you!” and cup our ears so she comes close. So, she has started to cupping her ear as an additional signal for tickle me! We had read about this in Playful Parenting and this has been a great way to empower her.

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Nicole Lemke April 30, 2010 at 5:56 pm

our daughter also will tell us she saw a tickle monster lurking around for telling us she wants to be tickled.

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Alison April 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm

I loathe being tickled – for me it very much a form of torture. M brother would hold me down to tickle me and I literally saw red (I still do). In my adult years a few people have tickled me and they have the bruises to show for it (well, one has the potential frost bite to show for it when I dumped my drink on them in well below freezing temperatures). It is actually the only time I get violent.

Thank-you for posting this – when someone says stop doing ANYTHING physical to them, then you STOP!

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Diana Christensen April 30, 2010 at 6:54 pm

For me, tickling has never been a thing of torture or malice. It’s a fun way to connect and be close to someone. The feeling this article left me with was pretty dark- that me tickling my child was somehow violating him. I don’t like that inference- we’ve played chase and tickle as soon as he could laugh (3 months) and he’s always loved it. If he didn’t, we wouldn’t play it.

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Chase April 30, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Why should children be in control of anything? They respond to love and discipline. They know who loves them. You should free yourself from the bondage of this kind of pop phsychology.

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Tiffany July 21, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Chase – when a child is afraid of tickling, and they wish for this extremely humiliating and uncomfortable activity to stop, that’s not about the child being in control, it is, as you say, about the child knowing that the parent loves them and respects their feelings enough to stop. I am horribly ticklish and my parents would pin me down to tickle me, not letting me up until I whistled, and truly, who can whistle when their body is spasming and they can’t catch their breath? It was torturous for me, and it should most definitely be the child’s choice… if children laughed out of fear when you punch them, but you know it hurts, would you still do it? No. Tickling often hurts and a child’s wishes to stop or not do it at all should be respected. A lot of damage can be done if it is ignored.

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zandria January 26, 2011 at 8:31 pm

there is nothing worng with being tickled or tickling anyone. the thing that is wrong is not respecting another person when they say no. tickling is an example of a activity. the message being conveyed was about respect & keeping a loving activity that is fun. fun. i wouldnt like to be tickled n pinned down n begging someone to stop but being ignored. i would become extremely clausterphobic n hysterical. i could even try to attack the person physically in a sheer need with out coherent thought to defend myself & escape. i cant think clearly & rationally when my body is spasming from being tickled beyond what i can handle.
then i would feel wary & uncomfortable around the person 4 a while. even though they could b a person i love dearly. subconsciously my body would remember them & the incident & when around them my body would produce more adrenaline for just in case. or the flight or fight response which is triggered in ur inner cortex of ur frontal lobe in ur brain. hence why i would feel uneasy & wary of them. my brain had made a subconscious decision to protect myself. we r hormone n chemical beings that react n think from these chemical n hormonal changes. a baby or child is still a human. with a personality like no other person in this world. they feel pain just lik us adults n feel saddness n joy n fright n happiness. just like any adult. as the adult our job is to guide them with these feelings & moderate them in healthy doses. that’s part of displine. whats right & wrong & how it effects them & the other people around them. thats love n displine together. they need both 4 both to work. a child will not just “know” people love them. u hav to teach them u love them so they can learn how to love others that come into their lives n show love. this isnt pop physchology. this is just phsychology. maslow a theriost on child physc found that the first 5 years will shape the rest of their life. so a child trauma can become an adult phobia. n it is not easily undone. the brain already set the chemical composition on that area. yavaski said a scaffolding of structure was important, set clear boundries by example. no disipline not saying the word no. how will a child understand they’re going too far with another child if they dont listen to their no. as they dont hava concept of it?
i could go through all the forefather theorists n the more recent 1′s. i could pull out phycology books n tell u all the statistics.
but i dont think u would listen long enough 2 understand. u dont hav to agree at all. the topic was a portal 4 greater understanding of a no from a child. as an adult we do naturally think we know better at all times n sumtimes dont take a child seriously because it objects 2 our perceptions n wants n an ideal fantasy of fun. but a dream in all aspects will always b nicer in our minds then as a reality. the topic encourage thought on more aspects other then a game. read some comments it was opening eyes in new lights or reminding how important it is 2 respect all. i rethought n readdressed my parenting. a review on a project at a company is mandatory so should b parenting.

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Tara July 27, 2012 at 3:38 am

Children have the right to be in control of their own bodies, including who touches them and how they touch them.

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Dionna April 30, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Nicole – I’ve been visiting everyone’s sites and leaving comments. I just tried to leave one on yours and it ATE MY HUGE COMMENT!! Boo!! It said that your most recent post “wasn’t accepting comments anymore”?
Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you. It’s always refreshing to connect with someone who buys into the philosophy that we can find commonalities even amidst our differences :) I “met” one of my favorite readers/bloggers (at Code Name: Mama) when she commented on a post I wrote about spanking (she spanks, I don’t). We had a very respectful discussion via comments about spanking, agreed to disagree, and now have a great online relationship (well, we don’t talk about spanking ;)).

At any rate – again, thanks to everyone who commented and shared their stories, both here & on FB. In case you missed it, my signature/bio today reveals that I was also incessantly tickled by my older brother (until I peed my pants oftentimes). Yes, that probably skews my view on the subject – but I also think that gives me a little bit of authority to speak for the ones who may not be able to.
This post is not to demonize parents who tickle, there is value in tickling! It connects, it provokes joy and laughter (in moderation), it lets people show physical affection. I’m just asking everyone to show respect for your children’s bodies – let them decide when enough is enough.
That’s not “AP,” that’s not “teaching kids to be victims,” that’s not “taking this gentle parenting thing too far.”
That is respect. And if we want our kids to show it, we should be willing to show it to them.

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Amy May 1, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Thank you for this article. I have never liked to be tickled and I thought it was just me.

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katepickle May 1, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Fabulous post!
I have had ongoing problems trying to get my inlaws to understand and respect that when my children ask them to stop or say no… even if it is through fits of giggles (like they can help that when being tickled) it is important to list and actually stop!

We have the same problem when they demand a kiss or cuddle and my children politely say no… the manipulation and ‘don’t you love me’ stuff really bothers me. Just respect that they don’t want a kiss right now and it will get you way more affection in the long run!

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Sybil May 2, 2010 at 8:24 pm

One thing that is great to teach children how to use “No!” or “Stop!” Tickle your kids and when they say no or stop, you stop immediately. And then when they say go you can start again until they say stop and so on.
This sends kids a great message that they can use their voice loud and clear while practicing in a safe and respectful situation.

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Fran Magbual May 3, 2010 at 12:30 am

I’m so glad you’re bringing this up! I was extremely ticklish as a kid and was afraid of being tickled. In my case it wasn’t adults that tickled me, it was other kids that found out I was so ticklish and wanted to see for themselves how ticklish I was. There was one older child of a family friend that would tickle me and my sisters until we were practically crying. I remember feeling so helpless and in a panic when tickled. I’ve told my husband flat out not to tickle our kids, but they seem to like it. We’ll have to institute some of those “safe” tickle games if they continue to like being tickled.

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MamanADroit May 3, 2010 at 11:01 am

My family loved tickle fights growing up…except it made me pee my pants, even as a pre-teen. It was soooo embarassing. My family thought it was hilarious to tickle me until I was begging them to stop and had to run off to the restroom in hopes of preserving some small amount of dignity.
Yet, I was still surprised the first time I read that you shouldn’t tickle babies too much ’cause they might not enjoy it. I guess I thought I was the weirdo! I do tickle Baby some, but I’ll try hard to keep it respectful and baby-led. Thanks for the great post!

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Dionna @ Code Name: Mama May 3, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Diana – I definitely don’t want to imply that all tickling violates a child’s body. This post was only trying to convey the feeling that children can get when the person who is tickling does not respect the child and respond to the child’s cues.
Like I said in the last section – tickling is a fun way to connect, it’s simply important to remember to be gentle. If our goal is to teach children to respect their bodies (and to demand that respect from other people), then WE need to respect them too!

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Jen, mom of DS May 3, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Tickling is like a simulation of dominating or attacking. Why do we only “laugh” whne someone bigger than us tickles, hmm?

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Tanya May 3, 2010 at 8:32 pm

My fiance loves tickling my nieces and nephew, sometimes too much. Sometimes he acts like a big kid himself. One time my niece told him, “No, don’t tickle me”, and he stopped. But then she’ll come back giggling asking to be tickled. I think this bothers my brother-in-law. It’s all in good fun, but I see the doubt and uncomfortableness in my brother-in-law’s eyes. What should I do or say? I know if I bring this up w/ my fiance, he’s going to be hurt, but I don’t want any awkward feelings in the family because of this. My nieces and nephew usually come up to him giggling & poking him to get him going with the tickle fingers. If my brother-in-law doesn’t like this, what should I do?

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Melissa May 5, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Hi Tanya,

I would follow your BIL’s wishes. I, too, am uncomfortable when others tickle my children even if my children come back asking for more. What I would do is to simply step in and distract the children somehow via simple redirection. Redirection is great as more than just a positive discipline tool. If the kids look like they want to play the tickle game jump in and ask if they want to do something else – go outside, play a board game, put together a puzzle, etc.

Warmly,

Melissa

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Karissa May 7, 2010 at 6:41 am

I love this! I absolutely abhor being tickled because I feel like my body starts going into spasms! We always announce our intent to tickle our daughter before starting, but there are so many times that we accidentally tickle her just by getting her dressed or brushing her hair because she’s just so sensitive. When we do have tickle fights she yells out “that’s enough!!!” when she’s had enough tickling. But most of the time we end up letter her to tickle us until we are pretending that we can’t take it anymore. I like giving her the feeling that she has power too, and she loves it.

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Tori May 7, 2010 at 8:11 am

Thank you for the insight into my child, as well as into myself. I’ve never liked being tickled, it was never funny, but over the years adulthood has somewhat desensitized me to things like this. I am careful not to tickle my daughter beyond what she wants – actually she has taught me a lot about respecting children’s boundaries. Thank you for the suggestions!

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Rose May 7, 2010 at 10:41 am

We play a game we call “Kisses, tickles, pinches, pokes.” I sit on the floor cross legged and my kids sit in my lap in the cradle position. I say “Kisses, tickles, pinches, pokes” and they choose which one. All but kisses are pretty much tickling but the rules are the moment they say “stop” I stop and I don’t do it to the point they can’t talk anyway. Sitting with them in my lap makes it easy to roll away if they want also. They are in control, enjoy it and line up to play (I have six kids). :-) I always HATED being tickled as a kid so decided I would always stop the moment my kids said to and never tickle them to where they couldn’t talk.

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Erica May 7, 2010 at 11:39 am

My Dad used to tickle me until I couldn’t breathe, and it was always terrible. He wouldn’t let me up until I was turning purple. I hated it. I taught myself to stifle my ticklishness because I hated the feeling of helplessness from those games. It was my way of taking back control of the situation.

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Andrea May 7, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I think this is a great article. At first I was a little put off, because I love to tickle my baby but I always stop when she says so and only initiatie if she lets me. I have distinct memories of being tickled as a child and hating it, and wanting it to stop and it wouldn’t happen, even though I was laughing it was not what I wanted. So it’s nice to read this article, thanks alot

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Lisa C May 9, 2010 at 3:33 pm

I always loved being tickled as a kid, so I was surprised when I got older to find out that many people hated being tickled. Apparently they had been “tickle-tortured” as children.

The way I ask my son for permission to tickle him is I put up my hands and started wiggling my fingers, then I examine his response to see if he is up to it. I do very short tickle bursts, so that I am not overpowering him or going past his limit. He is free to get away at any time. I kept it really short, too. I know I have gone too far if he starts getting a high-pitched laugh or whines, but that rarely happens. My husband is more likely to go too far, or hold him in a position where he can’t get away, so I have to tell him to stop.

I like the tickle games you share here, and I think it’s great to let them be in charge of how much they get tickled and to flat out ask them if they want it. I will remember this.

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Annie June 1, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I remember my dad sitting on me and tickling me nonstop, and when I said Stop!! he wouldn’t stop, he would say, you have to say im the tickle master!! and I would say no!!! stop!!! now!!!! and he would say, whats the magic words??? and not stop until I said “stop it tickle master!”. He made it seem like he controlled it, it was so scary, I couldnt do anything to get him off because I was a little kid. there are some horrifieing storys, thank god for this page

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Amy June 2, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Right on, Dionna. The issue, as you made perfectly clear in your article, isn’t tickling; it’s respect.

I hate being tickled. My daughter loves it. We tickle her until she says “Stop!” and then three seconds later she says “Tickle me” again. The rule, as far as I’m concerned, is that No means No and Stop means Stop, with tickling and everything else. After all, I love to kiss my little girl and I do it out of love, but if she doesn’t want me to (as sometimes she doesn’t), then it isn’t loving for me to insist, is it?

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Meg June 20, 2010 at 5:35 am

I, too, found the tone of this article to be unnecessarily dark. Playing with kids is not violating them, and there’s nothing wrong with adult controlled games. As an adult you gain things like the wisdom to read your kids and know when they’ve had enough or when they don’t want to do something.

My son has plenty of fun with tickling games and other games that I or my family members initiate with him. The “carry me around over your shoulder” game has to be started by an adult too but once it’s started he asks for more every time he gets put down.

My family wasn’t terribly touchy feely, but I do remember that I hated being tickled. I always announce to my son when I’m going to tickle him “I’m gonna getcha!” – from there I can really tell if he wants to play or not. Most of the time he’s up for it and does the whole squeal chase me thing. Or he’ll turn around and chase -me-.

Games like that are a fun way of establishing and strengthening bonds imho, not some horrible dark violation of children’s personal space.

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Jaya November 20, 2011 at 11:28 am

I found the tone of the article completely appropriate. The author makes it clear that tickle games can be fun, and how to make sure you’re having fun. I think when you read the comments on this article, and the comments on *any* article on this subject, you’ll see that there are tons of people for whom tickling did result in trauma that they still carry. You say “As an adult you gain things like the wisdom to read your kids” – perhaps you did, but clearly, not everyone “gets it.” I see parents all the time tickle their young kids, and the kids try to grab their hands and pull them away but the adults are too strong and quick. Especially when the kids are preverbal, and the parents assume that because they’re laughing they’re happy, not all parents get it. Laughing is a reflex to tickling that we can’t control. Some people need a serious article to understand this.

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dohiyi mama June 21, 2010 at 9:23 am

I can totally relate to this. I HATE being tickled and remember my brother doing it to me when I was little (he still does if I don’t watch out), and he has the scars to prove it. I have broken bottles over his head while he was tickling me… I’m not responsible for my actions if you tickle me!

With that said, I don’t tickle my baby. At all. And whenever people say oh is she ticklish? I say No! lol

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Kelly June 23, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Wonderful article. My kids like being tickled but we’ve learned to let them set the rules.

My son also likes me to “spank” him sometimes or “tickle him ROUGH!” It’s a game we play with great finesse because, as someone who has more power than he, I don’t want to make a misstep. We have a great time.

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Luschka @ Diary of a First Child August 24, 2010 at 1:44 am

This is really well written and makes sense to me on so many levels. I’m quite taken aback by the obviousness of it – having never really thought about it.

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zandria January 26, 2011 at 7:44 pm

my daughter will b 6months in just over 2weeks.
i had always had an idea that tickling can b too much. i know cuz im extremely tickleish. i hate it.
my daughter gets a few games sum a lil more boistorious then other moments. i go by her mood n how tired she is.
my tickles r mostly done on her palm of her hand with a ryhme. she can take her hand away n is a coordinated enough if that area of her body she can bring her hand back 4 more i try i take it away. sumtimes i run my fingers slowly in a big circle around her belly n sing, slight tickle but more relaxing. as she lies n spreads herself on my lap with a zoned out expression on her face. arms n legs sprawled out.
sum games hav raspberries n more vigorous tickles usually floor games. but i give lots of breaks inbetween, eye contact n offer other games/ toys. n while she might laugh if i see a over stimulated look about her starts 2 show then its back wind down transition games like cuddles n rocking in my arms n the stroking her face just where she likes it n a slow song. but i never tickle her 2 extremes no matter how short a period of it. a baby being tickled like that or any1 looks like they dont hav control over their reflexes or volantary movement. they r at the will of the tickler n cant stop them. even an adult. i know it doesnt look or feel fun at all. an enjoyable feeling taken to extremes can b a horrible feeling. i dont want my daughter 2 feel anything but safety n nice feelings.

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Anon January 26, 2011 at 9:54 pm

I think it is so important to respect children’s bodies and their desire to be touched or not. Before I go further I will clarify that I am absolutely not talking about sexual abuse (or physical). My dad was a big toucher – tickling, grabbing my knee, doing this sort of light scratching thing with my palm, touching my hair and face. I hated it and eventually hated him for it. There was no space for me to be able to say “no” – this would have been catastrophic in the context of what relationship we did have. I would regularly pull away but although I’m sure my non-verbal message was very clear, he never accepted it and it continued until I left home. As an adult looking back, I wish I had had the guts to say “Stop” to his face, but I never could have. I guess this is a little off-topic but the point I’m trying to make is that a parent should never assume s/he has that kind of privilege as regards the child’s body.

xx Sorry to be so dark.

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AEG June 26, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Love this article! It brings an important and often overlooked topic to light. I took a similar approach with a tongue-in-cheek reprimand I wrote on squidoo about tickling. If you have a chance to read it, please stop by: http://www.squidoo.com/tickle-attack. And regardless, kudos for spreading the word about better approaching to tickling little kids.

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Maranda S. July 26, 2012 at 12:45 pm

As previously stated we always give advance notice before tickling… Even with my almost 2 yr old we put our hands up in the air and say something along the lines of “I’m gonna get cha, or here comes the Mommy tickle monster”, then we have given a “safe” word of sorts. When they are done they ask, “please stop”. Then we stop. And EVERY time they will say, “Again!” I also have them come to me and ask to be tickled quite often. It makes it even more fun that they get to laugh and be comfortable with it. I love being tickled and want my children to enjoy their tickles, not be frightened. I will admit when I first read the title I rolled my eyes, however I have opened my eyes and seen this from a different prospective. Thank you for sharing. :)

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Laura August 8, 2012 at 4:10 pm

My daddy used tickling as a way to have fun but it evolved into a way to teach us self control over our own physical responses. He would tickle us (at our own request) and the only way to make him stop was to whisper “Stop daddy stop”. From those early playful sessions I developed considerable awareness over much of my body especially pain receptors. I can remain calm in a variety of situations and thank my daddy for the skill!

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Rose April 17, 2013 at 8:44 pm

I would play tickle games with my niece in my early teens, but she would sit on top of me and tickle me, and “stop” ALWAYS meant stop. It was always consentual for both of us, having grown up being the youngest child, I remember what seems like hours of tickling torture, and I never wanted to reproduce that when we played.

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Anon December 26, 2013 at 10:02 pm

My mom used to hold me down arms crossed above me head and “tickle” me until I couldn’t breathe, usually puking. I often begged to stop before it started but it didn’t matter. It went on for years, until I kicked her really hard in trying to get away. She wonders why I don’t like to hug her.

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Anon December 26, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Tickling like anything beyond when someone says “no” is torture. It was a common form of Chinese and Greek torture, left no marks.

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Annette July 4, 2014 at 7:07 am

I kept googling and wondering if what I experienced as a young pre-teen was abusive and I found this “tickle” site. I know that my father crossed boundaries with me. He used to pin me down on the floor and tickle me until I could not breath. I hated it and screamed for him to stop, but he would not. He did not stop there though, usually he would also pull at my nipples! To this day I hate to be ticked and have battled whoever tried to tickle me later in life. I do not remember when this started, but do know that I was a pre-teen when it was occurring. I wondered, but never asked why my mother did not say anything and of course, I was powerless to make this stop on my own.

He was also verbally and emotionally abusive to all of us, and physically abusive to my younger brother at a certain point in his life. He is also a very controlling person. More so in my adult years though than when I was living at home, which is odd to me.

I am now 56 and my father will be 78 this year. I have tried to put the past behind me since I’ve been on my own and have also tried to maintain some kind of a relationship with him. Since I’ve been living on my own I have ALWAYS spoken up and protected myself. Of course, he (and some of my siblings) does/do not like that and he/they finds/find fault in what I say…even now! It is not direct, but usually about the particular situation, or descriptive about the way I’m dealing with something or doing something.

He (and they) has and continues to cross boundaries and for some strange reason I feel he still does not view me as an adult. My family was terribly dysfunctional. Both of my parents were largely self-centered and neither knew how to develop a healthy emotionally connected relationship with their children and both “practiced” conditional love. He still does.

I was a very quite & shy child and my mother perceived me as “weak” (she told me that about 5 years ago!!!) and she picked on me. Quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of this toxic relationship with my father! I have been working for almost 40 years and have a very good job. This is the ironic part…I do research on different projects and write for the CO of a big company, and manage over 4 million in state and federal funding, but in my father’s eyes…it is as if I would never measure up, and further, don’t have good judgment!

I do not need his approval and do not seek it and am very independent due to the way I was raised. I really think that gets his ire more than anything!

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Amber August 3, 2014 at 3:11 am

My kids like being tickled too! Great information!

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