Friday, December 7, 2007

Tickled traumatic

Parents need to learn the difference between playing with children and torturing them

Tickling your kids: Is it harmless fun? Or borderline abuse? The answer is probably somewhere in between, but experts nationwide are urging parents to think before they "tickle torture."
"It always makes me cringe a little bit when I see babies tickled," says Dr. Charlotte Cowan, a pediatrician. "In older childhood, tickling at some point sometimes can be about adult control and power. And I really don't like it when I hear a child say, 'No, stop that,' and they really mean, 'No, stop that.' "

Think about it: A child could be tickled to the point that he is out of breath and about to wet his pants, laughing so hard that his cries to "stop" are unheeded. Inside, he could be feeling powerless and unprotected.
Keep things fun by remembering these guidelines:
Consider the child's age
"This is something that adults need to take responsibility for," says Janet Price, a child development specialist at Education Development Center in Massachusetts. "With a little baby, you do something for a second, and they might be overwhelmed," says Price. "The younger they are, the shorter the experience should be, especially when they can't talk for themselves."
Parents tickle with the best intentions: They want the child to have fun; they want to bond. Price suggests a short tickle, then turn it into a bear hug instead.
Consider the child
Of course, there are children who truly love to be tickled. "A child who is very outgoing, loves new things, loves to be pushed to the edge, they could come back for more," says Price. "But even with that child, you need to be ready to stop. They could have fun until they're crying." It's up to the adult, in that case, to decide it's gone past the fun point.
And then there are more fearful kids, who dread tickling. Don't think you can convert them. "Some kids are overly sensitive to sensory input, there's a growing number of kids like that," says Price. "It can be really traumatic for those kids."
Keep it brief
Sally Goldberg, a parent coach, prefers to discourage tickling altogether. That said, "There's a time and place for everything," she relents. However, that time should be brief. Keep the tickling of a short enough duration that the child will look forward to it the next time.
This also is a good time to remember the Golden Rule, says Goldberg. "Gee, is that really something I would like somebody to do to me?"
Respect 'no'
"There is a fun and normal side to tickling," says Keith Kanner, a child and adolescent psychoanalyst and host of "Your Family Matters Show" on Fox's San Diego affiliate. Know when to stop. "One hard and fast rule is that when a child says no, take them literally and respond immediately. No matter if they're laughing or having a good time."
Try pretending
Kanner suggests this experiment: Tickle a child for a few seconds. Then just pretend to tickle her. He calls it "anticipatory tickling." "Children will evoke the same laughter-ridden response," he says. "This provides the child with complete control over the situation and all the enjoyable benefits of the parent-child interaction."


At December 7, 2007 at 5:44 AM, Blogger Andrea said...

I do not like to be tickled and I hate to see a small child tickled to the point it looks like torture. There are better ways to make a child laugh without having to tickle them. Good post.

At December 7, 2007 at 2:10 PM, Blogger krystyna said...

I agree with Andrea.
Very needful post.

Big thanks for your advance wishes for my birthday.
Have a Great Weekend!

At December 7, 2007 at 5:05 PM, Blogger Cynthia said...

Raghu, I thank you sincerely for this post. I hated being tickled as a child 'No, stop that.' Inside, he could be feeling powerless and unprotected. - I read this and without warning, my throat got tight and tears welled in my eyes. That is exactly how I felt and funny enough, I felt the same way as I was reading the post.

At December 8, 2007 at 4:57 PM, Blogger GMG said...

Paediatricians, child development specialists, parent coaches, child and adolescent psychoanalysts, ex-tickled children, politically correct people... what a X-mas... ;))

At December 14, 2007 at 2:31 AM, Blogger backpakker said...

interesting pos..personally I don like to tickle kids

At December 17, 2007 at 12:34 AM, Blogger Apun Ka Desh said...

Good piece of information... never thought about it this way? Good.

At October 18, 2010 at 9:28 AM, Blogger Elizabeth Ellis said...

I think it's important for parents to learn other ways to connect and have fun with children that do not over power, overwhelm, and diminish their sense of choice and boundaries.


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