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Guest Post: Autonomy of a Tickle

Today I have a guest post from Momma Jorje!  You can find her blog here and her facebook here!  Please take a minute to follow and like her- she is one of my favorite people! 

Momma JorjeWhen I was a preteen, I remember my brother tickling me to the point of crying. I’d be yelling for him to stop, begging him to stop. He would point out that I was laughing, so I must be enjoying it. I do not ever want my children (or anyone, for that matter) to be put in that position.

Babies can’t even tell you they don’t want to be tickled. But they are so much fun to tickle! There has to be a way to respect our babies’ autonomy and still (possibly) enjoy a good tickle, right? There is! I have some suggestions for you.

The most important trick to any tickle game with a baby is anticipation. If you can give them a chance to anticipate (and to learn when to anticipate) the tickle, you give them the opportunity to object.

With Sasha, I would make tickle hands and chant “Gonna, gonna, gonna” (think Jaws music) as I got closer, then “Get you!” as I tickled her.


Sasha would also run away and back to me for more tickles.
Also? OMG Look at that chub!! I do love to fatten up my babies!

Here comes the next important tip: Short bursts of tickling. I would never tickle a child to breathlessness. It can be fun for both the tickler and the child, sure, but I want to make sure children are capable of communicating “stop” to me when they feel it necessary. It can be difficult and awkward to enforce this with other people tickling your child (even older siblings), but I really feel it is an important lesson. If any child says “stop” – that should be heard and respected. I think of this helping to prepare them for other sticky situations later in life.

Back to fun tickling! With Spencer, I hold up my thumbs and index fingers like pincers. I tap thumb and forefinger while making a “tick” sound. I do that a few times before diving my fingers to him and saying “tickle, tickle, tickle!” as I tickle him. Three “tickles” is probably long enough for one burst in the beginning. As he has gotten older (he is a ripe, old 10 months old now, after all!), he reacts to the preparation. When I hold my fingers up and make the sound, he often giggles preemptively! This lets me know that he enjoys the game!

Love to nibble your babies? Oh, I do! I love to nibble around their little, fat, ticklish necks! Find a way to help your babies anticipate the nibble. I open my mouth wide and snap it shut while making an “Om!” noise. I do this a few times before I “Nom, nom, nom!” on them. (This munching is also awesome on ribs, especially on babies that are upside down!) This is one that will surely elicit preemptive giggles if it is a game your child enjoys.

I’m sure you’re familiar with This Little Piggy and Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man. Both of these nursery rhymes are great build-up to tickle play. They offer other learning benefits, too.

How did you feel about being tickled as a child? How do you feel about it now? Do you play tickle games with your children?

15 Responses to Guest Post: Autonomy of a Tickle

  1. I totally agree! I put something like that up on my facebook wall, and work really hard not to violate my son’s autonomy and personal space.

    Now? He will pull my hands down when he wants tickles. He’ll hold them out when he doesn’t.

    It didn’t take long to figure out his cues, and at 14 months, he is a wonderfully autonomous and assertive toddler. He doesn’t speak yet, but he communicates wonderfully!

  2. I used to love being tickled…and still do. However, I agree, if a child says stop, then you should STOP. I also teach my son beyond this that he has the right to tell anyone to stop touching him and if they don’t then they are wrong and he needs to ultimately tell a grown up (we have certain steps to follow before this). It’s important to teach our children that they are the owners of their bodies and no one can violate it.

    • I still enjoy being tickled, but it has become so flirtatious that I dislike being tickled by my children. My mother never liked for me to tickle her, either.

      It is an ugly topic, but yes – we want our children to know that they have final say over what happens to their bodies.

  3. I have always done this and insisted that others do it as well. I’ve also never insisted that my daughter kiss or hug people that she doesn’t want to, nor do I allow people to touch her without her consent. All part of teaching her that her body is *hers* and no one else’s. Good for you, mama!!

    • When my eldest was quite little, she had beautiful long curly hair and we could not go anywhere without people touching her hair!! She would jump back if they got to her before I could stop her. You just don’t expect an intrusion around every corner, you know?!

      There is a little girl in the local Down syndrome association that likes to touch MY hair and compliment me on it. It can be disconcerting to have anyone touch you unexpectedly, but a bit easier to let it slide in that situation.

  4. I have an uncle that thinks he is quite funny (Well he is, actually) but when I was little I HATED him. I wouldn’t go NEAR him, because he was a tickler and I have never liked to be tickled or touched without my permission (hmm. Just like Willow) But he wanted to be funny, and would never take no for an answer, and would tickle until I was in tears and embarrassed. To this day, I LOATHE being tickled.

  5. I go into full blown panic mode whenever I’m tickled. I will do anything, including kicking said tickler in the face, to get away. I have warned hubby that I am not responsible for any injuries I inflict if he chooses to tickle me! On the other hand….I just LOVE to torture him with a tickle now and then hehehe

      • Haha no. He is such a great guy who loves to see me happy so much that sometimes he will allow me ‘free tickles’, which basically means I can go to town on his ticklish feet and he won’t stop me! lol Weird, lovely man….

  6. These are things that I have done from the start with my children, as I hated being tickled as a child. Now my little girl will come up to me , lift her top up and say ” Tickle my belly Mummy! “.

    I agree with the anticipation bit completely, sometimes they seem to enjoy that part even more than the actual tickling.

    • Anticipation can definitely cause just as many (of not more) giggles than the end product! Makes me think of playing chase with Sasha. You can tickle her when you catch her, but the chase itself is loads of fun!

  7. I love this! Very informative and helpful… especially for the babies/littles who can’t speak for themselves on the topic :-)

    When my boys were younger I started making a humming noise before swooping in for a tickle or nibble. It game them time to get ready and scoot away if they didn’t want the tickle or light up with anticipation if they did. And now, whenever they anticipate anything they make the same humming noise, punctuated with giggles.

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