Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: On a flat Earth, circled by the Sun
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I tickle lightly and in short bursts, watching their expressions and body language. My 4 month old I would only tickle for a second (like, literally a "one hippopotamus" second) because he wouldn't be able to tell me to stop. He seems to delight in it. As they get older and can communicate more, verbally or other wise, it's easier to gauge. Two of my kids would sign MORE in between bursts of tickles, or take my hand and indicate that I should tickle again. I think that when done lightly, in short bursts, with care (as in carefulness) that it can be extremely fun for little ones! My 2 yo signs MORE while saying "mo!" when he gets tickles.
I think the strong negative reactions we might have about tickling come from not having been gently tickled as children. I was tickled pretty mercilessly, and it is VERY uncomfortable. Not good memories for me. But I don't think that that means all tickling is inherently disrespectful. If a child said Stop or No, or tried to move away, or pushed at your hands, or seemed even slightly distressed, you should stop immediately and check in to make sure the child is having a good time. For some kids that will be a lot sooner than others - I'm sure there are kids who HATE even tiny tickles. And those who can't get enough.
A parent whose feelings are hurt when the child has had enough probably shouldn't be tickling anyone until they get their own issues sorted out.
ETA That last comment wasn't for anyone here!! I was thinking of my dad, who would tickle until we had to YELL at him to stop, and then he would get mad at us. He was a great dad in a lot of ways, but not always the most enlightened person!
~ Colleen ~ Joyful Unschooling Pagan mama to and "When I'm sad, I stop being sad and be AWESOME instead."