Are you ticklish? And what should the response be?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Jennie, Dec 18, 2010.

  1. Jennie

    Jennie Guest

    This post is something that has been on my mind for the past few weeks since the start of the holidays (and it is somewhat in-directly related to my previous post in the summer. My thought behind this is based on the holiday season upon us, with thanksgiving last month, Christmas next week and New Years in two weeks. My thought process is from cousins of any age hanging out in a say a finished off basement together, a den, living room, etc, or even just a group of friends. But in the randomness of kids, young adults and such, games and other things can be played and asked. Sometimes it comes up where someone could ask "Jennie, are you ticklish?" What would the best response be. Obviously "no" is a good response but sometimes, especially when it is more than 1 person around, no is obviously a lie and the person asking it can easily figure that out, all the while they may move in, grab the victim and start wiggling their fingers around their ribs/sides, etc. What are your thoughts? An incident actually occured on Thanksgiving, so that is why I am asking.
  2. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    I hate tickles! :( I honestly don't remember the last time I was tickled. My response would be, "I don't like tickling." And NO ONE is allowed to even try to tickle me.
    Usually tickling gets out of hand and no one ever listens to the "victim" when they beg for them to stop. Who can take a laughing person seriously? It is often used as a "control" (even if for fun) which I don't like. "I can make you laugh!" In other words, "I have control over you!"

    I know that tickling can be innocent and fun but how often do we see it step over the boundaries of doing it even when a person has said "no"?
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    My best friend is a lawyer as well as a former abused wife. Her ex-H was also a convicted rapist and she now believes he was molesting his daughter, as a very young child. probably also his son at a later age.

    My friend reports that her ex used to tickle his daughter (and other little girls) unmercifully. She has since found that there can be a link between this and sexual abuse. Not that all tickling is connected to sexual abuse, but it is part of the salami tactics that abusers can use.

    Sexual abuse is not primarily about sex, it is about control and manipulation. When you are being tickled, the natural response is to laugh, even if you hate being tickled. We cry, "No, stop, please stop!" while laughing, and an abuser can use this to mentally justify that despite the "No, please stop!" cry, that because the victim is laughing, they are actually enjoying it despite their verbal protests. it also "allows" the abuser to blur the lines of consent - "I thought she liked it." So an abuser instigating a tickle game and then keeping on going with it after the victim has made it clear, they don't want it - very definitely, huge warning signs.

    If the tickler is someone younger, it is possible that they really don't get that the victim really doesn't want it, and the laughter is no indication at all of consent or complicity. Sometimes you can talk the tickler through this and make it clear - do not do this, because the neurological response is to laugh, this does not imply consent or enjoyment in any way. But if this really fails - I don't like this, but you can try subjecting the abuser to extreme non-stop tickling and point out, "I thought you were enjoying it because you were laughing." Make it clear, by demonstration on them, that being tickled until you are throwing up is not enjoyable despite the laughter.

    I used to tickle a good friend of ours. I really tortured him - not by direct tickling, but by finding ways to play with the idea of tickling. He was extremely ticklish! I would sometimes, while sitting on the other side of the room, make ticking motions with my hands and say, "I'm tickling you from over here," and it would set him off. And once I actually stood behind him with my index fingers touching his ribs, not moving, not tickling, just leaving my fingers there. I have since had it done to me - even thought you're not being tickled, it is too close for comfort and is agonisingly effective.

    I also was very ticklish, especially my feet. I actually learned to over-ride the impulse to pull my feet away - if someone began to tickle my feet, I would mentally tell myself, "This person is pressing hard on my feet and hurting me." I mentally re-wrote what was happening and over-rode the tickle response. Or you can tell yourself, "That is me touching my own feet," (or ribs). It is physically impossible to tickle yourself, so find a way to trick yourself into thinking you are touching yourself, and it is not someone else. Press your own fingertips into your sides, or some other part of your body so your fingertips have a sensory input that could match the feel of you touching your own body in a tickle zone. Then keep telling yourself, "This is me doing it." And if you are able to not react to a tickler, they soon stop ever trying it on with you.

    You an use this to help someone de-sensitise themselves form tickling. If you 'tickle' the student on the edge of a tickle zone or away from a tickle zone and tell the person, "Keep telling yourself that you are not ticklish or that you are the one doing the touching," you can build up resistance to tickling. But the 'victim' in training needs to always have control, needs a code word to make you stop. They need to know you will stop, instantly. It can make a huge difference, once you successfully desensitise.

    But if you have a group of people anywhere, and someone is a torturing tickler, you need to make it stop. It is abuse to impose a physical contact on any person without their consent. And laughter does not imply consent or enjoyment. I would also keep a very close eye on the tickler for other signs of them being a potential abuser.

  4. Jennie

    Jennie Guest

    Excellent advice like always Marg and Andy as well.

    And thank you for using those examples of your best friends ex husband. When you say that he used to unmercifully tickle his daughter and other girls, can I ask was it a lot like 3 or 4 others? Was it a situation where he went out of his way to do that and like pin them down (kind of like a 1st degree planning, compared to it just happened spur of the moment) and tickle them? I ask regarding that because of the incident I mentioned at Thanksgiving, basically my daughter was being tickled by a cousin who was 2 years older than her, basically him grabbing her feet a few times, her trying to get away with him being too strong, it doesn't sound as bad as the other example you painted, but with Christmas coming, I will keep you posted.

    And I am just curious to, you said you tortured a good friend of yours without even touching him most of the time, is that really possible, to me that sounds fine since you didn't touch him (he must have been a young adult to get a kick out of that), but like I said that sounds fine, it sounds like a situation where you kept saying "i'm gonna tickle you and only a small part of the time actually touched him.

    as for desensitizing yourself, it sounds like a challenge since someone would have to go through with tickling.
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    With friend's ex, he would be fairly careful (for an abuser). He would always take the attitude of "She is enjoying it, she's laughing." But he would plan it (with hindsight my friend realised) and he really would keep on going and not stop. He did use power and control a great deal. He was physically abusive to his wife - she described him as "using his fists for foreplay".

    With my friend - we were mates. He and I had been very good friends for several years, but also he was good friends with husband. We actually all shared a house the year before we married, friend was best man. He was incredibly ticklish. With hindsight, I believe he is also mildly Aspie - sky-high IQ, intensely honest, socially naive but warm, genuine and a thoroughly nice guy. But very moral and upright, to a fault. ind you, that also described husband - although husband is not so socially naive as our friend. The tickling across the room - he was incredibly suggestible. Incidentally, we used to do the same ting to easy child 2/difficult child 2. If you have someone who is ticklish and wants to learn to desensitise, you could try the tickle across the room trick, but ten talk her through resisting it. "See - I am not actually touching you. Use your hand to touch yourself where you think I am tickling you - feel yourself touching and remind yourself, a person cannot tickle themselves. Concentrate on your own touch and not my imagined touch."

    I haven't seen our ticklish friend for years but we're still in touch. I'll have to email his wife and ask if he is still ticklish, if she can tickle him across the room like I used to. I remember showing her my trick - she loved it! They started going out together a few years before husband & I married. Despite being fairly serious in a lot of ways, my friend and his wife do still have fun together, Im sure.

    Your daughter's best defence is to learn to desensitise her feet, at least. Another way to go is to learn extreme self-control and learn to not move or react. Try to look bored, or smug. Not easy for a teen girl because feet really are sensitive. But actually, the more you pull away and react (by curling up into a ball) the worse the tickle feels. If you hold still and try to ignore it, you can actually tolerate more. If you can tolerate it enough, you can pretend it doesn't tickle for long enough for the attacker to move on to another target.

  6. Jennie

    Jennie Guest

    Thanks for the response. That makes total sense, and the work to desensitize is worth a try, but I think that may be a while as probably nothing that can happen over night, like you said a teenage girls feet can be sensitive, but then again I think most peoples are, of any age, male or female. I guess I should practice with her and give you an update, also will let you know if her cousins try anything Saturday.

    I never thought this much about tickling, as I think every parent to an extend does it to their kids, but like you said if it is asked to stop then it should. Also I think some children/young adults, or even older adults, a lot of times may hate the idea of being tickled, laugh and try and squirm away, but having a safe word is for back ups.

    A friend of mine said that an ex girlfriend of his had a family that played a tickle game, where they would tickle each other until they couldn't handle it and then move on to the next person, so like i said above, it depends on if it actually stops. Your responses are always great Marg, and like I said will keep you posted.
  7. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Thanks, Jennie. I hope it works OK. Talk to your daughter ahead of time to help her find her own strategy, and also do the helicopter parent a bit if you need to. Sool a sibling onto your daughter (or someone) to come tell you if there is an issue. And if there is an issue, tell older cousin that just because someone is laughing, does not mean they like it or want it to continue.

    I suspect older male cousin is probably having problems working out what is appropriate and what is not, and doesn't understand the mixed messages this sends. Hopefully he's an otherwise decent kid who hasn't had anyone really explain to him that you should not impose yourself by physical strength or strength of will, where it is not welcome. And it is not easy sometimes to identify where it is not welcome.

    It's like the transcripts of rape cases you might read, where the guy is genuinely perplexed - "We were kissing, she was kissing me back, she seemed really into it, so when she began to push me away I thought that was just part of the game. How can it be called rape? She had been enjoying the kissing..."

    Sad, really. Not every parent explains this to their teens, and not every teen is able to get it when they do.

  8. Jennie

    Jennie Guest

    What do you mean by do the helicopter parent?
  9. Marg's Man

    Marg's Man Member

    is one that hovers around all the time.

    Normally this is a bad thing because it can make the kids a target but, like all rules, there are exceptions.

    Marg's Man
  10. Jennie

    Jennie Guest

    Happy Belated Holidays. Since life has calmed down I want to give the quick update. Regarding my daugther, nothing really bad happened but on Christmas the same cousin did tickle her a little. It wasn't too excessive but heard her squirming around, laughing, him and another cousin trying to muffle the laughs. She didn't seem really too upset either, but I just don't know if they did it for too long. It started again with the one grabbing her feet and tickling her. Another time he came up behind her and started wiggling his fingers around her sides/ribs, all the while she fell to the ground laughing (i did not see that first hand). I am assuming that it was his idea to start tickling her, so it seems ok, and I think if it stays at this level, as long as she likes it, it is ok, but I think it should be kept an eye on.

    Marg, just curious did you get a hold of your friends, is your friend still ticklish?
  11. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Usually tickling gets out of hand and no one ever listens to the "victim" when they beg for them to stop. Who can take a laughing person seriously?


    As for me, my son used to do this to me unmercifully. He is not only impulsive, but perseverant, and annoying. So I told him that I was only ticklish on Tuesdays. It worked for a couple of years! Now he's old enough that the thought of touching me makes him want to vomit. Ah, youth.

    I've never had an adult ask me ... I guess if someone at a cocktail party asked me, and had had one too many, I'd give him a wide berth.
  12. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Sorry, Jennie - I haven't been able to talk to my friend. He's recently changed email addresses plus they tend to travel at this time of year. I'll have to use snail mail and wait until the mines re-open after the summer break (he's a mining engineer).

    However I do have a friend whose feet are still extremely ticklish even though she is my age. her therapist can touch her feet now, but it has taken a lot of work on his part (he's a physiotherapist).

  13. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    My feet tend to be quite... if not ticklish, very sensitive. But I've found if a foot massage starts with more pressure I have less problems. Has she ever tried a pedicure or professional foot massage? Maybe those foot massage machines would help desensitize her, too.
  14. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    That's a good point, HaoZi. When I was trying to pretend my feet were not ticklish, what I often found was that the tickler often began to press harder in an attempt to get more of a reaction - this made it easier for me to yawn and say, "ho-hum," and continue to not react.

  15. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Not everyone is able to desensitize. I have an uncle who is thought to be the "greatest guy" and a real "stand up" guy - largely because he paid his ex child support for over a year after his daughter moved in with him. When I was little he would tickle me abusively. BAD. My mother finally, after hearing me crying over it from a nightmare, told him (and my father, gma and aunt) that if he ever tickled me again he would not see me again. Period. I had been asking for over a year for him to not tickle me, for my mom and/or dad to make him leave me alone. This is the same uncle who molested me when I was 16 (the age he got custody of his daughter because her mother's cancer was in her brain and causing scary dangerous behavior).

    I do not allow tickling for more than just a few seconds. It IS possible to tickle yourself. I don't care what anyone says - I can do it and always could. I worked with ideas like Marg's for years and NEVER was able to even minimize my sensitivity. These things just don't work for everyone.

    There have been some cases where tickling was ruled child abuse - in one they watched a family home movie with-o the sound and the child looked like he was being hideously tortured. The entire family would tickle him and though he hated it, and behaved like an abused child, no one in the family "got it" until a social worker forced them to see it and stop.

    Tickling others is more about power and control than fun. in my opinion more than just a very few minutes is abuse. I have yet to meet anyone who really likes it, but I am sure there are some people out there.

    This is something to talk to your kids about - that this can be a type of "bad touch" even if it doesn't go into the "bikini top and bottom" areas that some docs use to explain where bad touches are. It is important to let people know that it is absolutely OK to tell others that they cannot tickle you, and that if people tickle you after that they need to tell you and other adults, and KEEP telling until it stops.

    As for the cousin, I don't know why he does it. One of my friends had an older brother who tickled her, me anyone female he could and wouldn't stop. From his early teens he did this. He raped several girls he knew in high school and some college aged girls, though he never went to college. I can see how the behaviors (abusive tickling and rape) are part of the same pathology, and I can see how a person who didn't "get" social rules might tickle when it is not okay with the ticklee. I can see how someone socially inept could get confused. I am NOT saying he is a rapist in the making, but you NEED to trust your instincts. You have them because they protect you and even more your kids. Trust them - even if you don't know why.
  16. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    No one should have to go through the act of "desensitizing". No means NO! PERIOD. Once you tell someone that if you only desensitize yourself, you are giving the green light to the tickler. Go ahead, tickle if you must, if it bothers someone than THEY can deal with it by making themselves non-ticklish.

    There ARE innocent tickling sessions and as Susie stated, you need to trust your instincts. If you feel it is o.k. then don't worry about it. If you are not sure than either talk to the "victim" to see if he/she needs help in stopping it or just put a stop to it.

    I like the idea of watching the length of it. Also pay attention to how the "victim" reacts when told he/she will be visiting that person. Is he/she starting to find excuses not to go? Is he/she becoming more withdrawn around that person, making an effort not to sit near, ect?

    I would not try to tell the victim to try to desensitize. The victim needs your support to stop it, not get through it! If saying "No" doesn't work, then showing it doesn't bother you will not deter someone who knows that it worked at one time. It will become a game to that person to find another spot. This is all about control and when one button doesn't work, another will or the victim will be harrassed until one is found.
  17. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    Some of us prefer to be desensitized to it. If you're like me and your first instinct when your foot is tickled is to kick, then what happens if my foot is hanging off the couch and the cat glides by? Or kid innocently tries a feather on that dangling foot? Can easily wind up with hurt kid, hurt cat, etc. I've had several boyfriend's that nearly wound up with a broken nose trying to give me a foot massage. So while I can agree that no one should have to be desensitized because the person doing it to them is being stupid/mean/insert choice here, there's plenty of us that would rather be less reactive not just because it bothers us but also because accidents happen.
  18. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Yes, you may choose to desensitize for those reasons AND some may choose on their own to find that as an answer to keep people from tickling them. I am just saying that it is important for people to learn to stand up for themselves, to have the right to say "No" and be listened to.

    I want my kids' first reaction to being tickled when they don't want to be to say "No". I want them to learn that they do have the right to be respected and listened to. I don't want them to have to find ways around it by changing themselves as if they are the problem. "If you were not so ticklish than you wouldn't get tickled" is not a good message to send. "If you don't want to be tickled than say No" is a more impowering message. If "No" isn't working, than ask for help.
  19. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Andy, I agree that "no" should mean NO. But too often it does not, and desensitisation (if possible) is one proactive method the ticklee can try. It is not to help you endure it long-term, because very soon the tickler will stop in most cases. It is actually a longer-term prevention method.

    It is a shame if the ticklee can't desensitise. Because then, someone else needs to be in a position to enforce the "no tickling" rule, and that is not always possible.

    Where the tickler is still a child, you should have some control as parent in your home to enforce a no tickling rule. But you have to really make it clear, and then enforce it. It's not always easy because where this is really a serious concern, it easily goes underground.

  20. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I agree that desensitization should be an option the person being tickled CAN choose, but they sure shouldn't have to. It is WAY to common for a tickler to just look for another spot to tickle or to tickle longer to see if they can over-ride the sensation.

    For many years, probably since people began, victims were told that if they didn't react the bullies would get bored and go away. It didn't work 1000 years ago, 100 years ago 10 years ago or now. They just find another way to torment you. I spent YEARS AND YEARS wondering what was wrong with me because I was the victim of several bullies who would NOT stop no matter what I did until I finally started acting crazy (literally, doing very strange, out of character things to make them think I was crazy so they would leave me alone because NOTHING WORKED other than that) and they got SCARED of ME. I even threatened the girl who bullied me from 1st grade to fifth that I would find her home and start with her plants in the yard, her parents' car, her pets, her siblings, then her parents and I would leave her all alone if the world because I would even "get" her aunts, uncles and grandparents. I never said I would kill or hurt them, but I implied it as hard as I could. I used ALL the tricks that she used to get away with threatening me (she never spelled it out so it was "all in my head" and I needed to "ignore her" according to EVERY adult but my father. HIS advice was what worked - threaten/bully her back.

    I scared her enough that she wet herself. In 5th grade. In school. It took going to THAT extreme to get her to stop. The entire next year she didn't even LOOK at me. I ran into her parents as an adult and her dad told me she was somehow jealous of me because I was little and cute and thin and she was big, not cute and had a family of little, cute older sisters who bullied her. So she didn't really know how to deal with bullies either and didn't stop until I bullied her into fear and terror.

    I am NOT proud. She was one hwo had HUGE fun tickling me from behind during school (esp in religion class and Mass when we were NOT supposed to laugh) and getting me into LOTS of trouble. I don't think ANYONE should have to go through this - from either side. Thankfully NOW we work to teach our kids to not bully - at least there is an effort and recognition that this IS bullying and abusive. It simply didn't happen when I was a kid. The ONLY message I got - from nuns, the priest, parents, aunt, uncle, cousins, EVERY adult i tried to get help from was that I was the problem because MY reactions were "too fun to resist" so I must NEVER react to ANYTHING or it would just get worse. It left me WIDE open for my brother's abuse and kept me from telling when others' tried/succeeded.

    THIS is why you must trust your instincts. I know my parents, etc... were doing the best they knew how. NO ONE thought bullying was abuse - not any kind and adult could or should stop in and help with. We had to "learn to deal with it" as part of growing up. My father had a few kids who tried to bully him as a kid. Three boys cornered him and did something to him. He climbed a tree and dropped a brick on the head of one of them. He waited behind a corner and got the second with a 2X4. The third would not walk on the same side of the street with him thirty years later. But it stopped the bullies and no one else came after him. He was NOT happy he had to, but proud he made it stop in such a way that it kept others from targetting him.

    IN college he put a fork through the hand of a kid who wanted to take his piece of pie. Not teasing, or warning. Stuck the fork in so it came out the other side. Then finished his pie. It was what he was TAUGHT to deal with threats because NOTHING ELSE WORKED.

    THAT is what I do NOT want my kids to get used to. In the 60s you didn't get sued, now you do. Back then you were "just kids", now it is (rightly) assault. I want my kids to not HAVE to do that - I know how HORRIBLE I felt after I threatened the girl in my school. Lighter threats didn't work. NOTHING worked until I went that far. My kids DON"T have to go that far. I just hope we can continue to help our kids follow their instincts and not have to go that far.

    Because if someone wants to bully you not reacting won't make them go away. It just doesn't work. Never has. You shouldn't HAVE to threaten to hurt them - it hurts you as much as them.