How to Tickle with Dignity
My son vividly remembers the day his first son told him to back off. My son wasn’t trying to do anything intrusive; he was tickling his boy like he’s always done. But, on this day, his son asserted himself in a way that gave my son a new perspective. More on that later...
Family play should always be all-inclusive. That means our family members should play games by choice and those games should be noncompetitive. If the family fun is open to all members than family unity will grow. We should avoid any situation were someone is favored, or on the “inside,” because then rivalries will ensue as family members compete for attention and affection.
Along the same lines, we should never force someone to play. This type of “play” is often hurtful because it can demean or humiliate, even if our hearts are pure when we act. Adults, who can physically force the issue, need to be especially careful.
The bottom line is that when the fun, fearless family plays, there are no losers. The goal is to incorporate everyone in a joyful interplay that celebrates and nourishes growth. Focusing on the process of fun play, rather than a certain outcome, teaches the value of quality over quantity.
Learning to trust and enjoy the moment-to-moment opportunities for spontaneous candor, regardless of the eventual outcome, prepares youngsters for a healthy “oneday- at-a-time” approach to life. Focusing on the process of fun play, rather than a certain outcome, teaches the value of quality over quantity.
Regarding his boys, my son learned this rule firsthand as his children have grown up. When they were tiny tikes, they loved it when my son grabbed them and started tickling them. But somewhere around age six, they let him know he was invading their personal domain if my son tickled them without being invited.
His intentions were good—my son just wanted to play, so he adjusted. At his house the rule became: no tickling without being asked to do so. It works well; they have fun and everyone gets to keep their dignity.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #18.
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