It’s Not Funny: Tickling A Kid Who Hates Being Tickled Is Child Abuse

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Tickling Child AbuseMy father used to tickle me. He would hold me down and have my sisters tickle me. I would be tickled until I wet myself, and we all know, it’s all fun and games until someone pisses all over their pants. I hated being tickled. My mom knew this, and would yell at my father when he tickled me, but he would still tickle me, which would usually end up with me crying and hiding in my room, hearing my sisters squeals of laugher coming from down the hall. They liked being tickled.To this day I can’t tolerate being tickled, and I have almost given my own spouse a black eye by my knee-jerk freak-out reactions when someone tickles me. I cannot even have a pedicure.

My own daughter adores being tickled, and will jump on my bed, demanding my husband and I tickle her until she is crying with laughter, and then she will catch her breath and ask us to do it some more. I cringe inwardly when she wants this, because for me it causes an almost visceral, nauseous reaction – I hate being tickled that much. And I think tickling a kid who hates it is abusive.

My own father probably didn’t see what he was doing as abusive, it was a different time back then, and I’m sure there were many occasions when he started to do it and my mom yelled at him and he didn’t. But when I think back on the times I was tickled, being held down, begging people to stop, and they didn’t.. it’s scary. Even writing about it I feel all creeped out. I’m sure it has to do with the feeling of being overpowered, and not in charge of my own body, and people doing things to me against my will, and looking back at it as an adult it feels abusive. Which for me is a difficult thing to admit because tickling is supposed to be fun and happy and make people laugh. Hitting is abusive, screaming at a kid is abusive, there are a million horrible, awful, disgusting forms of abuse and yet here I am claiming that something that is supposed to be fun is abusive.

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but what I can tell you is this. If you have a kid who hates being tickled, don’t tickle them. I know you don’t mean any harm by it. I know you just love hearing the sound of your kid’s laughter. But if they hate it, they aren’t laughing because they secretly like it. They are laughing because it’s involuntary, and they can’t catch their breath, and they can’t move because you are overpowering them, either by holding them down or making them laugh so they are having a difficult time moving, and inside they are panicking. As an adult, even though those around me are aware of my distain for being tickled, if I am even tickled by accident it’s enough to make me feel queasy. On occasion I will have nightmares about being tickled, the feeling of being held down, and wake with a start, terrified I have urinated in my sleep.

I know how polarizing it is to say that tickling is child abuse, but it is to a kid who hates it. And it did affect me, because I would have my dad with my sisters in a pile on the living room floor, wrestling and laughing and I was the sad girl on the sofa next to my mom, sucking my thumb and scared someone would pull me into the mix because I knew it would end up in a tickle fight. Even though no matter how much my own kid begs for me to tickle her I always cut it short because I worry that it will be the tickle that goes too far, that I won’t realize she isn’t laughing because she is enjoying it, but she is laughing so she doesn’t start crying.