What's wrong with tickling my child, and what should I do instead?

Q: You said in your last post not to tickle. Why? I tickle my child just a little bit and she seems to like it -- she even asks for it!

A: There are lots of different lines of thought about tickling, of course, and lots of different responses from kids.

Some kids have a love/hate relationship with tickling -- they love the playfulness and attention from their parents, but they hate the feeling of being out of control that being tickled produces.

That out-of-control feeling happens whether or not the parent "goes too far" by tickling too aggressively or for too long -- it's a strange and slightly freaky sensation when your body responds reflexively without your consent, and some kids find that more aversive than others. It's great that you are paying attention and know when to stop.

Since there are lots of other ways for parents to give playful attention and share a giggle together with their kids that don't come with a potential downside, and it takes so much vigilance to figure out when tickling becomes too much for a child, I usually just recommend that parents don't tickle.

This article says it a lot better than I just did:


It goes without saying that not every parent will resonate with this perspective, so if you decide that tickling is here to stay in your house, this article has some tips for how to avoid the potential downsides:


 I hope that helps!

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