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Parent's claim that tickling is a form of child abuse ignites heated social media debate

Parent's claim that tickling is a form of child abuse ignites heated social media debate

The mom stated that if a child does not consent to be tickled, the parent should immediately stop doing it. If not, their actions should be construed as an act of child abuse.

Cover image used for representational purposes only

A mom's perspective on tickling has ignited an extremely heated parenting debate on social media. According to the NZ Herald, the unnamed mother ruffled a few feathers when she claimed that tickling should be considered a form of child abuse. She is said to have expressed her controversial opinions on tickling in a message to another mother, which has since been widely shared on social media platforms. The mom stated that if a child does not consent to be tickled, the parent should immediately stop doing it. If not, their actions should be construed as an act of child abuse, said the mom.



 

 

Seemingly taken aback by the woman's views, the other parent pointed out that most kids are extremely fickle and tend to change their minds constantly. "So it'd be child abuse to do it to my kids? They don't like it, then they do, then they don't, then they want [to be] tickled more. But generally, it's the best way to momentarily paralyze a toddler in order to get shoes on them..," she wrote. The first mother, however, explained that "If they [kids] come looking for it/ask for it, they like it [tickling]. Stop when they ask you to stop. It's about consent and you are teaching them their body, their rules."



 

 

"This [not tickling] is one small thing you can do to show respect," she added. "It's easy and causes no harm. Why wouldn't you?" The mom's opinions were deemed overprotective by a number of people on social media, who claimed that she was blowing it out of proportion. "Tickling isn't going to traumatize a kid in this case," said one internet user, while another one commented: "What? We argue about tickling now? 2020 is the worst." However, there were a few who sided with the woman, opening up about their own traumatic memories related to tickling.



 

 

"I hate being tickled because my brother and sister would tickle me and tickle me and tickle me and wouldn't stop even when I started crying. I'm totally with [the mum]," commented one Facebook user. "I tickle my kids, but stop the second they ask me to," wrote another, while a different Facebook user agreed that it's a great way to teach kids about consent. Author Jennifer Lehr shared similar views in her 2017 HuffPost article The Problem With Tickling in which she explained why tickling isn't all its cut out to be.



 

 

Lehr began her article by citing evolutionary biologist Richard Alexander, who explained, "Ticklish laughter is not the happy phenomenon that many have assumed it to be... A child can be transformed from laughter into tears by going the tiniest bit too far... [Tickling] does not create a pleasurable feeling—just the outward appearance of one." Lehr also laid out all the instances in history when many cultures capitalized on tickling's ability to cause pain. "But today, it seems we've somehow managed to deceive ourselves into thinking tickling doesn’t have a dark side," she wrote.



 

 

"Yet, I’ve heard plenty of personal accounts from people who shared with me their traumatic childhood experiences," Lehr continued. "I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that tickling is one of the means used by sexual predators to groom their victims. Psychotherapist Tracy Lamperti explains how sexual predators do this: 'Gateways to the victim... [are] successive, thought-out strategies used by a perpetrator with the victim and/or the family in order to facilitate their being able to carry out the acts of sexual abuse on the child with the highest probability of being able to do it without getting caught.'"



 

 

"While not all adults who tickle children are paving the way to sexually abuse them, tickling is a good example of the grooming process. When trust can be won over and defenses can be disarmed, the offender is then able to have their way with the child. With the example of tickling, the perpetrator is able to publicly and/or privately tickle just a little bit. The act is carried out cheerfully and playfully. In this ‘controlled experiment' the offender is able to see if anyone is going to set a limit, 'Oh, Uncle John, we have a no tickling rule in our family. Stop tickling Sam.' Of course, no one wants to think about this," Lehr continued. "But every time we respect our child’s 'No' or 'Stop!' whether they’ve said it explicitly or via their body language, we help them learn that it’s their body and their right to decide what happens to it. This will serve them well when they are dating."

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