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Overbearing tickling/rough play with children - feminism angle

(54 Posts)
Twigletpiglet Thu 27-Feb-14 22:01:48

I was talking with my sister today about how annoying it is that my DH, her DH and my dad like to engage in slightly overbearing tickling and rough-ish play with the DC. Then I realised that pretty much every man I have observed with their DC/nieces/nephews engages in this kind of play. By which I mean, the kind of play where they rough-house with the DC until they are squealing and doing that slightly hysterical laughter that is very nearly tears.

I know that there's research showing that rough-ish play, more male-centred play, has an important part in children's development. But it has started me wondering why men often seem to play with children in a way that over-rides the child's comfort. It's a low level, but it seems that the men enjoy this kind of play and therefore keep doing it even though the child is clearly expressing that they have had enough and want it to stop. Why do they not do the rough play and then stop when the child has had enough, instead of persisting? Do the men just not notice the emotions being expressed by the child? If not, why don't they? Is it a continuum, with at one end a very loving man who thinks (unconsciously) that his enjoyment trumps that of the child, and at the other end of the continuum is a man who totally tramples on the feelings of others for the pursuit of his own gains (i.e. rape), because he doesn't consider them to matter.

I am absolutely not suggesting that my DH, DB, and all the supportive, essentially feminist men I know are rapists, but this mild over-riding of children's feelings and physical boundaries seems to be fairly consistent and now I think about it, a little bit weird. Perhaps it's just a gradual pushing of the boundaries that over time encourages children to be more resilient? I don't know.

atthestrokeoftwelve Thu 27-Feb-14 22:07:11

It makes me feel uncomfortable. Luckily my OH doesn't go in for that type of play. Other family members have attempted it only once or twice but I have always intervened and stopped it. It oversteps the mark in my view.

sydlexic Thu 27-Feb-14 22:10:30

My DH gets lured into this behaviour by DS. DS in usually an exceptionally quiet child and would just sit and cuddle me but he will poke DH and try to start a play fight.

Wolfiefan Thu 27-Feb-14 22:12:55

Hate it. My father did this. He was abusive (not saying your family is). It was power and control.
Sometimes my kids like a cuddle, tickle or a bit of messing about. Sometimes they don't. I actually go as if I will tickle and then ask yes/no before I do. I'm sure many people here will think that is a bit odd but I feel their bodies = their choice. (Except when toddler says they don't fancy the car seat and would prefer to avoid seat belts altogether! Then it is tough. You have to! )

Twigletpiglet Thu 27-Feb-14 22:16:35

Sydlexic - that's the thing, they are generally willing participants initially and may seek it out. So it's by no means all bad. It just gets carried on a bit longer than the child wants - but clearly not enough that they don't want to play like that another time.

heather1 Thu 27-Feb-14 22:16:36

My Dh and my 2 Ds often have rough play. Often instigated by the Ds. Talking just from the boy perspective I think it's a chance for the Ds to test out their strength in a safe environment.
My Ds are both very ticklish but Dh know when to stop and will respect when the boys want to stop. Often now it's Dh saying 'stop' it's too much.
I wouldn't be happy if he consistently overpowered them.
Maybe also, consciously or not, there is an element of establishing physical dominance. But my Dh is physically stronger than the Ds.

OddFodd Thu 27-Feb-14 22:18:46

It's very weird. My DS has no dad but his uncles do this to him. One of them wouldn't hurt a fly in a lot of ways - my sister's been married to him for 20 years but yes, you're right, he pushes children (all boys, there are no girls in this generation) until they get upset. The other one does it a lot less.

onepieceoflollipop Thu 27-Feb-14 22:21:42

Wolfiefan my dad was like this too (in addition to emotional abuse and physical punishment). In his mind he probably thought the aggressive tickling was "fun"
I have two dds, my dh does not do this type of tickling/roughhousing.

Branleuse Thu 27-Feb-14 22:22:43

lots of mammals do this sort of play

SanityClause Thu 27-Feb-14 22:22:59

Children do like these games, I think. I know i have said "Get into bed, or ill tickle you", and DC have opted for the tickling option, but I am always sensitive as to when it should stop.

I am aware that DH is not always as sensitive as I am, or maybe I'm too precious about it?

I remember, as a child, my father doing this, and it was too much. He also would tease us about seemingly small things, and then say "I only do it because I love you." Buulshit, mate, you did it because we were small, and didn't have a choice.

So, I think, growing up, I learnt that "love" was feeling uncomfortable, and a bit shit about myself. Thanks, Dad!

Beamur Thu 27-Feb-14 22:23:44

My ex bf had a real issue with this - he hated being tickled. He really fell out with me once when I tickled him, so much so I had to leave her was so annoyed with me! He calmed down and the next time he saw me explained it wasn't really about me, but a 'friend' of the family used to mercilessly tickle him as a child and he'd hated it but was too powerless to stop them & his parents never realised quite how much it upset him. It made me look at that kind of behaviour differently, when I realised a strong grown up man was still very upset by having been put through it as a child.
I do tickle and play with my own DD, but stop as soon as she asks and never exploit the fact that I am bigger and stronger than her in ways that are not fun and un-threatening to her.

AmberSpyglass Thu 27-Feb-14 22:30:50

Rough play is really important (good if it comes from both sexes, btw, as should the more nurturing contact), however if should be completely within the child's comfort zone, if they say stop, even if it's while giggling and obviously having fun, then you stop. they need to nkow that they have control over their bodies in every way. then if they push for more, continue tickling until they say no again. basically, respect boundaries. pretty simple, really.

AncientBallerina Thu 27-Feb-14 22:32:16

I cannot stand people tickling my children and I hated it as a child. My DH would never do it but my brother and other male members of our families have done and reduced my DDto tears. My husband has hadto interveneonce when there were three of them tickling my DD at the same time. I see people with my children and they don't read the child at all - they just see 'oh there's a kid I,m going to play with them in they way I want to' (or mroe kindly)' I'm going to play with them the way I think children like to be played with'. It inevitabley ends in tears. maybe it's ok with some boys but my girls really don't like it at all and I find it hard to understand why people continue with it and don't seem to notice that they are uncomfortable. It kind of follows a pattern where it all gets more and more hysterical and then someone gets hurt and starts crying. I would never tickle someone else's child. I think it is quite controlling behaviour and a bit of a power thing. Luckily we don't see any of them very often.

phoolani Thu 27-Feb-14 22:35:07

I don't think it's weird at all - wrong, but not weird. I know so few people who really get the idea that children should have body autonomy and should be able at all times to say 'stop'. It's all part of the continuum that starts with 'come on, kiss uncle Ben, don't be silly, don't hurt his feelings.

AmberSpyglass Thu 27-Feb-14 22:43:33

Why would it be ok with boys, ancientballerina? A small child is a small child.

BrandNewIggi Thu 27-Feb-14 22:48:00

We have a silly, made-up safe word that he uses when he wants me to stop tickling.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 27-Feb-14 22:48:17

I love it tbh and find it toughens them up.
Dh has rough played with both our now much older dsx2
Now they all do it to dd whose 10 and she loves it.
They never all do it at once btw.
She gives as good as she gets and begs for them to stop, as soon as they do she will jump on them and start beating them up.
She is certainly no push over and can take care of herself.

ThatBloodyWoman Thu 27-Feb-14 22:53:25

My 'uncle' used to do this.
It felt like torture.
As I got a bit older it progressed to nipple poking etc.

CremeEggThief Thu 27-Feb-14 22:57:21

My aunt's ( now ex) husband used to do this and it made my sister and I feel helpless and uncomfortable. Especially when he used to rub our faces with his beard and give us beard rash. Ugh!

legoplayingmumsunite Thu 27-Feb-14 23:21:34

In this house it's the kids that tickle DH (they know better than to tickle me, I really don't like it). They wrestle with each other a lot but DH and I emphasis that if anyone is unhappy the game stops.

It's a funny one because good enough parents will never push it too far and their kids will get a lot out of it but bad parents can manipulate this kind of physical contact to be harmful for the child. If you've only experienced the good kind of ticking/rough housing then you might not think about how easily it might become abusive, if you've only experienced the abusive kind then it can be hard to feel that it could be OK.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 27-Feb-14 23:28:42


Good post, I hadn't considered this. With us its immediate family only, I certainly wouldn't have felt it right for other people to do this to my dc, especially uncles with older girls. It could of course be innocent, but personally it wouldn't sit right with me.
I think its different with parents or siblings though.
I also agree its about boundaries and knowing when enough is enough.

Contemplates Thu 27-Feb-14 23:51:08

I came across this on a forum about a year ago.

This article I read stayed with me and now I intervene if someone doesn't respect my 3 year old saying no, even though it's during innocent play.

Contemplates Thu 27-Feb-14 23:54:25 Weird that previous link takes it to a different page! This is the correct link.

aftereight Thu 27-Feb-14 23:56:50

We have a "safe" word in our family. It means that the tickler knows to stop when the child has had enough. It's a silly word but we all know what it means and it helps to reinforce boundaries.

I do a bit of tickling but do respect boundaries. I don't see how you can teach them that others should not touch them if they don't want them to if people in their own family are overriding or even just nudging up against the boundaries. It is a fine line between having fun and going too far, but when you extrapolate this to potentially much more serious situations you realise just how important it is to stay on the safe side. Similarly, my 8yo DD is constantly kissing me on the lips at the moment, which is fine , but I need to say no sometimes and make sure she understands why she needs to respect that, it's different from me saying no to sweets for example.

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