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How to Tickle with Dignity

Written by Cliff Kuhn, MD   
Sunday, 01 June 2008 00:00

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.

Cliff KuhnAbout the Author:

The Laugh Doctor, Clifford C. Kuhn, M.D., is a psychiatrist, medical school professor, comedian, professional speaker, counselor, and a personal consultant who helps individuals and groups enhance performance, productivity and health by creating more fun.

Dr. Kuhn’s clinical focus is in the field of mind/body medicine. Decades of work with chronically ill patients and their families taught him to appreciate the healing power of humor. Determined to learn first hand what makes people laugh and how those mechanisms could be transferred to a clinical setting, he took leave from his university position in 1991 and performed in comedy clubs across the United States.

Website: www.natural-humor-medicine.com

View article references and author information here: http://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html

Pathways Issue 18 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #18.

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