Is there another sound as delightful as a baby’s laughter? The Internet is chock-full of videos of babies laughing their little heads off – some laughing until they cry, and some laughing and crying at the same time. Sure, they are fun to watch and listen to, but I’m concerned that some adult laugh-makers persist long after the poor little kids’ endurance runs out.
Have you ever laughed so long and so hard that the muscles in your belly and face hurt so much that laughing became torture? Imagine then, not being able to get away or to stop the torture.
Some adults resort to tickling toddlers and young children as a means of connecting in harmless play, and it is harmless – up to a point, but in an article on this subject entitled: “where tickling falls short;” the author makes clear how awful for the children who have no way out.
“The main thing that makes tickling problematic is that children may not be able to say when they want it to stop. Laughter is an automatic response to being touched by a tickler -- it’s not a response that the child can opt out of. This puts the tickler in charge of how much or how long the child laughs. Most of us remember unpleasant or frightening
times when we wantred a tickler to stop, but were laughng so hard we couldn’t say it, or worse, we said, “Stop!” or tried to escape, and the tickler continued. We adults don’t read children’s minds, but we often imagine that we an. So we usually think we’re aware of what’s too much tickling and when to stop. But it is impossible to trap our children without knowing it.”
So when does innocent, harmless play turn into abuse? From my vantage point, it becomes abuse when adults give no regard or respect for the limit of the child’s endurance. Prolonged laughter can not only harm the child physically, but it may wreak havoc on the relationship. It gets worse; it impairs the youngster’s ability to trust. It begins, “Here comes Uncle SoandSo to play with me” and soon, it is “why is Uncle SoandSo hurting me?” Some adults might even believe that they are making children happy when they make them laugh.” It is more than likely they are confusing them. Watch a video, look closely at the expression on the babies’ faces when for a moment they stop laughing and chances are, you won’t see them smiling; it’s more likely you will see a look of bewilderment. We sometimes assume children think as we do, feel as we do, and react as we do. I learned the hard way, they can’t.
I can think of times where I thought my kids would “see things as I saw them.” Do we really think a child can see a situation as an adult sees it? A baby spills his milk without any idea that he’s made a mess, that Mom is too tired at the end of the day to have to clean it up, that the cup might break, that milk is being wasted, that there won’t be enough milk for tomorrow’s breakfast, or any of the myriad other ways we would view the incident. The baby’s just busy learning what happens when he turns a glass upside down.
For me, everything narrows down to respect. Considering how your actions could affect your children is another way to show you respect them. And when you let them know that when they stop to think how their behaviors could affect you, they will be showing respect for you. This is a good conversation to have.
I am a fanatic about respect. I believe it is the single most important stepping stone to imbuing children with good self-esteem, self-respect, and respect for others. I have found mutual respect is the cornerstone in every family whose children are high-achieving, confident, reliable, and responsible. Children are treated with courtesy, compassion, and consideration. Parents thoroughly enjoy not only their role as parent, but they enjoy the children themselves. Smiles are ever-present when they greet one another signaling “I like who you are.” Together they share moments of touching, hugging, laughter, tears. Children are cooperative because of their strong sense of family and their feelings of responsibility to participate in the life of the family. They give back what they have been given. They will accept our values when we have close, mutually respectful relationships with them.