Growing up, one of my aunts was a tickler. Except it wasn’t one of those nice, joyful, light touches in the tickliest of places. No, it hurt. Her rough fingers dug deep into pressure points – never inappropriate places. Never in private; nothing like that. It just hurt. And the word “stop” meant nothing to her. She thought it was hilarious.
All of the other adults around always clued into this and would make her stop. This happened once when we were driving on a family vacation in a camper. My dad had to pull the camper over and yell – not at the kids, but at my aunt who would. not. stop. I think she thought it was funny how worked up we would all get. She wasn’t exactly the most mature adult I’ve ever met.
Why didn’t she ever hear me? Why didn’t she listen to me? “Stop!” “I said, ‘stop!’” Nothing.
Stop means STOP.
Stop means stop. This is a boundary that we all need to teach our kids – and it’s something that we, as adults, need to do as well. Our kids also need to know that “stop” is a safe word – that it is their go-to word if they do not like something that someone else is doing to them. They need to be able to trust that the word “stop” will elicit an immediate halt to anything that makes them uncomfortable.
- Stop tickling me.
- Stop rough-housing with me.
- Stop poking me.
- Stop touching me.
- Stop teasing me.
- Stop squirting me with the water gun.
- Stop splashing (in the pool or bathtub).
- Stop throwing things at me.
- Stop ____________________.
How do we teach behaviors and boundaries such as “stop means stop?”
- Talk about it after your child says “stop” and someone doesn’t listen.
- Talk about it when someone says “stop” and your child doesn’t listen.
- Talk about it over dinner or in the car when it’s outside of the circumstance.
- Role play to demonstrate how to stop immediately and how to tell someone to stop. Use puppets / stuffed animals to show both the bad behavior and the good behavior. Practice in different situations.
- Model it in your every day life. If they ask you to stop tickling them, stop tickling them immediately. Follow it up with an explanation and an apology: “Because you asked me to stop, I am going to stop immediately. I’m sorry that made you uncomfortable.”
Stop is a command and it should hold power. Unfortunately, there are situations when the word “stop” is ignored. Our kids need to know that it is ok to “tattle” if someone continues after they say “stop.” Our kids need to know that we want them to tell us if someone’s touch made them uncomfortable – whether it’s something as innocent as tickling, or if it’s something much, much more. Stop means stop.
(Also, when your sister says “stop looking at me,” just stop. I know she’s being dramatic and over-using our safe word, but I really just can’t hear her say it anymore. So, for my sanity, please stop looking at your sister.)