• Britt Riner

You’ve Got a Ga-Geebie!

Updated: Jan 21

Has your kid ever been in the middle of a meltdown, and you can’t figure out what to do? Has your kid ever been perpetually grumpy one day, with nothing going his way? Has your kid ever responded unusually negatively to something quite benign?

They might just have a ga-geebie!



Ah, yes, the ga-geebie, running up and down little bodies and hiding in ears, necks, and armpits since 1985. At least, that’s when my family first discovered them. My mom, a special needs educator for 34 years, was always so creative in figuring out how to help me get out of a funk when I was a kid, and it’s no different now that she’s dealing with the second generation of ga-geebies on her grandkids.


As many a parent has come to learn, distraction is an art when it comes to dealing with the temperamental ups and-downs of young minds. While more serious behavioral issues need to be dealt with directly, the ga-geebie method has shown to be a successful response time and again! So allow us to introduce you to the little invisible critter we call a “ga-geebie.” It goes something like this:

My son refuses to come to the breakfast table.

He finally comes to the table but makes a mean face at his sister.

He doesn’t want to eat his breakfast.

He won’t take his vitamins.

At this point, I’ve tried to reason with him; I’ve given him options; he’s been removed from the table; he promises to behave upon coming back to the table; and then . . . still no luck.

Sounds like an attack of the ga-geebies!

I shift my eyes side to side.

I peer closely at him.

I tell him “Don’t move, whatever you do, don’t move.”

He’s bewildered. Surprised. Momentarily dislodged from his commitment to foil me for the rest of his life.

And that’s when I reach for it, the imaginary ga-geebie, usually creeping around his collarbone where I (and apparently the ga-geebie) know he’s ticklish. He bursts into laughter and can’t help but smile. Laughter releases endorphins, and this starts a happy process throughout his insides. I pretend to pluck that critter off and examine him up close.

“Uh-huh. Just as I suspected. A ga-geebie. You have a ga-geebie. THAT’s why it’s an extra rough morning. What should I do with him? Stomp on him or eat him?”

I let my son decide. He chooses “Eat him!”

“Ewwww,” I chew. “Tastes like pickles and peanut butter.”

More giggles.

I talk more about how dangerous ga-geebies can be, how I’m so happy he is freed of another ga-geebie, and how we ought to be on the lookout for where others might be hiding. I explain how relieved I am that we can have a fresh start to the day, because fresh smiley mornings means fresh smiley afternoons. How good it is to take care of each other, even if it means mama needs to eat a ga-geebie! Another option for ga-geebie extermination includes flushing it down the toilet -- which doubles as a most excellent way of motivating your young one to use the bathroom if that is part of the precipitating problem. In fact, that ga-geebie elimination just might help your kid go with the flow (wink, wink). Okay, I'll stop there before I devolve into more toddler-based bathroom humor.


Fresh smiley mornings means fresh smiley afternoons

However I choose to rid my little loved one of his ga-geebie, I find that the silliness of the moment enables me to shift the conversation for a sufficient amount of time such that my boy pops another bite of waffle in his mouth, and we’re back on track for the day.

Of course, sometimes we reset only to veer off course a few minutes later. This usually tells me we didn’t spend enough time in distraction mode, so I say, “Oh my goodness, I don’t believe it but there are two MORE ga-geebies on you! They must have really been hiding. We gotta get them out!” and I have him stand up and do a silly dance to shake them all off, Taylor Swift-style. And Neighbor, let me tell you, it actually works.

It’s become a bit of a joke with the grown-ups around the house too. Amidst full days and frenzied headlines, momentary distractions can act as a reset for us grown-ups alike. Catching ga-geebies remind us to zoom out for perspective within the bigger picture, and to zoom in to see what’s right there in front of you: family, love, and your contributions to America’s next generation.


Catching ga-geebies remind us to zoom out for perspective within the bigger picture, and to zoom in to see what’s right there in front of you: family, love, and your contributions to America’s next generation.

If I’m acting a little crabby, my mom might hint to me, “Hmm, ga-geebie around?” It’s a nice invitation to pause and reconsider how I’m speaking to her. And if my husband is a little short on temper, I might just sidle up to him, speak in a silly voice, give him a loving squeeze, and extract a ga-geebie off of him. Believe it or not, it’s staved off some marital conflict. If you have more than one kid, siblings may just start to call “ga-geebie!” on each other, too. (Best to let mom or dad take over at that point, though!)

Ga-geebie detection is not a cure-all, but in a world where negativity can be contagious (and don’t get me started on actual viruses . . . ), why not inject a little humor into our parenting? Discipline is important, and this tactic is not meant to circumvent serious conversations when they are necessary. But remember, YOU are your kid’s parent. You know your kid best. You know when she needs a serious consequence and when she is just out of sorts for the moment (sometimes long moments) and needs you to help her reboot. Try catching your kid's ga-geebie -- before it gets you, too.


Remember, YOU are your kid’s parent. You know your kid best.
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