Kissing Kids on the Lips!

So lately there’s been a flurry of on-line activity on an attachment parenting forum that I follow around the issue of children kissing on their parents on the lips as a sign of affection. Most people are of the opinion that this is a personal choice that each family has the right to make and that the family should act according to its family rules, values, traditions and beliefs. To me this is the obvious response given that no one family is in a position to tell another family how to act or behave, or what is right or wrong.

One mother’s answer, however, resonated with me quite strongly. She stated the following:

“I have been thinking about this for 3-4 days now before I responded, trying to be sensitive to other cultures and other ideas. I have thought it over, but in the end, I am just plain sad. I can’t say it any other way. I am sad and disappointed that other kids can’t kiss their parents on the lips if they really want to. This seems VERY awkward to me. WHY is this not ok? How is this so different than the cheek? Really analyze that…cheek vs. lips…why does it matter?

What I worry about is that the kid gets to see you freely kissing your partner/spouse on the lips, but they are forbidden from doing so. Thus, for me, this translates into “You, young child are something different, you must NOT kiss me on the lips, you don’t deserve it, you are not worthy, it is some kind of special something reserved for ______. Reserved for WHAT??? For me, this feels essentially that this kissing on the lips action (in a child’s mind) is BAD.

So, kids can’t achieve this worthiness until they are mature…dare I day “sexually ready”? What kind of signal does THAT send? I don’t want to equate romantic kissing with sexual readiness. I think exploring is good and healthy…if my girls can’t be comfortable here with us, where CAN they be comfortable to explore?

I get that this is a culturally relevant issue. I live in a white, American culture that is rather stuffy and we work hard to overcome that. Maybe too much so. I don’t know. What I do know is that we kiss our kids freely on the lips every day and they do so to us without hesitation and we don’t want that to change that at all.”

I thought that this was a balanced perspective which brings in the idea that the EuroAmerican culture traditionally eschews physical affection and physical touch creating a forbidden fruit type of culture. The idea of the naked body in the U.S. is much more taboo compared to other cultures to the point that we cover our children up long before children in other countries are expected to wear bathing suits in public. Isn’t it healthy for children to be able to run around without clothes and to normalize the naked body? By covering our children up so young, the naked body is over sexualized and glimpsing a naked breast is equated to the consumption of pornography. (This ties in, of course, with the current issue of women breastfeeding in public.)

As a woman who grew up without ever seeing her parents kiss in public and showing very little physical affection, I find it comforting to know that other families are also trying to change the generational taboo of physical affection and touch. Granted, I realize that in certain cultures, such as the Muslim culture, this may not be an acceptable practice; however, I am not raising my child in a Muslim culture. I am raising her here, in the U.S., in a different country with its own level of conservative beliefs and I will continue to foster a sense of comfort with love, touch, affection and kissing on the lips, as long as she is comfortable with this act.

Many thanks to the mom from the forum who granted me permission to quote her post. It takes a village to educate a nation.

Related Posts:
Breastfeeding is Universal  (www.singlemomontherun.com)
Attachment Parenting is Not a Four Letter Word (www.singlemomontherun.com)

9 comments

  1. It hurts my feeling when someone suggests my child will feel unworthy because I don’t kiss him on the lips, as indicated in the quote above: “you don’t deserve it, you are not worthy, it is some kind of special something reserved for… ”

    I love my son with all my heart and soul, and I don’t love anyone in the universe more than I love him. He is showered with kisses on the head and on the cheeks. He is hugged and cuddled. He hears “I love you”. several times a day. I don’t kiss him on the lips, and I don’t encourage him to kiss me on the lips. For me, this boundary makes sense. There are differences for how we show affection to our children and how we show affection to our spouses/partners, and that is ok.

    I have no problem with other people kissing their children on the lips, in general. However, if I saw someone kissing their child on the lips in the style of a long, passionate kiss like in a romantic movie scene, I would be concerned.

  2. I am so sure you love your son and I respect those boundaries that you have set for you and your family. We all make choices in our family’s lives and some may resonate with some and not with others. The important thing is that you are confident in your choices. Obviously you don’t love your son any less than someone who lets their child kiss them on their lips. It is just one interpretation on a very minute level. You know, it’s kind of like saying that perhaps a child might feel less loved if they are forced to sleep in their own bed. A supporter of co-sleeping could express the opinion that a child might feel less secure if left to sleep independently where the mother of that child would certainly not want her child to feel any less secure than the parents who allow their children to co-sleep. Turning the tables might shed a different perspective on it for you.

  3. I am an indigenous Maori woman from Aotearoa (New Zealand). It has freaked me out that this is even an issue! I posted your article with my comment below:

    “What the….?! This is even an issue?!

    I just finished kissing every single one of my kids on the lips saying goodby to them leaving from my office. What world am I in? My dad kisses my brother and even my own husband on the lips cos when you become a son, that’s what happens in my whanau. 2 years old or 42 years old, no one is sacred lol.

    A whole furore about it kissing kids on the lips or not, well I never….”

    One of my American friends tells me ‘yes we are a bit sick here in the USA’. Here is where I posted your article if you are interested in further comments.
    http://www.facebook.com/#!/marama.davidson/posts/273946976043094?notif_t=share_comment

  4. There are cultures that don\’t even practice kissing of any kind, even between spouses. Does that mean that the parents do not express love to their children? Of course not.

    Kissing is something that is learned and whose meaning is contextual, specific to a given culture. So I think it\’s perfectly ok if parents believe that kissing on the mouth should be reserved for romantic relationships and raise their children to believe the same. I honestly don\’t think the kids would be scarred for life by that. Its important to remember that these issues vary from culture to culture, because they ultimately determine what is contextually appropriate and what is not.

    On the issue of clothing and nakedness, the same applies: it is culturally specific. There are really no one-size-fits-all answers.

    1. I agree with you completely. I think my comments are coming more from my own biases as a EuroAmerican and raising a child in this culture. You are absolutely right in saying that these are culturally defined behaviors and that there is no right or wrong. At the same time, I think that the European American culture can be somewhat conservative (which is relative in and of itself) and my personal desire is to see somewhat of a cultural shift within that paradigm.

  5. Dal punto di vista affettivo, il bacio sulle labbra non è sbagliato. I miei genitori comunque, mi hanno sempre baciato sulla guancia; mai sulle labbra. Dal punto di vista igienico non è molto giusto. Mettersi dei limiti comunque. Solo con la mamma e con nessun altro.

  6. I’m hispanic and I grew up with a very close family. We love to show affection with a kiss on the cheek, whether family, close friends or even with new people we just met. It’s something we grew up doing. However, my parents never kissed me on the lips as a baby/child. I never saw a parent kiss their baby/child on the lips until I was a teenager. As soon as I saw it I thought it was very strange. I always thought that kissing on the lips was reserved for couples. So, I feel it’s definitely a culture thing or a family thing that you just learn.

    I saw our blog post after researching the topic and just thought I’d add my thoughts on it. I know it’s an old post. Sorry. :)

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