While there are a lot of parents who kiss their young children on the lips as a sign of affection, others believe it’s very inappropriate.
Some doctors, including Dr. Charlotte Reznick, a child psychologist from UCLA, even warn parents that doing so could confuse their children and affect them psychologically. “As a child gets to 4 or 5 or 6 and their sexual awareness comes about (and some kids have an awareness earlier – as when we notice they start masturbating at 2 or 3 sometimes – they just discover their private parts and it feels good), the kiss on the lips can be stimulating to them,” she said.
When famous former soccer player David Beckham shared a photo of him kissing his five-year-old daughter, Harper, on the lips last month, he received a fair amount of criticism from people who called it disgusting and sexual. “It’s how I was brought up – and Victoria – and it’s how we are with our children,” he explained. “We want to show our kids love and we protect them, look after them and support them.”
His wife, Victoria, was also slammed for doing the same thing with Harper months earlier. Others saw it as a perfectly normal display of affection, stating that people were reading way too much into it.
Unlike Dr. Reznick, Dr. Fiona Martin, a psychologist from the Sydney Child Psychology Centre, says that innocent pecks on the lips are just that — innocent.
“It’s beautiful. Anything that promotes emotional connectivity is good. It’s certainly not inappropriate to kiss your child,” Martin said. “(Advice like this) makes them confused as parents about what level of affection they should give their child.”
Clinical psychologist Heather Irvine-Rundle agrees. “It doesn’t take into account relationships that are safe and trusting. There is nothing sexual about kissing a baby on the mouth,” she said. “Usually the kids will find they want to grow up, they no longer want to have that intimacy with parents anymore in public. It’s up to us as sensible parents to work out when is the right time.”