Back in 2018, soccer star David Beckham came under fire after posting an Instagram photo in which he was giving his then seven-year-old daughter, Harper, a kiss on the lips. While many of his followers thought the photo was cute, others were critical. This opened up the debate: Is kissing your kids ok?
David Beckham Backlash
This was not the first time people have criticised Beckham for kissing his kids. In 2017, he posted another photo of him giving his daughter a little peck on the lips. Similarly to the 2018 picture, most of his followers loved the image. Some, however, were disgusted by it.
On Instagram user commented on the photo saying:
“You people are sick for defending this. The truth will come out… this may have been acceptable in the 1990s, but times have changed, and we won’t stand for it any longer. Children’s innocence must be preserved.” 
Several others commented as well, saying that kids and parents shouldn’t “make out”, or that kissing your kids is wrong.
Just a year prior, Beckham’s wife, Victoria, also posted a photo of herself kissing her daughter on the lips. Like her husband, the photo stirred up significant controversy. Of course, celebrities are used to everyone having an opinion about them and their lives, but why is this topic so polarizing? The truth is, even experts can’t agree.
Is Kissing Your Kids Wrong?
Back in 2010, Dr. Charlotte Reznick, a child psychologist from UCLA warned parents that kissing your kids on the lips could be confusing for them.
“If you start kissing your kids on the lips, when do you stop?” she asked. “It gets very confusing.” 
Other experts, however, heartily disagree with Reznick. Dr. Fiona Martin from the Sydney Child Psychology Center responded to her statements:
“It’s absurd really to think a parent kissing their child could be referred to as too sexual,” she said. “It is normal and healthy to be affectionate to your children. It’s communicating to your child that you love them.” 
Clinical psychologist Heather Irvine-Rundle agrees with Martin:
“It doesn’t take into account relationships that are safe and trusting. There is nothing sexual about kissing a baby on the mouth,” she explained .
It’s All About Personal Experience
So why is it that some people view kissing your kids as completely normal, while others find it repulsive?
According to Roma Khetarpal, parenting expert and founder of Tools of Growth, it has to do with your personal experiences. People who grew up with parents who showed outward displays of affection regularly will see it as normal. Those who didn’t will find it strange.
“It’s prevalent in some cultures and not in others, that is the biggest tell-all,” she says. “It comes down to what your family dynamic is — just like any other cultural habit.” 
She adds that a lot of families have different cultural habits when it comes to kissing. For some, even kissing on the cheek is inappropriate. In European cultures, kissing on the lips and cheeks is common, even between children and adults.
In the opinion of psychologist Sara Dimmerman, however, lip-kissing is out of bounds for anyone who is not a romantic partner.
“My association with lip kissing is related to close intimacy between romantic partners. As a result, I feel uncomfortable when other adults kiss me on the lips and typically turn my head so that their lips meet my cheek, whenever possible. Although there may be families or cultures within which lip kissing between parents and children is considered acceptable, I believe that since most people feel more comfortable being kissed on the cheek by people, other than their romantic partners, that I prefer to model this to my children” 
Teaching Our Kids Boundaries
When it comes to kissing your kids, Khetarpal says that teaching your kids boundaries, and more importantly respecting their boundaries is the key. She recommends asking yourself: is it age-appropriate, and do they want to be kissed?
As you raise your child, she points out, there is a time when you stop wiping their bottom or stop giving them a shower. In the same way, there will come a time when your child doesn’t want a kiss. As a parent, your job is to respect that.
When it comes down to it, however, she says we can’t qualify kissing your kids on the lips as right or wrong.
“All we can do is draw some sensible boundaries,” she explains. “What’s the big deal?” 
As for Reznick’s suggestion that kissing your kids on the lips might confuse them about who they’re allowed to kiss, Irvine-Rundle has a response for that, too:
“You look at toddlers who breastfeed, they don’t walk up to strangers and ask to be breastfed by them,” Dr Irvine-Rundle said. “It’s about being close to a person and wanting to connect with them.” 
So what is the answer, then? The truth is, it’s up to you. If you want to kiss your kids, do so. As long as you’re respecting both their boundaries and yours, and teaching them about other people’s boundaries, there’s nothing wrong with it. If you’d prefer to show affection some other way, like a hug, that’s fine, too.
- “David Beckham kisses daughter on the lips and everyone has an opinion about it.” Today. Ronnie Koenig. June 13, 2017.
- “‘It’s healthy to be affectionate to your children’: Psychologist slams doctor’s advice not to kiss their children on the lips because it is too ‘sexual’.” Daily Mail. Emily Crane. September 7, 2015.
- “Why is kissing children on the lips still so controversial? Parents weigh in.” Global News. Arti Patel. June 2017.
- “Is It OK To Kiss Your Kids On The Lips?” Parents Canada. May 19, 2018.