Pucker Up!: Is It OK When Parents Kiss Kids on the Lips?

March 20, 2015  |  

In an issue of Redbook magazine, actress and mogul mama Jessica Alba is baffled when the interviewer questions a video found on the website of her eco-friendly enterprise, The Honest Company. In it, she’s seen kissing her two daughters, Honor, 5, and Haven, 2, on the lips; a move that, according to some, is totally taboo. The 33-year-old Fantastic Four star is taken aback hearing that what she thought was a simple, sweet gesture was actually met with controversy; controversy that still has everyone asking: Is it okay when parents kiss kids on the lips?

Obviously, for Alba, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” But while a kiss on the lips between a parent and child is widely accepted in many other cultures, there’s a distinct difference of opinion here in the states, where it’s just as common to see people kissing dogs on the mouth as it is children.

It’s a matter of innocence versus inappropriateness, and both sides are resolute in their arguments.

“I feel that it’s totally natural when my 22-month-old boy kisses me on the lips,” mom Shonda Bradford tells Mommynoire. “He comes up to my lips for a big mommy kiss and I would feel terrible if I interrupted his pure act of love and affection by turning away and giving him my cheek.”

Bradford isn’t alone in feeling that a “mouth kiss” is completely harmless. Hustle Mom Chronicles’ Kristen Wright-Matthews admits that her six-year-old son still kisses her on the lips.

And the line isn’t exactly drawn between parents and non-parents. “I personally do not have children, but feel that it’s okay when they’re younger,” says Tomanika Witherspoon, who adds, “Once they are school aged, [around]three or four, I would stop.”

Their opinions may differ when it comes to the exact age, but both Wright-Matthews and Witherspoon agree that there’s definitely a cut-off of some sort.

“Recently my dad and I kissed each other’s lips unintentionally and it felt awkward,” Wright-Matthews recalls. “So I have to say that I will allow my son to kiss me on the lips until it feels uncomfortable for either of us.”

In these and many other instances, it’s the child who’s initiating the kiss, making it the parent’s choice to either accept it or turn to offer their cheek instead. However, some argue that turning to the cheek can make the child feel rejected.

What do their detractors say?

“Nooooo! It’s not okay for parents to kiss their kids on the lips,” says Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin. “It’s totally inappropriate and confusing to kids.

“Kissing on the lips is something that exists along the continuum of sexuality,” she continues, “[and] like it or not, lip to lip kissing does have to do with sexuality.”

In addition to thinking that it’s too sexual, others argue that a kiss on the lips is simply unsanitary, as it can spread things like colds, the flu, and cold sores. For them, a smooch on the cheek, head, or hand can be just as affectionate as one that’s placed on the lips.

So…. Is the “cheek kiss” a better choice? Should we be teaching our kids that it’s inappropriate to kiss people — including their parents — on the mouth?

Where do you weigh in? Is it okay for parents to kiss their kids on the lips?

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