Question: My husband and I disagree about kissing our children on the lips. I grew up with a mother and father who kissed both my brother and I on the lips, I guess it changed to cheeks when we where adolescents, but it was never an issue. My husband vehemently opposes my kissing my kids on the lips. It is just a peck and it is what feels natural to me as a loving parent. Is it wrong to kiss my kids on the lips-goodnight, goodbye at school, and hello when I pick them up? Jill
Answer: There just isn’t a “right” or “wrong” to the question of kissing your children on the lips. It is completely natural that parents continue to do whatever their parents did. As you said, it feels natural and loving. If this wasn’t a point of disagreement with your husband, you wouldn’t give it a second thought. Your children would let you know when it was time to switch to kissing cheeks, foreheads, and noses.
As I did a quick informal survey of parents, I spoke to a mom who shared your husband’s point of view. Her parents did not kiss their children on the lips but she automatically kissed her babies on the lips and continued through the early years. (At 8 and 11 years old, the children now prefer cheek-kisses.) Her brother, the children’s uncle, always refused to kiss them on the lips. He was just not comfortable with it. The children were often puzzled by him turning his cheek to them and he had to explain that was his way. (I do feel strongly that children should never be asked to kiss anyone they do not want to – aunts, grandparent, or neighbors.)
This particular mom went on to explain that she always regretted the lip-kissing because her children wanted to kiss everyone on the lips. They just could not understand who was in the lip-kissing category and who was in the cheek-kissing category. She believes it would have been much simpler to be a cheek-kisser. As a teacher, I often found myself diverting a young child’s kiss aimed at my lips. I have known many lip-kissing children.
You might want to ask your husband about his reasons. Think about your feelings about your children kissing familiar “strangers” (like teachers) on the lips. There is no right or wrong. Children are enormously affectionate and generous. Think about what you will teach them and how you will teach them as their world grows from within your family to include a larger circle of friends.
Whatever you decide – keep on kissing!
Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.