I came across a piece on Mom Cafe’s The Stir that decided to tackle the discussion of parents and their chosen methods of affection for their children. More specifically, they were discussing a photo of Harry Connick, Jr. giving his adorable daughter a smooch on the lips (back in 2010, but I digress).
The title of their piece?
Stop Kissing Your Kids on the Lips, NOW! (You too, Harry Connick, Jr.)
Now, don’t get me wrong, I realized at the time that this was likely an over-hyped headline scenario. That was until I read said story in entirety.
It was at that point that I realized the author of this piece actually went to a “professional” for a quote on the matter in an effort to support her thoughts. .
Oh, good, a professional to judge our choice in showing affection.
This “child and educational psychologist, and Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at UCLA (and often The Stir advisor)” decided it was prudent to advise that we parents never kiss our children on the lips, at any age, because, and I quote:
“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,”
In addition to the above quote, she also mentions the idea that a child might get confused and the result that they might potentially become a ‘sexual harrasser’ to other children…
**insert blank stare**
I don’t know about all of you, but I’m pretty certain my 9 year-old knows the difference between family affection and affection between friends. For one, she doesn’t see me kissing my girl friends or guy friends on the lips. Additionally, she understands that Mommy and Daddy affection is different than the affection we share with each of them… as witnessed with an “Eeew, come on!” when Mommy and Daddy kiss in front of her.
I haven’t once had her do the same when I give her a quick kiss goodbye, hello or goodnight – for the record. She knows the difference between familial affection and otherwise. She’s not confused. And, as a family, we are comfortable with how we choose to show our love to one another.
Additionally, I would never impose anything on my children. If any of my kids choose not to give me a kiss goodbye, I’m good. Affection is a CHOICE. Affection is natural, healthy, and comfortable, but it is most certainly a choice, because along with teaching them about healthy, loving ways, we also teach them about healthy boundaries, respecting their bodies, and how to say no to unwanted advances and affection. Even if they might feel like saying no to us. We do this, because we, in fact, realize that there may come an age where they will not want to show affection in the same way they did as a younger child.
Right now, affection in our house runs the gamut of a kiss on the forehead, a snuggle before bed, a monkey-hug-carry up the stairs and yes, a kiss on the lips. Our home has it’s own natural flow of love and affection. It isn’t forced, it isn’t uncomfortable, and it is normal and healthy.
Affection isn’t bad and we should not be telling parents that they have to fit their methods of showing love into a little box of acceptable behavior. When you make it sexual, you change everything about a familial dynamic. THAT is when it becomes bad, and that is what this ‘professional’ did – she made an otherwise innocent action between parents, sisters, and extended family, dirty.
Shame on those who make it unhealthy to give your kids love and vice versa – however you, and they see fit. Obviously, there are boundaries for healthy affection – but, unless you are giving your child tongue, I’m not certain what the lip kiss issue is really about.
I took the time to ask my own professional – one that, quite frankly, would make a much better ‘resident professional’ than the one Cafe Mom’s, The Stir has apparently chosen, to give me her thoughts on the topic, and this is what she said:
“To criticize Harry Connick, Jr, for a stolen sweet moment with his daughter is just plain silly and a little bit disheartening. It seems as if parents can do no right under the watchful eye of the media these days, and, at the end of the day, he is a dad. Young children need oodles of unconditional love and affection from their parents. Will kissing your child on the lips cause your child to kiss other children and feel confused about their sexuality later on in life? No. In fact, stable, loving relationships with parents provide the building blocks for healthy child development while withholding love and affection can have significant consequences for children as they grow. Go ahead and kiss your child on the lips today – love always wins.”
Katie Hurley, MY trusted professional, is a Child, Adolescent and, Family Psychotherapist. She’s a mother to two who proudly shows affection to her kids in whatever way comes naturally to her family.
And, common sense, Yo.
Love your kids, it’s as simple as that. Just because I give my kids a smooch on the lips, does not indicate inappropriate behavior. I certainly don’t think my girls are ‘confused’ or going to or have ever, exhibited inappropriate behavior, because we have had a few smooches on the lips.
And, who cares if they kiss a friend anyway? In a world brimming with hate, let’s stop chastising the ways in which we choose to love our children, shall we?
Keep it in perspective. M’kay?
With that in mind, I’d love to see YOUR photos showing the love between you and your kids – WHATEVER way that might be. Smooch on the lips – awesome! Snuggles – super cool! A kiss on the forehead or cheek – very sweet! Hashtag it #MyFamilyLove and @MTDLBlog (on Twitter) or Tag Moments that Define Life on Facebook. I’ll share your photos with others because, let’s stamp this nonsense out.
Love is love in a family and it shouldn’t be judged when it is obviously innocent. We know there are exceptions to the rule, and that is unfortunate, but how about we let families find their natural dynamic otherwise? Sound good? Good.
Are you a kiss on the lips family or do you stick with the cheek or forehead or not at all? What about when you grew up? (**hint: There is no WRONG answer here!)