When Should You Stop Kissing Your Kids On The Lips

Mother and daughter a kiss on the lips

“Why didn’t you want to kiss me?” I asked my daughter.

“You’re not supposed to kiss on the lips,” she said.

kissing your kids on the lips - the everyday mom life

I had asked for a quick smooch as we snapped a photo on our recent trip to Austin. We aren’t big lip kissers in our family, but before bed or every now and then we pucker up and kiss the kids on the lips.

Somewhere along the way, my daughter had stopped doing this and I hadn’t really noticed until this moment when she seemed sort of uncomfortable with it. I figured her hesitation had more to do about the stranger I asked to take our photo versus anything else.

“Who told you that?” I asked feeling a bit hurt.

“I don’t know,” she said, still seeming a bit uncomfortable.

Maybe she did know and maybe she didn’t, but the point was, I hated that something that was supposed to be about the love between us made her uncomfortable.

I decided right there I would never ask her to kiss me on the lips again and mourned the passing of another “last” with her.

All that really mattered to me was that she was uncomfortable, and I never wanted her feel that way about affection – from me or anyone else.

The kissing conundrum

Kissing your kids on the lips has been a hot topic for decades but has been highlighted in recent years by Victoria and David Beckham and Hillary Duff who have all posted photos of themselves kissing their children on their lips.

The whole world seems to have an opinion on the subject (whether they’re parents or not) and those opinions vary greatly.

Even “experts” can’t agree.

Dr. Charlotte Reznick of UCLA and author of The Power Of Your Child’s Imagination: How To Transform Stress And Anxiety Into Joy and Success told The Stir in 2010 that kissing on the lips is “too sexual” for young children and that it can be “stimulating.”

“It’s just too confusing,” she said, infuriating parents around the world.

Many other doctors and psychologists have vehemently disagreed with her over the years and say it’s totally normal to kiss your children on the lips. They say to believe a kiss is confusing would be similar to saying breastfeeding is confusing.

It’s cultural and family-based

In 2016, parenting expert and founder of Tools of Growth, Roma Khetarpal told the Global News that the controversy around kissing on the lips is very cultural and has to do with how you were raised.

“It’s prevalent in some cultures and not in others,” she told the publication. “It comes down to what your family dynamic is – just like any other cultural habit.”

Khetarpal added that if you grew up kissing your parents on the lips this would be very normal for you, but if you didn’t then it might seem unusual. For instance, it’s very normal for adults and children to kiss on the lips and cheeks in European countries.

“A lot of families have cultural habits when it comes to kissing and for some, even the cheek can be offensive,” she said.

When should you stop kissing your kids on the lips?

However, Khetarpal stressed that there are things parents should keep in mind when kissing their kids on the lips.

  1. Is it age appropriate?
  2. Do your children want it?

There is a time when you stop doing things for your children – wiping their butts, bathing them and dressing them. Khetarpal said that kissing on the lips should be similar to this.

My daughter has now set the boundaries for herself around kissing on the lips, just like she has recently asked for privacy in the bathroom and has (finally) started closing the door when she goes.

There’s no denying that she’s growing up, and as sad as I am to be waving goodbye to some of these moments, I’m happy she can set and vocalize her boundaries for herself and her body.

Even though there will be no more kissing her on the lips, she still loves a good kiss on the cheek, head and all the bear hugs she can get.

She still climbs into bed with us each night (Every. Single. Night.) and snuggles with me on the couch each morning. In fact, if I don’t snuggle to her satisfaction I get an earful.

“You’re doing it wrong,” she said.

“Doing what wrong?”

“You’re supposed to put your arm around me,” she said, “so I can be in the nook and close to your heart.”

“You’ll always be close to my heart,” I said and kissed her on her head as she leaned into me.

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38 COMMENTS

  1. This is a good post for the right time in parenting where kids are getting older. I do love the last part where your daughter told you how to put your arm around her-so sweet.

  2. My little is two and when the time comes i am sure i will know and we will move to the cheek but until then I am going to enjoy it

  3. This is interesting. I never would have thought about this as an issue. Just because A. I’m not a mom and B. My parents never kissed us on the lips. My family isn’t super affectionate physically but I never felt like it was with held. We’d hug and tell each other we loved each other every day but we never kissed on the mouth. Even with the babies in the family it’s normally a kiss on the check. I think it’s about what works for your family.

  4. I haven’t gotten to that stage just yet with my 3 (ages 6,5 and 19 months old). We are also not huge lip kissers anyway. I do find myself kissing my older two’s cheek more often than anything else. I agree that it is a thing that will be ‘outgrown’ as the child grows up. I think the inappropriateness of it is only based on the situation at hand. We are the ones that make it inappropriate. 🙂

  5. There are so many germs and so much to consider. I know we always want to show love to our children but we should always be cautious to avoid any sort of germs being transferred

  6. My first response to seeing the title was “never”. It’s about the love, the bond, and to hell with anyone who says otherwise. A peck on the lips is just one more way to say I love you. But then I saw it was her choice, oh, well then I guess THAT’S the tight time. It makes me sad that society influences our children in directions we can’t control. They are often as much a product of the world as they are our children.

  7. Very interesting article. I have not gotten to that stage yet with daughter. However, my family never really participated in that when I was growing up so I will most likely follow that.

  8. I don’t have kids, but I have a niece and nephews. They stopped kissing me on the lips around school age, around 5 to 6. I kind of stopped because there was more of chance of getting a cold.

  9. My parents never did this with me –– I used to find it a bit odd when parents would, but as I got older I found it a little cuter.

  10. This was an interesting article indeed. It can often be a really divided subject among people. Personally speaking I would stop when my children naturally didn’t want to kiss me.

  11. I have kids and I kissed them on their lips but definitely, time will come that it will be going to change the fact that they are growing up.

  12. I too am not a lip kisser. I have always kissed my daughter on the cheek or forehead. This i very touchy subject I am not bothered by one kissing your child, its just not something we do. I have always considered it to be a little to personal for myself. I really did enjoy the read!

  13. I never kissed my daughter on the lips, seriously out of fear of if I am spreading germs or something. Doesn’t bother me when other parents do it. I agree that it should be stopped as soon as kids say, no.

  14. I don’t have any kids so that’s never been an issue for me, still I think that this is different for every child. I respect what you did there, indeed a child should never be made to feel uncomfortable…I guess I’ll get to these issues too someday ))

  15. This is such a common debate, you are right. I personally stopped doing it when they started noticing it as a romantic act. Once they realize that, it gets uncomfortable for them.

  16. Oh man- so true that is totally cultural! I married an Italian where everyone ALWAYS kisses on the lips, and I do love it, so I wish my own family culture had been more affectionate, but such a tricky question.

  17. I think the right answer is what is comfortable for the child. If he or she is done with kissing on the lips, it should be over. It’s hard to say goodbye when our kids are done with something, especially when it’s linked to affection, but with my boys, I find it just keeps happening and it’s a natural part of them growing up. My advice for parents is to enjoy the moments in the moment because parenting and kids needs are always changing. Great discussion on the topic to get parents of young kids thinking about such things.

  18. I seriously never would have thought about this. My kids love kissing on the lips! My daughter tries to kiss everyone on the lips (she’s 2). It’s just normal in our family. But, if and when the time some where they are uncomfortable with it, I would stop. I just pray that isn’t anytime soon 😉

    • I never had this as a kid growing up but my dourter dos give me a peck on the lips and I feal uncunfabal as she is a 11 now and be for I say to her I think you are getting a bit to old for this now I just wondered what ppl though

  19. This is a common occurrence in my family. I think it is based on culture and where you are from. My mom was born and raised in Mississippi and you’re very close with you family down their. She even still kisses her friends on the cheek! This was a great post thanks for sharing.

  20. I sometimes wonder if my two year old wants me to kiss her on the lips, so I hesitate and kiss her head or cheek instead. But then, a few minutes later, she will often crawl into my lap and pucker up. If I turn my head and point to my cheek, she get’s this look in her eye – either confusion or a slightly hurt look – until I turn my head back and let her plant a cute, (dry, thankfully), quick kiss on my lips, and then she smiles. I figure, we’re okay as long as she still comes to me for these kinds of kisses.

  21. Where has that habit to kiss kids on the lips come from? Noone did that when I was a small child (I was born in the sixties). Plenty of hugs and kisses on the cheek but not on the mouth. I think it is gross and cringe every time I see it. Kissing on the mouth is for an intimate relationship between adults not something you do with kids! I see it as a form of sexually abusing kids as you perform a gesture on them which is of a sexual nature when they have an age where they cannot give consent. It’s sexualising the relationship between parent and child so disgusting and immoral.
    I am all for physical contact with your kids, hugging, cuddling, back rubbing, kissing the forehead or the cheeks but kissing on the mouth is wrong. Every time I see people to this I want to smack them. If your moral sense is well developed you just feel in your gut it is wrong. Cannot see where it comes from nor why every time one dares to question it people jump on this person and say that physical contact with your kids is so important. It certainly is but I don’t think it has to take the form of kissing your kids on their mouth.

    • In my research of Psychopaths, Narcissists, and Sociopaths, oftentimes people who struggle with these issues can only feel anger and lust.
      Normally humans have a very wide range of emotions.
      For a person to think of a kiss only as sexual and not allow for a spectrum of platonic emotions is, to me, highly suspect.

    • Just to clarify—I’m certainly not a professional and I am not saying you have any of those traits. You are perhaps a fine example of a person in real life, I have no clue but I wish to assume so. I am saying that the finality in your view of limiting kisses on the lips to a feeling of lust, and your attachment of hostility to your exclusive definition of a parent kissing their children is, to me… not choosing to assume the best in people or their range of emotions. I hope that your day is filled with all the good emotions today. <3

  22. My son is 14 and we still kiss on the lips. It is not an intimate kiss but a short pucker smack. When i drop his lunch off at school, he is not ashamed..he huggs me and kisses me and says thanks mom..When the time comes and he feels awkward..we will respect the decision. I have a mother-in-law who thinks it is wrong and i told her only a dirty mind thinks is it perverted lol! Some people..NOT ALL..have a mind that is evil or perverted..tainted thinking.

    • Totally agree! I’m a grown woman and still kiss my parents goodbye on the lips, and aunties and such on the cheek. My nephews are approaching 6 and 8, and they still give kisses when they leave the house. It’s nothing more than another way of saying I love you.

  23. We were never kissed on lips as children, I find it uncomfortable personally anyway, I told my son ‘we kiss on the cheeks and not on the lips. He is happy with it. He is four and I never liked to kiss him on his cheeks.

    As the child is growing up, the child has to grow learn it he right boundaries in life to develop into a healthy adult. I don’t agree with kissing on lips.

  24. We were never kissed on lips as children, I find it uncomfortable personally anyway, I told my son ‘we kiss on the cheeks and not on the lips. He is happy with it. He is four and I never liked to kiss him on his lips.

    As the child is growing up, the child has to grow – learn the right boundaries in life to develop into a healthy adult. I don’t agree with kissing on the lips.

  25. I have 12 year old and 13 year old daughters. 5 and 10 year old sons too. I grew up in a kissing and hugging family. I was the private one and the one to push away alot. So a few years back I stopped kissing my girls on the lips when one of my girls seemed uncomfortable. The reason for both was that the other was my step daughter whom i have raised since she was 6 months old. It seemed inappropriate. Oddly enough she kept up that behavior, but I stopped it. Then she started to try and act more like mom(grown flirting) towards me. It was awkward and made me feel even more withdrawn. Until I overheard how boy crazy they were and one had kissed a boy but didnt know if she wanted to again. So, I went down stairs and found my wedding band I wore with my daughters wife and found a ring that my wife told me I could scrap because it was from my other daughters dad. I went up to there room, grabbing my wife along the way because she had also been worried about the boy craziness. I explained that it is important we are honest with eachother and that we promise honesty and virtue to our family. I gave them the rings and told them what they had been and how we sometimes get second chances to make things special again, if we are honest. Then I gave them each a smooch on the lips in front of mom. They all giggled I told them “get used to it, cuz I should not have stopped.” And that “I am there dad and that if kissing was important I could kiss them”. All 3 of my girls cried. My oldest said she kissed a boy 1 year ago and it was why she stopped kissing me and was happy I kissed her. My step daughter said she thought I was mad at her when I stopped and had been trying to kiss me since (hence the strange behavior) and only started thinking about boys cuz she missed goodnight kisses. I started crying. They both give me a kiss on the lips everytime now b4 bed. I went downstairs and my wife of 12 years told me how the reason she wont french kiss is because her father was older and developed some mental issues and french kissed her from age 8 to 12. I said i wished I had known? I would never have kept asking. We do that now(too much for me), her idea. I told her that the reason I was the closed off one in my family was that when I was 8 I had a 13 year old girl babysitter that would perform sex acts and french kissing with me. But that it was the fact we only ever really have pecks on the lips with each other even during………was making it wierd to give the same kisses to the girls. So from the experience of finding out just how long we can hide secrets or change who we are, just because of kisses, i would say it is not the kiss that bothers anyone it’s the secrets and hurt feelings that turn kisses good or bad. I almost lost 2 little ones to lies. A good father willing and wanting to protect his daughters might just give his wife, the father she lacked or make up for the boys that stole kisses from her. He might also fill a void or fix a crack that his daughters have. In doing so we all found out not speaking the truth hurt us most. Confusion about kissing cant exist in an open environment. To all of you beautiful moms I hope you sort through the hurts that would take away a kiss from there sons. And to all the ladies hurting like my oldest and my wife that had something taken and felt like they could not have it back. I am sorry you hurt In secret have faith that a real father wants to save girls from the stupid and mean boys we once were or from the hurting broken fathers you could have had. Moms, men love you but sometimes you might have to share first and realize broken men are not made by other men. They are made from women. All we really want is a woman to hold us close and care for our wounds. Just like women need someone to make them feel special and cared for and protected. We need to be challenged to change the hurts that will hurt our children. Moms and Dads need to take on those roles with each other in this world before we are really ready to make good choices for our kids. Dont confuse kissing with sex and intimacy with sex and adults. Intimacy is not just talking about bad things that happened to you. It’s also talking about the bad things you have done because of what has happened to you. Intimacy was what the for of us had that day crying. A sense that we all needed to expose our true self to change our future. Many people have said this helped them to hear so please let me know if it helps or helps others. My wife and I are writing a book now. She will edit. Dont worry.

  26. You people are sick.

    I’m not religious at all, let’s just start off with that.

    90% of all of these parent kissers talk about when it’s time to “stop” or when it feels like it’s the “appropriate time”… but of course don’t hold it back because the affection is so important to a child’s development. Not like a kiss on the head or the cheek does the job— nope it’s got to be right in the kisser where the tongue is. What caring parents.

    So when do you stop? Oh you mean when it gets to the point that kissing your mid teenage maybe adult child is going to be misnterpreted (or interpreted correctly) as you having romantic, perhaps sexual relations by a third party?

    I feel like it is a super selfish thing that only the adult can interpret when kissing the child. Children are like giant vacuum sponges when they are babies–even when they can’t see straight– they’re taking an all stimuli and all outside influences that develops their brain.

    You start smooching your kid on the lips for years and years for you to think that just telling them “NO” one day is going to let them figure out what that all means is ridiculous.

  27. I grew up in a huggy, chic-kissing family. It was awkward for the African side of the family when l kissed my dad on the cheek, but my Irish family members are BIG lip kissers. And its normal. Only in the US is it even a discussion. My 5 year old son is a big lip kisser. But he is very selective. Since he was ~9 months, if he didn’t know you/ like you, he would turn his face away. Granted he didn’t allow anyone besides mom, dad to hold him for the first 2 years. [in retrospect that was a blessing in disguise]. He didn’t even want to hug his pre-k teacher on the last day of school. She seemed like a nice lady. So I figured that for him, kisses and hugs are reserved for those closest to his heart.
    I choose to enjoy it while it lasts because it may all change just like that!.😕😕

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