Sealed with a controversy: Public debates whether parents should kiss their kids on the lipsAshley Johnson, a mother of twin boys who turn 3 next month, thinks kissing her children on the lips is the natural thing to do. “I don’t think it’s any different from breast-feeding them,” she says. “You love your children and kissing them is a natural way to show them that love because a kiss is something shared between those closest to you.”
By: LaurelLee Loftsgard, INFORUM
FARGO - In the past few months, the media and blogosphere have been abuzz with stories of parent-child affection.
From celebrities mouth-feeding their babies or a Time magazine cover featuring a photo of a mother breast feeding 3-year-old, it’s been quite a year in the world of the public’s opinion on parenting.
But one less extreme display of affection has been around for many years, and is still questionable in some families: Should parents kiss their children on the lips?
Ashley Johnson, a mother of twin boys who turn 3 next month, thinks kissing her children on the lips is the natural thing to do.
“I don’t think it’s any different from breast-feeding them,” she says. “You love your children and kissing them is a natural way to show them that love because a kiss is something shared between those closest to you.”
Parents kissing their children on the lips is a touchy subject that brings up a wide variety of opinions.
Popular parenting blogs, such as LilSugar.com and “The Stir” on CafeMom.com, have featured photos of celebrities puckering up with their little ones. Readers fired back with a wide variety of comments. Some seem nonplussed, while others advocate for the loving practice. Another group appears shocked and offended by the display.
Shannon Terry, a sociology instructor at Minnesota State University Moorhead shares why parents and children kissing has become such a social stigma.
“I think it’s because it’s seen as a prelude to sexual behavior in a way,” Terry says. “And just from movies and the media, I think has really tied it to sex instead of just affection.”
Celebrities who have been photographed puckering up with their kids include Heidi Klum, Harry Connick Jr. and Gwen Stefani. But with each photo of these stars giving their child a kiss on the lips, there’s a controversial story attached on whether or not it’s right for them to do so.
Dr. Charlotte Reznick, a child and educational psychologist at UCLA, told “The Stir” blog that she sees the downside of kissing your kids on the lips all too frequently.
“The answer is in your question,” Reznick told the blog when asked for the perfect age. “If you start kissing your kids on the lips, when do you stop? It gets very confusing.”
Terry is also among those who think kissing on the lips may not be an appropriate behavior between parent and child.
“I never kissed my kids on the lips. I did kiss them a lot and all the time, it was just never on the lips.”
And some people weren’t even comfortable with that.
“I was actually accused once of kissing my kids too much,” Terry says, “I never even kissed them on the lips, but I was told that I kiss them too much.”
Though now, as both of her children are older, she doesn’t kiss them very much at all, she says.
Johnson said whether or not she’ll always kiss her boys on the lips as they grow older will up to her sons.
“If it was up to me I would always, but the decision will ultimately be up to them,” Johnson says. “I would hope that they would stay comfortable with showing me that kind of affection, but it’s up to them.”
It seems that once junior high rolls around, society – and many teens – are not as comfortable with parent-child kissing.
Just in December, an incident at Rosemount (Minn.) High School proved there are strong feelings toward the practice.
During a school pep fest, some of the students were blindfolded and told one of their classmates would give them a kiss. Then they would have to guess which fellow student it was.
What they didn’t know was that they’d actually be locking lips with one of their parents.
An online video of the event went viral, and its international audience was in an uproar, saying the “prank” was inappropriate.
Comments on YouTube included, “This is actually the most disgusting thing ever... The parents, teachers, and principals should be ashamed of themselves,” and “This is just sickening & wrong in so many ways!”
Rosemount High School Principal John Wollersheim said afterward that the prank had first been done about six years ago and wasn’t controversial.
Terry says that socially, the views on kissing and why we kiss has evolved with the media, and is one reason why the Rosemount High video became such a big deal.
“It’s taken on almost as foreplay, it has that greater meaning that it’s not just affection anymore, it’s more attraction,” Terry says.
And though the media has turned kissing into more an intimate act, not everyone feels that.
With the Rosemount High School prank, while everyone else was upset with the pep-fest prank, the principal said none of the students or parents that were involved made any complaints.
Some also say that if it wasn’t just kissing on the lips it would be more acceptable.
“Some families don’t even kiss their parents on the cheek. I want to show them they can be free to express their feelings and their affection,” Johnson says. “You can’t have any kind of relationship with anyone if you can’t express your feelings for one another.”
Ultimately, it comes down to respecting your child’s boundaries. As Johnson said, whether or not she’ll always kiss her sons will be up to them.
“I want them to be comfortable,” she says. “I want it to be their decision, and I hope them growing up in a loving family will play a big part.”
Loftsgard is multimedia producer for Forum Communications Co.
Readers can reach her at .