It’s an ongoing debate in the parenting world that doesn’t seem to have a simple answer: should parents (and adults in general) kiss children on the lips?
Earlier this month, soccer star David Beckham posted a photo to Instagram of him kissing his 5-year-old daughter Harper on the lips. The photo sparked considerable debate among social media users.
While the majority of the comments called the kiss “beautiful” and “normal,” others were not too fond, TODAY reports.
Some Instagram users were emphatically against it, like @swedeinaus, who wrote: “You people are sick for defending this. The truth will come out … this may have been acceptable in the 1990s, but times have changed, and we won’t stand for it any longer. Children’s innocence must be preserved.”
The sentiments were echoed by user @sdemussy, who stated: “Parents and kids don’t make out!”
A number of celebrities, including Beckham’s wife Victoria and Hilary Duff, have faced backlash after posting photos of themselves kissing their children on the lips.
In 2016, Duff received so many negative comments on her post that she later took to Instagram to confront her detractors, Us reports.
“For anyone commenting that a kiss on the lips with my four-year-old is ‘inappropriate,’ go ahead and click a quick unfollow with your warped minds and judgement,” the 29-year-old actress wrote.
Is it a big deal?
Roma Khetarpal, parenting expert and founder of Tools of Growth, says the reason behind the ongoing controversy has to do with people’s personal experiences with outward displays of affection.
“It’s prevalent in some cultures and not in others, that is the biggest tell-all,” she tells Global News. “It comes down to what your family dynamic is — just like any other cultural habit.”
She adds if you grew up kissing your parents, family members and elders on the lips, there’s nothing strange about kissing your own children on the lips. But for someone who didn’t grow up in a culture that showed affection this way, it may seem unusual.
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“A lot of families have cultural habits when it comes to kissing and for some, even the cheek can be offensive.”
In European cultures, she notes, kissing on the lips and cheeks is very common among adults and children.
Khetarpal says there are some things parents should keep in mind when it comes to a peck on the lips: is it age appropriate and do your children want it?
“[For] age, there is a time when parents stop wiping their children’s bottom or giving them a shower. [Similarly] there is a time and age when children don’t want kisses on the lips, either, and parents have to respect that.”
She adds we still can’t qualify parents kissing their children on the lips as right or wrong.
“All we can do is draw some sensible boundaries. What’s the big deal? [It’s someone else’s] children.”
The parents who do it
Christy Laverty, a mom-of-two from Burlington, Ont., says when her daughters were young, she always kissed them on the lips.
“Once the girls got old enough to say or express how they wanted to show love and affection toward us, then we let them decide on their own,” she tells Global News.
Laverty adds she doesn’t understand why the concept is so controversial. “If it is how your family expresses love between parents and kids, then I don’t think it should be up for others to decide what is right for that family.”
Keith Trotter, a dad-of-five from Minneapolis, says as a father, it’s important to show children affection is nothing to be ashamed of.
“I allowed my children to set the boundaries around where they wanted to be kissed. This reinforced the notion that it is OK for them to set healthy boundaries concerning their own bodies,” he tells Global News.
And Deborah Coombs, a mom-of-two from Toronto, says there’s nothing sexual about kissing children on the lips.
“I can only imagine that people who are bothered by it are sexualizing the kiss in some way. But there’s nothing sexual about it, nor should anyone see anything other than parental-child closeness there.”
Teaching children affection
Vancouver-based parenting coach Julie Romanowski says children learn what is appropriate or not by observing adults.
“Teach children skills about what is OK and not okay in terms of health, safety and emotional security,” she says. “Any affection given to anyone should be welcomed. If affection is forced and makes someone uncomfortable or feel unsafe, then it would be inappropriate.”