Famed for his unfiltered opinions, TV personality Piers Morgan said it’s “creepy” that David Beckham kissed his 7-year-old daughter, Harper, on the lips. Though Morgan admits it’s “sweet” he also said it’s “weird.”
Sparking debates around the world, this expression of affection between parent and child might seem bizarre to some but to others, it’s natural.
Child psychologist Dr. Charlotte Reznick warns against this kind of smooch, saying it’s confusing to a child and can harm their development.
The debate started more than a decade ago when Henry Connick Jr. was captured in a photo kissing his then 8-year-old daughter Charlotte.
Speaking with CaféMom about the unforgettable kiss between the crooner and his daughter, Reznick, a child and educational psychologist, and former UCLA Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology, fired up the internet when she said, “If you start kissing your kids on the lips, when do you stop? It gets very confusing.” Using the example of a 6-year-old girl kissed on the lips by her father, Reznick said the child might go to school and express herself by kissing classmates on the lips, equally innocent to kissing her dad, which puts her at risk of being a “sexual harasser.”
Reznick, a best-selling author, explained that children might associate kissing with sexual or romantic activity between parents. She said a child may think, “If mommy kisses daddy on the mouth and vice versa, what does that mean, when I, a little girl or boy, kiss my parents on the mouth?”
Aside from kissing a child on the lips, Reznick reminds parents to be conscious of practices like tight swaddling, force-feeding, or aggressive tickling, that can cross the lines of personal boundaries and allow intrusion from others.
A subject debated by industry experts, some disagree with Reznick, saying that showing affection by kissing children on the lips is normal. Psychologist Dr. Paul Hokemeyer said, “It’s important that parents keep and maintain boundaries with their children, certainly, but in terms of expressing affection this feels within the realm of normal.”
And a fraction of celebrity parents agree with Hokemeyer.
In Tom vs. Time, a documentary about the legendary NFL quarterback Tom Brady, viewers get a glimpse of his life on and off the field. One buzzworthy scene isn’t Brady capturing his sixth Super Bowl win, but of his then 11-year-old son John “Jack” entering the room where he’s getting a massage.
John asks his dad, “I was wondering if I could check my fantasy team.”
“What do I get?” Brady replies, summoning his son to plant a kiss on his lips. As Jack walks away, Brady says, “That was, like, a peck.” John returns and leans in for a longer smooch.
This snippet was met with mixed reactions on the internet.
One person wrote, “Tom Brady is one of my five favorite people (including family members), but him making his son come back and kiss him on the lips for a longer time because his first lip kiss wasn’t long enough is some very very disturbing #content.”
Another defended him, “So now we have a stopwatch on kissing is own son. I would be far more worried about the parents who show no love or affection to their own children.”
Brady isn’t the only one causing controversy over kissing their kids.
In a video shared by his wife Victoria, David Beckham was slammed for kissing Harper, his then 7-year-old daughter, on the lips.
British journalist and TV personality Piers Morgan jumped in, and addressing the kiss on Good Morning Britain, he said, “It’s very sweet but why would a father kiss his daughter on the lips. Don’t get it–creepy. Weird. Then you post that for the world–you posted that for the world, why?”
In 2015, defending a similar photo, the retired soccer player explained, “It’s how I was brought up, and it’s how we are with our children. We want to show our kids love and we protect them, look after them, and support them, and we’re very affectionate with them.”
Beckham hasn’t posted any new photos of him kissing his daughter or sons, with the exception one throwback shot, for his son Romeo’s 19th birthday, where he’s pictured kissing a younger Romeo, on the lips.
When comedian Gabrielle Union posted a video of her kissing her tiny baby on the lips, it for her, was a miracle moment. After multiple miscarriages and infertility problems, Union was so happy to finally hold her baby in her arms. Using a surrogate, Union and her husband Dwayne Wade, a former NBA player, welcomed her first child, Kaavia James in 2018.
Some followers were thrilled for the couple while others suggested she be more careful with kissing a newborn on the lips.
Union replied, “If you think I waited this long and went through (all this) to put my baby in harm’s way… you got another thing coming.”
Another parent often attacked for smooches shared with her children, is Kourtney Kardashian. In a 2020 interview, she said, “No matter what it is that I am doing, someone has something to say, good or bad. The worst, though, is when people I don’t know give unsolicited parenting advice. No one knows my kids better than me, I’ve got this, I’m good, thanks.”
As for Reznick, she suggests, “If I had to answer when to stop kissing your kids on the lips, it would be now.”
Respecting that this is a sensitive topic that’s individual to each parent, let us know what you think about kissing children on the mouth. Is it cringey or cute?