Parents should rethink kissing their kids on the mouth: child psychologist explains why


There’s nothing a kiss from mum won’t fix, but puckering up to peck your child on the lips – you may want to rethink that. A child psychologist at the centre of a mouth kissing storm says she’s treated American preschoolers being threatened with expulsion for kissing their classmates, and has spoken to Babyology to clarify her stance.

In 2010, American child educational psychologist, Dr Charlotte Reznick, was quoted as saying that kissing your own child on the lips could be stimulating to them.

“As a child gets to four or five or six and their sexual awareness comes about (and some kids have an awareness earlier – as when we notice they start masturbating at two or three sometimes – they just discover their private parts and it feels good), the kiss on the lips can be stimulating to them,” Dr Reznick told The Stir.

Five years later those comments have taken on a new life of their own, with dozens of articles penned, claiming the mere act of kissing your own child could be deemed ‘sexual’. It’s prompted a huge backlash, and has put Dr Reznick on the offensive. She spoke with Babyology from her office in Los Angeles.

“It appears that almost all of the recent articles have manipulated the original article from five years ago to create something very sensational and inaccurate,” she says. “For example, falsely saying I described parents kissing their kids on the lips as “sexual” or describing the lips as “erogenous;” neither was done.”

Sydney clinical psychologist Heather Irvine-Rundle is critical of Dr Reznick’s original comments.

“It’s an outrageous thing to say to parents. It absolutely does not take into account a special relationship that parents have with their children and the non-sexual nature from which that particular behaviour comes,” she tells

But Dr Reznick says she’s dealing with the fallout of confused children copying the affection that’s been given to them at home.

“The climate, at least in the US, to be on the look out for sexual harassment is very high. Even down to preschool levels. I was actually called in to observe and treat a young boy because he came into class and kissed a girl on the lips. The school wasn’t sure whether his behavior was impulsive, or it was more of a sexual harassment nature. They were seriously thinking about expelling him unless he entered counselling,” Dr Reznick tells Babyology. 

She says science details that the lips are sensitive, and, “we don’t need to overstimulate our kids”.

“There is no suggestion that parents have any other agenda except to express affection and love for their children. Offering this extra information that parents may not have been aware of, can help them make a clearer decision.”

Dr Reznick says parents kissing their children on the lips is done out of love, and the anger some parents are feeling at her comments is understandable.

“It is… possible that parents are rethinking their behaviour and wondering if they might be doing something wrong. There is no reason to feel ashamed or guilty, and no one is trying to tell them what to do.  It’s just new information. And parents can adjust, or not adjust, knowing that kissing them on the lips can be stimulating,” she explains.

“Children need and thrive on physical affection, yet there are so many other places to kiss our kids – on the cheeks, on their forehead, on their hands, for example. Knowing the lips are super, super sensitive can give us pause to rethink.”

Anita Butterworth

Anita lives in country Victoria and devotes her time to two beautiful, boisterous boys, writing for Babyology, working as a television journalist and possibly the best husband in the world (usually in that order). She can decipher the handwriting of a preschooler and stop brotherly brawls single-handedly, all while masterfully sipping freshly brewed Earl Grey.

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