It started with a kiss… a firestorm of parenting controversy, that is.
While on safari in Tanzania, David Beckham took a selfie of him kissing his 5-year-old daughter, Harper, on the lips. He shared the striking photo on Instagram, where it quickly attracted both outrage and support by fans.
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Loving or “disgusting”?
For some fans of the football star, the father-daughter kiss was “disgusting” and had disconcerting sexual overtones. “He’s a pedo for kissing his daughter wtf,” a commenter said.
“David, to kiss [the] lips of your daughter that’s wrong,” one critic wrote, while another added, “I feel uncomfortable.”
Other fans, however, quickly came out to support the celeb dad, sharing sweet stories of how their own family showed love.
“My family has always kissed on the lips. People who act like it’s weird are the odd ones,” one defender wrote. “They didn’t get enough love, affection, snuggles, hugs and kisses.”
One parent said, “This is the most natural thing in the world. Let’s never go back to the days of cold, stiff upper lip and children should be seen but not heard. That is terrible non-parenting and stuffs up childhood. I kiss my kids all the time.”
And others argued that it was ridiculous to see it sexually. “How is it incest? I never knew it was bad to kiss your own father on the lips. It’s a normal father/daughter relationship. I do it.”
“I kiss all my kids on the lips”
Beckham himself passionately defended his actions as a way of showing love to his kids. He and his wife, Victoria, have four children: 18-year-old Brooklyn, 13-year-old Romeo, 12-year-old Cruz, and Harper.
“I got actually criticized for kissing my daughter on the lips the other day. I kiss all my kids on the lips,” he shared during a Facebook live event.
“Brooklyn, maybe not. Brooklyn’s 18, he might find that a little bit strange. But I’m very affectionate with the kids. It’s how I was brought up and Victoria, 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.”
It seems that both the affectionate mom and dad favor lip kisses as a means of expressing love. Just last year, Victoria posted an Instagram photo of herself kissing little Harper on the mouth.
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Like her husband, she was promptly attacked by fans, who said it was “very disgusting” and even “emotionally scarring”. Interestingly, gender makes no difference for these critics — lip kisses are just plain ‘disgusting’, whether it’s by mom or dad.
To kiss or not to kiss?
theAsianparent previously put the question of kissing to our readers, and many parents had positive responses to share. As mum R. Gosh put it, “I want My LO to feel my love and affection for her.”
Some experts have warned against this loving practice, saying it is “too sexual”. Psychologist Dr Charlotte Reznick, for example, suggests that children might associate kissing with sexual or romantic activity between parents.
“If mommy kisses daddy on the mouth and vice versa,” she explains from a child’s perspective, “what does that mean, when I, a little girl or boy, kiss my parents on the mouth.”
It’s always possible to point out that this argument puts the cart before the horse. A kiss on the lips doesn’t inherently mean romance or sex — we construct this meaning from cultural and personal norms.
The sexual meaning of kissing came about because we restrict the act to sexual partners, not the other way round. Children don’t associate kissing with being sexual simply because they see mom and dad kiss — just as we don’t see hugs as necessarily sexual even if we see our parents hugging.
Kissing your kids will not create sexual confusion, child psychologist Sally-Anne McCormack assures parents. “That’s like saying breastfeeding is confusing. Some people might have issues with it, but it isn’t any more sexual than giving a baby a back rub.”
Another thorny question to consider is when to stop. While some commenters on Beckham’s photo say they’ve never stopped, our kids aren’t going to be innocently unaware of others’ judgment forever. At some age, they might get self-conscious, or simply not want mom and dad’s kisses anymore.
As parents, many of us might ultimately feel that it’s a personal choice to make. So long as it comes from a place of pure, genuine love, and so long as our kids don’t feel uncomfortable, who’s to say it’s wrong or harmful?
Is it fine to share a peck with your kids, or should lip kisses be kept between mom and dad? Let us know your stance in the comments!
This article was originally published on theAsianparent Singapore
READ: Is it okay to kiss your kids on the lips? Parents share their views
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