What to do about kissing playmates?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  November 9, 2011 06:00 AM

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OK, my best friend's little girl has been kissing my son and they are only 7. What should I do about it?

From: AllieCat, Hampton, TN


Dear AllieCat,

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Most likely your your son thought it was icky that she kissed him, and told it to you in that context.

2. Most likely her reason for kissing him is because she's exposed to popular culture (possibly, inappropriate popular culture) that has made her (a) curious about kissing, and (b) think that this is what girls and boys are supposed to do.

You know how sometimes you react to something and that makes the something a bigger deal in kids' minds? This is one of those things. The bigger your reaction, the more likely your son will be more curious about kissing as in, "This must be a big deal if mom is making such a fuss about it. I wonder why? " So now he's thinking about it even though initially it wasn't on his radar screen.

Your best response is one that's matter-of-fact: "Ohhh. Yeah, that is kind of icky. You're way too young for kisses. You know, if she wants to kiss you again, just tell her kissing is for when you're older." However, I would (at a later point) use this as a teachable moment to open a dialogue with your son about sexuality and about being in charge of your own body. I'd start by saying, "You know, kissing is something people do when they want to show they care about someone. X kissed you because she likes you. It's nice to have someone like you! But sometimes you don't want to be kissed and that's OK. You're in charge of your own body."

Should you tell your friend? Sure. But not in a shocked "OMG" kind of way, more in a "You-know-she-might-be-watching-too-much -TV" kind of way. Because that's one of the bottom lines for me: Our culture markets sexuality to kids at a very young age and the more they see, the more they think, "This is what people do. I should do this, too." Which is why it's so important for parents to be monitoring what they watch and interpreting the messages pitched at them.

Susan Linn has an excellent chapter on this in her book, "Consuming Kids, protecting our children from the onslaught of marketing & advertising." Girls and boys alike are vulnerable, girls to the marketing, boys to the pornography. (See also Diane Levin & Jean Kilbourne's book, "So sexy so soon, The new sexualized childhood and what parents can do to protect their kids.")
Oh, and while we're at it, my favorite book to use to talk about sexuality is, "Where Did I Come From?" by Peter Mayle. (It's also available in video.) And yes, he's 7. It's time.

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9 comments so far...
  1. " Most likely her reason for kissing him is because she's exposed to popular culture (possibly, inappropriate popular culture) that has made her (a) curious about kissing, and (b) think that this is what girls and boys are supposed to do."

    That seems like quite an assumption by Barbara. Little kids have been doing this forever. They probably see their mom and dad kiss and want to emulate them. This is totally no big deal IMO.

    Posted by Dad November 9, 11 08:28 AM
  1. Love this response, Barbara! I hope I remember it if this happens when my kids get to that age!

    Posted by Carla November 9, 11 11:27 AM
  1. Spot on Dad. Don't assume this girl is exposed to something inappropriate based on this. ALL KIDS ARE CURIOUS!!!! and some earlier than others. I do agree that if you make this a big deal to the kids that will just make them more intriqued by it.

    Posted by jd November 9, 11 02:01 PM
  1. Sorry for the misspelling of the word intrigued. I mistakenly spelled it intriqued.

    Posted by jd November 9, 11 02:06 PM
  1. I agree with Dad. Seems like a really big assumption. I think it might come across as a little accusatory to the other mom- like 'oh I think you have been letting Sally watch too much MTV'.

    I remember being chased around the playground in first grade by a boy who wanted to kiss me. This was the early-80s. I think this stuff has been going on a long time.

    I do see it as an opportunity for a dialogue with her child though!

    Posted by Just sayin November 9, 11 04:36 PM
  1. I'm with Dad on this one. Kissing the little boy likely wasn't because she's been overexposed to pop culture. I'm from before the time of the over-sexualization of society and I certainly chased a few boys around the playground. Kissing happens all over the place. This little girl could see it in a Disney movie, at the park between two people who care about each other or between her grandparents for all we know. Yes, it's icky now and should be for older people only. That's about the only conversation I would have with the kid. No need to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

    Posted by Linney November 9, 11 07:24 PM
  1. Why wouldn't kids kiss at 7? It's a natural human behavior. You should take the time to talk about what kissing meant to him and to her, and who he might think about kissing.

    Kissing isn't icky, and it isn't always sexual--you're imposing your adult mental paradigm on your child. Even babies like kisses. What's inappropriate is kissing someone who doesn't want it, or in a situation where being affectionate isn't appropriate.

    Posted by Don't be ashamed of kissing November 9, 11 09:28 PM
  1. She has never seen Mom and Dad, Granny and Grandpa, her teenage cousin and boyfriend, or the neighbors kissing? Never seen people do it in public anywhere? Never seen other kids kiss on a dare or to be silly? Kids never kissed before there was TV?

    This is one of those things that should be responded to with, "OK, it's funny/cute/silly once, now that's enough."

    Posted by di November 9, 11 11:58 PM
  1. I was five years old and the boy across the street was sweet on me. So one day I popped him a kiss. He responded in a flash by punching me in the gut.

    Posted by Jeanne Dark November 10, 11 02:51 PM
 
9 comments so far...
  1. " Most likely her reason for kissing him is because she's exposed to popular culture (possibly, inappropriate popular culture) that has made her (a) curious about kissing, and (b) think that this is what girls and boys are supposed to do."

    That seems like quite an assumption by Barbara. Little kids have been doing this forever. They probably see their mom and dad kiss and want to emulate them. This is totally no big deal IMO.

    Posted by Dad November 9, 11 08:28 AM
  1. Love this response, Barbara! I hope I remember it if this happens when my kids get to that age!

    Posted by Carla November 9, 11 11:27 AM
  1. Spot on Dad. Don't assume this girl is exposed to something inappropriate based on this. ALL KIDS ARE CURIOUS!!!! and some earlier than others. I do agree that if you make this a big deal to the kids that will just make them more intriqued by it.

    Posted by jd November 9, 11 02:01 PM
  1. Sorry for the misspelling of the word intrigued. I mistakenly spelled it intriqued.

    Posted by jd November 9, 11 02:06 PM
  1. I agree with Dad. Seems like a really big assumption. I think it might come across as a little accusatory to the other mom- like 'oh I think you have been letting Sally watch too much MTV'.

    I remember being chased around the playground in first grade by a boy who wanted to kiss me. This was the early-80s. I think this stuff has been going on a long time.

    I do see it as an opportunity for a dialogue with her child though!

    Posted by Just sayin November 9, 11 04:36 PM
  1. I'm with Dad on this one. Kissing the little boy likely wasn't because she's been overexposed to pop culture. I'm from before the time of the over-sexualization of society and I certainly chased a few boys around the playground. Kissing happens all over the place. This little girl could see it in a Disney movie, at the park between two people who care about each other or between her grandparents for all we know. Yes, it's icky now and should be for older people only. That's about the only conversation I would have with the kid. No need to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

    Posted by Linney November 9, 11 07:24 PM
  1. Why wouldn't kids kiss at 7? It's a natural human behavior. You should take the time to talk about what kissing meant to him and to her, and who he might think about kissing.

    Kissing isn't icky, and it isn't always sexual--you're imposing your adult mental paradigm on your child. Even babies like kisses. What's inappropriate is kissing someone who doesn't want it, or in a situation where being affectionate isn't appropriate.

    Posted by Don't be ashamed of kissing November 9, 11 09:28 PM
  1. She has never seen Mom and Dad, Granny and Grandpa, her teenage cousin and boyfriend, or the neighbors kissing? Never seen people do it in public anywhere? Never seen other kids kiss on a dare or to be silly? Kids never kissed before there was TV?

    This is one of those things that should be responded to with, "OK, it's funny/cute/silly once, now that's enough."

    Posted by di November 9, 11 11:58 PM
  1. I was five years old and the boy across the street was sweet on me. So one day I popped him a kiss. He responded in a flash by punching me in the gut.

    Posted by Jeanne Dark November 10, 11 02:51 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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