4 yr old boys kissing

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  June 22, 2012 06:00 AM

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My boy is 4 and was caught kissing another boy on the lips. He is not exposed to this at home or TV. Why would he be acting like this? How should we react? What should we do?

From: Monique, Miramar, Florida


Hi Monique,

Four-year-olds have a natural curiosity about a lot of things. The way they explore and understand about these things is to try on roles and behaviors they observe on screens and in real life. They are not necessarily paying attention to gender specificity, and it is not a dress rehearsal. In other words, he does not have to have seen two men kissing to be curious about kissing. If his playmate was a girl, he might have tried out the kissing with a girl, and then you'd be writing in about that!

My advice: Don't even react. The more attention you bring to it, the more curious he will be -- Why is mom/dad making such a fuss about this? -- and that will only increase his need to try it out again. Leave it alone and it's likely a one-time event.

You don't say what happened when the boys were "caught." I'm guessing there was an OMG kind of reaction. If so, just back down from it. If he has questions ("Why did grandma get upset when Jason and I kissed?"), I'd be casual: "I'm not sure. Do you have any ideas why6?" See where that goes. Sometimes the best answer is a simple, "Grandma can be pretty silly!"

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10 comments so far...
  1. I agree with Barbara that over-reacting would not be helpful, but I guess I'd keep a very close eye on everyone who takes care of him just to make sure there's no adult or older child from whom he's learned this. Sometimes stuff just comes out of natural curiosity and exploration but sometimes it's learned from a person or from an inappropriate TV show that people think the kid isn't even watching. It's interesting that the description is of him "being caught" kissing the other boy; perhaps the other boy is the instigator and his home life is something that might bear watching.

    Also, isn't four old enough to begin the gentle discussion of keeping your hands, or lips, to yourself?

    Posted by FavoriteAuntie June 22, 12 07:36 AM
  1. Whoa! Casual yes, but denigrating grandma's intelligence (or anyone else's) is completely uncalled for. Four years old is not too young to learn some societal rules. As to why observer X got upset, "Because you're too young to be kissing other kids on the lips."

    If it were me I would substitute "anyone" for "other kids," but I realize some parents aren't as uptight :)

    Posted by JeanneDark June 22, 12 10:19 AM
  1. My son's almost 3. He and his daycare buddies love to hug one another good-bye. Kissing has just started to come into play. I always give my husband a quick kiss on the lips before I leave for work and now I see my son trying to give his friends kisses when he leaves. Sometimes it's just what the little ones see; they're modelling the behavior. I'm not indecently making out with my husband in front of my kid; it's a peck and then I bend down and give one on the cheek to my son. Granted, my son's not quite three and the child in the letter is older, but we've talked about personal space with him and how some people don't like to be kissed or hugged and that high fives are best. Maybe offering some other way for him to be affectionate with his friends is a good option.

    Posted by T's Mummy June 22, 12 10:53 AM
  1. I'm more concerned that LW may be on the hunt for bad influences, since all we got about the situation is "He didn't learn it from US," implying he may have learned it from someone else, who is it, and how mad should I be at them?

    Yes, we need to watch out for influences on our kids in case there is something immoral or dangerous going on, yes once in a while they are going to pick up something we aren't thrilled about that needs to be discouraged, but Mom needs to make peace with the fact that their kid will in fact be influenced by others. They're going to have too many sodas at Bobby's house, or come home having learned on the playground tasteless words for bodily functions, etc. It's part of life.

    As for the kissing in particular, kids do a lot of odd, out of place, rude, or inappropriate things for no good reason. Just politely discourage it and move on. "Kissing on the lips is for Mommies and Daddies (or couples, or grownups, or whatever) and not for friends" ought to do it.

    Posted by di June 22, 12 01:56 PM
  1. He's never been exposed to kissing? Nobody in your family kisses? Do you kiss his dad? Perhaps he's seen it there...

    Posted by Kate June 22, 12 03:32 PM
  1. What I find most worrisome is the LW's intimation that there's anything wrong with two boys (or, by extension, men) kissing. Should we not address the homophobic elephant in the room? Teaching your 4 year old that men shouldn't kiss other men (or boys/boys) is harmful regardless of whether he grows up to be gay, bisexual or straight.

    Posted by C June 23, 12 11:32 AM
  1. Leave it alone and it's likely a one-time event.
    ...perhaps the other boy is the instigator and his home life is something that might bear watching.
    ...sometimes it's learned from a person or from an inappropriate TV show...
    If he was caught kissing a girl, my guess is you would think it was precious. Homophobic much?

    Posted by T's Mum June 23, 12 10:53 PM
  1. i see it everyday at my kids daycare..my 5 year old boy hugs other boys. Kissing other people (regardless of gender) on the lips is discouraged there and at home anyway. But I have never given it a second thought when he has. Don't make a big deal of it other than to explain that people have colds/germs and we don't want to get sick or spread our germs.

    Posted by jd June 25, 12 08:21 AM
  1. I completely agree to not overreacting and to the fact that he should be discouraged from kissing anyone (tell them it is an adult/grown-up thing, germs, etc.. as long as it isn't too ridiculous.)

    I don't want to sound rude but you really seem rather upset for no good reason. For one thing he is a young child and will try to copy what he sees as signs of affection (I'm sure that he sees kissing even if its not in your house, people kiss goodbye and hello on the street and on doorsteps, and even cartoons have mothers kissing children on the cheek, or adults giving pecks, so you can't tell me he hasn't seen it in real life or on TV) For another, what if he kisses a guy when he's older? Is it wrong that he might like other guys? I really don't see a problem here besides learning proper social behaviors. Nothing really big to worry about or stress over.

    And if you really think it's such a big deal that he kissed another boy, than that's called homophobia, and you should get some help to stop being so judgmental and what I consider a very unpleasant person.

    Posted by bl June 26, 12 10:16 AM
  1. First, he's FOUR. He doesn't have sexual urges yet and thus can't possibly be homosexual.

    Second, I agree with Kate and others. He has surely seen you and your husband kiss. Or you've kissed him? Or your husband has kissed him? This is his understanding of kissing.

    Third, I agree that he is old enough to learn, "We kiss family, not friends." Keep hands and lips to yourself.

    Posted by TF June 26, 12 01:02 PM
 
10 comments so far...
  1. I agree with Barbara that over-reacting would not be helpful, but I guess I'd keep a very close eye on everyone who takes care of him just to make sure there's no adult or older child from whom he's learned this. Sometimes stuff just comes out of natural curiosity and exploration but sometimes it's learned from a person or from an inappropriate TV show that people think the kid isn't even watching. It's interesting that the description is of him "being caught" kissing the other boy; perhaps the other boy is the instigator and his home life is something that might bear watching.

    Also, isn't four old enough to begin the gentle discussion of keeping your hands, or lips, to yourself?

    Posted by FavoriteAuntie June 22, 12 07:36 AM
  1. Whoa! Casual yes, but denigrating grandma's intelligence (or anyone else's) is completely uncalled for. Four years old is not too young to learn some societal rules. As to why observer X got upset, "Because you're too young to be kissing other kids on the lips."

    If it were me I would substitute "anyone" for "other kids," but I realize some parents aren't as uptight :)

    Posted by JeanneDark June 22, 12 10:19 AM
  1. My son's almost 3. He and his daycare buddies love to hug one another good-bye. Kissing has just started to come into play. I always give my husband a quick kiss on the lips before I leave for work and now I see my son trying to give his friends kisses when he leaves. Sometimes it's just what the little ones see; they're modelling the behavior. I'm not indecently making out with my husband in front of my kid; it's a peck and then I bend down and give one on the cheek to my son. Granted, my son's not quite three and the child in the letter is older, but we've talked about personal space with him and how some people don't like to be kissed or hugged and that high fives are best. Maybe offering some other way for him to be affectionate with his friends is a good option.

    Posted by T's Mummy June 22, 12 10:53 AM
  1. I'm more concerned that LW may be on the hunt for bad influences, since all we got about the situation is "He didn't learn it from US," implying he may have learned it from someone else, who is it, and how mad should I be at them?

    Yes, we need to watch out for influences on our kids in case there is something immoral or dangerous going on, yes once in a while they are going to pick up something we aren't thrilled about that needs to be discouraged, but Mom needs to make peace with the fact that their kid will in fact be influenced by others. They're going to have too many sodas at Bobby's house, or come home having learned on the playground tasteless words for bodily functions, etc. It's part of life.

    As for the kissing in particular, kids do a lot of odd, out of place, rude, or inappropriate things for no good reason. Just politely discourage it and move on. "Kissing on the lips is for Mommies and Daddies (or couples, or grownups, or whatever) and not for friends" ought to do it.

    Posted by di June 22, 12 01:56 PM
  1. He's never been exposed to kissing? Nobody in your family kisses? Do you kiss his dad? Perhaps he's seen it there...

    Posted by Kate June 22, 12 03:32 PM
  1. What I find most worrisome is the LW's intimation that there's anything wrong with two boys (or, by extension, men) kissing. Should we not address the homophobic elephant in the room? Teaching your 4 year old that men shouldn't kiss other men (or boys/boys) is harmful regardless of whether he grows up to be gay, bisexual or straight.

    Posted by C June 23, 12 11:32 AM
  1. Leave it alone and it's likely a one-time event.
    ...perhaps the other boy is the instigator and his home life is something that might bear watching.
    ...sometimes it's learned from a person or from an inappropriate TV show...
    If he was caught kissing a girl, my guess is you would think it was precious. Homophobic much?

    Posted by T's Mum June 23, 12 10:53 PM
  1. i see it everyday at my kids daycare..my 5 year old boy hugs other boys. Kissing other people (regardless of gender) on the lips is discouraged there and at home anyway. But I have never given it a second thought when he has. Don't make a big deal of it other than to explain that people have colds/germs and we don't want to get sick or spread our germs.

    Posted by jd June 25, 12 08:21 AM
  1. I completely agree to not overreacting and to the fact that he should be discouraged from kissing anyone (tell them it is an adult/grown-up thing, germs, etc.. as long as it isn't too ridiculous.)

    I don't want to sound rude but you really seem rather upset for no good reason. For one thing he is a young child and will try to copy what he sees as signs of affection (I'm sure that he sees kissing even if its not in your house, people kiss goodbye and hello on the street and on doorsteps, and even cartoons have mothers kissing children on the cheek, or adults giving pecks, so you can't tell me he hasn't seen it in real life or on TV) For another, what if he kisses a guy when he's older? Is it wrong that he might like other guys? I really don't see a problem here besides learning proper social behaviors. Nothing really big to worry about or stress over.

    And if you really think it's such a big deal that he kissed another boy, than that's called homophobia, and you should get some help to stop being so judgmental and what I consider a very unpleasant person.

    Posted by bl June 26, 12 10:16 AM
  1. First, he's FOUR. He doesn't have sexual urges yet and thus can't possibly be homosexual.

    Second, I agree with Kate and others. He has surely seen you and your husband kiss. Or you've kissed him? Or your husband has kissed him? This is his understanding of kissing.

    Third, I agree that he is old enough to learn, "We kiss family, not friends." Keep hands and lips to yourself.

    Posted by TF June 26, 12 01:02 PM
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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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