Kissing Children on the Mouth

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Daycare teacher kissing my toddler on the lips

April 2014

One of the teachers at my daycare kissed my toddler on the lips. I'm uncomfortable with it. My wife is not bothered by it at all. I think it's too intimate for anyone other than his parents at this age to be kissing anyone on the lips especially and adult. I also worry about germs and my child possibly contracting herpes. I also don't want my child to think any adult can kiss in the lips. Am I being paranoid?
Annoyed parent

Wow I would absolutely NOT be ok with this behavior. There has to be boundaries in a teacher-child relationship and your concerns about spreading disease are completely valid. I urge you to speak with this teacher about your concerns. I am tempted to suggest reporting him/her to a supervisor. Good luck!


PLEASE say something to them about it! You are the parent and it makes you uncomfortable. I would not like it if someone kissed my toddler on the lips either. Its totally inappropriate. If they want to kiss the child they can kiss them on their cheek.


You are right to be bothered and question the actions of this caregiver. A caregiver kissing a baby or small child on the lips is really not okay. I've cared for children for most of my life and would not even think of doing that. This person is over the line, no doubt, and kissing is intimate. Some families do not even kiss on the lips; my daughter and I kiss each other on the cheek. Putting your question in context, we are in a touch phobic society. Because of a few inappropriate people, American society goes way overboard and often portrays all touch as bad and suspect. At the same time there is a balance between closeness and coldness, and appropriate contact is not only warranted but helps children feel loved and thrive. It is okay to pat or comfort; it is okay to give a hug.

All that being said, small children (baby and toddler) are often in arms, but caregivers should maintain a demeanor, that is not too much in their faces and respects their autonomy. We need to pay attention to positive cues and mirror those just as we need to pay attention to the cues of preverbal children's protest, such as infants turning their head away, making disgust faces, and (if that doesn't get a clueless adult's attention) crying, escalating, etc. When we see these, we need to back up to a respectful distance and let the child recover. A preschooler can more likely (but not necessarily) express himself with words.

With this age group, I let the child be the initiator of hugs or affection, as it is really not my place to impose myself. I think taking a preschooler's hand, patting their backs or other simple touch can bring the child comfort. With all infants, toddlers and preschoolers, I try to show warm and loving behavior primarily with eye contact, a quiet voice, calmness, positive facial expressions and some positive touch. Children, even our own, are not there to bring us comfort or amuse us... and I feel that you are right to say this caregiver is inappropriate. I would say something to the caregiver and/or the a! dministrator to hold her accountable. anon

Your wife's feeling (being OK with this) is valid, yes. But I think your concerns trump her lax attitude here, and you should say something. It's not going to look or feel pretty, but you must do this since you're legitimately uncomfortable about it. Feel free to either tell or not tell your wife about the boundary you're going to set.

Who's the ''kisser''? If it's not the director, then can you start with the director and ask him/her to explicitly remind staff not to cross that line with the kiddos? Or are you comfortable chatting briefly 1-1 with the teacher? And how do you want to do this--email, phone, in person/in passing, or in a short, private meeting? Pick what's most comfortable to you.

You could start this hard conversation with something like, ''I don't want to blow this out of proportion but it was something I felt rather uncomfortable about: I don't want so & so kissing my kid on the mouth. I understand kisses and hugs, but just not on the lips...'' Meanwhile, talk to your kid in a very simple, short way about boundaries at school, and what is OK for your little one to expect at school/elsewhere, and what is *not* really OK and warrants telling mom or dad about. I hope this helps.

Oh man am I with you. Can't tell from your post if this is/was a one-time event or an ongoing thing but boy, it would for sure not be ok with me. Perhaps it's a cultural thing? But where I come from, this is way over the border. In all the years I've been a mom, it would never occur to me to kiss my kids on their lips (and again, I'm closer to them than anyone else on the planet). There are so many other ways to express affection that - I believe - are more appropriate. I would definitely say something to the teacher or head of school and I would ask your partner to defer to you on this one. Sorry that's just weird

I agree that this seems inappropriate. Tell your wife that even though you two disagree on this, she should defer to your wishes on this one because it makes you uncomfortable. Trust your instincts and protect your kid -whether that be from inappropriate behavior (or something that could open the door to that later on...) or merely from germs. Our job as parents is to make the hard calls, even when it might cause ruffled feathers, hurt feelings, or whatnot. I hope your wife can understand your need to insist on this. /a Mama who agrees with you

Worried about herpes from baby-kissers

May 2013

Hi everyone. I wanted to post this on Facebook for advice but chose to go the anonymous route. I'll cut to the chase: My husband and I don't like it when people (anyone!) kiss our little baby on the face for fear of the herpes virus (cold sores on mouth). We have both seen it on other children and I personally know someone who contracted it from their aunt when she was five years old. Now, I know this may seem overprotective but if you think about it, the virus is always there, even if there isn't a flair up. There are SO many people with this virus. Anyway, my questions is, how do we deal with this? We don't want to seem rude or crazy! Because it is impossible to tell without the flairups who does or does not have cold sores we just don't want anyone to kiss her. This wasn't such a problem when she was a newborn but now that she's a bigger baby some- not all- people want to kiss her. I don't blame them but we also don't want them to. What do we say? What do we do?

trying to do the right thing

I think your worry is a little misplaced. I never liked a bunch of people kissing my baby or touching his hands just because of germs. Family and close friends were fine, of course. But sometimes people get a little too close to babies!

But I think you are worrying more than you need to about your baby being infected by herpes. We are not constantly contagious. Only during flare-ups, and a very brief period right before they appear - and we know when that is because it's painful. Most of us would have the sense not to go kissing babies - or anyone else! There was one time when I panicked because my baby son reached up and touched my mouth while I was feeding him and I had an active outbreak. Kaiser told me to relax. Most babies have antibodies from their mothers because most adults have already been exposed to the virus, even if they don't have active outbreaks. Even when I told them that my baby was adopted and would not have antibodies from me, they still thought there was nothing to worry about. The majority of people with the virus never have outbreaks, but they do have antibodies. Unless you are one of the 20% of people who has never been exposed, your baby is probably protected by your antibodies. And if your baby is not, exposure by an infected person is very unlikely since herpes outbreaks are very visible. No one else in my family has ever had an outbreak - including my wife of 17 years - despite being in contact with me during outbreaks. So other germs are probably a more realistic worry than herpes. I Hate Cold Sores

Yes, you might be crazy and your fear is irrational, but if you don't want to change how you feel about the situation then you just have to tell people, ''Please don't kiss my baby anywhere, I'm afraid of germs.'' Or whatever. If you have this fear then you have to deal with it and be honest with people and just tell them. Then you get to deal with the strange reactions and the ''wtf'' looks. Deal.

How do most people deal with this,? Well since perhaps most people DO have cold sores from time to time and DO therefore have herpes, how we deal with it is we don't kiss people or share utensils or drinks or food when we have an outbreak (a cold sore). My understanding is that the virus is not transmittable unless there is a flare up.

As you do not have oral herpes (apparently) you may not know that it is very manageable. In my opinion you should not be so freaked out about you or your child or husband acquiring it in specific. It is a lifelong condition that rarely flares up for most, unless you are immunocompromised. Is your baby immunocompromised? Cold sores are very treatable with medications found on shelves at a drug store. Yogurt can help, too to relieve discomfort. Genital herpes are also treatable now with prescription medications, and that is a whole other thing to deal with when your baby is a teen ..... So much to look forward to.

You are focusing on herpes, but truly other viruses may be of greater concern as they can cause more severe reactions than herpes. When my kids were babies, it was more of an issue of other little kids wanting to touch her face. Talk about germ-laden organisms! I would offer other little kids my babies foot to touch instead, and carried her in a sling with her head tucked away when in crowds. When out in the neighborhood a hat perhaps kept those big drooley lips away.

In the mean time you can just ask that NO one kiss her on the face for fear of her catching any germs. You prefer they blow kisses instead (but without spit). You are only being rude if you limit your restriction to people with a specific characteristic ....say people with bad breath, people who are over age 75, or people with a specific condition (like herpes). A blanket ban will help you resist the urge to stare at peoples' mouths when they get to close, or the urge to keep a list of relatives who have been known to sport a cold sore. And if you or your husband or child someday end up with herpes (or another sometimes contagious condition - like a cold) may you be kind to each other.

Herpes Mom Who Only Waves At Babies

I get cold sores and am doing my best not to expose my son. I really only kiss him on the top of his head, even when I have no visible sore. My huge fear is that he would get them and then get it into his eyes. So I don't think you're being unreasonable. No one tries to kiss my son, but if they did and it was making me concerned, I'd tell them he was sick.

I can appreciate your trying to control what viruses your baby is exposed to, and I'm sure cold sores are painful, and yes, they are contagious at some point. However, as a nurse, I feel like there are viruses everywhere, and it's good to be exposed to stuff early so baby's immune system can learn what it's supposed to do. You really CANNOT control what we're exposed to daily, it's impossible, nor is it a good idea. We don't live in a bubble, we live in a germ filled world. It is true that different people have different weaknesses, like I get respiratory stuff, while my husband gets stomach stuff. Of the millions of viruses around, I get the lung ones while he gets the gut ones. Mosquitos bite him, not me; he has a history of genital herpes, I've never gotten it from him in all these years. In other words, everyone's different, so maybe we should wait and see what your baby responds to. It will drive you crazy as a parent thinking you can control all that. Will baby never play in the park? Never go to the grocery store, or to the movies or ride the bus? All major bastions of bacteria and viruses. Hand washing with plain soap, healthy foods, limited screen time, outdoor play every day and enough sleep, gradual exposure to what the world offers. Trust her immune system, it can handle it.

Don't stress!

I have two thoughts on this. 1) You are being irrational about this fear because there is simply no way you can protect your kid from this and all you'll do is offend people, but hey, you didn't ask that!! 2) You are the parent so you can set the terms on which others interact with your child. I would pull people aside and just tell them that you prefer it if they don't kiss the baby and then if they're fine with that, then tell them they can hold the baby, if not then just say you'd rather hold her. They'll think it is odd, but you're the parents and they'll be fine with it. Every parent has quirks and protective habits that others don't resonate with so really, people will be fine with it. O

I'm sure you'll get a variety of responses for this. I'm not going to tell you that your fears are totally unfounded (no, I would not be down with someone with an oozing cold sore planting one on my kid), but they are (in my opinion) extremely irrational when you look at the big picture of living your life outside the bubble of your house. If you plan to live your life assuming that everyone your child comes into contact with is a HSV carrier (whether they're symptomatic or not) and treat them as such, you *are* going to come off as rude and/or crazy. Like, whoa. For the record, my mother has carried HSV (oral) since before I was born, and I have never had an outbreak despite almost 38 years of sharing cups/food, being kissed by her, etc. Neither has my father. I honestly don't understand the paranoia of HERPES in this day and age, when we live with so many other awful diseases. C

I thought I'd offer a slightly different perspective. I contracted oral herpes for the first time (primary infection) when I was 24 and in graduate school. It was extremely painful, so much so that I was prescribed vicodin. I could barely talk and had difficulty eating anything other than ice cream for over a week. It greatly impacted my performance that quarter. The doctor explained that it was so intense because I was so old for a primary infection. I distinctly remember her description, ''most folks catch it from an overly affectionate aunt when they are very young.'' Robin

Toddler Kissing Mom on the Mouth

Aug 2010

My two and a half year old daughter has recently started elaborate kissing of me and her father right before bedtime. She kisses him two or three times on the mouth and then leans into me and starts kissing me pretty aggressively, holding my face in her hands, saying ''more kiss Mommy!'' By and large it seems pretty sweet but just this week it crossed the line into creepy, like she's trying to make out with me. I'm not phobic of kissing one's kids on the mouth and I am aware the children are sexual beings and this may be one of those normal developmental stages where some of these big feelings come out sideways or are directed at their primary love object - Mom. My husband and I are very huggy and kissy people so she may just be doing her own version of our physical affection. I am a social worker and to be sure we have made clear for ourselves that she is not exhibiting any signs of having been abused by anyone. She is a pretty jolly well-adjusted little being, laughs easily, and seems to have what I would consider an appropriate mix of confidence in her safety and stranger danger when new people are around. She is not behaving strangely in any other way. Anyone else have experience with this? Is this just a stage? Mom

My 3 boys have always kissed us on the lips, as my husband and I do. My middle one is the most affectionate, and at age 3 and now 4, will often sit on my lap and give me 10 kisses on the lips. He sounds like your daughter. Except that once in a while he also pats my boobs. But I attribute the latter to still seeing the younger one nurse and at age 3 and 4, kids are still fascinated by breastfeeding and breasts in general. I wouldn't worry about it at all. I love that your family is so affectionate. I come from a family who barely hugged each other and I only learned to say ''i love you'' because my old fashioned mother from another country always said it to me. I had to learn how to be affectionate when I met my husband and now with three kids, it's the norm. One day your kids will not be so lovey dovey with you and you will miss it, as I know I will. affectionate family

We are a family that has felt fine about kissing on the mouth, for the most part. My daughters and I continue to kiss on the mouth. My husband has begun to feel uncomfortable about this since the girls are in elementary shcool and so lets them kiss him on the mouth, but he doesn't initiate that. He'll kiss them on the cheeck or top of their head or hands, etc. One of my girls has ALWAYS liked kissing. Even as a little baby, she would want to kiss me repeatedly. This has continued. She's now going into 2nd grade. She still likes to kiss, and sometimes tries to make-out. I tell her that I don't like this and it's not an ok way for us to kiss. She accepts that and stops at the time. But, I've had to remind her of this a few times. Kissy Lips

I have noticed: Some families are fine with parents and kids kissing on the mouth, while other families are very uncomfortable about it. I didn't notice this difference myself until my third child, because the two older ones were not that affectionate and would only sometimes accept a kiss on the cheek, and no kisses at all after they started school, so it just never came up. The third one, though - he is Mr. Affectionate! He has always been very lovey dovey. He is 9 now, and while he will not kiss me in public anymore, he does want a kiss on the lips when he leaves for school, and another one at bedtime. We established a few years ago that I do not like wet kisses, so he makes a big show of wiping off his mouth first. And after the morning kiss, he will blow me a few more kisses as I watch him leave, and I am supposed to blow him some, which he puts in his pocket for later. haha

When he was 3 or 4, he started experimenting with more elaborate kissing, closing his eyes and opening his mouth. Eeuw! Maybe he saw this in a movie, I'm not sure. I told him that kind of kissing is for grown-ups who are in love, not for kids. Parents and kids don't kiss that way. We had to talk about this for a few days as I recall, because he wanted to make sure that this did not mean I don't love him. Then there was the ''I love you and I want to marry you, Mommy'' that boys say to their moms sometimes, and probably girls say to their dads. So, you just explain why this will not work.

So anyway, I think you and your husband can decide for yourselves what level of kissing you are each comfortable with, and then just let your daughter know. I'm sure she will be fine with it - just don't make a big deal. It's not that different from explaining why we don't throw food in restaurants! a Mom

chances are she's seen you kissing your husband, however that is NOT how mommies and daddies kiss their children and THAT is WHAT and HOW you tell her. brush of the lips, but no open mouth/tongue or sloppy ''adult'' kisses... mom of many

Maybe she's seen you and your husband kissing on the mouth? I don't think there's any cause for worry. I would just move my face and gently redirect: ''Silly goose, kiss me HERE!'' [presenting cheek].

Personally, I think it's gross for kids to kiss parents on the mouth, but my sister's 13-year-old (!) daughter still kisses her on the mouth, so obviously some people (people in my own family, even!) think it's just fine. Mouth-kissing is for partner only