Four year-old kissing & hugging

I have a situation I'm not sure how to handle. I went to pick up my 4-year-old at pre-school last week and she "had" to kiss and hug a boy in her class before she left. She then said to him, "bye boyfriend," and he said, "bye girlfriend." I stood there dumbfounded. I couldn't imagine what to do: smile, laugh, scold... so I just let it go and didn't make a big deal about it. The teachers said it was normal at this age. I wouldn't know as it's my first 4-year-old. It has been eating away at me since then... Where would she get these ideas from in the first place? Is it appropriate? Should I have a talk with her? Is it normal?

Question:

On the subject you raised, it is quite normal for four year-olds to think about kissing and hugging the opposite sex. It is a time of "sexual" interest - obviously not the way grown-ups think of sex, but in the same category. This is the age when you often find children trying to examine each other's bodies. There is nothing wrong or perverted about this - it just happens. But this doesn't mean that you should allow sex play. If it occurs in my classroom, I tell the children that our bodies are private and that they need to find something else to do. But you should know that the interest in the opposite sex is very strong at this age. Interestingly, by the following year, boys and girls have very little interest in the other gender, and usually prefer playing with members of their own sex.

If you are concerned about where your daughter got the notion that she has a boyfriend, ask her. She may be able to tell you who used the word. It may have been one of her teachers, in jest, or it may have come from one of the other children who has an older sibling. It is certainly harmless, as is the kiss. If you make an issue of it, your daughter might get the message that having a boyfriend is a bad thing. Your decision to ignore the behavior was the right one!

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