Green flag

According to the Flag System, green (acceptable) behaviour applies when (1) there is clear mutual consent, (2) no form of pressure or coercion and (3) both parties are equal. The behaviour also needs to be (4) appropriate for the sexual development and (5) appropriate for the context in which it takes place and (6) not causing harm to the child or the young person him/herself.

mums and dads
Fig 1: Two 4-year-old preschool children are playing mums and dads in the doll’s corner and are giving one another a kiss on the mouth
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Two 4-year-old children are playing mums and dads in the doll's corner and giving one another a kiss on the mouth

Preschool children may imitate adults when they play mums and dads and give one another a kiss on the mouth. That behaviour is appropriate within the context of the game. Kissing on the mouth is not only imitation but often learned because quite a lot of parents themselves kiss their child on the mouth. Within the context of the class or playgroup there is a little kiss, which is acceptable and appropriate within the framework of the game. Only if the behaviour were to be disturbing or if it’s no longer appropriate for the age (such as kissing with tongues), would the colour of the flag change.

Let’s now assess the behaviour of the children:

  • Consent - OK - They are playing this game as part of their playtime activities and choose to do so themselves.
  • Voluntary engagement - OK - The children are playing on their own initiative. There are no indications of pressure or coercion.
  • Equality - OK - The preschool children are equal and equivalent in terms of age.
  • Appropriate for age/development - OK - These kinds of games fall within the framework of the sexual development of children. Children invent games such as doctors or mums and dads in which sexuality forms a part. In this kind of game children are able to satisfy their curiosity a little.
  • Appropriate within the context - OK - The context here is the game. A kiss as part of that game is acceptable within the context of a class or playgroup.
  • Self-respect - OK - This game does not have any negative consequences for the children.

Example for response

  1. Towards the children: ‘You have been playing mums and dads, was that fun? Did you enjoy giving or receiving a little kiss? It’s okay and fun to play mums and dads, and kissing is fun provided you both think it's nice.’
  2. Towards the teacher or supporting adult: for a green flag there is no need to respond. If you do respond, it needs to be a positive response. You can say something about their game and ask whether they think the kissing is nice.
  3. Policy: it’s important that green-flag behaviour is also acceptable within your organisation. Set out in your organisation's policy which behaviours are acceptable, in what context and under what conditions.