A clip posted to Reddit shows parents faking their babies out for a cruel new trend.

By Maressa Brown
Photo illustration by Sarina Finkelstein; Getty Images (2)

The lengths some parents will go to for viral video glory are getting more and more unnerving. Earlier this year, some parents decided it would be funny to throw cheese at their kids, and others videoed themselves beating up their children's stuffed animals to threaten them into eating. Now, parents are knocking on windows or walls then comforting their baby as if the child just bump his head against a wall. This prompts wails and tears from the frightened little ones.

An edit of several clips, all of which appear to have been shot in China, was shared to Reddit—in a subreddit with a vile name—earlier this month under the post title, "Imaginary knocks," wracking up nearly 1K comments.

https://www.reddit.com/r/KidsAreFuckingStupid/comments/cav0ja/imaginary_knocks/

Several parents chose to see the clip as an illustration of how much a parent's reaction can fuels a child's.

One Redditor named mjolnir76 wrote, "This reinforces how strong the parental reaction is for kids. I can’t tell you how many times my kids took a small tumble and looked to ME for how to react. I didn’t freak out, so they didn’t freak out."

Harvey Karp, M.D., author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, agrees that little ones mirror their parents' emotions. "I don’t believe these kids are old enough to really understand what their parents are saying, but they can read their parents' facial expressions and tone of voice," he says. "When mom or dad looks happy, their 9-month-old will smile, even laugh. When mom or dad is scared, their 9-month-old will get scared and cry." He explains that "the emotional communication is based on facial gestures and what psychologists refer to as 'emotional contagion.'"

While Dr. Karp wouldn't call this viral trend "emotional abuse," he says, "It is not helpful. It is akin to laughing at a person who is upset, like laughing when you see someone slip on a banana peel. In this case, a banana peel that you put on the ground."

Parents on Reddit may advocate telling a little one that they're OK, even when they're visibly upset. But Dr. Karp likes a technique called "Toddlerese," which he describes as "acknowledging that a child is upset with short phrases, lots of repetition, and about a third of their emotional level, in your tone of voice and gestures."

While the observation that kids mirror their parent's or caretaker's reaction is undoubtedly interesting and useful in some cases, it's hard to see the merit in this "imaginary knocks" trend. Given that the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children defines emotional or psychological abuse as "deliberately trying to scare ... a child," here's hoping most parents realize pulling this eyebrow-raising prank on their little one isn't worthy any number of clicks, comments, or views.

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