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Is it OK to prank your kids? Experts weigh in on how far is too far

Nov. 8, 2013 at 12:11 PM ET

Video: TODAY’s Kathie Lee and Hoda talk to Stacy Kaiser, host of “Fatal Vows,” and Divamoms.com founder Lyss Stern about how pulling pranks on your kids may have lasting effects, and explain when it’s OK to tease your kids a little bit.

In a society where parents constantly worry about the line between developing well-adjusted children and babying their kids too much -- where do activities like pulling pranks or scaring our children fit in?

Licensed psychotherapist Stacy Kaiser and Lyss Stern, founder of DivaMoms.com, sat down with Kathie Lee and Hoda on Friday to examine the issue of pranking our kids.

The “how far is too far?” question was raised after late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel asked parents to tell their children that they ate all of their Halloween candy and record their reactions. The video went viral last week.

Is this type of joking with your kids OK? According to Kaiser, a good rule of thumb is to be aware of your child’s individual needs and to have an understanding of the difference between teasing and causing emotional pain.

“I laughed, too, when I saw it, until I viewed it as my therapist self,” Kaiser said. “The truth is, these kids are hurt. Some of them are crying.”

Kaiser acknowledges that, out in the real world, kids will be pranked, teased and harassed. The key for parents is to prepare their kids for this “real world” treatment while still emphasizing that the home is a safe place where no one will hurt them.

Kaiser asked parents to put themselves in their kids’ shoes -- by imagining the roles were reversed -- and asking how parents would feel if their children told them they had withdrawn $500 from the ATM and given it away.

“The value of candy to kids is huge! It’s like money to grown-ups,” she said.

Stern seconds Kaiser’s statement that it all comes down to your child’s temperament. The most important factor is to know your own children and understand their limits.

Stern feels that, while pranks and jokes have their place, every parent has the responsibility of knowing their individual child and responding appropriately to their needs.

It’s also important not to spend too much time coddling your children, the experts said. Parents need to stop taking themselves and their kids so seriously, and learn to enjoy every moment with their children while they’re still young.

Laugh with your kids. Have a good time. Invest time in making memories that children will laugh about when they’re older. Most importantly, don’t take yourself too seriously.

Stern advised, “If they’re really getting upset, you should stop. You’ve gone too far. But, if they’re having fun with it, you should have fun with it.”

Have you pulled a silly prank on your kids? Are you a parent who likes to tease and joke? Let us know on the TODAY Moms Facebook page how practical jokes fit into your daily parenting routine.

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