Though parenting books abound, nothing really prepares you for the challenges of becoming a mom or dad. Parents learn as they go, including the best methods to discipline their children in response to certain actions. A new study shows that mothers use the most discipline when their kids commit actions that could be considered morally wrong, such as harming others, compared to other types of misdeeds such as roughhousing or making a mess.

Audun Dahl, the study’s author and assistant professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and his coworkers made this discovery after conducting a series of home visits to 26 mothers. To qualify for the study, the mothers needed to have a 14-month-old child and an older sibling below age eight. When Dahl and his coworkers arrived at the mothers' homes, they told them to act naturally to try to capture regular behavior between the mothers and their children, according to a news release.

"Mothers were more insistent on the moral prohibition against harming others than prohibitions against doing something dangerous or creating mess or inconvenience, as shown by their greater use of physical interventions and direct commands in response to moral transgressions,” Dahl said in the news release. Both the mothers and infants were scored based on their behaviors; for mothers it was physical restraint, comforting, explanation of the infant’s wrong behavior and commands, while infants were judged on moral wrongdoings, danger to the infant herself and creating a mess or inconvenience.

The mothers were visited by Dahl and his coworkers five months and then 10 months after their initial visit. When a child committed a moral wrongdoing, Dahl found the mothers were not as open to negotiating and put more of an emphasis on communicating than they would when the child made a mess or was a danger to herself. “Children showed the greatest immediate compliance with, and least protests against, maternal interventions on moral harm transgressions,” Dahl said in the statement.

"Through their more insistent interventions on moral misbehavior, mothers appear to help their children make this distinction as well,” Dahl said in the release. "Still, how parents react to misbehaviors is only one of many factors in early moral development. So an important question for future research is how precisely young children make use of their mother's reactions, along with other experiences, to gradually develop their own notions of right and wrong."

Read more: Raising A Confident Child: How Parents Shape Their Children’s Personalities, For Better Or Worse

Dahl, A. Mothers' Insistence when Prohibiting Infants from Harming Others in Everyday Interactions. Frontiers in Psychology. 2016