Next Tuesday AMC is Showing The Finest Hours Sensory Friendly

AMC Entertainment (AMC) has expanded their Sensory Friendly Films program, in partnership with the Autism Society!  Next Tuesday evening, families affected by autism or other special needs have the opportunity to view a sensory friendly screening of The Finest Hours, a film that may appeal to older audiences on the autism spectrum. 

New sensory friendly logoAs always, the movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

The-Finest-Hours-PosterDoes it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

AMC and the Autism Society will be showing The Finest Hours next week on Tuesday, February 9th at 7pm (local time). Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming later in FebruaryKung Fu Panda 3 (Saturdays, February 13th and February 27th) and Zoolander 2 (Tuesday, February 23rd)


Editor’s note: Although The Finest Hours has been chosen by AMC and the Autism Society for a Tuesday Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for some intense sequences of peril. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.

Study: Impact of Warm Parenting AND Tough Love

“Smacking does children no harm if they feel loved, study claims,” reports The Daily Telegraph.

boy being smacked by adult handThe Telegraph looks at a US study examining whether there was a relationship between harsh parental discipline practices (such as smacking) and subsequent adolescent behavioural problems, including aggression and antisocial behaviour.

In particular, the researchers wanted to see whether the child’s perception of their parent (or caregiver’s) feelings of warmth tempered effects that harsh discipline (verbal or physical) might have on their risk of behavioural problems.

The results from a modestly sized group of low-income Mexican-American families were as the researchers expected. Children who felt the lowest levels of emotional warmth from their mothers and reported harsh discipline, were more likely to develop behavioural problems. When they felt more warmth, harsh discipline was no longer associated with the development of behavioural problems.

However, there are important limitations to this study, including the small, very specific population sample being assessed. These results may not hold true in the UK. There are also likely to be many other environmental, social and psychological factors involved in the complex relationship between parental behaviours, family relationships and child behaviour.

Most childcare experts would support the notion that all children need an upbringing that combines emotional warmth with a consistent framework of discipline. While the benefits of harsh discipline on a child’s behaviour remain unclear, in the absence of a loving warmth it appears that there may be some harm. In particular, how harsh physical discipline impacts on a child’s behaviour is still a matter of serious debate.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, New York, and Arizona State University and was funded by The National Institute for Medical Health.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Parenting: Science and Practice.

The Daily Telegraph’s coverage of the study is broadly accurate and it also went to the trouble of including a dissenting view about the merits of smacking. A spokesperson for the NSPCC is quoted as saying: “Smacking is not an effective form of punishment and undermines the trusting relationship between a child and their carer . [there] are other more constructive methods to teach . children the difference between right and wrong”.

The Mail Online and Daily Express’s reporting of the study is much less representative. Both news organisations make the claim that this study ‘proves’ that harsh discipline ‘works’ – each implying a benefit. This is not the case. The study suggests that harsh discipline, delivered in the context of a warm parental/carer relationship does no harm. Doing no harm is not the same as providing a benefit. So it should not be concluded that there are no harms from harshly disciplining a child.

Reporting on this study also only focused on describing harsh discipline as slapping or smacking. But the study included both verbal and physical forms of harsh discipline, and did not look at the effects of these separately.

What kind of research was this?

This was a cohort study that looked at whether there was a relationship between harsh parental discipline practices and adolescent behavioural problems one year later in low-income Mexican-American families.

There is a breadth of literature suggesting that harsh discipline can increase the risk of a child externalising behavioural problems (e.g. aggression, antisocial behaviour), but there is also some research that suggests these behavioural problems do not occur when there is a good parent-child emotional bond. This previous research looked at African-American families and families in Asian countries, and for this reason the researchers in the current study wanted to look at the affects in ‘Latino’ families.

The researchers wanted to gain greater insight into whether ‘maternal warmth’ (or ’emotional tone’ of the relationship) changes the relationship between harsh discipline and behavioural problems.

That is, the researchers wanted to test their theory that greater parental love and warmth could temper the effects of harsh discipline.

The nature of the factors being studied (discipline and maternal warmth) means that only an observational cohort study, such as this, is likely to be feasible in studying their effects. A trial in which families were randomised to give ‘harsh’ discipline or show less warmth would not be ethical.

The main limitation to this type of observational cohort study is that it is not possible say for certain whether or not other psychological and social factors are involved in the complex relationship between parental behaviours, family relationships and child behavioural problems.

What did the research involve?

The study included 189 Mexican-American adolescents (54% of whom were female) and their caregivers. They were recruited from five, low-income public schools in the Phoenix metropolitan area in the US. The majority (86%) lived in two-parent households, and 66% of the caregivers were born in Mexico.

The current study used data collected at two assessment points – when the children were beginning 7th grade (aged 12.3 on average), and when they were completing 8th grade (aged 13.5 on average). At both assessment points, interviewers conducted surveys with parents or caregivers and adolescents on parental discipline and warmth, and on behavioural problems.

Maternal warmth and harsh discipline were measured on an eight-item scale, adapted from the ‘Acceptance Subscale of the Children’s Reports of Parents’ Behavior Inventory’. This is an ‘interview checklist’ designed to provide information on children’s and adolescents’ perceived view of their parents’ behaviour. For example, in this study, adolescents were asked to rate (using a numerical scale – where 1 = almost never or never, to 5 = almost always or always) how often the following had happened during the previous month:

For warmth:

  • “My caregiver told or showed me that she liked me just the way I was”

For harsh discipline:

  • “My caregiver spanked or slapped me when I did something wrong”
  • “My caregiver got so mad at me, he/she called me names”

Externalising behavioural problems (such as aggression or antisocial behaviour) were assessed by mothers using the ‘Child Behavior Checklist’. This is a similar type of checklist used to assess parental perception of their child’s behaviour.

Factors that could influence results (called potential confounders) were taken into account in analyses including child gender, family structure and socioeconomic status.

What were the basic results?

  • In their rather brief summary of their results, the researchers say that, as they expected, harsh discipline combined with maternal warmth did not lead to a significant increase in the risk of the child developing behavioural problems.
  • And conversely, harsh discipline combined with low levels of perceived maternal warmth did lead to an increase risk of the child developing behavioural problems.
  • These interactions remained significant even after taking into account the child’s level of behavioural problems at the start of the study and the other confounders measured.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers conclude that to understand how harsh discipline may influence the development of behavioural problems in Mexican-American adolescents, researchers need to consider other factors that may affect youths’ perceptions of their parents’ feelings and behaviour (such as maternal warmth).


The current research suggests that – among young Mexican-American adolescents – perception of their mother’s feelings of love and warmth may temper the risk of adverse effects  associated with perceived harsh discipline. These adverse effects, specifically, were their risk of displaying behavioural problems (such as aggression and antisocial behaviour being reported by a caregiver/parent).

However, there are important limitations to consider:

  • This is a very small, select sample of a Mexican-American population. It is difficult to say whether these findings would apply (be generalisable) outside of this population.
  • Although the researchers attempted to adjust for other factors that could affect the results, such as child gender and family structure, this may not fully remove their effects. There are likely to be many environmental, health-related, psychological and social factors that may be involved in the complex relationship between the three factors of parental discipline, family relationships and risk of child behavioural problems.
  • The study assessed only the children’s perceptions of maternal warmth and harsh discipline, and the mother’s perception of the child’s behaviour. It did not include asking other sources to get an external view on these observations. It also did not assess the effect of perceived parental warmth.
  • By only considering the ‘detrimental’ effect of harsh discipline as ‘externalising’ behavioural problems in the child, and only at one year later, this research gives no indication of the wider psychological or health effects that disciplining practices may have on children into later adolescence or adulthood.
  • The authors note that their sample would not be likely to include the full spectrum of parental ‘harsh discipline’. Families where the parents providing very harsh discipline that would be considered abuse and result in child protection services would be unlikely to be included. The sample also seems unlikely to have included children with very severe behavioural problems.

Because of these limitations the study certainly should not be interpreted to mean that any level of harsh discipline is not harmful, provided there is maternal love. The UK press has focused reporting the study results as pertaining to slapping or smacking as ‘harsh discipline’. However, this was only one of the behaviours that qualified as ‘harsh discipline’ in this study, the other was being called names. The study did not specify how many, if any, of the children reported slapping or smacking.

Overall this study sheds little light on the issue of parental discipline, or particularly slapping or smacking, and effects on child behaviour in a UK setting.

Most childcare organisations, such as the NSPCC, do not recommend smacking children as a way of teaching them the difference between right and wrong as “it just teaches children to be violent”.

Analysis by Bazian. Edited by NHS Choices. Follow Behind the Headlines on Twitter.


“Smacking does children no harm if they feel loved, study claims,” The Daily Telegraph reports. The study in question was looking at the experiences of Mexican-American teenagers and how they reacted to physical punishment.

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Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 01-25-2016 to 01-31-2016

twitter thumbIn this week’s Children’s Safety News: The Percentage of 12-Year-Olds Who Admit Being Addicted to Porn Will Shock You…

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Major US Airlines Respond to Zika Virus in Wake of Travel Advisories
Some offering cancellation fee waivers or ticket exchanges

Thawing Your Teen’s Cold Shoulder

girl ignoring momWhen it comes to teens, parents sometimes feel like they’re dealing with a different species all together.  Things like raging hormones, stress, sleep deprivation, growth spurts, self-consciousness and neurological wiring make teens super sensitive, moody and irritable. They’re stuck in the middle of childhood and adulthood with the an urge to be independent. More physical changes are happening to their bodies that at any other developmental period in their life. Research confirms that their brains are wired differently so expect them to be a uniquely difficult species. Those are just a few reasons why parents also feel this is one of the most difficult periods of parenting.

On the Today show I shared tips with Al Roker to help parents thaw out a teen’s cold shoulder so they can stay connected. Here are a few of the highlights of that segment.

The key parenting secret (nothing new on this one) is to “know thy teen.” After all, no two kids are alike. Once you know what’s “normal” for your teen, you can then look for any behavior that deviates too much from his or her standard. That’s why it’s so important to tune into your teen’s mood. Doing so will help you understand a little more about what might be going on with your kid at this critical stage of development. Most of us were “experts” in about those baby years as we devoured all those baby books but not nearly as knowledgeable about those crucial teen years.

There are a number of reasons that your teen might be giving you the cold shoulder. Here are among the most common causes:

  1. Stress: School, schedules, tests, worrying about the future, college acceptances, sleep deprivation
  2. Peer pressure and the social scene: Girlfriends/boyfriends, fitting in, peer pressure
  3. Substance abuse: Drugs, alcohol, steroids, prescription drugs (Don’t be too quick to say, “Not my kid.” Beware that it might be a possibility).
  4. Hormonal changes: A sudden growth spurt, puberty.
  5. A bad habit: Your teen has a bad attitude that you’ve allowed.
  6. Your own attitude: Might the trigger be how you treat your child? To figure this one out, use the “friend test”: Would you talk to a friend the way you relate to your teen? If your friend won’t tolerate it, it’s time to be honest and change your attitude.

There are a number of ways to improve a relationship with a teen. The key is to find what works with your teen, use an attitude of “patient persistence,” and hang in there! Here are a few ways to thaw out a cold shoulder:

  • Learn 2 txt! Many teens say they would respond more to their parents if they were to use text. Teens actually prefer texting – so to get in your teen’s world, learn to text!
  • Be 80 percent positive, 20 percent negative. Use the “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it” policy. The ideal formula is to strive to be at least 80 percent positive and 20 percent negative when dealing with your teen. Slowly stretch your time together without a cold shoulder or blow up. Better to have your interactions be short and positive to thaw out a relationship
  • Learn the words “I’m sorry.” Apologize when you are wrong and sincerely convey that you hope you never have “another last night.”
  • Give kudos. Find anything your teen is doing that deserves recognition.
  • Hope for the truth. Find some truth in what your teen is saying. Even if it seems
    unreasonable. You don’t have to agree with what he says. But strive to find one part where he’s right. “Can’t say I agree, but you sure are learning some great debating principles.”
  • His time + Your time = The right time. Identify the time your teen is most receptive, and then use that as the optimal time to approach your teen. Hint: Most teens are sleep-deprived and actually on a different time zone than adults.
  • Get into his zone. Go to a basketball game, a concert, the movies, Starbucks, the mall, the batting cage, yoga class or any other place that your kid loves. Just go together and let him know you care about his world.
  • Halt communication blockers. There are a few communication almost guaranteed to tune teens out and off.  Here are a few communication blockers to avoid: Talking too much or lecturing. Using sarcasm, put downs and judgments. Multi-tasking instead of giving your kid your presence. Too intense of eye contact. An irritable tone of voice. Being too rushed to pay attention

Target one change you want to try at a time, and keep working at the new behavior until it becomes a new habit. Thawing a teen’s cold shoulder may take awhile. (Think of an iceberg as your image). If you don’t see a gradual warming up, then use the old pen and paper technique. One mom told me that she used a journal to write comments back and forth with her son which really helped reduce conflict and rebuild the relationship. If you still continue to get that cold shoulder, then consider counseling. Just don’t give up!

***************************************************************************************************************Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research . The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at