Halloween is just around the corner, which means there is a scary movie on seemingly every channel. When children give in to the urge to watch such programs, are they more scared with their parents in the room, or without mom and dad anywhere around? According to a recent study, mom and dad actually make the fears worse!

MSNBC reports that researchers led by Dr. E. Juulia Paavonen of Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare polled more than 300 5 and 6 year olds to find out what kinds of TV programs children watched, how often they watched them with their parents, and how scared they were after watching their usual TV shows.

Most people, including the authors of the study, would expect to find that children were comforted and less frightened by TV shows when their parents were in the room. What they actually found was just the opposite. Why? Apparently the main reason was because the children realized that the parents were also scared by what was on TV. Yeah, I’d say that would definitely destroy the comfort found in the thought of, “it’s fine, mom and dad are here to keep me safe.”

But the quivering father figure in the corner wasn’t the only thing that the researchers think is responsible for this heightened fear when parents are present. The study points to the parents’ tendency to focus on their child’s fears. Coddling and comforting children when they are afraid seems to actually nurture the fear into full-blown paranoia.

In this way, it seems like children act a lot like dogs. One of the worst things you can do to your dog as he runs up close to you when a bigger dog approaches is to reach down a pet him. Why? Because two scared dogs huddle together. I learned this on the first day of training with my new puppies a couple of years ago. When a scared dog in the wild snuggles up to the alpha, the pack leader, the alpha walks away. He’s not being cold, he’s telling the scared dog, “It’s ok, there’s nothing to be scared of. Do I look scared? No. Why? Because I’m telling you the truth.”

So based on this new study, maybe it’s best to either let the kids watch their movies and suffer the consequences of their own poor decisions or not to let them watch at all. It seems like any attempt to find a happy medium is ill-fated before the first scare even happens.