Someone recently asked me if I was dreading the back-to-school routine. I paused and then thought of all of the bickering, yelling, and general air of crankiness that has been in the house and swirling around my three kids for the last few weeks. Mentally I compared getting ready for school versus getting ready for summer day camp mornings, and determined that summer is worse. MUCH WORSE. I quickly evaluated how the summer bedtime routine stacks up against the school year’s evening ritual. Summer bedtimes are worse too.
So, no, I don’t dread sending them back to school. I dread their inability to handle the summer heat.
My kids cannot handle hot temperatures. I’m not talking about extreme temperatures that make them unsafe—of course, I keep them hydrated and protected when the heat index gets too high. I am referring to the fact they can’t keep their shit together when they get too warm or are even slightly uncomfortable. For the last month, my 8-year-old has been extra mouthy and aggressive. My 6-year-old twins have been whinier and needier and refuse to listen. My kids (and I don’t use this phrase lightly) have been dumpster fires since school has ended.
I wondered if they are just sensitive to heat or maybe it has to do with the fact that they were born and raised in northern Vermont. If temperatures are above freezing, then their hats and mittens are off. During the cool spring days of highs between 40 and 50 degrees, my kids will venture outside in shorts and flip flops. Sunny and 60 is hot to them. Apparently, if temps soar to 75 and above, the boxing gloves come off too because they are cranky and agitated to the point of taking it out on everyone else through yelling, hitting, and not so passive-aggressive confrontations.
It turns out that their behavior is right on par with scientific data that supports the theory that heat makes people aggressive.
When I saw a headline from the Washington Post that read “Two new studies warn that a hotter world will be a more violent one,” I joked that this must be why my kids won’t stop fighting with one another. Then I read the article and realized I wasn’t wrong. The article highlighted a new study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research which looked at the correlation between daily temperatures and violent crime in Los Angeles from 2010 to 2017. The study found, “On average, overall crime increases by 2.2% and violent crime by 5.7% on days with maximum daily temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4° C) compared to days below that threshold.”
In 2018, The New York Times used the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to look at daily shooting data in 10 cities and compared the shootings based on temperature. In 9 out of the 10 cities, as temperatures rose, so did the number of shootings.
Okay, I admit to going to the extreme with my proof of heat and violence correlation when it comes to talking about my kids’ constant fighting and general state of displeasure. They don’t have access to weapons, but I have had a toothbrush thrown at me recently.
In controlled studies where participants were subjected to temperatures in the high 80s, more data confirmed that heat makes people aggressive. Psychology Today reports, “Most of these studies placed individuals in situations where they could behave aggressively, often by administering electric shocks to another person.” Participants did not know the shocks were not real, but findings indicated that as the temperatures went up so did the likelihood of one person “shocking” another.
The heat also makes people less helpful, especially in a crowd. Even after an experiment is over, people were less willing to lend a hand. I thought my kids were just being jerks (which they kind of are), but they are essentially those people who honk their horns when they are forced to stop at a red light and don’t have AC in the car.
My kids are like most people who are exposed to heat: sweaty, irritated assholes who seem to enjoy being as unbearable as the heat they can’t stand. I get it. Their bodies are working harder to stay cool and they aren’t sleeping as well so they are more likely to be tired and grouchy. Mild dehydration can cause irritability too. And if the heat is mixed with humidity, their sweaty little bodies stay damp, and a sweaty back at bedtime is enough to cause a full-body tantrum with clothes being thrown across the room.
The heat doesn’t usually bother me in the same way. I love to run in hot temps. I do heated yoga and love warm summer nights. But by association, the heat makes me cranky too … because it’s really hard to soak in the sun when my kids become unreasonable puddles of sweat, tears, and demands for air conditioning.
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