Sep 6, 2012

An Unscientific Study: Does Wild Wind Affect Kids' Behaviour?

Yesterday here in Melbourne town we had some very wild windy weather. Winds up to 140km/hr hit much of the state causing havoc.

Photo of St Kilda beach, not near my house,
and not taken yesterday. Similar weather though.

In my house some havoc reigned as well, albeit not as serious as those houses which suffered damage- not to make light of that by any means. The kids were unsettled all day, and a little freaked out at night-time when the winds picked up and we put the dog outside. M was frightened poor Harry would "get blown away", and while I assured her that could never happen, it did give me pause for our fluffy little guy for a moment.

Harry attends to the call of the mild

(He was fine, if a little alarmed).

Today I noticed this post from No Excuses! which grabbed my attention thusly:

"When ever there is gale forced winds, children (and animals too) tend to play up big time. They are rowdy, psycho, loud, full of energy and just constantly on the go (more so than normal).  To sum it up in one word they are WILD."

This reminded me that my cousin - who has had kids a bit longer than me and is a wise and practical mum - has always said the same thing, that kids turn rowdy in windy weather. And that, subsequent to her pointing it out, I had noticed the same thing myself. At least I think I have.

Intrigued, I hit Google with "kids behaviour and windy weather" and found quite a bit:

  • From the UK Daily Mail, an article from April 2011, "Strike-hit school Governor blames pupil anarchy ... on wind and rain"
  • From a Montessori pre-school in Maine, USA, a blog post from October 2011, "Windy Days at School" - which includes this lovely line: "After 5 years of observing children’s behavior I can accurately report windy days= silly days, even in a Montessori classroom"
  • a post on the blog of the author of What to Expect When You're Expecting, from August 2011, "Child Behaviour Problems: Rain, Rain Go Away". This post refers to "hot, dry and windy" weather and to a book which posits that "wind can make people psychologically unsettled because it changes the ion content of the air which in turn can effect blood pressure, allergies and a whole host of physical systems "
  • Discussion forums on ABC Online, where one person posits that wind represents "tactile, auditory and visual stimulation" and many report the same impact on horses galloping in paddocks on windy days
  • Discussion forum on Yahoo Answers, where the best answer referred to ions and chemicals impacting behaviour, and also (I like this a lot): "it is possible that truly windy days bring forth excitement from the child- i am a young adult and the strong winds excite me still as it is unusual and partially scary watching trees bend in odd ways. it may simply be a release of adrenalin"
  • Discussion forums on parenting blogs such as Essential Baby
  • Personal blog posts by parents, such as this one

So what to think, what to think? Is this a real thing? Or is it a myth, as most serious studies infer is the belief that the full moon influences behavior? (I know many, many people swear it does, but I admit I am not a believer on this one).

Does it sit in myth-busted but much contested territory like the idea that sugar causes kids to be hyperactive?

I am conflicted on some of these beliefs. On the one hand as a respecter of science, I'm not keen to argue with empirical evidence, and you have to listen when multiple studies show no valid causation link. On the other hand, it irks me when the real-world, long-term and consistent experience of mothers and teachers is dismissed out of hand because someone can't replicate it in a lab. That, I believe, happens a little too often.

Does the weather (especially wind) influence behaviour?

Well first, let me look to my own behaviour. There's wind and there's wind. Cold, blustery, rainy windy weather is not my thing, and it does not affect me, other than make me cold and annoyed. But I love hot dry windy days (though I know they're a fire hazard), and I do perk up and feel outdoorsy and energetic in them. As a teenager I remember my sister comparing me to our red setter on a windy day - which was flattering, as you can imagine. But I'll admit the comparison was fair.

Thank you, Microsoft clipart. Not a red setter but close enough.

So I relate to the Best Answer poster in Yahoo Answers and also to the poster on the ABC Science thread who wrote "I'm like a pixie on speed on a windy day".

What about my kids? Well, yesterday on our gusty Melbourne day my kids were a handful, but can I blame the wild windy weather?

A lot had gone on in our house of late. In the last 3 months, the kids have been on an overseas odyssey, I've broken my arm, our work and school routines have changed, and the kids have experienced some of the usual but upsetting schoolyard dramas that inhabit the world of girls.

This past week I had an operation to pin my arm and then was sick. Yesterday was my first day back working (from home thankfully), and it coincided with the Victorian teachers' strike which meant the kids were home too. My mother was on hand to manage the kids so I could work, but it was a strange day. The kids were unsettled and were not used to having me up and about. I had just resurfaced from a weird lost week that began with an operation and two days of drugged-out (blissful) recovery, followed by 3 days of illness, which took me out of our family's action for 6 strange, bedridden days.  The upheaval to our family life had left all of us tired and unsettled.

So... we are a long way from a controlled experiment into the weather's impact on kids' behaviour at my place.  But I'm not ruling it out.

What about you? Does the wind affect you or your kids? Tell me a story!


  1. My father was a high school teacher for over thirty years and he always said that kids were much harder to control on windy days...

  2. I hate the wind - but I thought it was just a long hair thing - breezes are find, but the stuff we've had over the last few days has been dreadful.

  3. Kath - yes, I am hearing this a lot from teachers even more than parents. And they would know!

    Pand - I love wind but no, NOT the kind we've had lately. And cold wind just hurts your ears!

  4. Oh my goodness, I wish I'd read this last week! I have two boys - 8 and 10 - and they broke me last Wednesday, teacher's strike day. They were completely feral and it was too windy to take them for a kick of the footy and I was too over it to take them somewhere like an indoor play centre. I posted about it here.

    I should have Googled!

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Yes Wednesday was a bit tough here too! Teachers' strikes should perhaps ONLY be held during nice weather...
      I'll read your post as it will make me feel better to hear about someone else's crappy Wednesday ;)

  5. Absolutely! I'm a teacher and I've always dreaded windy days. We now live in Hong Kong and get regular typhoons through the summer. The kids at school are always quite antsy in the lead up to a storm, you can tell something's coming - they're like mini barometers (or whatever that thingy is that measures wind...). Now I have my own kids I see the same thing at home when the weather turns. "Wild" is the best word for it! They climb the walls, whether they can go outside or not! Definitely don't need scientific proof for this one.

    1. Thanks BLWC. There definitely seems to be a consensus among teachers on this one, and you guys would know. I think I'm convinced!
      Must be interesting at times dealing with typhoons in HK. I guess we can't complain here.



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