Maintaining Control:  Riling Up The Kids

Most fathers understand that it’s fun to mess with the kids and rile them up, but yea verily, for everything there is a season and right before a school concert isn’t the season.

It took me awhile to realize it when the kids were much smaller and it wasn’t until my wife made the connection between their pre-bedtime wrestling and post-bedtime insomnia that I grasped the concept of riling time.  Unlike adults, most of whom can control themselves at a moment’s notice when the need arises, kids are unable to simply control themselves as readily.  Riling time is fun and since kids recognize that most fun is good, they’re unwilling – or unable – to regain control.  Control is for adults and it’s stunningly dull.  So after multiple mornings of hard-to-rouse, cranky children, I learned to pay more attention to the clock.

But tonight was an occasion in which both a mother and grandmother royally goofed.  We were attending an informal high school fund-raising concert and the two women plopped next to us with two toddlers.  As the chorale gatherered to the stage and found their respective spots, the two adult proceeded to break into raucous peals of bird-like chittering.  The toddlers kicked in and soon, most eyes were on the foursome as they created a cacophony of jungle bird noises.  The high schoolers raised themselves to attention as the director took her place and the women began to try to control the kids.  They gathered the two into their laps and gently shushed them, they placed their index fingers over the kids’ lips and spoke several times into their ears, asking and then admonishing them to be quiet.  It was an honestly weird situation since I wouldn’t expect two grown women to act in such a manner at such a time.

As the group began to sing, the kids occasionally yelped out a bird-like call and the women became increasingly insistent that the kids control themselves.  But the women were in no position to expect immediate obedience since they’d started the ruckus in the first place.  The women simply forgot – or didn’t care – that kids take their cues from the adults closely surrounding them and I doubt that it occurred to them that the kids wouldn’t be able to control themselves.  Kids also have almost no sense of time and if the parents can get away with something quickly, the kids will think that it’s still occurring and they have free rein.

So what have I had to learn?

  • That I can’t rile up the kids at certain times because of soon-to-be-occurring events, such as meals or situations in which they need to be able to sit still for a period of time.
  • That in the case of my own kids, I need to have some time after riling time for the kids to decompress.  Once they’ve been riled up, the kids won’t just be able to stop but will instead requirement an adjustment period.
  • If the kids can’t regain control and make a scene, then I have nobody but myself to blame.  I’m the adult and they’re the children.
  • If they’re a little older, I can remind them of other obligations so that they can remember – or try to, at least – and help themselves maintain control.

The kids tonight actually did a better job of reining themselves in that I anticipated when the entire incident occurred.   The toddlers finally listened and settled down and the high schoolers recovered from the hoopla of the previous song, and I can only hope that the two women understood that they were the issue instead of the kids.


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