What the Second Law of Thermodynamics can teach us about raising children

I’m no physics whiz I promise you. As a matter of fact, they didn’t even teach physics at my high school (or at least I don’t think they did.) Let’s just say it was not my thing.

I was on a conference call recently for work and the CEO of my firm was talking about the Second Law of Thermodynamics and how it relates to business. It was interesting to think about how physics works in business. Who knew!

He explained that businesses must utilize energy in different areas of their organization. Energy is moved away from one area to another causing a lack of balance. One department or project absorbs a great amount of energy causing the day to day operations to lose energy. We use more energy at work and less at home. We devote energy to volunteering and maybe stop going to the gym. All this was starting to make sense. Balance. Energy. Disorder.

After the call, I started doing a little research on the Second Law of Thermodynamics and let me explain how this works. It basically says that when energy changes from one form to another form, entropy (or disorder) increases. Entropy is the measure disorder in a system. In physics, the second law of thermodynamics implies that entropy, or disorder, always increases. Disorder always follows order. So basically, a change in energy (which could be needed) will cause entropy, disorder.

If you think about it, we observe increasing entropy all the time. You dust the table and a few days later the dust has returned. You wash clothes and by the next day the hamper is full again. (I still have no idea how that keeps happening but that’s for another story.)

This all started to make me think about my children. When I hear the word “disorder” they usually come to mind. There is a lot more disorder then order when you have a six-year-old and four-year-old tearing up the place! But more than disorder it made me think about energy and here a few questions I asked myself. I encourage you to do the same.

1. Where is my balance of energy?

We only have so much energy, right? Because we know that based of the Second Law of Thermodynamics when energy is given to a certain area, is takes energy away from something else. For example, I am using my energy to write this article causing less energy to be spent of watching my children. Disorder follows order! No telling what they are doing in there. I think the deeper question is, are we using too much energy at work, on social media, or worrying about financials and not investing that energy into our children. Playing with them.  Reading with them. Going fishing with them or just hanging out with them.

Is your energy being used in the right areas?

2. Is my energy being used in the right way?

Think about if you could shift energy from yourself to your child or vise versa! I’d like some of their energy for sure, but remember we are talking about positive energy here. None of that crazy 4-year-old energy or 15-year-old lazy energy. Obviously as mothers we wear a lot of hats. A lot. And we exert a lot of energy. I don’t know about you, but I stay in a constant state of exhaustion. How can I do more? Let me answer for you! We can’t! We can’t do anymore. We are already are overworked, underappreciated, and tired as hell. The good news is we can shift energy into our children.

My kids have a few chores they must do around the house, but honestly not too much. So how can I shift my energy to them and motive them to do more. Now let’s break for a sec. Before you say, “Oh I know how to get my kids to do chores!” I’m not talking about screaming or spanking or grounding them, I’m talking about truly teaching your children ownership, responsibility, appreciation. I certainly don’t have all the answers I’m just starting the dialog here. Children can’t appreciate anything they have no stake in.

So here’s an example of something very small I did to exchange my energy to my girls. I get home most days from work and the table is full of glasses and plates. It looks like half the neighborhood kids have been over for a pizza roll party! Normally, I pick them up and throw them in the sink while cussing under my breath. But last night, I walked in and calmly explained that these were their dishes and when they got done they needed to wipe off the food in the garbage and place their dishes in the sink. It’s something small, I get that, but after a few more days of reminding and coaching they will have it. I will no longer have to use that energy to pick up their plates. Then we’ll work on something else. Slowly I hope to empower them to take responsibility for their own things and actions.

How can you shift energy to your spouse, children, or another source?

3. How can I better deal with disorder?

Lastly, and probably the most important for me, if I know disorder follows order why do I get so upset at the inevitable? Oh I can’t tell you how many times I have lost it. Lost it over the kids’ messes. We will spend an hour cleaning up the play room and then 30 minutes later I walk back in there and guess what? Yep you guessed it! Total mess!! But the law of physics and the law of children states that disorder will follow order. I know this seems like a simple concept for most people but for me I just get so unnerved when there is disorder everywhere. My husband always says to me, “they are children.” I know but why can’t they be clean children? It’s the inevitable. When children are around disorder will follow order.

How can we better deal with disorder? Do we have a plan or a process? Do our children know our expectations? Disorder will happen, how will we deal with it?

So I hope that the next time you are tired, overworked or frustrated you will think about the Second Law of  Thermodynamics and say to yourself, “Oh its ok…it’s just physics in action.”

Emily Hunt

Emily is the founder and owner of Magnolia Moms. She and her husband Chris live in Madison, MS with their two little girls, Lila and Ella. Emily works full time in the Financial Services industry where she is driven by her passion to help women become more financially stable. She is an avid Mississippi State fan and can be found most weekends watching the Dawgs! She loves wine and unsweetened tea and could eat chips and salsa for most meals. Most importantly she loves sharing her stories and thoughts with all the fantastic Magnolia Moms readers.

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