Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Trick Fuse of Firecracker Bryce

I watched as she scraped the fork back and forth along the side of the bookshelf. Then she poked it a couple of times.

"Amy, please don't let her do that," I pleaded with the Mama.

The Mama didn't respond.

"Bryce, stop it," I growled.

"Bryce, what's your idea?" the Mama asked.

There it was -- the positive discipline response. But Bryce kept on scraping.

"Amy, please don't ask how she's feeling right now. Stop her from gouging the shelf. Thank you."

"Sweetie, she's not gouging the shelf. C'mon."

Amy sighed. "Bryce, Daddy doesn't want you doing that. Please don't scratch the shelf."

As soon as the Mama took Bryce's fork away, Bryce cried out in protest and shook her head. That's when I saw the fuse: a small, white, frayed cord that protruded from the lower back of her sweet little toddler head. I imagined that it originated deep in her reptilian brain's core, completely detached from her developing frontal lobes.

And sometimes the fuse smelled of gasoline.

All it took then was a single spark to ignite it. 

Sizzle. Hiss. Boom.

More like -- Ka-Boom.

Such is the life with firecracker Bryce, and the closer she gets to turning four years old, the shorter the fuse seems to get. She's been exploding, hitting, yelling and crying at a exponential rate -- the classic temper tantrum. Sometimes the tantrums take what feels like an inordinate amount of time to extinguish, the fuse lighting over and over again like a trick candle.

It's especially difficult when we're in public, like just yesterday at the old fashioned 4th of July at Wilder Ranch State Park when Bryce fights, screams and thrashes while the rest of the world watches her cruel parents drag her away after calming her fails.

According to the Positive Discipline folks, it's not easy for most of us (children and adults included) to verbalize our feelings when they are upset, and there are those of us who can't verbalize their feelings at all at any time. Children (and unfortunately still too many adults) haven't learned how to articulate what they need and want. Scheduling time to have family meetings, talking through the problems, teaching the child to brainstorm for solutions -- all these things are supposed to help snuff out the fuse and calm the child. Temper tantrums often occur when children feel controlled.

I know that positive discipline doesn't mean being so completely permissive that there is no discipline at all, but it does mean we need to "both kind and firm in our actions. Kindness shows respect for the child. Firmness shows respect for the needs of the situation and for parents. Spanking and punitive time out are not kind."

Except when the child is gouging my bookshelf or smacking me across the face.

Sigh. Okay, even then, and even if it takes forever for the fuse to go out.

When experiencing hot things, my grandfather used to say, "Hot as a firecracker on the fourth of July!"

With Bryce, it's more like, "Hot as a Molotov cocktail on the eve of end times!"

She's our fearless little headstrong force to be reckoned with. Look out world. This kid means business.

Happy Independence Day indeed.

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