Nature vs. Nurture? Stop the Fight!

santa-fights-backSometimes a slogan says it all. “Where’s the Beef?” “Hope and Change.” For me, the title of my youngest son’s first ”book” captures him completely.

“Santa Fights Back” isn’t in a store near you. It’s just a story he came up with during the school year, one his pre-school teacher captured on his behalf. Only a lad as feisty, fearless and frustrating as Ben could picture Santa as an ‘80s movie hero out to smite the bad guys.

The title also reminds this father what I’m up against. In the battle between Nature and Nurture, the former KO’d the latter a long time ago. This Dad feels beat up, too. I came across the dog-eared book recently during a moment of quiet in the Ben storm.

Yes, the boy who once epitomized both the Terrible Twos and Threes is back. He’s four now, but he’s intent on playing his greatest toddler hits. Only louder. Suffice to say this hasn’t been the best summer for our family. Every day there’s at least one Ben explosion, and you never know when it’s about to happen or the duration. It could be over breakfast or bedtime rituals, an innocent request to get his shoes on or simply telling him to stop hitting his brother.

History Repeats Itself

Last year we sought counseling for ways to deal with his behavior. It was like taking your car to the mechanic and that annoying sound stops as soon as you pull into the garage. Ben got better almost overnight. He learned to manage his emotions, and we had a year with our sweet, impassioned little boy again.

Now, it’s back to square one.

Mommylibrium has been hitting the books, watching online videos and soaking up any and all information about “spirited” children and how to parent them. She’s rubbed his feet with “hippie” oils, brushed his skin with a white plastic brush to distract him from his rage and tried a calm, soothing approach. I’m on a different page. Call it the “he’ll grow out of it” manifesto out of my Caveman 101 Playbook. He sorta did it once already. Stay the course. Don’t give in to his temper tantrums. Reward the good behavior and don’t feed the outbursts.

He rarely, if ever, loses control with the various babysitters we employ, playing with friends or working out simple math problems with his beloved teacher. If that weren’t the case I’d be more concerned.

Which of us is right? I don’t know, but I’m exhausted. Parenting is hard enough on the best of days. When the boys are finally asleep each night I only have enough energy to crawl into bed for some tablet-sized entertainment.

More often than not I’m sleeping before that first show wraps. Then it’s morning. Time to go to battle. Again. Sometimes I feel like the bad guys about to be pummeled by ol’ St. Nick.

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