July 30, 2014

The Beat Goes On

Our youngest has been temporarily nicknamed Raising Hell Daughter due to her ongoing temper tantrums. While the War Between the Sisters has reached a kind of détente (Elena punches back defensively now), the conflict has morphed into emotional guerrilla warfare on the family. M’s blowups sneak up and hit you at your weakest point, when you least expect it, and there is never any intel indicating one is coming.

Example 1: it is sunny and hot. Everyone is happy and we are having fun. Reward: ice cream!
M’s reaction: “my ice cream is melting.”
Us: “OK, lick it quickly. Yummy. See how?”
Reaction: “No! You fix it. Fix it. Fix it. FIX IT. FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIXXXXXIIIIIIIIIT you f#%!xxxg a---holes!

You get the picture--shrieks, rage, little girl-style punches and kicks directed at closest family member…not good.

We think it is a reaction to her displeasure in being compelled to go to kindergarten since April. But, honestly, we are not sure what has brought this on. We have asked her directly, but she communicates nothing back that pinpoints a specific cause, and the school says she is fine in the classroom. We are trying everything to prevent these fights or fits: rewards, strict orders rather than offering choices; giving control over little things when possible; advanced distraction techniques (and even giving in to the ultimate eye candy -- videos); avoiding boredom; trying to establish structure and routine.

I even created visuals to work on the root issue:
EZ Two-Step Parenting Business Strategy™
It’s difficult to manage M’s tempests once they erupt. I use my Toastmasters-honed motivational speaker voice to command her attention.
Eye content: check.
Deliberate body language: check.
Use of visuals: check.
Careful, slow explanation: check.
- “Hey, at the top E. and M. fight, creating unhappy sisters. This equals an unhappy day for everyone.”
- “Yowza, lookit that. E. and M. don’t fight. Peace is good. Happy face and reward. YEA!”
- "So, you have a choice now. What choice will it be?"

Then if that doesn’t work, we separate them.
Similar to those I make in my workplace, I use visuals to cut through the clutter and render understanding. I have repeated this pep talk a few times with the girls—repetition builds awareness, and awareness is at the top of the purchase funnel, even for kids.
But they ain’t buyin’ what I am selling right now. Especially M.

Is this a power struggle?
Little kids are constantly looking for ways to have more control, so I’m not surprised that if we let Marina have veto power, she’ll exercise it. We love our little dickens and are just going to wait out this storm as best we can.
Off to Canada soon for a visit. Earnestly hoping the long trip, jet lag, new location, patient grandpa, and the fun that is planned will jar us out of this tough stretch.


July 27, 2014


Or, how the DMV has given me hope when recent global events have only served to depress me.

I rarely stray into world politics in this blog but resurgent violence in the Gaza and the despicable downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine gave me a renewed bout of non-enthusiasm about the ways of this world. Then, unexpectedly, I thought about my experience when I renewed my driver’s license, and a flicker of hope emerged in my heart. Howzat?

I grudgingly slogged out to the Licensing Center in Yokohama recently to re-up my license. But the numbingly dehumanizing experience actually gave me hope for world peace!

Namely, wherever I go to get something official from a government organization, I view numerous opaque rules, long lines, and the sight of hordes of stunned-looking people waiting like docile cattle.
We are shepherded from one line to the next. Everyone has a name yet is without individual identity. We are all in the same boat. It doesn’t what the reason is—licenses, passports, immigration lines, currency exchange…name it.
In this case, I was seeking a piece of plastic that gives me the privilege of driving.
But, in retrospect, the universal reaction of the people around me was oddly reassuring. I have realized that the general attitude of folks waiting in line seem the same the world over. This means we share the same human reaction, antipathy, to unavoidable encounters that rob us of our identity and uniqueness as homo sapiens.
Therefore, I believe we should bureaucratize our way to world peace. Bore us into accepting peace and a better world! Are you listening, United Nations? Instead of peacekeeping and peacemaking actions, balance of power realpolitik, or other means, simply have every participant to the world’s conflicts stand in line for a few hours at a large government office building. Then watch as we collectively glide into the new Era of Worldwide Peace.