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One of the earliest lessons of motherhood was the realization that each of my children was born with a distinct temperament. The nature versus nurture question remains a mystery in many areas of childrearing, but I have known for years which son was born with a bad temper.

Ronnie was a mere three days old when his strong will began to assert itself.

I arrived at the pediatric clinic for his first checkup with a sleeping bundle of boy in my arms. But then the doctor asked me to removed all of Ronnie’s clothes, diaper included.

He howled, screamed and yelled until his entire body turned blue. After perhaps the briefest well-baby checkup ever, the doctor allowed me to put Ronnie’s clothes back on.

There have been many, many temper tantrums since that day, but I’m happy to say my boy hasn’t changed colors on me again. Instead, he has come up with more creative ways to show his displeasure.

The moment Ronnie was coordinated enough to bang his head on the floor, he started doing so when things weren’t going his way. Jimmy and Tommy are usually delighted when they are not the ones getting into trouble, but Ronnie’s head banging even gave them the creeps.

We made the mistake of occasionally letting Ronnie have his way just to give the bumps and bruises on his forehead time to heal.

Looking back, I wish we had gotten him a helmet instead.

By the time he was three, Ronnie suddenly “went missing” after being reprimanded or not getting what he wanted.

I always found him in the bathroom, where he refused to come out until every roll of tissue paper had been unrolled. Sometimes, he filled the toilet to capacity with Charmin, just to make sure we took him seriously.

Even as we learned over the years that the best way to deal with Ronnie’s tantrums is to let them run their course, not giving in to the screaming, head- banging or mess-making, his temper still gets the best of us sometimes.

Recently, he threw his backpack down on the sidewalk when his friend, Matthew, accused him of trying to cut in line while waiting for the school bus. Tommy and I knew what was coming next and backed away, which prompted the rest of the kids to do the same.

We all stood around and watched Ronnie stomp on his backpack six or seven times, squishing his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and turning his SpongeBob crackers into crumbs. If he were a cartoon character, there would have been steam coming out of his ears.

Ronnie is now eight years old and should be growing out of such behavior, so why is his temper still so hard to manage?

I can blame myself for his behavior only up to a certain point, which is why I’m giving Mother Nature most of the credit for my son’s explosive temper.

When Ronnie isn’t having a tantrum, he’s a very easy child and even does his homework without being reminded a thousand times. So far, he has made it to third grade without showing the “other side” of his personality at school.

Jimmy thinks his baby brother should take anger management classes, but I’m going to give Ronnie a little more time. Sometimes that’s all any of us really need to realize there’s a better solution to life’s problems than yelling and screaming.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 16 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or find the Zichs online at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.

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