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The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children

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An experienced therapist offers groundbreaking and compassionate techniques for helping chronically inflexible children, who suffer from excessively immoderate tempers, showing how brain-based deficits contribute to these problems and offering positive and constructive ways to calm things down.

298 pages, Paperback

First published October 1, 1998

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About the author

Ross W. Greene

14 books175 followers
Dr. Ross Greene is the New York Times bestselling author of the influential books The Explosive Child, Lost at School, Raising Human Beings, and Lost & Found. He is the originator of the innovative, evidence-based treatment approach called Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) described in these books. The CPS model provides a compassionate, accurate understanding of behavioral challenges and an evidence-based, non-punitive, non-adversarial approach for reducing challenging episodes, solving problems, improving communication, and repairing relationships.

Dr. Greene was on the faculty at Harvard Medical School for over 20 years, and is now founding director of the non-profit Lives in the Balance (www.livesinthebalance.org), which provides free, web-based resources on his approach and advocates on behalf of kids with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges and their parents, teachers, and other caregivers. He is also adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech and adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Science at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia. The many research papers documenting the effectiveness of the CPS model can also be found on the Lives in the Balance website. Dr. Greene and his colleagues consult extensively to families, schools, inpatient psychiatry units, and residential and juvenile detention facilities, and lecture widely throughout the world (visit www.cpsconnection.com for a complete listing of learning and training options). Dr. Greene has been featured in a wide range of media, including The Oprah Show, Good Morning America, The Morning Show, National Public Radio, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Mother Jones magazine. He is also Executive Producer of the forthcoming feature-length documentary film The Kids We Lose (www.thekidswelose.com), being produced by Lives in the Balance and filmed by Lone Wolf Media. He lives in Portland, Maine.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,030 reviews
2 reviews2 followers
April 15, 2009
This book was very helpful to me, as I do have a child who is a tad on the explosive/inflexible side. However, I think this book may have helped me more than him directly. It helped me see that my expectations are too high, and that re-focusing my priorities is helping him deal with life in a much healthier way. It made me think in more in terms of compromise instead of "my way or the highway". He is responding very well to this because he now feels like he has more control over his decisions (even though my goals are still being met), and he's learning how to deal with situations that don't go his way. Very good life skills...I'm glad I picked it up now and not 5 years from now.
Profile Image for Jonathan Peto.
252 reviews45 followers
September 2, 2013
The book is billed as "a new approach for understanding and parenting easily frustrated, chronically inflexible children". I don't know if it's new - it seemed logical and simple enough, but I think the author's presentation is so clear that you will benefit from the book even if you are already trying to solve problems with your child collaboratively. A few reviewers seemed to feel that the author was negative, but I completely disagree. I thought he was extraordinarily understanding toward children and parents. His starting premise is that children will do well if they can. Sometimes, it is hard to keep that in mind, or to believe it, when a child "explodes" frequently. It is hard not to feel the child is being manipulative or something like that, but the author works hard to remind you that it is more complicated than that, and that is a good thing, because it makes his approach possible. The method is simple, in a way, but it is systematic and requires work. The author does not split hairs trying to define what an explosive child is, but there are a large number of transcripts that show them in action. You do not need a diagnosis to get started. As a matter of fact, I liked the way he downplayed the importance and value of a diagnosis almost entirely.

After chapters that give a rationale for why collaborative problem solving is the best solution, after a detailed explanation of your three basic options, one of which you probably fall back on unconsciously, even if you try to explain your thinking to your child, the last six or so chapters elaborate on the basic approach. It is not exhaustive, but it gave a very distinct sense that you can not just try the method once or twice, but that you need to practice it so that it will become a habit, so that it evolves in a way that fits your family. Basically, all you are doing is talking to the child proactively. The author demonstrates that your child's explosions are probably predictable. You have to sit down and find the patterns, the situations. You have to sit down with him or her and create a solution. Sounds simple enough, may sound impossible, depending on your child, but the transcripts are very illuminating. As a teacher, I was very interested in the chapter about schools. I will probably pick up his book about schools if it looks like it elaborates on his ideas and gives more examples of dealing with explosive children. A classroom teacher probably could not implement his approach without support though. I also liked how the method could be adapted for solving problems between siblings and/or students and for teaching skills.
Profile Image for sarah gilbert.
62 reviews66 followers
February 26, 2009
This book is a revelation for parents frustrated, frightened, confused by their child's unusually challenging behavior. It presents a framework for dealing with their behavior and finding a way to teach children *how* to behave appropriately, and to stop believing they don't *want* to do well ("kids do well if they can"). The book rejects many popular diagnoses -- like oppositional-defiant disorder, ADHD, and the like -- as being beside the point.

This book is not, however, a one-stop solution for parents, and stops short of describing how to "win over" co-parents, teachers and administrators in believing that the child's behavior is not criminal or mean-spirited or a personal attack and is, in fact, a child's inappropriate way of expressing difficulty with a range of social-developmental problems. His book Lost in School is the next step, describing how to work with teachers and administrators. I need another one though: 'Lost at Home' maybe, to help me negotiate the co-parenting minefield.
Profile Image for Diem.
449 reviews132 followers
February 12, 2014
I want to give this book a bad review because it really goes against everything I hold to be reasonable. But, I have been implementing it for 4 days now and getting some pretty amazing results. Results that I am certain are directly related to following the plan set out by the authors.

I know what you're thinking. "Really? Four whole days? It's a Christmas miracle." If I were there in front of you, I'd reply, "These are the first 4 days that have even teetered on the brink of replicating normal parent-child interactions that I have experienced in 3 years. Asshole."

Then I'd apologize for my rudeness but I wouldn't mean it.

I will try to update as we make or don't make progress.


As hopeful as I was that we were making some progress, I'm sorry to report that this method was completely unsustainable. It is a possible that a better parent would have hung in there longer. You might be that parent. Don't take my word for the approach. Your mileage may vary.

It is possible that in a smaller family a parent would have this much time to devote to every episode but in a family with 4 children it took about 4 days before I got tired of the script and that was that. In spite of the book's insistence that kids don't manipulate, I was clearly being manipulated away from my other activities at every opportunity to negotiate how I could accommodate the whims of a 5-year old.

The book, of course, does address this by giving you an alternative when you can't negotiate. Give the child what he/she wants no questions asked. At no point did I ever accept this as a real option and because I did not I cannot really say that this method doesn't work overall because I didn't really employ it.

I think it says something that the chapter at the end of the book that says, "What if this doesn't work?", addresses institutionalizing your child. Either the author assumes that his method is the only thing that CAN work or that his method is your end-of-the-road option. Either way, the fact that it is presented this way is something to consider.
Profile Image for Jan.
20 reviews1 follower
May 10, 2012
If you have a child diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Syndrome, or as Dr. Greene prefers to call them, "inflexible-explosive," you MUST read this book. It completely changed the way I think about daughter. It helped me to see that she's not a tough discipline case, nor am I a parenting failure. She has a processing disorder, and instead of trying to bend her to our will, we have to teach her the skills she needs to reason through her frustration. It isn't easy, and it's very slow going on most days, but thanks to this book, I no longer operate from a place of hopelessness.

Profile Image for Wendi.
237 reviews13 followers
April 22, 2012
I ended up really enjoying this book. It was a big eye opener for me on how to deal with my child that is stubborn, smart, perfectionist, always needing to be right, and throws temper tantrums and has a really short fuse. It was interesting idea on that your child just is missing some ways on how to process certain things that happen to them, which end up really frustrate them. How giving them a punishment while they are frustrated is ineffective, and so are many other parenting practices for your child. It made me much more sympathetic towards my child, and want to help him out. He talks about catching your child before they have a meltdown and talking them down and out of frustrations. Modeling a thinking processes, and talking them through what a lot of other kids already do in their heads.

That my child isn't a brat, manipulative, but just needs extra help and different parenting. That you need to reevaluate your expectations for you kids, and not make life so frustrating for them. I highly recommend this book for adults that deal with children that are easily frustrated, and inflexible.
Profile Image for Anastasia.
93 reviews52 followers
April 8, 2011
Wouldn't it be nice if when our kids explode they explode with rainbows and sparkles? It would be a mess to clean up but a vast improvement. Lately it seems like our life is smack dab in the middle of a fault line. It's a four year old one. Sweet Pea has always been very sensitive and has had a few meltdowns. But for the past six months, about the time she started preschool it's been an every day thing. Sometimes it's little meltdowns and it's easy to get her out of it. But too often it's a screaming fit that ruins every one's day and makes us want to bang our heads against the wall.

We've tried putting our foot down or disengaging and these just seem to make her more escalated. Dragging her upstairs and shutting the door on her is not something either of us enjoy doing. At all. We've also been giving into her tantrums a lot. Fine you can have more candy just stop already! I should say I give in more then my husband does. Both of us were at a loss, Peanut was never this bad. We had no experience in dealing with her explosions.

Until I saw a book at work called "The Explosive Child." by Ross W. Greene. The first chapter starts with an example of a girl who decides she's going to have a frozen waffle for breakfast, but there isn't any and so she throws a huge fit. This is definitely something that has happened in our house. It goes on to explain that children who explode like this tend to have problems with transitions. She wanted a waffle and it is very difficult for her to make the transition to eat something else. The main thing that struck me is that he kept repeating that "Children do good if they can," His theory is that children like Pea know what's right and they know they're not doing the right thing, but they can't help it. He says to look at it as a learning disability. You have to teach them how to transition and cope. It won't be fixed in a day, but neither is a learning disability. It takes time and a new approach.

He has three options for dealing with the child. Plan A, B and C. Plan A is the one most people use. It's a "No." "You are being ridiculous, stop doing that right now." Which works with some kids, but if your kid is still exploding, it's not working for yours.

C is just giving in. "Fine you can have a piece of candy." Sometimes plan C is a valid option. Would you rather spend an hour with them kicking and screaming or just let them go out without socks on?
And the preferable option and the one he recommends is plan B. Where you talk about it with the kid and find a mutually exclusive solution. You start out by asking "What's up?" Then you repeat back to them what's wrong. "You don't want to wear socks." Then you try and put both concerns on the table. "My concern is that it's cold outside and your shoes will be stinky." Their concern may be that the socks are itchy. "Well how about we find some less itchy socks? Would you like to help me look?"

Obviously it's not always that neat. But I've found that just starting with "What's up?" makes a world of difference. And if you learn their triggers. i.e. hunger, tiredness, math. You can sometimes head them off at the pass.

It's a hard system to keep track of. It's very easy to think you're doing plan B, when you're actually doing plan A. But hopefully after a while you learn to talk to your children and they will learn to talk to you. So less explosions. Except for the rainbow glittery kind. So far so good with Pea. We are working on her saying something besides. "Because I don't want to." But we're getting there.
Profile Image for Lectus.
1,029 reviews30 followers
July 22, 2015
Unfortunately, this book doesn't teach you what to do with your negative, explosive child during an episode.

The book provides examples of kids with similar behaviors to my own kid, and it does explain why kids tend to explode, but it doesn't say what you can do during those explosions. The solution provided is extremely unrealistic.

In short, the solution is communication, but how do you communicate with a child who is having an episode?
The way communication goes in this book, the conversations seem taken straight out of a disney tv show.

What parent, frustrated when your child explodes, is going to sit down and say "hey, I see you are having difficulties doing homework. What's up?" The idea is good, but obviously, the author hasn't really lived through one of those explosive episodes.

The book explains why kids explode. For instance, not being able to transition from one taks to another (e.g., from watching tv to have dinner). And that part is good even if vague. But what I want to know is this:

- How could my child transition from one task to another without frustration?
- What can I do with my child's chronic state of irritation?
- How can I help my child to see "the grays"?

None of that in answered.

The book is about how to deal with your explosive child 'before' he explodes, not during. It tells you to identify the triggers but it doesn't tell you what to do about them.
Profile Image for Sara.
31 reviews6 followers
November 19, 2009
Someone asked why I chose this book over the many others out there on this subject.
1. it deals directly with the brain and its pathways - there is actually some scientific basis for the theories behind this book
2. it treats the children (and parents) with a great deal of compassion and respect. The solutions have to do with understand our child and coaching them to grow the missing pathways rather than manage, rewarding or punishing (which I know from experience just do not work with my child)
3. at a glance, I recognized that mastering the strategies recommended by this book would help me be more the parent I want to be, whether I have "explosive" children or not

I've just started implementing the ideas from the book and we've already seen a reduction in screaming/tantrums or at least their duration. We'll see if the strategies hold for the long term, but I have high hopes.

Profile Image for Lain.
Author 15 books118 followers
July 16, 2012
I was very disappointed in this book. There was never any clear discussion of what symptoms or characteristics one might use to classify their child as "explosive" other than one who throws a lot of violent fits. But there is a big difference between a "difficult" kid and one who is emotionally incapable of controlling him- or herself.

Also, the book devolves quickly into doc-speak, bandying terms like "separation of affect," "working memory" and "shifting cognitive set" which had me seeing stars. It's almost like you need to be a psychologist to even begin to understand what the author is talking about.

From the ratings, it appears that many others have found this book to be helpful. But it left me frustrated and confused.
Profile Image for Anna.
684 reviews
July 25, 2019
To ostatnia kwietniowa książka, której jeszcze nie opisałam. Długo się zresztą zastanawiałam, czy warto, bo odbiór takich pozycji to sprawa bardzo indywidualna. Myślę jednak, że jest ona warta wzmianki. Mam nadzieję, że nie odstraszy was, tak jak mnie, autor. Bardzo sceptycznie bowiem podchodzę do wszelakich amerykańskich poradników, nie wierząc w cudowną receptę na wszystko. Jeśli jednak was geny/Bóg/los obdarzyły dzieckiem, które każe wątpić wam we własne siły, jakiekolwiek pedagogiczne zdolności i doprowadza was regularnie do rozpaczy, być może warto sięgnąć po tę książkę.

Autor nie ma cudownej recepty, ale w bardzo klarowny sposób opisuje mechanizmy rządzące pewnym typem młodych ludzi, który i mnie się przytrafił. Na szczęście nie jest to kolejna książka, która obiecuje radę, a w efekcie skupia się tylko na mieleniu tam i z powrotem tego samego tematu. Greene faktycznie proponuje konkretne scenariusze działania - w zasadzie rozmów, które mają pomóc dziecku nauczyć się pewnych umiejętności, których mu brakuje.

Ciąg dalszy: https://przeczytalamksiazke.blogspot....
Profile Image for Cat.
824 reviews134 followers
December 26, 2019
One of my dearest friends who is a child psychologist and a mother recommended this book and Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child, and I found the premises in this book persuasive and empowering. I don't love the title, though I understand seeing an inflexible child as a ticking time bomb; I wish the publisher had decided to focus on the process (collaborative problem solving) rather than the symptom. Greene points out that the unwanted behaviors (crying, screaming, tantrums, etc.) are a sign that something has gone wrong beforehand and usually the triggers are quite identifiable if you take the time to consider the situations that your child finds difficult. Greene recommends taking the time to talk to your child about your concerns when everyone is calm. He lays out a sequence of responses: 1) Raise the issue and ask for your child's thoughts about it. This requires reflective listening and open-ended questions (empathizing). 2) Name the problem/concern. This brings in the adult's point of view, without speculations about the child's motives or about the dire consequences should this problem not be faced. 3) Brainstorm solutions that are realistic and work for both parties, preferably with the child starting this process, so that the child begins to recognize that their caregiver is really listening and responding.

Not only does this sequence break through the parent-child clash, it also models the problem-solving that the child will need to employ when trying to solve a problem or navigate an impasse themselves. I was persuaded and indeed touched by two of Greene's key premises: 1) that a child manifests a behavior problem when their skill set does not yet meet the demands set on them in that moment, and 2) that a child will rise to the occasion if they can rise to the occasion. Explosive behaviors, to resort to the titular language that I'm uncomfortable with but don't have an easy alternative to, are not about permissive parents or willful children, but rather about a gap between the situation at hand and the child's current emotional/social skill set. For some children, switching mindsets (from play time to dinner time or what have you) is overwhelming. To reflect with them on how those situations could be made easier is to improve your family dynamics and to strengthen their skills at the same time.

The book also pointed out that sticker charts and punishments can be counterproductive for children who have not yet developed the skill set to meet these goals consistently. Collaborative problem solving instead addresses what happens before the problematic behavior. As a parent who has gone the sticker chart route too many times, I ruefully recognized Greene's description of children who become obsessed with the reward without really learning much from the steps required to get there. The communication tips in this book are good for everyone--not just parents and children--and the whole tone is logical, empathetic, and descriptive more than prescriptive (though Greene is clear on rhetorical pitfalls to avoid).
Profile Image for Anne.
378 reviews144 followers
March 30, 2021
I feel so understood. Now to put it into practice.
Author 1 book1 follower
April 26, 2013
This book takes a different perspective to inflexible-explosive children - children who do not respond to behavioral modification programs (like traditional rewards and punishments) because they do not have the flexibility to change their behavior once they degrade or meltdown in the face of unexpected circumstances. These children have great difficulties because they often cannot foresee a problem before it happens - even if it has happened regularly before and their parents think it is plain as day.

Dr. Greene says that these kids don't do it for attention - they actually lack the emotional/mental flexibility development to predict. They also get fixed in their minds that things must happen a certain way and if anything changes, they go into "vapor lock" where they lose the capacity for rational thought. At that point, if the parent also becomes upset and tries to "teach a lesson" or punish, it is pointless because it only further entrenches the child who will likely pass the point of no return and begin doing lots of things both child and parent will later regret. The best method, according to the author, is to analyze each 'vapor lock' situation with an eye towards flexibility - the parent must model flexibility for the child to learn it and all-out battles should be reserved for situations where life and limb are in danger. The parent must also label emotions for the child to help the child learn there are other ways to express emotion other than eruption.

The book contains valuable information and supports a flexible-yet-consistent parenting approach, which is as important to preserve sanity as it is to help certain children.
Profile Image for Maura.
18 reviews
March 22, 2015
Without the strong recommendation from a trusted friend I would have missed out in the insight offered by the Explosive Child. I have a strong-willed child, I have a challenging child, but I would never have categorized my child as "explosive." I'm so grateful I took her advice - this book is a fabulous resource.

On the whole the book is very well written and presents information in multiple modes (a case study type narrative, question and answer sections, summary points). The "explosive child" label is quickly dismissed in the introduction. The book goes on to offer a more compassionate, and helpful lens through which to look at behavioral challenges plus a more effective method for helping your child move beyond unproductive behavioral choices.
Profile Image for April.
203 reviews15 followers
September 23, 2015
probably the most helpful and practical nonfiction book I've ever read. this gels with much of my intuition on parenting an explosive and inflexible child but helps me see where I'm missing the boat and gives great instructions on how to keep working together.

Dr Greene also gives me permission to try to let go of societal expectations and norms about kids behaving as expected and that typical consequences and incentives don't work for these kids. This method doesn't put the kid in charge of the adult but focuses the parenting responsibility on being the child's surrogate frontal lobe and helping them learn the skills they need in life to navigate transitions, emotions, organization, and problem solving. not just hop-to because they're told to do so.

This approach is designed to help "black and white thinkers such in a grey world." I just hope we can apply the theory effectively.
17 reviews1 follower
July 20, 2012

Loved it. Super different way if parenting and I have a hard time letting go if some basic 'normal' parenting ideas but as he says 'how is that working for you?'. And it's not. This is about extreme kids and thats what we gave, and I didn't set out a year ago to find a diagnosis but Finally feel like we've found one. Here's hoping
Profile Image for Courtney Judd.
162 reviews2 followers
September 3, 2018
What I liked:
-The Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems (ASLUP) was enlightening for my husband and me. It helped us identify the challenges our child is facing to know where to start.
-"Kids do well if they can" mentality. Greene reminds parents that children want to succeed but they act out when they are lagging in the skills they need to behave well. He focuses on solving underlying problems rather than bad behavior, because if you solve the problem then the behavior should improve as a result.

What I didn't like:
-The tone was condescending.
-The example conversations were unrealistically constructed.
-The "Plan B" approach that Greene explains seems like it would only work for children ages 10 and up. It's a nice idea to collaborate with my child instead of just tell him what to do, but even though he has the language skills to communicate he doesn't seem to have the emotional and comprehension skills to explain why he's acting out or come up with a possible solution he wants.
-It's a "one size fits all" approach. Greene seems to pompously promote himself and his ideas as if they are the ONLY way. He seems to dismiss ALL other parenting approaches.

Takeaway: Print out the ASLUP to identify the primary issues your child is facing and skip reading the book. Here is the link to the PDF: https://www.livesinthebalance.org/sit...
Profile Image for Crystal.
200 reviews8 followers
November 27, 2021
Non-Fiction>Psychology, Parenting

This will not be a review to tell you if this 'works'--I do not have a challenging kid. I don't have any children. I read this because I enjoy reading psychology books and I have friends with challenging children, one of whom specifically requested I read this book with her. I have decided to give this a review as I would any other psych, soc, or econ book I've read in the past since I can't really enlighten potential readers on the success or failure of the methods in practice. So I'm reviewing this as an outsider to the problem---I'm just the one rolling my eyes at the bad parents in a restaurant who won't keep their kids under control and ruin my night out.

I was a little irritated that Dr. Greene chose to write the entire book referring to children as boys. There were hypothetical examples that included girls, but all of the general discussion was about 'he' 'him' 'his.' I don't usually get hung up on an author's choice to use default male pronouns, but it was so noticeable here because there were so many instances of this. He really made no effort to reword or rework any sentences to avoid using a pronoun. The first edition was in 1998 so this should have been addressed at that time. There have been so many new editions that this could have been changed. I read the 5th edition from 2014. Also, there were references to paddling as a punishment in school (yes, plural, more than one)...really? Does this happen in America's schools?

"Behaviorally challenging kids are challenging because they're lacking skills to not be challenging."
This is the premise of the approach that Dr. Greene explains in this book. In a nutshell, he wants to suggest a focus on exploring specific problems and solutions collaboratively (with the child, siblings, parents, and teachers) to enable children to develop the coping skills to handle life. If issues are spelled out ahead of time and the solutions are discussed then there are clear expectations of how many interactions should happen and the child goes along with the program because he/she is 'heard' and part of the solution. The process works through fundamental communication issues and allows for predetermined expectations so the behaviorally challenged child isn't so frustrated as to act out in inappropriate ways.

Kids do show you their feelings even if not in words.

The children aren't the only ones lacking communication and coping skills. Parents react emotionally, too. Working through this process will also help adults to articulate their own frustrations and issues while anchoring their expectations as well.

When tired or agitated we all have more trouble handling more frustration. "But these kids are in a bad mood a lot, so they have trouble handling frustration and solving problems a lot, too."

"Inflexibility + Inflexibility = Meltdown"

Not all of the theories presented here were 'ah hah!' moments for me, however. Dr. Greene includes many examples of dialogue and situations throughout the book to elucidate his points. There is a lot of repetition and different ways of 'getting at the point'--indicating to me that he is well aware that part of the issues parents have with their children stem from their own difficulties understanding things. This is not written for academic consumption...anyone can read and understand this book with middle school reading skills and a few hours of time. Taking breaks from reading to implement the 'Plans' will obviously take longer than just plowing through the reading like I did.

I had some reactions to a few scenarios:
"But her parents decided to set aside this particular unsolved problem in the beginning, thereby eliminating at least two challenging episodes a day and making it easier for them to focus on their initial high priorities." -- She throws a fit about eating real food so she's rewarded for acting up by getting to eat unhealthy food? This is an example of how to use the methods effectively? Really?

Dr. Greene wants educators to take the time to treat problematic children with special attention. He does understand that teachers already have plenty of work in front of them. "Understanding and helping these students has to be a priority. However, since educators have so many competing priorities, helping behaviorally challenging students often sits low on the totem pole." My thoughts: Your behaviorally challenged kid is one kid in the class---public education is for teaching society's kids. This has to be done efficiently for everyone to receive an education. If a teacher stops every time a child interrupts to negotiate with that child then there are 30 kids who don't get to learn. Is the teacher supposed to stop for all 30 kids? I completely understand why a parent would go through the process in this book, but I don't think every teacher should be expected to...or even asked to.

Lamenting the change in her child as he got difficult and older, "We were pals back then..." Isn't trying to be friends with your kid something that leads to all the issues we're discussing here? Be a parent, not a friend. Your kid doesn't have to like you all the time.

"For a long time, the conventional wisdom about the cause of challenging behavior in kids has gone something like this: somewhere along the line, behaviorally challenging kids learned that their crying, swearing, screaming, and destructiveness brings them attention or helps them get their way by convincing their parents to give in. The corollary to this belief is that the challenging behavior is planned, intentional, purposeful, and in the child's conscious control." So that's not really what behavioral psychologists are suggesting is happening. In fact, kind of the opposite. Animals (humans included) can learn things in such a way that responses become automatic. Pavlov's dogs didn't salivate at the bell because they planned to or intended to. They salivated at the bell because enough instances of "bell" being associated with what they wanted ("food") meant that Bell=Food in their brains. This is a poor argument that bad behavior is not learned. Any behavior can be learned.

"Indeed, my experience is that being unilateral is a good way to get your kid to respond in kind. In other words, it's a good way to set the stage for frequent power struggles." Or...you have allowed power struggles in the past and the kid has gotten immediate rewards for winning those struggles and now you're stuck in the pattern. Well, good for you that Dr. Greene has lots of advice on how to negotiate with your child for every minute of peace and quiet.

At the end of the day, if you read this book and it helps your family...that's fantastic. Honestly, through reading this I gave a lot more thought to how I resolve conflicts with other adults (again...I have no children). Overall, it's a good book--but it's not likely to be the only advice to follow for complete resolution of the issues it's addressing.
Profile Image for Amy T..
214 reviews7 followers
May 11, 2018
I highly recommend this book for anyone parenting a child who struggles with emotional volatility. The author asserts that kids “do as well as they can,” and when they respond with outbursts, meltdowns, etc, it is because they lack the skills to do better. He encourages using what he calls “Plan B.” Instead of maintaining a “My way or the highway” approach to parenting (which simply does not work with some kids, whether or not we think it should), he proposes using empathy, reflective listening, and collaboration to solve problems before they happen. This is a very practical book, and it has already made a difference in our home.
Profile Image for Tamara Olsen.
123 reviews1 follower
January 2, 2021
I dont want to sound too dramatic, but this book drastically changed our family dynamics. It gave us a steady plan to follow for our four year old. We have so much less tension in our him. It helped us change from adversaries to allies and we feel like we are more in control parents than ever before!
Profile Image for Alyse.
69 reviews5 followers
July 12, 2012
This book was so bad I literally could not even force myself to finish it. I have a degree in psychology and am nearly finished on a masters in social work and this book is a disaster. Every parent is going to begin thinking their child is explosive. This guy went to Harvard? He contradicts himself a few times in the book in regards to how behaviorism can't POSSIBLY work with these "explosive" kids and how they just need to be listened and "collaborated" with. Yeah, "conventional wisdom" says not to reason/collaborate with kids - did your parents ever have "explosive" friends when they were growing up? Grandparents? Because in the majority of cases, conventional wisdom DOES work.
I suppose maybe this might work for the truly "explosive" kids ... But these kids are few and far between. The reason this book was purchased (by my mother, also a masters level professional in the field) was for another family member with a problem child. This child certainly does fit some of the characteristics in this book, but absolutely not in other circumstances. This book takes advantage of desperate parents who want to hear, "It's not your fault that your kid is completely out of control." DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY OR TIME!!!
Profile Image for Embracing the Spectrum.
82 reviews7 followers
July 29, 2013
I think that this book is really good for parents who have children who have the tendency to lash out physically or verbally and who have the language skills to use the suggestions in the book. I really like the approach in the book. Plan B is definitely a good plan, as it gives the child a feeling of being in control, which is what children like this want, but is also gives them experience working on mutually agreed-open solutions, which is a life skill. My only criticism is that in a 293 page book, the section on working with explosive children without the language skills to use this collaborative approach is really only 7 pages long and usurped by more examples of children with language skills, rather than examples of how to use Plan B on children with lagging communication skills. This was very disappointing for me, as I have a child with communication delays and I was hoping for answers. Now I'm left wondering how to help my child still. Thankfully, I can still put this book to use in the classroom, as I am a teacher and work with special needs children who do have language skills. I just wish I could help my own child...
Profile Image for Lauren.
14 reviews1 follower
January 9, 2008
Clearly this book was written for parents who are so overwhelmed with their misbehaving children, they no longer want to be parents. The author is continously trying to encourage the parents to ENDURE their children, he neglects to encourage us to ENJOY them. As a parent of a high-strung, tempermental child, this book was recommended to me. While a lot of the information applied to my child, the author's approach was so negative that it was hard to apply the princliples. I realize that this book was written for parents of extremely difficult children, so for them, this book was probably a lifesaver. However, I love and enjoy my child... temperment and all... and was simply looking for new techniques to help him manage his outbursts. If you are feeling hopeless in parenting, this would be an excellent book for you. However, if you already enjoy your kids and you are simply looking for some new parenting techniques, there are many other parenting books that would be more positive and uplifting.
Profile Image for Kim.
274 reviews
August 6, 2009
I loved the philosophy of this author, that children do well if they can. He helped me understand some of the challenging behaviors Robbie sometimes has and how to deal with them. He said to first figure out what some of the things are that trigger an explosion. For Robbie that might be a sibling taking a toy away from him, turning the TV off to do homework, etc. Then he described plan A, C, and B for dealing with the explosion. A is insisting on your way. C is dropping the expectation entirely, and B is a problem solving approach where you first show empathy by relating back to the child their feelings. Then you put both your concern and his concerns on the table. Then you invite the child to try and come up with solutions that are doable and mutually satisfactory. It was one of the best parenting books I have read because it addressed problems I encounter all the time with my easily frustrated child. I am thinking about buying it for Robbie's school teachers and principal.
27 reviews3 followers
November 4, 2009
Another discipline book I almost finished reading! I can tell I have an explosive child on my hands, but this book made me feel a lot better about my personal situation. It could be a lot worse! However, the solution proposed by the book - a sort of negotiation with your child - has not worked in our household. I suppose we just can't get over the notion that we should be in charge. Period.

So... the explosions continue. I'm hoping he grows out of it!
Profile Image for JoAnn   W..
59 reviews3 followers
November 4, 2007
This is a must-read book for parents of hard-to-handle kids. It outlines a practical solution to conflicts -- "the three baskets" and shows how to apply this method for more peace and domestic tranquility.
Profile Image for Meg.
144 reviews
February 8, 2011
This was a good book for discussing ways to communicate in a proactive way with your child. However, I disagreed with its philosophy that rewards and punishments for behavior were unnecessary because the child already knows what behaviors you want to see.
Profile Image for Rachael Haley.
237 reviews4 followers
August 12, 2022
I read this book for work purposes and it was definitely insightful.

I am sure that I will take some strategies from this book and try to implement them within school.

It makes a lot of sense when you take a step back and consider how to deal with behaviour of this measure.
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