Book Review: The Explosive Child

Combine reflective listening with collaborative problem solving and you get The Explosive Child’s practical and rational approach to helping “behaviorally challenging” children.

I was first introduced to Ross W Greene, Ph.D’s, work in this article and was thoroughly impressed with his methods and outcomes. His approach is brilliant in its simplicity and respect for children from whom respect is always demanded but rarely given.

The strategy he recommends consists of components that are not novel (and can even be found inside the pages of the Sage Parenting book) but the specific population on which he applies them and the exclusivity to which he uses these few simple techniques feels new.

He claims that all high intensity unsolved problems are a result of lagging skills and can be resolved one issue at a time through conversation by using empathy to reflectively listen, defining the problem by expressing your concern, and inviting your child to come up with realistic solutions. The foundational assumption is that your child is not misbehaving from a lack of motivation (he vehemently denounces the behavioral approach’s ineffective rewards and consequences with the same vigor as Alfie Kohn minus the moral and ethical perspective) but from a lack of skill to effectively navigate the given situation positively. Increased misbehavior is often met with increased punishment, which he argues (and I agree) does not help the child in any way whatsoever.

The book is presented with volumes of examples and concrete, bite-sized steps for anyone to take to address times when your child loses their shit (professional diagnosis).

What I don’t like is that he does not consider any other factors to dysfunction like emotion or attachment. This book covers the one solution focused component really well and ignores the rest but can still be incredibly valuable to a family stuck in intense negative cycles. One aspect of this book is that it is very institutional. Much of the content revolves around institutional settings like traditional public schools or mental health facilities (I highly recommend the book for anyone working with children in either setting). This method would work extremely well (and the numbers show that it does) in these institutional settings where those other factors like emotion and attachment are not easily accessed outside the familial context.

Overall, I recommend this book for parents struggling with high-intensity conflict with a child, especially if you have been wading through ineffective behavioral modification techniques like structured rewards and consequences. Put those down and pick up collaborative solutions.

[This post contains links to products I find useful. These are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase on Amazon using the links, I receive a small fee and you help to keep this blog running. Thank you for the support!]

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