May Book Review - "The Explosive Child" 6th edition

-Ross W Greene Ph.d -

In The Explosive Child ,  Dr. Ross Greene,  after  many years of psychological and formal therapy  sessions , gives examples of children that are struggling, having an “ off day” or are truly unable to adapt and live at an expected level of appropriate activity. Explosive children often lag behind in acquiring skills in flexibility and frustration tolerance.

“ Handling problems and frustrations adaptively requires important skills, ones your child may be lacking . It’s important to see your child through the prism of lagging skills rather than lagging motivation . “

While many parents and caregivers may think children with lagging cognition may be manipulating or punishing them , most of these children are misunderstood and see the world very differently.

They often have:

-Difficulty seeing the Greys ; concrete, literal, black and white thinking

-Difficulty deviating from rules or routine

-Difficulty handling unpredictability , ambiguity , uncertainty or novelty

-Difficulty shifting from original idea or solution

-Difficulty adapting to changes in a plan or new rules

-Difficulty taking into account situational factors that would suggest the need to adjust a plan

He encourages parents to research and ponder the daily actions that children are displaying and remember that in disruptive behavioral moments, your  anxiety can have same effect as irritability and will only add to the current state of  problems. The ALSUP Form can assist to identify and recognize troubling behavior.

I’ve included a printable link for you to use:


Once you’ve figured out your child’s unsolved problems- prioritize your top three. Those will be the ones you start trying to solve first.

Some inaccurate things that are said about children with lagging skills and maladaptive responses are

1. She just wants attention

2.  She’s not motivated

3. She’s making bad choices

4. She has a bad attitude

5. She knows just what button to push

6. She has mental illness

Parents arrive at inaccurate depictions of troubling behavior in their own or other children by jumping to conclusions that can cause greater distrust and misunderstanding . A few ways of which we can be better at parenting our explosive children include:

  • Lots of positive attention for good behavior and eliminating attention for negative behavior.
  • Tighter discipline and expectations between both partners and children
  • Issuing clearer commands from the beginning
  • Expectating that compliance is non negotiable and enforced on all parental commands and that children will comply quickly without asking more than twice

He instructs us to create Personalized plans(A,B,C)  around inappropriate behavior and be prepared to enforce them. When the plans don’t go as expected ( which are most often than not) these are some back up plans.

Emergency Plan B — use as the child begins to become frustrated

Proactive Plan B — gets the problem solved proactively before the child heats up. It is done by discussing the problem.

There are also 3 parental Steps for doing Plan B ( summarized from Dr. Greenes’ chapter on managing your explosive child) :

Showing Empathy- keeps people calm. It keeps the child rational so the conversation can take place and acknowledges the child’s problem.

Showing empathy does not lead to a loss of adult authority.

Defining  the Problem- Define your problem and the child’s problem with clear and concise language.

Offering an Invitation- The child and the adult brainstorm the solutions to the defined problem. “Let’s think about how we can solve the problem. Do you have any ideas?”

On pg . 107  it states, “Somewhere between the childhood and adulthood, someone has concluded that the only person to come up with a good solution is an adult. Problem solving takes time — explosions take longer. Whilst the adult might have something in mind, it is important not to have a predetermined solution.

An ingenious solution is one that is doable, realistic and mutually satisfactory.”

Another tried and true method is called a time out. The time out is often used as a punishment and can exacerbate explosions. On the other hand, it can be productive for a child and adult to go separate ways so that a discussion can resume after.

A few phrases you should consider teaching the child before an explosive episode arises are: “Give me a minute”, “I can’t talk about that right now”, “I need help”, “I don’t feel right.”, “This isn’t going the way I thought it would”, and “I don’t know what to do.

Some gentle reminding will be necessary on these phrases as well, especially in the heat of the moment.

Working with an explosive child is exhausting and requires a lot of energy and takes patience, time, planning and executing these plans and ideas  in new and repetitive ways.

Remember that the vast majority of solutions to problems encountered by human beings fall into one of these three general categories: (1) ask for help; (2) meet halfway/give a little; and (3) do it a different way.

I hope you will find guidance and extra strength for the explosive moments and from Dr. Greenes methods as you bond with your children.

Article By Christina Packard

Christina is the mother of 5.  She is a writer and educator for Made Mindful, LLC. Along with gardening, embroidery, and playing the piano and trumpet, she finds thrills in anything DIY or craft related.

Sarah Ziroll

Sarah Ziroll