The Explosive Child… A New Way of Approaching Behavior

The Explosive Child book changed how I support my own children.

The screaming, crying, absolutely horrible fits that burst your ear drums and happen literally at the drop of the hat.

THOSE are the ones Dr. Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child (affiliate link) has set out to help parents understand and work through.

Those are the ones he helped ME work through with my own children, which is why I am SO excited to introduce you to his work and powerful message.

The Explosive Child offers “a new approach for understanding and parenting easily frustrated, chronically inflexible children.”

If you have a child who is easily frustrated and chronically inflexible, this book is an absolute gem offering guided scenarios for approaching these difficult situations and frustrated kids.

Be sure to check out even more of my helpful parenting tips, too!

The Explosive Child - a new approach for understanding and parenting easily frustrated, chronically inflexible children.

Before getting into the solution to these tantrums, however, he explains why children are inclined to be explosive.

Very young children tend to be fairly rigid, black-and-white, literal thinkers.

That’s because they’re still making sense of the world, and it’s easier to put two and two together if you don’t have to worry about exceptions to the rule or alternative ways of looking at things.

As children develop, they learn that, in fact, most things in life are “gray”; there are exceptions to the rules and alternative ways of interpreting things.

We don’t go home from Grandma’s house the same way every time; we don’t eat dinner at the exact same time every day; and the weather doesn’t always cooperate with our plans.

Unfortunately, for some children, “gray” thinking doesn’t develop readily….they’re best thought of as black-and-white thinkers living in a gray world. 

They have significant difficulty approaching the wolr in a felxible, adaptable way and become extremely frustrated when events don’t proceed in the manner they had anticipated.

This statement came as a breath of fresh air for me.

I am a huge proponent of the idea that “every behavior is a form of communication.”

Other than just being short tempered, and easily irritated, I wasn’t ever able to pinpoint WHY my child was so explosive over such little things.

After reading this, I felt that perfectly described by little man.

He is simply a black and white thinker.

He has good intentions, he has a heart of gold, but he melts down when things don’t go according to the plan.

Dr Greene’s theory is “Kids do well if they can.”

These black and white thinkers want to do well, and can do well if they are given the tools necessary to be able to do well.

When approaching any tantrum with this mindset, it is easier to think past the tantrum and look into why it happened.

Now, when tantrums occur, I’m not beating my head wondering why it has to occur.

Every tantrum now, tells me that my son is lacking the skills to deal with the situation.

Teaching skills is something I can handle and something my son is learning very well.

The way to start teaching these skills is detailed in the bulk of the book.

When it comes to explosive children “explaining, reasoning, redirecting, insisting, reassuring, nurturing, ignoring, rewarding, and punishing” simply don’t work on a consistent basis.

It is exhausting and frustrating to have an explosive child in the home.

It is even more exhausting and frustrating to continue trying the same things with little to no results.

Which is why the majority of the book is dedicated to outlining step-by-step directions about how to approach tantrums.

The approach promotes win-win situations for both parents and the child. Power struggles are taken out of the equation, which opens the door to learning and understanding between the parent and child.  

Rather than making kids want to be good (nearly impossible), Dr Greene offers a very detailed method of getting to the root of the problem, which in turn encourages LONG TERM results.

In short, Dr Greene suggests that when a difficult situation arises a parent has three choices:

A- Solving a problem unilaterally, through the imposition of adult will

B- Solving a problem collaboratively

C- Setting aside an unsolved problem, at least for now

There is a time and a place for all three scenarios.

Most parents choose either A or C to deal with tantrums at home.

Dr. Greene outlines exactly how to spend more time using B, which teaches coping, communication, problem solving, and life skills for everyone involved.

Although B takes longer initially, it teaches an explosive child the skills necessary to begin dealing with problems in a different way. It teaches these black and white thinkers to see things in a gray way.

Plan B involves:

1. The Empathy step involves gathering information from your child to understand his concern or perspective about a given unsolved problem.

2. The define the problem step involves communicating your concern or perspective about the same problem

3. The invitation step- when you and your child discuss and agree on a solution that is realistic and mutually satisfactory.

It seems so simple, and really it is.

The more I practice this approach with my son, the more I see positive results coming from it.

The book, The Explosive Child does a great job of taking parents step by step through this process, but for parents who want even more guidance, Dr. Greene has a phenomenal website full of resources for parents of explosive children.

On the website he offers links to videos explaining the concepts in this book; kids do well if they canyour explanation guides your interventionbeing responsive to the hand you’ve been dealt, and challenging behavior occurs when the demands of the environment exceed a kids capacity to respond adaptively.

The website certainly enhances the message Dr. Greene shares about explosive children and how to approach them in a way that is meaningful and effective.

This is one book I ABSOLUTELY recommend to anyone who has a child with explosive and difficult behaviors.

The message is one of being proactive and in tune with your child.

What better gift can a parent give their child than to teach him/her to adapt to the world in a positive and productive way?

Here are Dr. Greene’s most popular books. Click on the following affiliate links provided for your convenience.

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    About the Guest Author

    This post originally appeared on and is reprinted with permission.

    With an undergraduate degree in child development, and a master’s degree in special education, this foundation was a springboard for Wendy in helping kids and families to see the root of any challenges they face.

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