The Explosive Child by Ross W. Greene


by Ross W. Greene
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Why would a children’s librarian with no children of her own read parenting books? I’m so glad you asked! Not only do I get asked for recommendations (happened just tonight, and I recommended this very book which I just finished), but also sometimes the situations addressed occur in our storytimes and programs. In fact, I’ve got a kiddo in one of my storytimes that I was thinking about the whole time I was reading this book. Some of the information can even be applied to adults I know, or be filed away for use with my own future kids. Of course, in the library, I can’t really implement Greene’s strategies without a caregiver’s consent; but even if I could, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective as it would with his compliance as the solution works best when it involves other adults in the child’s life.

Greene advocates what he calls Collaborative Problem Solving to address “explosions”. He explains that many parents rely on what he calls “Plan A,” or just sheer authority (“do what I say”) which usually results in a meltdown that seems to come out of nowhere, be willful and manipulative on the child’s part, and lasts for a long time (in some cases, hours). This, he argues, does not allow the child’s needs to be met or even, in most cases, be heard. In attempting to choose battles, some parents choose “Plan C” where they don’t address the issue at all, in which case their own needs are not being met. A happy medium, he says, is Plan B, or Collaborative Problem Solving.

Plan B can be implemented in the moment of a meltdown, but is most effective when brought up in a calm moment before the meltdown occurs. It requires the adult (parent, teacher, caregiver… librarian?) to identify the event that appears to set off the meltdown and use that as a jumping off point for a conversation with the child that allows the child to express whatever their frustration with that situation is. Sometimes this takes a little digging, and sometimes multiple sessions, before the child is able to both trust that the adult wants to hear and they’re able to articulate it. Greene argues that often the underlying issue is that there is a skill required for the task that the child doesn’t yet have, and in the frustration occurs the meltdown.

Greene gives many, many examples and is quite thorough. I recommend this book as one way to think about approaching temper tantrums with the child in your life – maybe not as the be-all end-all, but food for thought.

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