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

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

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


What′s an explosive child? A child who responds to routine problems with extreme frustration-crying, screaming, swearing, kicking, hitting, biting, spitting, destroying property, and worse. A child whose frequent, severe outbursts leave his or her parents feeling frustrated, scared, worried, and desperate for help. Most of these parents have tried everything-reasoning, explaining, punishing, sticker charts, therapy, medication-but to no avail. They can′t figure out why their child acts the way he or she does; they wonder why the strategies that work for other kids don′t work for theirs; and they don′t know what to do instead.

Dr. Ross Greene, a distinguished clinician and pioneer in the treatment of kids with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges, has worked with thousands of explosive children, and he has good news: these kids aren′t attention-seeking, manipulative, or unmotivated, and their parents aren′t passive, permissive pushovers. Rather, explosive kids are lacking some crucial skills in the domains of flexibility/adaptability, frustration tolerance, and problem solving, and they require a different approach to parenting.

Throughout this compassionate, insightful, and practical book, Dr. Greene provides a new conceptual framework for understanding their difficulties, based on research in the neurosciences. He explains why traditional parenting and treatment often don′t work with these children, and he describes what to do instead. Instead of relying on rewarding and punishing, Dr. Greene′s Collaborative Problem Solving model promotes working with explosive children to solve the problems that precipitate explosive episodes, and teaching these kids the skills they lack.

Flexibility and tolerance are learned skills, as any parent knows if they've seen an irascible 2-year-old grow into a pleasant, thoughtful, and considerate older child. Unfortunately, for reasons that are poorly understood, a few children don't "get" this part of socialization. Years after toddler tantrums should have become an unpleasant memory, a few unlucky parents find themselves battling with sudden, inexplicable, disturbingly violent rages--along with crushing guilt about what they "did wrong." Medical experts haven't helped much: the flurry of acronyms and labels (Tourette's, ADHD, ADD, etc.) seems to proffer new discoveries about the causes of such explosions, when in fact the only new development is alternative vocabulary to describe the effects. Ross Greene, a pediatric psychologist who also teaches at Harvard Medical School, makes a bold and humane attempt in this book to cut through the blather and speak directly to the (usually desperate) parents of explosive children. His text is long and serious, and has the advantage of covering an enormous amount of ground with nuance, detail, and sympathy, but also perhaps the disadvantage that only those parents who are not chronically tired and time-deprived are likely to get through the entire book. Quoted dialogue from actual sessions with parents and children is interspersed with analysis that is always oriented toward understanding the origins of "meltdowns" and developing workable strategies for avoidance. Although pharmacological treatment is not the book's focus, there is a chapter on drug therapies. --Richard Farr

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