As a parent, I’m sure we’ve all had our moments of frustration. Sometimes things just don’t work the way we want them to. Children don’t always listen. You want to go for a walk and the kids sit on the road and refuse to move (please tell me this doesn’t just happen to me). Frustration is a part of life. Some of us have more frustration than others. I’ve written about my explosive child before. He has a hard time dealing with frustration, and it comes out in physical aggression, verbal aggression, and yelling. His verbal aggression is really minor. He doesn’t use profanity. It’s more like “stupid” and “shut up” and “hush,” and that’s just because those words are the ones forbidden in this house. He doesn’t know the other ones yet (thank God).
So, I picked up this new book, suggested by the therapist we drive almost 2 hours every couple of months to get to. It’s called The Explosive Child by Ross W. Greene, Ph. D., and I read it with fervor, trying desperately to get to some answers while watching my child spin further out of control every day.Meanwhile, I have a doctor from Easter Seals come and interview me for Intensive In-Home Services, who pretty much assures me that we’re great candidates for the program, but it takes about 14 days to get approved. He did tell me that the book is awesome, so after he leaves I just keep plugging away at it.
I like the book because it talks about the assumption that kids do well if they can and that challenging behavior is the result of lagging skills in the area of problem solving. So, the approach described that you’re to adopt is “Plan B,” which is a collaborative approach based in problem solving with your child. Plan B is definitely a good plan, as it gives the child a feeling of being in control, which is what children like this want, but is also gives them experience working on mutually agreed-open solutions, which is a life skill. Plan B, however, requires a great deal of communication with your child.
Step 1 is the Empathy Step. You would start with saying something like “I’ve noticed that…” and follow-up with, “What’s up?” For example: “I’ve noticed that you’ve not been wanting to go to school lately. What’s up?” If you don’t understand your child’s answer, you drill for more information (not grill, but drill). This looks like saying things like “I don’t understand…” or “How so?” or “Can you tell me more about that?” Your child may say something like, “I don’t want to go to school because Marcus keeps picking on me.”
Step 2 is Defining the Problem. That’s when you enter your concern or perspective on an unsolved problem. This is only done after your listen to and empathize with your child’s concern. You would begin by saying something like, “My concern is…” or “The thing is…” You don’t start by telling your child solutions to the problem, just your concerns. For instance, “My concern is that if you don’t go to school, you will miss out on your education. Also, you’re not really solving the problem of Marcus picking on you by avoiding school.”
Step 3 is The Invitation Step. This step involves brainstorming potential solutions. You have to involve the child in this step. Dr. Greene recommends starting with the words, “I wonder if there’s a way…” For instance, “I wonder if there’s a way for us to solve this problem with Marcus that you feel comfortable going to school again. Do you have any ideas?” That last question is the important part. Give your child the opportunity to solve the problem first. If they can’t generate solutions, come up with possible solutions, but “don’t be a genius.”
Lastly, any solutions must be mutually satisfactory. That’s the final rule of this plan. This helps keep the kid from exploding because it’s fair, and it means that your concerns will be addressed by the plan as well.
My only criticism is that in a 293 page book, the section on working with explosive children without the language skills to use this collaborative approach is really only 7 pages long and usurped by more examples of children with language skills, rather than examples of how to use Plan B on children with lagging communication skills. This was very disappointing for me, as I have a child with communication delays and I was hoping for answers. Now I’m left wondering how to help my child still.
I recently tried to implement Plan B with my child, who is able to talk, but doesn’t really understand things on the same level as most children. Granted, this was an Emergency Plan B situation, which is not recommended, but it is allowed. This is sort of what happened:
Me: So you don’t want what we’re having for dinner, what’s up?
Squeaker: I want a banana.
Me: The thing is, you had a banana for snack and I’m concerned that you’re not getting…
explosion Conversation over.
This is the typical way our conversations go. Getting to our concerns? Not heard. Mutually agreed-upon solutions? Not happening. His delays are not so significant that we should just give in to his desires immediately (as you would do in the 7 pages of communication delays in the book). But he shuts down immediately when speaking more than about 3 words to him. He’s not able to process a lengthy dialogue and doesn’t have the patience to listen to an exchange of information about a topic that doesn’t interest him. That’s one of the goals on his IEP, to engage in an exchange of 2-3 turns about a non-preferred topic (like, something other than cars, etc). So I’m at a complete loss, still, on how to handle this situation with him. And I’ve got about 2 weeks before I have any hope of help.
Thankfully, I can still put this book to use in the classroom, as I am a teacher and work with special needs children who do have language skills. I just wish I could help my child…
How do you handle conflicts in your family? Do you think you could benefit from this approach? Let me know in the comments section, below!
Disclaimer: I was not asked to review this book. I picked it up and read it on my own and just wanted to share it with you all. If you are interested, this is more information on his website.
Note: This post may contain affiliate links, which help provide me with money to run this blog. Thanks so much for reading!