Does your child lay on the ground and scream or get aggressive when you say it's time to turn the TV or Wii off? Is your child impulsive–not thinking about possible consequences? Do you often hear an immediate "No!" without any processing of what you have said? Does your child struggle with a shift in routine? Do rewards and punishments have little affect on their behavior? I recently read The Explosive Child by Dr. Ross Greene and would recommend it to anyone that is feeling lost in parenting an explosive child.
The main point that can be taken from this book is the following: You need to assume that your child lacks particular SKILLS rather than the motivation to do what is expected. It helps to focus on the PROBLEMS which are displayed by the behavior. We need to work on SOLVING PROBLEMS rather than try to bribe them with rewards and punishments.
Some children lack important skills (flexibility, problem solving etc) due to disorganized thinking and this means that they have a hard time figuring out a solution to any problem that is presented to them. Dr. Greene directs parents and caretakers to a resourceful website, Lives in the Balance, where a checklist is provided to go through various behaviours that your child may struggle with. Utilizing the checklist, the book describes an action plan which can be used to aid parents in working through each problem with their child. The steps involve gathering information, defining the specific problem and setting a realistic solution together.
Dr. Greene offers phrases to utilize in the gathering and defining stages such as "I've noticed_____. What's up?", "My concern is....." and "Let's think about how we can solve...Do you have any ideas?" I wrote them down and used them word for word when starting to work through the issues at hand. Note that these are to be discussed in moments of peace and not in the moment!
Many times a child will seem completely fine at school as they have focused and worked so hard on keeping their cool and appearing that they have everything under control. Once they get home the explosions occur. This is normal. This is their safe place.
As a parent who is working through this process with her child, I get that this can feel overwhelming. Approaching one problem at a time seems daunting...but doable. One solution at a time is a step in the right direction; we are able to work on this together and my fear of having a dangerously impulsive teenager can be addressed. I recommend this book for helping to understand your child, feeling better equipped with tools and direction, and finally, a sense of hope.
(PS The photo above is my son acting "explosive" as I would not photograph my kids at a time like that. )