Monday, November 11, 2019

Book Deep Dive: The Explosive Child

A few years ago, Brent made a comment about me being so open about Trent's struggles on my blog. Yes, my journey with him is very much part of my day-to-day life, but I'm also putting a lot of Trent's business out on the internet, and as he grows, he might not appreciate everything I've shared. So I haven't really talked much about him as much, but that does not mean we're not still grinding away. 

And honestly, the last few months have been pretty awful. Tough enough that I've started having individual sessions with his therapist. Recently she suggested I read the book The Explosive Child by Ross Greene, and I'm so glad I did - it was fantastic!

I wanted to share more about it than I normally do in my monthly book reviews because I really think this book has strategies that could work for all families, not just ones with 'explosive' children. {grin} 

The main purpose of the book is giving strategies for problem solving with 'behaviorally challenging kids'. It talks about 3 ways you can solve problems:

1 - Plan A - whatever you are currently doing now - reward charts for good behavior [don't work for these kids], harsh punishments for every meltdown , tantrum, bad behavior, etc. [happens way too often and doesn't help] - which is basically not working because you wouldn't need this book if they were.

2 - Plan B - Dr. Greene's approach that I'll go more into detail below.

3 - Plan C - basically ignoring/prioritizing unsolved problems that you can wait to resolve because you have higher priority problems. For example, your child has a meltdown every time you ask him/her to brush teeth. You might have 10 issues you need to work through with your child but there's no way you can solve all of them at once, so you need to prioritize and the ones that don't make the top of the list, you legit ignore. You tell your kid 'It's time to brush teeth.' and your kid says 'Noooooo!'. Your response used to be a giant battle that eventually resulted in brushed teeth but everyone was upset. Right now, you'd say 'Okay' and you'd move on. You know you're eventually going to address the problem because your kid has to brush their teeth, but for let that sh*t go.

What the author believes is that Kids Do Well If They Can. This is such an important concept to think about - it sounds simple but think about it - how many times in the middle of an argument does it seem like your kid is just being a jerk to be a jerk. But really they don't have the skills (Dr. Greene calls them 'lagging skills') to problem solve. Just this simple sentence alone has helped me - Trent is responding the way he does because he literally can't help himself and us constantly punishing him is never going to help. We need to work together to teach him the skills he needs so that he CAN do well! Very encouraging!

There's a whole checklist of Lagging Skills to consider for your child, and let me just say, there were a lot that fit Trent!

So what do you do once you've identified the skills your child is lacking? Honestly that isn't very critical because you really want to focus on the problems that result from those lagging skills.

For example, one lagging skill I highlighted was Difficulty handling unpredictability. You would think about the problems that fall into that category. So for every skill, you'd list out the problems. Then you decide which you want to tackle first and the rest fall into Plan C.

For the problem you want to resolve, you need to sit down with your child when NEITHER OF YOU ARE UPSET. So while in the middle of an argument, don't try to have a rational conversation. When you are sitting down, you try to drill down into why there is a problem - as the parent, you should be asking questions and letting your child answer. It's hard to not try and feed them answers but you really aren't supposed to - the book is great and there are a ton of resources online - to help you ask those questions. The end result should be that you really understand why your child is getting upset. From our earlier teeth brushing example - what if your kid hates the taste of the toothpaste or the toothbrush hurts their teeth? By drilling down, you will discover the WHY behind the problem.

THEN you brainstorm a solution. Again, you don't want to jump in and come up with an answer for your child, but the solution needs to be one that you and your child can both live with. Next, you put it into practice. If it works, great! You can go onto another problem. If not, you reconvene and tweak as needed.

So how did this work for us? We have been slowly Plan B-ing different issues and do have a list to get through. Nothing is perfect, but I've been happy with what we've done.

The first issue we tackled was him having a meltdown every time we asked him to clean his room. I can say 'Drew, go pick up your room.' and off she goes. NOT the case with Trent! I think this falls under several categories of lagging skills for Trent, so it was a great one for us to tackle together. I asked him ahead of time when we could talk about this issue, and we agreed on a time, and we came together and had a talk about why this was such a challenge. We drilled down and he admitted that he felt overwhelmed when he would look at his room and see everything that needed to be done and couldn't think about where to start. When I asked what we could do to prevent that from happening, he had a few suggestions that I couldn't agree to {remember both parties need to agree to the solution}. We finally agreed on a 2-fold approach: 1) on a daily basis, he will give us 3 minutes of effort - basically picking anything up! and 2) on the days we need him to fully clean his room, I will outline what needs to be done - 'Put away your clean clothes, pickup trash, put books on bookshelf' etc. - so that he sees it more clearly and then I do 1 task off the list. And it's working pretty well so far!

I think even the best-behaved kids in the world could benefit from Plan B because you end up really understanding why something is bothering your child and you work together to resolve it. Who doesn't love that? {grin}


Natasha said...

While I realize that this book is really useful for the particular things you are running into with Trent, it sounds like it could be useful for parenting in general. My online library catalogue is down right now (UGH), but I will see if our library carries it because it sounds like it could be really helpful.

Erika said...

This sounds really useful and applicable!! I hope it continues to yield good fruit for you guys!!

Emily said...

I'm with Natasha in that I think these strategies are super helpful for any parent in general. I may check this book out because I'm curious about her long list of lagging skills; I'm sure all types of kids lag in all different areas, and it would be interesting to pinpoint areas that Aaron and Oliver lag in!

Kathryn Bagley said...

Glad you're finding some of the suggestions helpful! It seems like it would be helpful to use with some of my teens!