Growing up with foster children, living in and around “children’s homes” and working as a teacher have all exposed me to working and living with challenging children and teens. Some people have described these kids as being “difficult, willful, manipulative, attention-seeking, limit-testing, contrary, intransigent, [and] unmotivated” (Greene, 2010), but I challenge you to be a little open minded and read on…
I just finished reading (literally 1 hour ago) The Explosive Child by Ross Greene, Ph.D and am totally blown away by the insightfulness and understanding in which he writes about “Explosive” children and the people who live and interact with them daily. Greene characterizes explosive children not as the description in the previous paragraph, but as kids who lack the developmental capability to be flexible, tolerate frustration, and solve problems as other, more developmentally advanced children can. The simple theory is posed that all children will do well if they can. Just as some kids don’t do well in certain areas of mathematics/writing/science, etc… because they can’t (yet), explosive children don’t handle frustrations, aren’t flexible, and don’t solve problems well (as simple as they may seem to us) because they can’t (yet).
Without rewriting whole chapters here, I’ll briefly outline the “method” that
Greene poses. Instead of imposing your will onto an explosive child (you will/will not do X) or totally avoiding the situation, use the Collaborative Problem Solving strategy in which you and the child sit down when they are calm and able to think reasonably and identify each other’s concerns and try to come up with mutually satisfactory solutions.
This process is broken down into 3 steps:
1) The Empathy step: gather information from your kid to achieve the clearest possible understanding of his/her concern or perspective on a given un-solved problem
Adult: “I’ve noticed that you aren’t finishing your homework lately. What’s up?”
Child: “My homework is too hard.”
Adult: “So you’re saying that your homework is too hard…what part?”
Child: “The writing part is too hard. I write too slow and my teacher is making me write whole paragraphs. It takes too long and so I forget all my ideas so I’m not going to do it.”
2) The Define the Problem step: enter your concern or perspective into consideration
Adult: “So you’re telling me that you don’t want to do your homework because the writing part is too hard because it takes you a long time to write a paragraph and so you forget your ideas, so you’re not going to do it. My concern is that if you don’t do your writing homework, you’re going to fall behind in writing even more and it will only get harder.”
3) The Invitation step: lets the child know that solving the problem is something you’re doing with him/her rather and to him/her.
Adult: “How about we think of a way that you will be able to get your writing homework done faster and remember your ideas and still do it so that way you don’t fall behind any more.”
Child: “Well, what if I have you write my paragraphs for me?”
Adult: “That is a possible solution, but we tried that before and your teachers wanted you to write them yourself. Could we think of another idea?”
Child: “ Well, sometimes you use a tape recorder to help you remember your ideas for work. Maybe I could use it to record my ideas when I want to write paragraphs.”
Adult: “That sounds like a great idea. I don’t need it when I’m not at work, so you can use it for your homework. Why don’t we try this idea and see if it works. If it doesn’t, then we can talk about it again.”
Obviously there is more to being successful than what I wrote here…especially if the child or teen you are working with has difficulty having a rational conversation…reading the book is a valuable use of your precious time (took me about 3-4 hours) and I cannot wait to put this new way of working with explosive children into practice at my school. If you have an explosive child or if you work with even 1 explosive child, PLEASE, PLEASE read the book and apply the practice to your daily interactions with him/her. Your life and theirs will greatly improve and you will only be setting them up for success.
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