Test Driving ‘The Explosive Child’

We’ve actually had this book for a while now, at least two years.
When I first read it, I wasn’t very impressed. I didn’t think there was anything we could use. But it has been recommended to me by several people since then, so I am returning to it with a new determination to find out what it has to offer.
It’s an easy read. I read it in an afternoon, between scraped knees, games of draughts and our usual procession of snacks.
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It’s one of those books with lots of imagined dialogues. Now, my big hobby is writing so I have a lot of sympathy for writers struggling with dialogue. But, I didn’t think this was great dialogue, and I found that slightly distracting.
Enough about style, the real point is the content. Greene does claim to have a strategy aimed at children with difficult temperaments, even diagnosed behavioural problems – for me, that is always promising! The book begins with some fairly standard advice about avoiding the situations that provoke tantrums. Nothing new there.
The crux of this book is the three Plans for dealing with problems.
Plan A: tell child what to do.
Plan B: come up with a mutually agreeable solution with your child.
Plan C: let it go.
It is abundantly clear that Greene considers plans A and C to be inferior to Plan B. The majority of the book is devoted to examples of carrying out Plan B.
I would agree that being able to come to a mutually agreeable solution is ideal. I would love to agree solutions with my children. I can think of no parenting style that would please me more. It would give peace in the moment and give the boys lots of practice in the problem solving skills they will need as adults.
The question is: will the advice in this book get us there?

Well, I gave it a couple of weeks.

As I would have expected, the results were very mixed. Sometimes the boys can talk about solutions, sometimes they don’t want to discuss it at all. When they agree to talk, their preferred solution is ‘give me lots of chocolate, then I’ll be good’, repeated until I give up on the conversation. We haven’t yet made any mutually agreed solutions.

In fact, I am finding that presenting a ‘problem’ makes the boys less inclined to listen to my ideas than usual. I can often persuade them to consider my ideas by saying ‘some people find this helpful, would you like to try it?’ When I ask them for ideas, they fixate on an opportunity to ask for sweets and cannot be budged from this theme at all.

I don’t think we’re ready for this. If I have any success at a later date, I will update.

Everytime a parenting book fails to work out the way I had hoped, I worry that I’m just doing it wrong. Of course, this is why my husband thinks that I should read fewer parenting books. They are a bit of a guilty pleasure, I suppose. Though I do live in hope that one day I will find a magic answer!

For now, we will move on to the next book. This time I’m going with a book aimed at adopters: ‘Creating Loving Attachments’ by Kim S. Golding and Daniel A. Hughes.
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