April 1, 2009

This Kid Is The Bomb

The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Ross W. Greene, PhD (HarperCollins, 2001, ISBN: 0-06-093102-7)

This book was written by Ross W. Greene, PhD, who “specializes in the treatment and study of explosive children and adolescents at home and school and in inpatient units, residential facilities, and juvenile justice facilities,”(p.335) although he is not particularly well-known for research in the fields of either military ordnance or spontaneous combustion.

What is in this book: A discussion of what makes an explosive child, and how to deal with one. The explosive child throws a tantrum at the slightest provocation; this is illustrated by the hypothetical scenario at the beginning of the book where one such child “pushes her mother out of the way, seizes the container of frozen waffles, then slams the freezer door shut, pushes over a kitchen chair, grabs her plate of toasted waffles, and stalks to her room”(p.2).
Their sensitivity and over-the-top outbursts may sound funny, but “the parents of inflexible-explosive children do not describe meltdowns with good humor”(p.23). Unfortunately, these children have been given a raw deal genetically, a “brain-based failure to progress developmentally”(p.14). “Some children—no matter how hard they and their parents, teachers and coaches try—are just not ‘built’ to be great athletes, readers, or spellers”(p.10). Similarly, inflexible-explosive children are not “built” to handle challenging situations like frozen waffle shortages (p.1), chili being offered instead of macaroni and cheese (p.62), chicken pot pies being served incorrectly (p.143), being told to stop eating cookies (p.164), and jugglers in Harvard Square performing without a permit (p.76).

What is not in this book: The same old approaches to managing problem children, because inflexible-explosive children can't be stopped, reasoned with, or beaten senseless when they are in the grip of a frustration-induced meltdown—your Earth weapons traditional parenting methods are useless against them because “punishing a child during meltdown has the potential to fuel his frustration even further and, as you may have found, may not decrease the odds of a meltdown the next time he’s frustrated”(p.23). Parents of inflexible-explosive children either have to recognize potential meltdowns before they happen and intervene immediately, or brace themselves for the worst and ride it out. “I use the term mental debris to describe the horrible words that may come out of a child’s mouth during these incoherent moments”(p.23), and you'd better learn how to shrug it off, you “freaking bitch”(p.203), because the kids don't really mean it and won't be stopping it anytime soon. If you're the kind of person who thinks “I just can’t tolerate disrespect. My immediate reaction is to start screaming”(p.199), you’re kind of screwed.

Would you recommend this book to Jack Bauer? Sure, but he’s pretty good at dealing with explosive situations already.

Would you recommend this book to a Mexican? Yes. Specifically, I would recommend this book to the staff of Mexico’s Grande Casa de Peligro Resort, to prepare them for families like that one with the foul-mouthed little brat that was always in the dining room while I was there. On the other hand, the resort’s guests should read The Explosive Diarrhea, to prepare them for... well, it was Mexico.

What was interesting about this book? Dr. Greene presents real-life dramas and case studies that as are fascinating as one would expect, but more interesting than that is the variety of names that he has assigned to the characters involved. “Most of the names are, in fact, those of friends, nonspecific cartoon characters and rock musicians, and my wife’s ex-boyfriends”(p.x), which is why readers will learn about Hubert, Marvin, Jermaine, Eduardo, and Ken (it is not clear if Dr. Greene married Barbie).

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