Book Review: The Explosive Child

Glum 7 year old boy
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By Ross W. Greene, Ph.D.; 334 pages. Subtitle: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children

"Children will do well if they can." That's the philosophy behind this helpful behavior book, which then seeks to figure out why some kids can't. In this case, Greene looks at those children who seem unable to change their behavior even in the face of all reason, parental urging, and dire consequences.

Are they willful? Oppositional? Or just stuck?


  • Casual, engaging writing style makes reading easy.
  • Case studies include discussions with parents, which may anticipate your doubts and questions.
  • Approach is appropriate for children with special needs.
  • Reading about other families dealing with this behavior can be a huge relief.
  • Removes the blame for bad behavior from both your child and you.


  • Techniques may seem overly permissive to some.
  • If your family doesn't match the case studies, you may be unsure if the approach fits your child.
  • Some strategies work for kids who don't fit the whole profile, but you'll have to pick and choose.
  • Burden is on parents to change the way they interact with their child.


  • Chapter 1: The Waffle Episode
  • Chapter 2: Terrible Beyond Two
  • Chapter 3: Pathways to Inflexibility-Explosiveness
  • Chapter 4: Inflexible-Explosive Faces
  • Chapter 5: The Truth About Consequences
  • Chapter 6: Corrective Lenses
  • Chapter 7: Basket Case
  • Chapter 8: Brain Chemistry
  • Chapter 9: Roadmaps
  • Chapter 10: Family Matters
  • Chapter 11: All Things Considered
  • Chapter 12: User-friendlier Schools
  • Chapter 13: Change of Venue
  • Chapter 14: Children Do Well If They Can
  • Additional Resources and Support
  • Index

    Book Review: The Explosive Child

    All these “The _____ Child” books get overwhelming after a while, don’t they? The Difficult Child, the Challenging Child, the Spirited Child, the Explosive Child, the Out-of-Sync Child. Aren’t there any just plain children? And aren’t some of them really more like the Undisciplined Child with Parents Who Think Too Much?

    Maybe. But most parents come to these books after more traditional discipline has failed. If you’re there with a child who exhibits extreme reactions over unforeseeable things, or locks in on a behavior and won’t let go, “The Explosive Child” may have some answers for you. By carefully choosing your battles and understanding your child’s sensitivities, you can step in before things go too far -- keeping your child from out-of-control tantrums, and yourself from exploding, too. It’s a lot of work for parents, but not as much work as living in constant turmoil and walking on eggshells.

    Flexibility is one of the most important gifts parents can give their children. If your child can’t tolerate any change in plans, variation in routine, or obstacle in his or her path -- really can’t tolerate it, rather than just doesn’t like it -- it’s worth figuring out why that is, finding a way around it, and teaching your child some alternative strategies.

    Others may think you’re being insufficiently rigorous in the pursuit of your way or the highway. But flexibility’s a good skill for parents to master, too.