I was a little nervous about publishing The Explosive Child. It was my first book, and I was concerned that it would be disparaged by mental health professionals who had a more traditional view of how to handle behaviorally challenging kids. But it didn't turn out that way. I've seen a lot of traditional thinkers come around to the view that collaborating with kids on solving the problems that affect their lives is a good idea...and that being unilateral isn't in anyone's best interests. - RG

The Explosive Child


Often people ask, “How do I know if my child is explosive?” There's no blood test, of course. “Explosive” is just a descriptive term for kids who become frustrated far more easily and more often, and communicate their frustration in ways that are far more extreme (screaming, swearing, spitting, hitting, kicking, biting, cutting, destroying property) than “ordinary” kids. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been a huge fun of the term. First, explosive implies that the outbursts of these kids are sudden and unpredictable and – this may be a little hard to believe at first – that’s not true most of the time. Second, while many behaviorally challenging kids explode when they’re frustrated (screaming, swearing, hitting, kicking, biting, spitting, and so forth), many others implode instead (crying, sulking, pouting, having anxiety attacks, and being blue and withdrawn or cranky and irritable). So, the title of the book notwithstanding, the strategies described herein are applicable to kids who are exploding, imploding, or some combination of the two. The term I’ll be using to refer to all of them is “behaviorally challenging” (also not an ideal term, but maybe the best we can do).

What you’ll learn in the early chapters of the book is that the terms that have commonly been used to characterize behaviorally challenging kids -- terms such as willful, manipulative, attention-seeking, limit-testing, contrary, intransigent, unmotivated -- are inaccurate and counterproductive. You’ll also read that a lot of the things we’ve been saying about the parents of these kids -- that they’re passive, permissive, inconsistent, non-contingent, inept disciplinarians -- aren't very accurate or productive either. In addition, you’ll learn (you may know this already) that the various psychiatric diagnoses that are commonly applied to behaviorally challenging kids don’t provide us with the information we need to accurately understand their difficulties and effectively help them.

This may sound a little strange, but there’s never been a better time to be living or working with a behaviorally challenging child. That’s because an enormous amount of research on behaviorally challenging kids has accumulated over the past 40-50 years, so we know a lot more about why they’re challenging and how to help them than at any other point in human evolution. The research provides us with new lenses through which to view their difficulties, and those new lenses can help caregivers respond to and help these kids in ways that are more compassionate, productive, and effective. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the new lenses can take some getting used to (after all, you may have been wearing different lenses for a very long time) so seeing things through those alternate lenses will require an open mind. Also, the strategies contained in this book can be hard to implement (early on), may be different than the ones you’ve been using, and may represent a departure from the way you were parented. So you’ll need an open mind there, too, along with some patience (with yourself and your child) as you’re practicing new ways of interacting and solving problems together.

If you are the parent of a behaviorally challenging child, this book should help you feel more optimistic about and confident in handling your child’s difficulties and restore some sanity to your family. If you are the child’s grandparent, teacher, neighbor, coach, or therapist, this book should, at the least, help you understand. There is no panacea. But there is certainly cause for hope.



Of all of the books that I've bought and read to try and understand what makes my son tick, this, by far exceeds them all! I've always known that I couldn't be the only parent out there with a child that that exhibits these behaviors, and now I know I'm not! The advice and approach to dealing with a difficult child is something every parent and teacher should read.
Amazon reviewer

My "child" is heading off to college, and because I read this book when she was young, I have loved being a mother all these years. Otherwise I think it would have been one big fight trying to mold her into what she was "supposed" to be instead enjoying who she is. Thank you Ross Greene.
Amazon reviewer

One key point the book makes is that "explosive" is a bit of misnomer. It also refers to kids that get overwhelmed with frustration (or something else) and shut down, rather than explode. My own kid becomes either frustrated or overwhelmed with a problem that he can't solve and retreats to his bed and lays there a while. This book helped explain why my 9 year old son is behaving the way he is, and provides a method to help him improve. We haven't gotten that far yet, but the book's description of my son is so spot on that I am hopeful the method will work.
Amazon reviewer

After reading numerous books to help my imperfect child, I found this method to be the one and only solution for my 10-year old son. My son has been diagnosed with ADHD, depression, and borderline Asperger’s. I have spent years with him in therapy, in which punishments and rewards were always suggested. It never worked. As soon as I began reading Dr. Greene's, "The Explosive Child" I began crying because the girl, Jennifer, was exactly like my son. Through Dr. Greene's book I have found a way to break down all the barriers that have been causing so much stress in our lives. Dr. Greene's method is more about teaching your child the tools he needs to be successful in handling choices or problems without a total meltdown. My son's short fuse is gaining length as long as I keep remembering that although it seems like I'm giving up parenting power, I am actually getting more power in a less hyper-vigilant way and I have learned that “kids do well if they can.”
Amazon reviewer

This was an excellent read. I'm 30 years old, and I was not reading this for my own parenting skills (although that was a definite perk), but to gain some insight as to why my own childhood was incredibly hurtful, frustrating, and confusing. Coming from a home with no abuse or out and out mistreatment, it is hard even at this point to look back and make sense of why growing up was so difficult. I had problems in school, although I tried very hard, and I was constantly getting in trouble for not following through on things, even though I didn't realize what I hadn't followed through on. I had problems getting along with peers and siblings, and spent a lot of time wondering why I was so stupid and lonely. I had Plan A parents, and this book was really helpful in making sense of it all. I'm pretty sure this book isn't supposed to make you cry, but I did. I can vouch for kids like me, that they aren't failing because they want to be defiant and rebellious. Kids like me experience pain in constantly trying to succeed and failing, feeling burned out, and acting out of intense frustration. Discipline won't help that, because the child already knows and is trying. Helping your kid develop skills to overcome those challenges is what they need. Excellent book...
Amazon reviewer