By Ross W. Greene, Ph. D.

I didn’t even need to read the description of this book to know that it was one I needed to read. Since shortly after he was born, I have struggled to understand his communication style, love language, stressors etc. The first years of his life were filled with a lot of screaming and tears, on both of our parts. Things are much calmer now but there is still so much about this little boy that is still a mystery. So I read and analyze and practice and pray. And I take a lot of deep breaths.

I felt that this book was largely targeted at people who have less attached styles of parenting than I do. There was a lot of talk about consistency and positive encouragement as opposed to degrading and punishing. Those are great tips but what’s a mom to do when she does all of those things and is still struggling? Many of the case studies were about children with disorders but some of the ideas were still beneficial to my relationship with my high need, intense son.

Book notes:

  • these children have difficulty accessing their “hindsight file” and therefore are unable to access the information as to how they’ve handled similar problems in the past.
  • they are unskilled at recognizing the impact of their behavior on others
  • he and I need to take time to reflect on the accuracy of his interpretations, the effectiveness of a given response, or the manner in which his behavior affects others
  • provide cognitive roadmaps that help him stay rational in moment’ he is likely to become explosive (perhaps give advance warning that this situation is something that may be difficult to deal with so pre-plan a way to deal with it calmly)
  • we need him to look at us as people who can help him thing things through instead of as adversaries
  • he becomes disorganized in the midst of frustration
  • how does it feel to the child to be inflexibly explosive? (Probably frustrates him as much as it does me when he can’t maintain control)
  • flexibility and tolerance are skills that need to be learned – they come more easily to some than others
  • the consequence you administered on the back end following the last explosion must be accessible and meaningful to the child on the front end the next time he is becoming frustrated
  • kids need help accessing the file in their brain that contains the critical information or roadmap.
  • is a child resisting because he is not motivated enough of because he is incapable of maintaining the state of mind to walk through the pros and cons of compliance?
  • a disorder is how the problem may be presenting itself but it doesn’t always give indication of the precise difficulties your child is experiencing
  • in a vapour-lock situation, downshift slowly before going into reverse (otherwise you’ll blow out the transmission)
  • Basket A: important behaviors worth inducing and enduing a meltdown over: safety, things that could be harmful to your child, other people, animals, or property, and other non-negotiables. Teaches child that you are an authority figure. (Should initially be a very empty basket).
  • Basket B: Important matters but aren’t worth the meltdown. This is where you will teach your child the skills of flexibility and frustration tolerance. Most important basket. Teaches them how to engage in a give and take, staying calm in the midst of frustration, taking another person’s perspective, coming up with alternative ways to solve a problem. Tell your child, “If we disagree, I’ll let you know if I’m willing to work things out. We will try to think of good ideas.” Start with empathy to signal to your child that you understand what he wants and that you think it is a legitimate desire, and that you are his advocate rather than adversary. Then, “Let’s think of how we can work this out?”
  • Basket C: Unimportant behaviors that aren’t even worth saying anything about anymore. Eating a variety of foods, wearing mittens etc. It is different than giving in because you decide ahead of time to put it in basket C.
  • It becomes you, the parent, who is the primary determinant of whether or not he has a meltdown.
  • Phrases such as No, You must, or You can’t automatically puts it into basket A, so use very rarely.
  • The real world is a whole lot more about resolving disputes and disagreements than it is about blind adherence to authority. 
  • Sometimes basket decision making can be delayed. “I’m not yet sure if that’s negotiable or not.”
  • some children have trouble actually recognizing that they are frustrated or even experiencing things like hunger or fatigue that is leading the to frustration
  • Use rudimentary works for feelings: happy, sad, frustrated. At the end of the day ask “What made you happy? Sad? Frustrated?” Then start expanding to confused, disappointed, excited, bored, annoyed etc.
  • A child walking away our of frustration is a good comping mechanism. He doesn’t want to hurt you.
  • Keeping your child coherent in the midst of frustration is goal number one. A frustrated child needs help.
  • Why is this so hard for my child? What’s getting in his way? How can I help?
  • Sibling relations: each child needs help/attention in different areas.
  • don’t allow inaccurate inferences about each other get in between relationships.
  • Consequences not enforced detract from your credibility
  • vapour-lock commencing means “I’m stuck. I need help!”

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