"the explosive child"



OK I have read it twice and I am trying it, but does anyone else really disagree with Plan C (letting them do or have what they want) I am having a hard time with that aspect.

My d/h total disgarees with this book, he is a Plan A person all the time, which is part of the problem. But difficult child II is also in the catagory where he is incabable of even letting Plan B happen.

Even the group at his mental health hospital works on a reward and consequence system. But I agree it is ineffective on him, when he goes he's gone there's no bribbing or threatening him back into line


Well-Known Member
I think most here agree with it simply because when a child has an unstable psychiatric condition or neurological condition fighting over the little things doesn't usually do one stitch of good, the child gets worse, he can't stop, and your house is in a constant state of chaos. We did this before our son got the right treatments, and it gave us peace and helped our relationship with our son. If I had to do it again, I personally would do it because I don't want to live with constant yelling and screaming and also because in my opinion many of our kids really can't stop themselves or learn from the consequences. Is it really worth it to go to war over sleeping in regular clothes or changing into pajamas? Is getting homework done, at the price of an all-out battle at home, a worthwhile cause? Is a "bad" word worth three hours of screaming? We thought it wasn't. You have to make the decision yourself. Once your child is stable, he should have much more control of himself. I hope you work this out. Good luck!

timer lady

Queen of Hearts
You know, there are many battles I'm no longer willing to take on. When the tweedles were at their very worst all I cared about was medications & safe (non aggressive or self harming) behaviors.

To be honest the rest was a basket C.

kt is now as stable as it gets medication wise - now I'm taking on more issues. Most importantly boundaries & cleaning up after herself. We'll move onto the next item when these 2 are mastered.

The rest I still don't argue. We are slowly moving forward - nothing will be "cured" overnight for kt or wm.

Seriously, you can either take on each & every battle or make progress on the most important issues; then bring in the next challenge.

Take it from me - no matter how long you bang your head on that brick wall, it ain't going anywhere & you end up with a major headache. Day in, day out.


Mom? What's a difficult child?
We have had to basket/plan c a lot...dinner, school, hygiene etc... like the Midwestmom and Timerlady both it is a matter of picking your battles... how much more do you want the whole family to suffer? difficult child included, it is hard to remember at times that most of our kids really don't want to battle so much, you know? These are there coping mechanisms...
I am basket/plan c'ing a lot the past 2 days because difficult child is starting a new medication and she is having stomach aches... I would like her to not remember the trialing of every medication as a horrible experience, so I am having to give in to some of her battles to keep the peace... which will hopefullly keep the memory of the pain of the new medication from lingering...

Last night she was too tired to brush her teeth... she didn't have to. Sometimes it is not worth the fight.

On the other hand it is hard for us to negotiate with her very much, so we don't get to plan b very much. But we still try.

If anything the book teaches good parenting skills and a new way to look at the situation. I try to stop and think before I react... sometimes!!!LOL


Active Member
If you're seeing Plan C as "letting him do or have what he wants" then you've not quite got the right concept. (I hope this isn't how Ross Greene words it himself - I've yet to wade through the new edition!).

As I see it - you make a list of the behaviours you really want changed. You then sort them into various categories as follows:

Plan A (what I learnt as basket A, from the earlier edition) - only stuff connected to immediate safety (such as grabbing a kid as they're about to run in front of a car), and school attendance. You will do ANYTHING to get what YOU want here, even provoke a meltdown if you have to.

Plan B - about three or four behaviours only, that you think you have a chance of working on. You want to work with difficult child on improving these behaviours, but you will back away from provoking a meltdown rather than insist.

Plan C - everything else. Because we can't do it all at once. We choose our battles, basically. Plan B is the specific battles we've chosen, Plan C are the battles to come when we've accomplished Plan B's first list.

As you achieve improvement in the Plan B behaviours you move them on and adopt the next ones in line from Plan C.

How you use it:
If you have your own specific list (have it written down somewhere accessible to you, don't stick it up for all to read, including difficult child - counterproductive) then it's easier to stay in touch with what you want to work on.
You use whatever means (preferably not punishments - they tend to not work anyway) to get what YOU want in the Plan B areas. The Plan C stuff shouldn't even get mentioned. If it does, you have just made it Plan B. (So if you feel he's having what he wants, if it hasn't been discussed and therefore put in Plan B, it shouldn't matter).
If you are trying to negotiate on improving a Plan B behaviour and you are losing, the recommendation is that you walk away. You back off BEFORE the meltdown happens. To most of us this feels like we're giving in and letting difficult child get away with continuing bad behaviour, but you have just sent a strong message to difficult child - your main aim right now is to help him avoid meltdowns, but your secondary aim is to improve those behaviours.

Our difficult children do not like raging. They hate how it feels. If the raging continues for years, some of them get a secondary gain from the sense of power they feel that raging gives them; the fear they can induce in others. That's why it's really important to stop this before it gets that bad and they're old enough to get a power feedback from raging.
So difficult child is going to soon recognise - you are trying to help him stay calm. And if you're prepared to risk that to improve a particular behaviour, it really is important to you and may be worth his efforts. It's not altruistic on his part - when he recognises that you are trying to help in the one area where he KNOWS he has a problem, then there is deep gratitude, believe me. They may not be aware of it; they may at first misinterpret it as you being extremely indulgent, but the message is going to be getting through, even at some subliminal level.

You shouldn't have too much in Plan B, and remember - when anyone tries to correct a behaviour, it has automatically been put into Plan B. When anyone forces that correction to the point of meltdown and beyond, it's been put into Plan A. Changing the plans around slows down the rate at which difficult child 'picks up' that you are trying to avoid meltdowns, so it slows the whole process.

An example: difficult child 3 insisting on eating with his hands and then wiping dirty hands on his clothes. This was Plan B for us. We also tried to work out why and we know difficult child 3 has problems with his joints as well as poor coordination.
Before I had muscle weakness problems I happily used chopsticks but now my hands get tired easily. For difficult child 3, using proper utensils is partly a fatigue thing, partly laziness. So we fed him meals where he could use a Splayd (aka spork, I believe - an Aussie invention from over half a century ago). I also provided a paper napkin and whenever he was reaching for his clothes with his hands, I shoved the napkin in there instead. But this has been a very difficult behaviour to change - it is STILL in Plan B.
Toilet training (for bowels) - that would have had to be Plan C because he simply didn't have the ability to do anything about it. When we finally chose to work on it, it would have had to be the only thing in Plan B. We used a reward system (a box of M & M's glued to the toilet wall were to be his when he finally went one day with using the toilet for BM and cleaned himself properly. Then it was one box for a week of being clean and using the toilet).
Homework - ALWAYS Plan C. If the child asks for help it becomes Plan B but it NEVER becomes Plan A, which seems to be where most schools want it to be.
For us, with difficult child 3 doing a version of home schooling, homework is actually schoolwork and it's Plan B. But we cope with it by having a strict rule in place - "school work for school hours". Any other lack, although I will help him, support him, remind him, I will not nag him because the ONLY consequence for failing to do his work is that HE has to explain it to the teachers. And he HATES that. I praise him a lot for getting his work done, but it's not over-the-top praise, it's "Doesn't it feel great to know you have that work under your belt now, you can move on to the next topic and feel very satisfied with yourself."
Tidying their room - Plan C. It's a ghastly mess and you can't even shut the door, but it's THEIR mess. I refuse to enter the boys' room. I refuse to enter the girls room, although you can still see floor in there. But if any of them begin to tidy, or I suggest a bribe, I happily wash and sort any clothes they unearth (usually thoroughly outgrown by now).

You may have different ideas about what you want to work on - it's your choice. But if you find that a certain behaviour just doesn't seem to be improving, then put it back into Plan C because it's likely the child simply hasn't got he ability yet to make the changes you want. A good example here is if you want to put swearing, bad language or aggressive behaviours in Plan B - these behaviours are too closely connected with the raging itself and the reason they rage is because they CAN'T do anything else. Don't set yourself up for failure.
For us, the language, the aggressive behaviour, the raging doesn't even come under Plan C - rather, it is what ALL the plans are working on, but obliquely.

I found the longest time was the first - plus, getting everyone else in the same household on board. Those who are NOT on board become the focus of difficult child extreme resentment. They don't know why, but they often say they hate that person. With a forceful adult refusing to use this method while someone else IS, that forceful adult is going to be puzzled, angry and very frustrated. You then have to be careful to not fall into "good cop, bad cop" patterns.

Do what I did - summarise the book and the method for your husband. Mine wouldn't read the book either - not that he was being difficult, it was something he just couldn't get into. My other adult kids also had to come on board and no way would they read the book - getting them to read ANY non-fiction is a huge ask. The summary I did was great for explaining to them. Plus, I could make them shut up and watch.
My husband has always been a strict disciplinarian. This not only wasn't working, it was causing problems. When I started to read "The Explosive Child" I hadn't even completed the book before I was using the method. husband thought I was crazy - how could it work? But I began to see improvement in difficult child 3 very quickly, although it took a while before I could 'graduate' any behaviours from Plan B and put in some new ones from Plan C to work on.
However, husband quickly became an extreme focus for difficult child 3's hostility, which I think slowed down husband's acceptance of this method. We've had to really work at building their relationship back with 'boy time'. husband is now calmer, he feels more in control of the whole situation (which I think was a huge issue for him) and he and difficult child 3 now get on well. They still have their differences - they're both fairly reactive and difficult child 3 will be so for a very long time, some things we can't change quickly. husband has had to bite his tongue a lot, and hates doing it although he can now see the reasons for it. it IS stressful for him and I do worry about him being stressed. But I know a return to frequent rages makes husband even more stressed.

Once you get into the habit of this it becomes a knack. You WILL make mistakes and they WILL set back progress, but the more progress you make the less setback you will have for each mistake. Don't beat yourself up over it, just pick up where you left off, be prepared to apologise to your child if you make a mistake (it's not crazy, it's showing respect which you need to do in order to teach respect) and make sure you each have an escape hatch for when you need to walk away a bit further than usual.



Well-Known Member
As a young parent I agreed 100% with my now Ex that kids needed
to know who was boss all the time. We looked at my sisters girl
and sadly reflected that the poor kid was doomed because she was
allowed to use a pacifier and she was THREE..lol. We also knew
exactly how a marriage stayed strong and stable. We "knew" a heck of alot!

After two easy child's we had our first difficult child and common sense told me
that everything could not be designated as an "A" issue. Ex thoroughly believed (and still does 40 years later) that "giving
in" was a sign of weak parenting.

In answer to your question? Yes, learning to sort through issues
is difficult. Yes, I also believe it is necessary. Ex still believes the belt would have solved all the problems. Not! DDD

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
I'm with the others. For us when difficult child isn't stable only safety and medication are basket A. We used to have more in basket C but are working much of it into basket B right now. Certain battles are still not worth it for me. Things at one time I felt for sure my kids would do like brush their teeth, homework, hygeine issues just became battles not worth fighting-especially when it means major rages, holes in the wall, and punching, kicking, hitting,etc.


Well-Known Member
I found the point of the book was to help me be able to be a more effective parent to my child. That certainly wasn't happening when our house was a battle zone. Things that are a "c" now don't need to stay there forever. It's a matter of stopping the constant fighting because your child is incapable of doing so. My daughter must have felt so defensive and ***this close*** to a meltdown all the time before I started to concentrate on the most important things. Then, we were able to work on the next most important set, and so on. The good news is that she has improved so much that most would never think she's a difficult child. Plus, I get the added benefit of being a parent rather than a drill sergeant to her.


Active Member
I have to agree with Marg. You have to sort out the immediate safety problems. Pick your battles. The basket method is a good way to sort them out. What's the immediate problems? What's secondary and what's stuff that needs working on, but is it really worth making life h-ell to get what YOU want. Those are things to work on later, when A and B are in control.

husband needs to understand that you are dealing with an atypical child. If he can't then family counseling with your psychiatric is a way to go. doctor needs to make him understand. We had our first p-doctor meeting with just husband and I recently. It was a major eye opener for husband. I don't think he really "got it" until we went to see the p-doctor together. Perhaps you need to make that appointment.

Good luck.


New Member
I agree with what's already been said too. As a younger parent, I was very authoritarian, that's what I knew, it's how I was raised. It's how I tried to parent step-difficult child and easy child, and then difficult child came along...his behavior was so outrageous at times, and "my ways" clearly were not working. Our household was in a constant state of chaos. During my difficult child's periods of instability, basket c was overflowing, but as someone else mentioned, it doesn't have to stay that way. When difficult child was in a good cycle, I expected more out of him and I got more out of him.

I wish I would've known what I know now, when I was trying to parent step-difficult child. Things might have gone better for all of us. I was too busy trying to raise the kids like my parents raised me because I thought that was the only right way. Thinking back to the former difficult child that I was, it didn't really work for my parents either.

Good luck.


Active Member
The baskets/plans work some of the time with difficult child 1. I sort his behaviors into different catagories and each one needs a different response. His anxiety/ rages/ bipolar/ ADHDness get the basket approach. Then there are times he needs everything to be very strict and if it doesn't happen he can fall apart. I think of these times as ODD behavior, but I think it stems from the abuse ex is putting him through. He just needs to know that mommy is in control for his own sanity.


Active Member
I do think that a lot of the time a diagnosis of ODD is the result of a child desperate to claw back some control somewhere in a confusing, upsetting world for them. Of course parents need to be in charge, but we don't always need to do it with control. When we use control (which works in most cases) on a kid for whom it is not working, I think something that looks like ODD is the result.

Giving back control where it doesn't really matter to the parent, undermines the further development of tis ODD-like condition.

And this method seems to do that.



Active Member

From the handout
· Basket C: (C=Child) is where the adult is eliminating or reducing the problem expectation. Only the child’s concern is considered. Basket C does not cause meltdowns. Basket C helps adults eliminate unnecessary demands, thereby reducing a child’s global level of frustration and enabling him or her to deal more successfully with the more critical remaining demands. You know that you are in Basket C if nothing comes out of your mouth, except maybe: “Okay” or “Oh”. Later you might say: “I didn’t bring it up”.

The importance of basket C is also in helping to create a more relaxed environment and reduce the amount of negative interactions. In a relaxed atmosphere we can then communicate, have a dialog etc that is why one on one time is so important , the dynamic and dialog is win-win. Instead of talking about emotive issues , start chatting about general stuff, start bonding , connecting , ask questions , talk about yourself what made you happy , then let the kid talk about himself etc



New Member
I recently got the DVD as I don't have a lot of time to read. Anyway, my husband is kind of like your's. He's all about the Plan A approach :eek: When he's not stressed out (which isn't all that often, lol) he does do a good Plan B when it suits him. husband is also older and I don't know that he's very flexible in re-learning parenting after all these years :nonono:

I don't think following the Plan A, B, C options and how "they" want it done is 100% able to be implemented. After watching the DVD - I found there were more times I was able to utilize plan B ... but there were times that there wasn't enough time for Plan B and I needed Plan A. DS does respond to Plan A - although I do now see situations where Plan B is working better where before he would have had a miniature hissy. I've only resorted to Plan C a couple of times when I realized I wasn't picking my battles very well.

I think you have to do what is going to work for your kid.


Active Member
Plan B is where you back off when needed. Plan c is where you don't even go there.

Have faith in yourself and your husband. This is a system that has to be fine-tuned to each individual family. YOU know what is working for you. You have begun to see some improvement. Give it and yourselves time.

The thing is, with a lot of how we deal with our kids - if it works, great! if it makes it worse and you can't make things work, throw it out.

Observe yourself, as you go through your day. A lot of this is also mindset, and you may be using Basket B more than you think.

Another suggestion which you can feel free to ignore if it's not relevant - we had to acknowledge that task-changing was Plan C, and yet we needed it to be Plan A. So we developed a method to put it in Plan B:
We would observe to see what difficult child 3 was doing. Generally it's playing a computer game. We have put in strict timetabling of when he can play games and under what circumstances. We also have written his evening routine on a blackboard, so he can tick off his tasks. When all his tasks are done before 8.30 pm he can go back to games until 8.30. After that he has to find something else to do (such as read a book) before bedtime at 9.30 pm. HE chose the bedtime after negotiation with us. Yet he often goes to bed before this time. HIS choice.
To get him off a computer game - we don't walk up and turn it off. Instant meltdown! if he did that to me while I was typing this to you, I would be very angry.
We ask him, "How long before you can get to a save point, or finish the game?"
He might say, "ten minutes."
If that is too long and we only need him for a short task, we might say, "NO, I need you to pause it now, you can finish the game when you've taken this phone call."
Or we might say, "Your bath has been run, you need to be having your bath now. In ten minutes' time you need to be off that game, or paused. Otherwise your bath will be cold."
We put a brightly coloured Post-It note in the top corner of the TV screen, where it won't obscure the game but can still be seen. On the note we wrote, "Bath - 10 minutes - told at 7.15 pm."
This way when I go back in ten minutes' time (I LOVE oven timers!) he can't say, "You didn't tell me!"
That isn't a lie, by the way. When they insist that you didn't tell them, even when they answered you as you spoke to them - part of their brain that is talking to you is on automatic pilot, they really didn't remember. But the piece of paper is the independent witness, tat way they know you aren't making it up to make them feel bad.

I don't think this method is covered specifically by Ross Greene (I could be wrong). But it meshes in so neatly, because part of Ross Greene's stuff is to try to understand what is triggering the kid. For us, task-changing is always a huge problem and is part of the disability.

What difficult child 3 has now learnt, is that I respect his game space, but I require him to put it aside to do his tasks. I will not use his game space to control him or to limit it without discussion with him. As a result, he is now far more willing to pause a game because he knows I will let him finish it. This reduces his anxiety and makes him more manageable - which is what I need.

So be flexible, be adaptable and take your own personal notes if you find something that either works spectacularly, or is a dismal failure. That way you can repeat successes and avoid past problems.



New Member
I think the biggest issue you are facing right now would be that your husband is not on board with you on this approach. Unfortunately, as Dr Greene states in the book, EVERYONE who participates in the care of your child HAS to follow the approach for it to work properly. The first thing that we did was between my husband and I, we read the book together, we discussed which issues we felt belonged in each basket, and then my parents, who supervise our difficult child (I hate saying babysit, she's 12) also read the book. Then we went through our list with them and tweaked it to include some of the things that they observe at their home. Once we were finished, we came up with a "master list" of which behaviors belonged in which baskets...and everyone operated from that list.

The most important thing for you to do at this point is to try to get your husband on board. If you try to implement this approach and he doesn't, then when he raises a Basket C issue and makes a big deal about it, you will have a choice to make...if you decide to abandon your Baskets and support your husband's decision to make a big deal of it, your consistency goes out the window, along with all of your progress. But if you decide to stick to your guns and consider it a basket C, you will go against your husband, which is VERY bad for a marriage, plus then your child will not see the "united front" and will try to play you against one another. "A HOUSE DIVIDED WILL NOT STAND" is a phrase that my husband and I have made a big deal of, and I think it was invented by parents of a difficult child, because let me tell you...if your difficult child sees a division between parents, they will blow through with a whirlwind that WILL knock the house DOWN!!!!!

Good luck, and I am sending hugs and prayers your way...if you can, at least try to get your husband to READ the book, and see if you can get him to try it for 6 months or so and see what happens. Usually by that point, you should be able to make some adjustments and move some more of your difficult child's negative behaviors into higher priority baskets, and start working on more issues. If he still isn't a fan of the method by the end of the 6 months, tell him you would be willing to try another approach. Someone mentioned the book "Raising Children with Love and Logic" to me, but we have had so much luck with the Greene theory, I have no interest in changing my approach.

Also, they say that the 1-2-3-Magic Approach works well for children, up through age 12, and there is a book out on that one too.