How to Parent Angry and Explosive Children, with Dr. Ross Greene

gender nonconformity kids

This week I’m excited to be bringing to the show Dr. Ross Greene, an expert in explosive children. Dr. Greene is a powerful voice in the movement to change the way children, and in particular differently-wired children, are treated. Many parents in the Tilt community know him as the author of the The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children. But he’s also the author of Lost at School, and his most recent book Raising Human Beings, a speaker and curriculum developer, and the originator of the Collaborative and Proactive Solutions model. This model helps parents, teachers, and kids work together to solve problems in a way that respects our kids while supporting them in improving their behavior.

Dr. Greene is also the founder of Lives in the Balance, which aims to provide resources and programs to caregivers of explosive children and behaviorally challenging kids, address the issues that cause many of these kids to slip through the cracks; and to promote practices that foster the better side of human nature in all children. This was definitely one of my all-time favorite interviews I’ve done for the show—Dr. Greene generously shared so much wisdom and insight with us. I hope you enjoy the episode.

>>Click here to watch my After the Show video about this episode!<<

About Dr. Ross Greene

Dr. Ross Greene is the Founding Director of Lives in the Balance, served on the faculty at Harvard Medical School for over 20 years, and is now adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech and adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Science at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia.


Things you’ll learn from this episode

  • Why Dr. Greene says kids aren’t lacking motivation—rather they have lagging skills
  • Why unmet expectations are really just unsolved problems
  • The importance of solving the problems causing unwanted behavior rather than focusing on behavior modification by itself
  • Why Dr. Greene says “kids do well if they can”
  • The reasons why a solution to a problem may not be working
  • When parents should start employing the collaborative and proactive solutions model with their explosive children
  • What it will take to change the way explosive children and behaviorally challenged kids are treated in school
  • Why zero tolerance policies in schools makes things worse


Things you’ll learn from this episode about explosive children


Episode Transcript

Ross Greene  00:00

We adults greatly overestimate the degree to which we are astute in our knowledge of what’s really getting in a kid’s way. And so what this model forces us to do, I mean, if you want to collaborate with a kid, you’re gonna have to listen to the kid, and you’re gonna have to take the kid’s concerns into account. And no, that’s not going to cause you to lose authority. It’s going to help you pick up authority.


Debbie Reber  00:26

Welcome to the Tilt Parenting Podcast, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host Debbie Reber and I’m so excited to share this episode with you. My guest is someone I’ve been wanting to have on the show since before I even aired Episode One, Dr. Ross Greene. Dr. Greens is a powerful voice in the movement to change the way children and in particular differently wired children are treated. Many parents in the Tilak community know him as the author of The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children. But he’s also the author of Lost at School, and his most recent book, Raising Human Beings. He’s also a speaker and curriculum developer, and the originator of the Collaborative and Proactive Solutions model. This model helps parents and teachers and kids work together to solve problems in a way that respects our kids while supporting them and improving their behavior. Dr. Greene is also the founder of Lives in the Balance which aims to provide resources and programs to caregivers of behaviorally challenging kids address the issues that cause many of these kids to slip through the cracks, and to promote practices that foster the better side of human nature in all children. This was definitely one of my all time favorite interviews I’ve ever done with the show, Dr. Greene generously shared so much wisdom and insight for us. I hope you enjoy the episode. And before I get to our conversation, two quick things. I often hear from listeners that they love listening to these expert interviews, and they sometimes aren’t sure where to start or how to apply the strategies in their own lives. Other listeners want to know more about how I apply the principles in our family. So this week, I’m launching a new after the show video series of two to three minute videos where I highlight key takeaways or give you tips about how to take what you’ve learned and make it work for your family. So after you’ve listened to this episode, go to tilt parenting calm slash after the show to watch the first video where I share three tips for how we use Dr. Greene’s approach in our family and sign up to get new episodes of the podcast and after the show series delivered to your inbox each week. Secondly, I have a special favor to ask. I get emails from parents every day telling me that they’ve just discovered the podcast and are so grateful to have found it because for the first time they feel understood or hopeful or like they found their tribe. So if you are in community with other parents who are also raising atypical kids, maybe a Facebook group, or maybe you just know of a few friends who would benefit from this episode and this podcast in general, I would love it if you could share this episode with them. My goal is to spread these important messages far and wide and grow the community of parents like us looking to change the way our kids experience the world. Thank you so much for helping me. Alright, that’s enough of the intro. Let’s get on with the show.


Debbie Reber  03:32

Hey, Dr. Greene, welcome to the podcast. 


Ross Greene  03:35

Thank you very much. 


Debbie Reber  03:36

Well, it is really just an honor to have you on the show. I think I mentioned this in my email to you when I first reached out about having you on the show. But your book, The Explosive Child may very well have rescued our family. I bought it when my son who’s now 13 was five. And it just helped us so much and gave us a plan and a way to move forward at a time when we just were feeling completely lost about how to handle this intense and flexible human being. So I just want to thank you for that. And I know that so many people in the Tilt community, you know, we’re raising differently wired kids. And so this is a super important topic for them. And I’m just thrilled to be able to share your wisdom today. I’m glad people are finding the work to be helpful. So helpful, and there’s so much to cover and your work it just since that time since I discovered you you’ve done so many things. So we’ll cover as much as we can today. But before we get started, would you mind giving us an introduction to who you are and what you do in the world?


Ross Greene  04:38

Well, I’m a child psychologist. I am officially based in Portland, Maine, although it feels like I’m not here very much. And, you know, I’ve written some books that people know me by: The Explosive Child, Lost at School, Lost and Found, and Raising Human Beings. What I spend most of my time doing is either consulting schools or therapeutic facilities, or running the nonprofit that I founded in 2009, called Lives in the Balance. And pursuing all of the things that Lives in the Balance is doing to try to make things better for kids and their caregivers.


Debbie Reber  05:17

Now, you must have a very busy life, just with all the books and the talks and such a generous body of work, I was just referring a parent last night, who called me kind of in desperate straits and had her check out just the content you have on your lives in the balance site. That’s for parents, there’s so much there. And one of the things I’d like to talk about today is your collaborative and proactive solutions framework. That was my introduction to your work that was kind of the game changer for us. So could you introduce listeners to that concept and how it works and how it can work in their families?


Ross Greene  05:55

Sure. Well, it begins with the recognition based on the research that’s accumulated over the last 40 to 50 years that kids with behavioral challenges are lacking some very important skills, the traditional way of thinking has them lacking motivation. But lagging skills is what the research tells us is really going on. And those lagging skills, especially in the realms of flexibility, adaptability, frustration, tolerance, problem solving, make it very difficult for the kid to meet certain expectations. And when we are placing those expectations on kids, they tend to exhibit their challenging behavior. In the collaborative and proactive solutions model, unmet expectations are referred to as unsolved problems. And the goal of helping a kid like this and his caregivers is to first figure out what the kids lagging skills are so that we have the right lenses on. And so that we stop saying things like attention, seeking manipulative, coercive, unmotivated limit testing, and start seeing the kid through the prism of lagging skills, and also identify what expectations the kid is having difficulty meeting once again, those are called unsolved problems. What we find is that it helps people get organized, decide what their priorities are, what problems they want to solve now, what problems they’re not going to solve now that they’re going to set aside. And then we help caregivers start solving problems with kids, but we have them do it in a way collaboratively instead of unilaterally and proactively instead of emergently that we find works a whole lot better. And the whole collaborative piece means that the caregivers aren’t on their own, they aren’t the Lone Ranger. They’ve got a partner, the kid. And this is how kids learn a lot of the skills that they’re lacking. It’s how we engage kids in solving the problems that affect their lives. It’s how we improve relationships. It’s how we improve communications. And it’s how we significantly reduce challenging behavior. Any problem that is solved is not going to cause challenging behavior. It’s only the unsolved ones that cause challenging behavior.


Debbie Reber  08:14

So much of this, too, is you’re talking and that idea of referring to things as lagging skills and unsolved problems brings to mind one of the phrases which i think i paraded around after school and first grade that you know, kids do well, when they can, you know, a lot of this is about reframing and changing the way we’re thinking. And it’s incredible how powerful just that little shift of considering this as an unsolved problem versus, you know, as you said, manipulation, or even a behavioral problem, makes a huge difference.


Ross Greene  08:50

The changing of lenses is a huge part of this model. Because, you know, a lot of people focus on behavior, instead of the problems that are causing that behavior. They focus on modifying the behavior instead of solving the problems that are causing those behaviors. That is a very, very big shift for a lot of people. But we’ve also been thinking for a very long time that a kid who isn’t doing well, it must be because he doesn’t want to do well. And boy, you know, I’ve worked with about 2000, behaviorally challenging kids at this point in my career, I haven’t come across one of them, but didn’t want to do well. So you’re right, you brought up probably the key theme of the model, which is kids do well if they can, if this kid could do well, he would do well. As I’m always saying, the biggest favor you can do a kid who’s not doing well, is to take off your old lenses and start figuring out what this kid’s lagging skills and unsolved problems are. And that’s what gets the whole ball rolling.


Debbie Reber  09:50

Yeah, I mean, for me, I was surprised in the school system, how few educators were perceiving kids in that way and to me. Really was kind of not the golden ticket, but it turns everything into an opportunity. What can this child learn in this situation? What is he or she lacking that he needs to work on? And, yeah, it’s like, it’s a great, great reframe


Ross Greene  10:16

Well in it, you know, it takes us away from our habit and a lot of school discipline programs are based on this, but so are a lot of the way many people parent, you’re not relying on consequences anymore. You are relying on problem solving. And so it completely changes the role of the caregiver. In this kid’s life, I find that there are many, many caregivers who have what I call consequences on the brain. The minute they see a challenging behavior, the first thing they think of to do is apply a consequence. But in the CPS model, behavior is just the signal, just the fever, just the way the kid is communicating, I’m stuck. There are expectations I’m having difficulty meeting. So as you said, that’s not necessarily time to kick in with the consequences, since in all likelihood, the kid already knows what behavior you’d prefer that he exhibit instead, and what behaviors you are not so keen on betting he’s been clear on that for a very long time. The opportunity is in viewing the behavior as the signal and figuring out what’s really going on. What unsolved problem preceded that behavior? And how can we work together with this kid to try to get that problem solved?


Debbie Reber  11:36

Could you explain a little bit about the difference between the proactive approach which is I was flipping through my wellborn copy of the explosive child today and realize that that’s really the one we continue to use the most is getting ahead of problems. But also, the in-the-moment problems, you know how you can use the collaborative problem solving approach in those two different ways.


Ross Greene  12:00

Well, 99% of the problem solving you want to be doing is proactive and planned. And that’s made possible by the fact that these unsolved problems I’ve been talking about whether it’s difficulty brushing teeth before bed, or difficulty getting to bed on time at night, or difficulty waking up for school in the morning, or difficulty getting the math homework done, or difficulty taking out the garbage on Tuesdays or difficulty getting away from the screen to come in for dinner, whatever the unsolved problems are. They’re highly predictable. What I find is that families but also classroom teachers are finding that these unsolved problems are the same every day, every week, every month. And the nice thing about that is that it makes them predictable. If they’re predictable, then we can make a list of them. Before we do anything else, we can decide which ones we want to work on now and which one we want to work on at another point. And then we can start solving those problems proactively. So one of the big shifts in the model that has occurred since the explosive child came out in 1998, which is coming up on 20 years ago, doesn’t seem quite that long, but it has been is that the original version of the explosive child was written primarily about what you do in the heat of the moment. But the model has evolved since then to be primarily 99% of the problem solving we ought to be doing is planned and proactive. So while there is a place for trying to solve a problem in the heat of the moment, it’s actually not the best timing, because we’ve added heat and rush to the mix. The option is there if you need it. But the whole goal is for people not to need it. So we’d rather have people be in crisis prevention mode and crisis management mode. But the bottom line is, it’s a whole lot easier to solve a problem proactively than it is in the heat of the moment.


Debbie Reber  14:02

So with those proactive solutions, I’m remembering that when we were doing them a lot, you know, in those more explosive years that I found that sometimes the solution we’d come up with would work for a while and then it stops working. Is that pretty? And then you have to go back in and say, okay, we need to come up with another plan. Is that pretty typical?


Ross Greene  14:24

I would say that that’s kind of real life. There are solutions that stand the test of time forever, but I don’t come across them too often. Sometimes things change and people’s concerns change. And we need different solutions that will address them as concerns evolve. Kids change, kids develop what we want from them changes and develops. But I think that generally speaking, if a solution doesn’t work, it’s usually either because it wasn’t as realistic as we thought it was in the first place. And that’s one of the two important criteria for coming up with a good That’s got to be realistic. The other criteria is that it has to be mutually satisfactory meaning it truly addresses the concerns of both parties. As I’m always saying, if a solution isn’t realistic and mutually satisfactory, then this problem is not yet solved. But it is not uncommon in real life as well, but when you’re solving problems collaboratively, that a solution doesn’t last forever, it just lasts for a while. And then you got to go back to the drawing board and talk about it again.


Debbie Reber  15:31

I think that’s such a good reminder, though many of us, we kind of work through these stages, or we have a regression, or our child has a regression rather, and we get through it. And we’re like a few we’re past that. Now. We can move on. But I think there’s a tendency to one thing is to go back to where we know, right, we’ve already solved this problem, you know, this shouldn’t be an issue anymore. So that’s a great reminder that our kids are always evolving. And our expectations of them as they age are going to evolve as well. So it makes sense that we need to continue being flexible about the way we’re going to solve certain problems.


Ross Greene  16:08

Yeah, I mean, just an example. Let’s say there’s a solution for homework from this world, the third grade, based on what was making it hard for the kid to do homework in the third grade. And then we think we’ve got that problem solved. And then we have homework problems again in the fourth grade, but they are the issues that are making homework difficult in the fourth grade, are very different than the issues that were making homework difficult in the third grade, seemingly the same unsolved problem, but different issues, making it difficult for the kid to meet our expectations. And those kinds of scenarios, it’s hard to imagine why the solution that worked for us in the third grade is going to work for us in the fourth grade, since it’s really a completely different unsolved problem.


Debbie Reber  16:51

Right, right. In terms of age, is there an age that is too young to start using CPS? or what have you found? Is there kind of a sweet spot in terms of the age range This works best with?


Ross Greene  17:07

Well, I think that doing it formally tends to begin in kids who actually start participating in language and for a lot of kids that’s around somewhere in the age of two range. But the reality is, when you start collaborating with an infant, infants have unsolved problems, and fans have concerns about those unsolved problems. And we do apply solutions that we hope will address the problem with infants, but we are also completely dependent on the infant to give us feedback about how we’re doing. So the reality is, you start collaborating from the word go. It’s just that when words kick in, it makes the process a little bit easier, because now the kid can actually tell you what’s the matter, instead of guessing, like we have to do with infants, or like we sometimes have to do with kids who have no language, even later on. But I think you start collaborating with kids, right, the minute they pop out?


Debbie Reber  18:04

I love that. And I can imagine there are people listening who are thinking, Oh, crap, like, I have not been doing this all along. And I remember one of the parent coaches my husband and I worked with said very gently to us, when Asher was maybe seven or eight, you know, you’ve been doing some accidental parenting, you’ve gotten into some habits that we want to change. What would you say to parents who realize that they have been taking an authoritarian approach? Or do they want to switch gears? Is that something you just change right away? Do you talk with your child about it? How do you approach that?


Ross Greene  18:39

Well, you could do it either way, I would say no time, like the present. And My bet is that the kid will be surprised by the different tack. I think we have to remember that if the only people who can come up with solutions are the adults, the kid never learns how if we’re not listening to a kid about what’s getting in the way on a particular unsolved problem, and we are just figuring it out on our own what I call mind reading, which none of us are very good at. And if all we’re doing is busy imposing solutions, then, you know, we really have to take a step back and say, are we really preparing this kid for the real world? Am I willing to sacrifice my relationship with my kid to do things in this way? So I think that there’s room for parents who are of course very busy, just like all of us. There’s something nice about taking a step away from parenting, getting a 10,000 foot view and actually asking, “ What role do I want to play in the life of my kid? What demeanor do I want to have? What stance do I want to take in my interactions with my kid? I think that for many parents, the authoritarian approaches the way they were raised, and a lot of them thought that was the only option. But there is another option, you can be collaborative instead of being human. lateral. And I think that in the vast majority of cases, most parents feel like it’s giving them the kind of relationship with their kid while maintaining influence, which is, quite frankly, the best you can shoot for. They’re getting what they want, when they’re and more when they are solving problems collaboratively instead of unilaterally. So I don’t come across any parents who say, you know, this collaboration stuff, it ruins my relationship with my kid, and things have gone completely to hell, since we started doing it. It’s actually exclusively the reverse,


Debbie Reber  20:34

I’m sure, I mean, hearing you say that it does sound ridiculous. And, I mean, I think that’s what I love about the model so much, and what has really transformed and continues to really influence the dynamic between Asher and my husband and I is that it is so rooted in respect, it is such a respectful way to be, it reminds us that there’s always a reason, right, there’s always a reason why our child is acting the way that they do, or they’re responding to something in a way that may seem too big, or, or whatever. So I love that about the model. And it’s just a great reminder.


Ross Greene  21:14

But one of the things it does is it says that the best source of information on what’s getting in the kids way on an expectation he or she is having difficulty meeting is the kid not us, we adults greatly overestimate the degree to which we are astute in our knowledge of what’s really getting in a kid’s way. And so what this model forces us to do, I mean, if you want to collaborate with a kid, you’re gonna have to listen to the kid. And you’re gonna have to take the kid’s concerns into account. And no, that’s not going to cause you to lose authority, it’s going to help you pick up authority. But as I’m always saying, the least valuable source of information on what’s getting in a kid’s way on an unsolved problem is the kid. So that means we got to have our ears wide open, it means the kid’s voice is going to be heard. But it does not mean we’re going to be losing authority or influence in the life of this kid.


Debbie Reber  22:12

Before we move on, I want to talk about some of your more recent books. But could you briefly describe the concept of plan A, plan B, and Plan C just for parents who are learning about this concept for the first time?


Ross Greene  22:26

Sure. What I wrote about in The Explosive Child for the first time back in 1998, was that there are basically three ways to approach an unsolved problem. And I call those three ways Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. Plan C is where you are setting aside a particular unmet expectation for now. And that’s where you’re prioritizing because there are many behaviorally challenging kids, of course, who have accumulated many unmet expectations over time, and you’re not going to be able to work on them all at once, you’re only going to be able to work on two or three at any given point in time. And so there is, especially the kids who I work with who are very unstable, or very volatile, or very reactive. something to be said, for setting aside a bunch of unmet expectations for now. It’s very stabilizing, it clears the smoke, it’s uh, you know, I like it a lot better than using medication to stabilize a kid. So I’ll take Plan C over meds any day when I can get away with it. So that’s Plan C, but mostly it’s about prioritizing. It’s basically saying we’ve got a lot of fish to fry here. You know, a lot of unmet expectations have accumulated over time, we know we’re not going to be able to work on them all at once. So let’s pick our top two or three and start working on those. That leaves us with only a and b. Both Plan A and plan B represent the ways to solve the problem. But there is one massive difference between them with Plan A you’re solving the problem unilaterally, which is where the adult decides what the solution is and imposes it on the kid. Plan B is where you’re solving the problem collaboratively. Plan B is a partnership between you and the kid and plan B, you and the kid are teammates, where you’re working together on solving the problem. As I always say, any problem that you could try to solve using Plan A could far more productively be solved using Plan B. So I have been spending most of my waking hours over the last 20 years teaching parents and educators and staff and therapeutic facilities how to do Plan B, and trying to come up with all kinds of ways to make sure that this information gets into the hands of anybody who needs it. Which of course is also what brings us to Lives in the Balance website where all of those vast resources are free.


Debbie Reber  24:47

Great, thank you so much for explaining that. It’s so exciting to hear it from you and it just all makes so much sense and I’m sure it’s going to be so useful to our listeners. I would love to talk Just a little bit about your book lost at school. I’m curious to know about the response to that and you know, the last hit school I know introduced a new approach to handling kids with behavioral challenges in school. And I know many of us end up pulling our kids out of school to homeschool, because we just can’t find a way to make it fit. I’m curious what the response was and continues to be to the ideas you’re trying to share in the education realm, and what you see as kind of the biggest barriers to us shifting the way things are happening in schools?


Ross Greene  25:41

Well, number one, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. What I find is that the only people who don’t respond positively to this way of thinking and this way of helping kids, most of the time just doesn’t understand the model or doesn’t have enough information about it yet. So, the biggest concern in schools about applying the model is the amount of time it takes to solve a problem collaboratively with a kid. Now, what I always point out to schools is a few different things. Number one, if we keep track of the amount of time that we’re spending on the kid, dealing with him, with the problem still unsolved, that is significantly more time than the amount of time it would take to solve the problem collaboratively with him. So although most school staff are very concerned about time when they’re first learning about the model, by the time they’re three or four months into actually learning the model and applying it, nobody’s complaining about time anymore. In fact, the familiar refrain is, this model saves time. I think that the biggest obstacle is that this is not the way we’ve always done it. And most schools have a discipline program that has been set in stone for a very long time, it’s the way we’ve always done it. If the way we’ve always done it, I always say, was working really well, then we wouldn’t still be losing kids at an astounding rate. These are statistics that I cite frequently, we expel over 100,000 kids a year from American Public Schools, we give over 3 million in school suspensions a year and an additional 3 million out of school suspensions a year. We doled out countless dozens of millions of detentions every year, we still hit kids on the bus with a piece of wood to help them do good at school in 19, American states still and we do that over 200,000 times a year. And that’s the way we’ve always done it. And the fact that we are still doing it is proof positive that it’s not working very well at all, for the kids who we are primarily doing it to. So the big obstacle is the way we’ve always done it. Another obstacle is that many school staff have yet to access this information. I find that once people access this information, they start to say to themselves, oh, my goodness, we have been not doing well by a lot of our kids for a very long time, we’ve got to change our game here. And, of course, I and my staff at Lives in the Balance are always delighted to help a staff at a school or a facility, change the game so that they are treating kids in ways that are a lot more compassionate and a lot more effective. I would say that those are the big obstacles. What we’re trying to do now is prove that when you implement CPS in a school, you’re saving money both on assessment and on intervention. We have already proven that in the juvenile detention system in the state of Maine, which has been implementing this model for about the last 10 or 12 years. 10 or 12 years ago, there were over 280 kids in juvenile detention in Maine, there are now 80. That’s because we assist in helping them reduce their recidivism from about 65 to 70%, to what it is now, which is around 15%. And that represents a significant cost savings because it costs $120,000 a year to have a kid in a bed in juvenile detention in the state of Maine and it’s even more expensive in other places. So when we start talking about that, that’s when policymakers and legislators start to listen, we can’t keep doing what we’ve always done, or we’re just going to keep losing kids at the rate that we’re continuing to lose them.


Debbie Reber  29:40

Those statistics are just shocking to hear and, and exciting about the progress that you’ve seen in Maine that is really incredible and not surprising, but incredible and good luck in continuing to do that. I mean, one of the last schools we were in, Asher’s teacher had been trained in CPS. And I was really nervous because it was a new school. And as soon as I found that out, I was so relieved.


Ross Greene  30:08

What it’s always nice to know that your kid is going to be treated in a way that is compassionate and humane and effective. I think that’s what every parent wants from their kid’s teacher.


Debbie Reber  30:17

Absolutely. Well, what you were talking about, too, I was checking out your recent work, and I saw a trailer for a documentary called The Kids We Lose, which is very much about what you were just talking with us about. Could you tell us about that upcoming documentary?


Ross Greene  30:35

Sure. The name of the documentary, at least at the moment it could change is The Kids We Lose, there’s a website for it called It is a project that I am very passionate about. The goal is to show what still gets done to kids here in the year 2017. A lot of it is brutal, a lot of it inhumane, a lot of manhandling, just by mere virtue of the fact that they are behaviorally challenging, and that their difficulties are poorly understood, and that they are still being treated in ways that are obsolete. But it’s also intended to be a very balanced documentary, because while it is true that the kids are suffering, other people are suffering too. Their parents are suffering, their parents often feel blamed for their child’s behavioral challenges. nobody’s really paying attention to the fact that these very same parents almost always have well behaved kids in their home, we want to be very balanced toward educators, educators have more initiatives thrown at them than any other profession that I can think of they are being there’s just very little time in an educators day to do the kind of things for kids that teachers have always done. Teachers have always been among the most important socialization agents in our society. But when we throw high stakes testing at them, and we throw zero tolerance policies at them, by the way, the research tells us that zero tolerance policies didn’t make things better, they made things worse than we are asking teachers to handle kids whose needs are not necessarily very well understood in a classroom of 20 to 25. Other kids when a lot of those other kids have IEP s and learning issues, and some of them have behavioral issues and social issues. So we are really stacking the deck against classroom teachers and schools frequently. We want to be very balanced here. This is not a blaming documentary, it is not looking to make anybody look bad. It’s just looking to capture the human element of a system that is so clearly broken. And it’s due out in April, we hope we meet that deadline. But I think it’s going to be shocking to many people what still goes on out there. But if you don’t heighten awareness, then nothing happens. And so this is our effort to make sure that people know what’s going on out there.


Debbie Reber  32:56

Well, it looks fantastic. It really brought tears to my eyes, it was so powerful, and I’m so excited about it, we will absolutely do what we can to spread the word. And I’m excited for the change in the conversation that it can spark and I’m sure that it will. So congratulations and good luck on that project.


Ross Greene  33:15

Thank you, we have a wonderful filmmaker Lonewolf Media from South Portland, Maine, this is an Emmy Award winning company. So if people get on The Kids We Lose website, they’ll learn about Lonewolf Media as well. We really have high hopes for this documentary in terms of changing the conversation, and heightening awareness about what gets done out there and how hard it is for so many people.


Debbie Reber  33:39

And listeners, I will leave links for all the things we’ve been talking about Lives in the Balance website and The Kids We Lose website in the show notes. So you don’t have to be scrambling to write these down, make sure you check them out. And Dr. Greene before we go, I would love if you could just tell us about your most recent book, Raising Human Beings. Can you just quickly tell us what that’s about? I know it’s aimed at a bit of a different audience. But I’d love to hear about it.


Ross Greene  34:04

It’s aimed at all kids, not just those with behavioral challenges. The longer I have worked with kids with behavioral challenges and other kids who we might refer to as less challenging, the less difference I see between them. And people for a very long time have been saying to me, why would you only save the good stuff for a behaviorally challenging kid? Wouldn’t you try to treat every kid this way? And the answer, of course, is yes. But there is a very compelling reason to treat every kid this way. And that is, you know, whenever I introduce this when I’m speaking I ask the audience if they’re a little worried about the human species these days, and of course, almost unanimously, the answer is yes. And I’m not going to go into the reasons that we might be worried about the species these days. But what I will say is that there are certain skills that define the better side of human nature, skills like empathy, and appreciating how one’s behavior is affecting other people and resolving disagreement without conflict, and taking another person’s perspective, and honesty that I think many of us are finding, in short supply these days, not not only in ourselves, but also in our politicians and our leaders. And I think we have to get back to teaching those skills and modeling them, for our kids and giving them as many opportunities for practice as we possibly can. And it turns out that when you are solving problems collaboratively and proactively, and this is what the research tells us, you are simultaneously teaching the skills that we just covered, solving problems collaboratively helps people listen to each other, take each other’s concerns into account, come up with solutions that work for both parties. It’s not about power. It’s about collaboration, I find that power causes conflict. And I find that collaboration causes agreement to break out all over. And I think that we need to start teaching these the skills to our kids as early as possible, and never let up. But I also think that we have to model it for them. And so raising human beings as a double meaning it’s not only my beliefs about how we ought to raise our kids, it’s about how we caregivers got to raise our game. And that’s what that book is about.


Debbie Reber  36:23

That’s fantastic. It’s generous, fantastic work, and congratulations on that. And I encourage listeners to check that out as well. And I’m going to let you get on with your busy day. You’re such a busy man and I am so grateful for this conversation and for everything that you shared with us today and for taking the time to talk with us. So thank you so much.


Ross Greene  36:47

Always my pleasure and you are a wonderful Interviewer So it was a pleasure talking to you.


Debbie Reber  36:53

You’ve been listening to the tiller parenting podcast for the show notes for this episode, including links to Dr. Greene’s website Lives in the Balance, his books, his upcoming documentary The Kids We Lose, and the other resources we discussed visit And don’t forget to check out my after the show three minute video where I share my three tips for how we’ve applied Dr. Greene’s collaborative and proactive solutions model in our family. You’ll find a link on the show notes page or you can go straight to tilde parenting comm slash after the show. If you get value out of this podcast and would like to support this work, there are a couple of easy ways to help. One is to help sponsor the podcast through my Patreon campaign. Patreon is a simple membership platform that allows listeners like you to make a small monthly contribution to find the show. If you want to help us visit slash tilde parenting. The other way to help us to be sure to rate and review the podcast on iTunes and just help me spread the word. Thanks again for listening. For more information on Tilt Parenting visit


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