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    the story behind the book | kate tuttle

    Psychologist on raising human beings

    david wilson for the boston globe

    Psychologist Ross Greene’s work with behaviorally challenging children led to his first book, “The Explosive Child,” which suggested that parents and other adults collaborate with children, proactively finding solutions to the kids’ problems, rather than sticking to punitive and adversarial methods that only lead to power struggles.

    “The concept is an old one, but I’ve been applying it for most of the last 20 or so years, primarily with behaviorally challenging kids,” Greene said. “To tell the truth, the longer I’m in this business, the more blurred the lines become between kids who we call behaviorally challenging and the rest of us. We all have our moments.”

    Greene’s new book, “Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Partnership With Your Child,” addresses families in which the kids may not kick or hit, but do whine and pout. When solving a problem together, he says, parents ought to begin with empathy. “Kids have information that we very badly need,” Greene said. “What’s hard for them. What’s getting in their way.” Once adults really listen to kids, both parties can share their concerns; then the adult invites the child to collaborate on a solution that’s mutually satisfactory.


    Some parents worry that they’ll lose control by engaging their kids in this way, but Greene disagrees. “This is not negotiating; this is problem solving,” he said. “I’m helping my child solve problems that affect his or her life. And instead of doing it unilaterally, I’m doing it collaboratively with my child.”

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    The benefits last beyond the moment, Greene said. “There’s another rationale for parenting in this way. And that is to foster skills that are on the better side of human nature: empathy, appreciating how one’s behavior is affecting other people, and resolving disagreements in ways that do not involve conflict.”

    It’s a lesson we can all use in this election year, he added. “Our leaders are more focused on power than on solving problems. But collaboration is the key ingredient in getting problems solved.”

    Greene will read 7 p.m. Tuesday at Porter Square Books.

    Kate Tuttle, a writer and editor, can be reached at