Ross W. Greene  is an American clinical child psychologist and author of Raising Human Beings, Lost & Found, The Explosive Child and Lost at School. Greene is the special guest speaker for this year’s Forty Carrots Free Community Speaker Event, who will be speaking on creating a collaborative partnership with your child. Greene developed the model of intervention called Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS). He has a Ph.D. in Clinical Csychology from Virginia Tech and has been featured on The Oprah Show, Dateline, NBC and the CBS Morning Show among others.

One of the challenges is that parents are so busy running, it’s hard to take a step back and think, “oh, can I do this differently?”  Raising Human Beings is about all kids. It would be the ideal pre-parent course as far as I’m concerned. You know,  it’s all about teaching parents how to listen to their kids and how to properly solve problems with them. I can’t think of a more important thing that we’d want to teach the parents how to do. Before Raising Human Beings, a lot of my work was focused on behaviorally challenging kids. And, of course, you don’t usually know if you’re going to have a behaviorally challenging one until you do.

You talk about difficult behavior in a child as being a sign of incompatibilities, could you share more? All behavior is the signal by which a kid, or quite frankly any human being, is communicating that they are having difficulty meeting certain expectations. That’s what behavior communicates to us. Whether it’s crying or screaming or swearing or hitting. The problem, of course, is that, in most places, people are primarily focused on the signal and behavior and trying to modify the signal or the behavior. In my work, you’re more focused on the expectation the kid is having difficulty meeting. We call those unmet expectations or unsolved problems. And so the primary focal point in my work with parents and educators is to help them learn how to solve problems with kids so that the behavior doesn’t happen in the first place.

You mention that you want parents to be aware that your child comes with certain innate characteristics. A lot of popular cultural ideas these days are pushing the idea of nature over nurture.   The truth is kids are not blank slates, and they let us know that from the moment they pop out. Often that’s called temperament. There are good sleepers and bad sleepers, over-reactors and under-reactors, infants who are pretty happy and infants who are pretty not happy. Blank slating makes no sense whatsoever given what we know about infants. But there’s also the mentality that even after the kid pops out, this is a lump of clay that is going to be molded by the adults who are in the kid’s life. One of the big things I emphasize in Lost At School is that if you ignore who the kid is in trying to mold that lump of clay, things are unlikely to go well. That’s when caregivers often pull out strategies that are oriented around power and control. And I find that we’re in a whole lot better shape if we’re shooting for influence, instead of control. One of the most important things for parents to come to grips with, educators too is that you are not in control. You have influence, but the more control you shoot for, the less control you have. The kid has goals and characteristics and preferences and a direction, and of course, adults have wisdom and experience and values that they want to transmit. How we go about maintaining that balance is what raising kids is all about.

It’s amazing how much of the message comes back to listening and respecting them as an individual. That’s right. The kid is genetically an extension of you, and of course you all live together, presumably, but the kid is not an extension of you. This kid has his own direction. Probably the biggest conflict I have seen as a psychologist is when parents just completely ignore the kid’s direction and preferences and feel like they can force the kid to adopt their own preferences and direction. That usually doesn’t go all that well.

You also talk about helpers helping when their help is needed as opposed to jumping in to solve every challenge.    The reality is that among the most important goals of parenting is to promote independence. People are busy being lawnmower parents or helicopter parents or whatever they want to call parents who are bending over backwards to make sure that their kids experience no pain. I think that the pain has a lot more to do with being successful in life than always being successful at everything, because no one is successful at everything. If some kids parents are ensuring that the kid is successful at everything, then the kid’s going to be in for quite the rude awakening and really have no idea how to respond when real life starts to kick in. A big part of this is promoting independence in kids. Another thing is being so powerful in the way in which you are parenting that you take away all of the kids instincts, all of the kids sense of direction, and sense of autonomy. Clearly there’s a balance to be struck here. And I’d be the first to agree that it’s a tough balance to maintain, but it’s a whole lot easier to maintain the balance when we are being collaborative than when we are being unilateral.

Something you speak to in the book is asking “What is the goal or purpose of a child” and “what is the goal and purpose of being a parent.”   It’s good to have the 10,000-foot view. You don’t want to simply be focused on what is going on in the heat of the moment. You don’t want to be relegated to just reacting in the heat of the moment. The goal of the kid is to figure out what are his goals, direction, preferences and go for it. And the goal of parenting is to have influence, but also help your kid figure out his or her goals, preferences, direction, values and help them go for it. The most conflictual scenarios I’ve seen and, I’m about two-thousand families in at this point, is when parents are trying to mold that lump of clay into their preordained notions of who this kid should be. Not every kid is going to be a rocket scientist. Not every kid is going to be a math genius. Not every kid is going to be an English lit major. Different kids are different and different kids are heading in different directions and if we try too hard to have them head in the direction that we’ve preordained, it’s not going to go well.


The Forty Carrots Free Community Speaker Event featuring Dr. Ross W. Greene takes place on Thursday, September 26 from 7-8:30pm at Riverview Performing Arts Center. Register in advance at