by Shawn Tucker:
I just finished Ross Greene’s fabulous book The Explosive Child. An “explosive” child, according to Greene, is one who is often seen as attention-seeking, manipulative, disrespectful, and as displaying other behaviors that adults and even other children find challenging. Yet Greene puts forward some amazing ideas, including the notions that all kids do well if they can and that the vast majority of challenging behaviors occur because kids lack the skills needed to respond successfully to certain frustrating situations. In that respect, no kids are “evil;” they merely display their lagging skills in their poor responses to various situations.
In addition to the fundamental idea that all kids do well if they can or if they have the necessary skills, Greene describes three approaches or “plans” that adults employ for dealing with challenging behaviors. Plan A is where the adults set, or better put, impose behavioral norms on kids and demand compliance. This approach actually works with children who possess the skills necessary to meet those imposed standards. Plan B is when an adult genuinely listens to a child and then equally genuinely invites the child to collaborate with the adult on solving problems that they both recognize. Working as partners, the adult and child develop practical, realistic solutions that satisfy both parties. Plan C is when adults judiciously and temporarily set aside some challenging behaviors in order to focus efforts on challenges that have a higher priority.
This is the most general overview of Greene’s insights, yet while I encourage those interested to read this book, this should be a sufficient summary to explore some insights about God that Greene’s work might reveal. Greene does not talk about God at all in this book, but what if one’s relationship with one’s parents impacted one’s view of God? What if, for instance, you lived in a home where parents used Plan A exclusively or almost exclusively? You may grow up to see God as Someone who imposes upon humans norms and standards and then demands compliance. The righteous are those who have the skills to meet those demands, while the wicked cannot.
But now imagine if your parents used Plan B with you. Imagine if, when you “disobeyed,” it wasn’t because you were manipulative, disrespectful, button-pushing, or evil; it was just because you lacked the skills to act otherwise. Your parents recognized, patiently and judiciously, that you had not yet acquired the skills necessary to be as successful as everyone might wish. So those parents took time to really listen to you, to identify your challenges, and then to work individually with you to develop realistic, workable solutions that would be satisfactory for both parties. And what if we could do that with God? What if, in prayer or mediation or deep contemplation, we could explore with God the clearly identifiable struggles we were having? What if we could identify where the real problem was and perhaps what skills or characteristic were lagging and therefore holding us back for responding as we would like? What if we could feel God patiently listening to us, patiently leading us by the hand along at a reasonable pace? And what if we could feel God helping us come to mutually satisfactory, realistic plans to solve our problems, to better handle our struggles, and to grow into the skillful person we’d like to be?
After reading Greene’s book, I’ve tried to do that very thing. I have found that it has revolutionized how I pray. It has helped me see God differently. It has also helped me to draw upon the blessings of the Atonement in clear, more specific, and realistic ways, ways that match my current skills. I want to do well, and Greene’s ideas have helped me to re-view God, my relationship with God, and how God can be my partner in finding solutions to my struggles.
Shawn Tucker grew up with amazing parents and five younger, wonderful siblings. He served as a missionary in Chile during the Plebiscite and the first post-dictatorship election. After his mission, he attended BYU, where he married ... you guessed it ... his wife. They both graduated, with Shawn earning a BA in Humanities. Fearing that his BA in Humanities, which is essentially a degree in Jeopardy, would not be sufficient, Shawn completed graduate work in the same ... stuff ... at Florida State University. He currently teaches at Elon University in North Carolina. He and ... you guessed it ... his wife have four great children. Twitter: @MoTabEnquirer. Website: motabenquirer.blogspot.com.
Image credit: James Chew.