It is normal for kids to be oppositional from time to time especially when they are frustrated, upset, hungry, tired, or stressed. They may talk back, argue, defy, and disobey parents and other adults. These behaviors are a normal part of growing up. However, if the defiance, aggressiveness, hostile and uncooperative behavior becomes more frequent and consistent, is more prominent in your child compared with other children, and it affects your child’s family, academic, and social life, then your child’s behavior becomes a serious concern.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a recurrent pattern of defiant, disobedient, hostile, and negativistic behavior towards parents or people in authority which affects a child’s day to day functioning.
There is no clear distinction between a normal defiance and ODD so it depends on the parents to decide when to get professional help for their defiant child. A parent who struggles with his/her child’s behavior which might be disrupting the child’s day to day interactions and functioning at home and in school should seek professional help. Once a child shows signs and symptoms of ODD, he/she should be evaluated carefully to detect other disorders or comorbidities that may also be present such as mood disorders(bipolar disorder, depression), anxiety disorders, ADHD, and learning disabilities.
These are the following strategies for parents with kids who have ODD:
- If you notice that your child’s defiant and stubborn behavior has lasted for more than 6 months, is excessive compared to the normal behavior of a child of his/her age and disrupts your child’s normal activities at home or in school, you should immediately seek help from a mental health professional for clinical evaluation and proper diagnosis.
- Acknowledge your child’s situation. Don’t rationalize or make excuses for your child’s behavior. Accept the fact that your child has a behavioral disorder and with your help and guidance, you can overcome this bump in your family’s life. Acceptance will give you an idea on how to respond to your child’s behavior.
- Learn more about the disorder and the other disorders that might coexist. This is important to understand why your child is acting that way. This is also important for you to be able to explain to your child about his/her problem. It can help you see your child’s needs and most importantly, it can help make sense of your child’s symptoms as you come up with your next steps.
- Talk to your child and make him/her understand about his/her disorder. Help him/her move towards self-advocacy so that he/she can inform the people surrounding him/her about his/her issues.
- If there are coexisting disorders, have them treated immediately because it would be difficult to improve the symptoms of ODD without treating other coexisting disorders. Besides, treating coexisting disorders can help control and improve the more disruptive symptoms of ODD. The treatment for this coexisting conditions is usually through medication.
- Try joining Parent Management Training Programs to help you and other adults surrounding your child manage your child’s behavior. Learn to change the way you react towards your child’s behavior. In these programs, a therapist teaches the parents how to effectively respond to their child’s behavior to avoid giving in to violent behavior and tantrums. The parents can then practice what they have learned from the therapist and report back to them for progress.
- In behavioral therapy, a therapist works closely with the parent and the child together to lessen troubling behaviors. Involve the adults surrounding and taking care of your child such as the grandparents, teachers in the program because their actions towards your child’s behavior may also have an effect on your child. The need for consistency in behavioral therapy extends to them.
- Individual Psychotherapy – helps your child develop effective anger management skills
- Family psychotherapy – helps the members of your family improve mutual understanding and communication
- Social Skills Training – increases your child’s flexibility and improve his/her social skills and tolerance for frustration
- Cognitive Problem-Solving Skills Training and Therapies – helps your child develop problem-solving skills and decreases negativity
- Positive reinforcement is the key to managing your child with ODD. Do not shout or yell at your child for a bad behavior. Teach through a good example and give positive feedback and praises whenever he/she shows cooperation or flexibility.
- Be enthusiastic when praising your child for good behavior. Specify what your child has done right and try to include some non-verbal gesture after praising your child for his/her good behavior.
- Reward your child for good behavior and give appropriate punishment for bad behavior. The rewards and punishments should be tailored according to your child’s abilities and needs.
- Take a break if feel that you will worsen the conflict with your child. Support your child’s decision to take a break to avoid overreacting.
- Instead of arguing pointlessly with your child given that he/she has trouble avoiding power struggles, just give an appropriate punishment that you can apply consistently every time he/she repeats that bad behavior.
- Be consistent in your actions. This is the way to clean up your child’s act.
- Get support from other adults in dealing with your child to lessen the burden on your shoulders.