Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) affects 6-10% of all children. Dealing with this disorder can be extremely challenging for parents, as the child seems to be in a constant struggle for power, which prevents family members from getting along with him. It's important to understand your child and make the necessary adjustments to effectively approach him.
Method 1 of 3: Understanding Your Child's Behavior
Step 1. Identify the symptoms of TOD
Children with ODD tend to exhibit certain distinctive behaviors, usually beginning in preschool and almost always before adolescence. Although all children have behavior problems, a child who has ODD will exhibit a “frequent and persistent” pattern of hostility and disobedience. If you identify four or more of the following behaviors in your child and these behaviors cause frequent problems at home, school or elsewhere, lasting at least six months, take your child to a therapist for a formal diagnosis:
- Constant loss of patience.
- Frequent discussions with adults.
- Refuse to obey when adults make a request.
- Deliberately irritating people and being easily irritated by them.
- Blaming others for your mistakes or misbehavior.
- Constant anger and resentment.
- Spiteful and vindictive behavior.
Step 2. Notice a tendency toward victimization
Children with ODD think of themselves as victims and believe that actions like punching a wall or hurting another child are justified. Remind the child that it's okay to be angry. She can even be the victim in certain situations. Despite this, the reaction is often more serious than the original offense.
Step 3. Talk to your child about their reactions
While he may be legitimately upset, he remains responsible for his behavior and attitudes. Nobody made him act in a negative or harmful way. He was the one who chose it that way. Recognize that bad things happen, but the decision on how to react to those things is his alone, no matter how unfair the situation seems.
Ask your child if he thinks it's okay for a peer to hit him if he's angry. Find out if he thinks it's different when he's the one who's angry and hits someone for it
Step 4. Recognize the need to maintain control
Children with ODD often go to great lengths to feel in control. You can start by arguing with your child about hitting his cousin and end up in a completely unrelated power struggle. Instead of getting into this fight, stop it from continuing. You can simply walk away or take the conversation back to where it started.
Recognize when your child is arguing for self-defense or just fighting for power
Step 5. Teach constructive ways to handle a difficult situation
Your child doesn't need to know how to “not” react, but how to react appropriately. You can talk to him about it and even create situations to help him respond to them in a constructive way. Here are some points that can be addressed:
- Take a deep breath or count to ten to calm down.
- Set limits, such as asking not to be touched and informing him that he needs time alone.
- Use the language of “I”.
- Show what to do when someone doesn't respect your boundaries or feelings.
- Seek help when he feels confused or upset.
Method 2 of 3: Adjusting Your Parenting Techniques
Step 1. Learn to communicate effectively with your child
When trying to talk to your child, whether to make a request, reprimand, or congratulate him, there are certain approaches that are helpful, constructive, and prevent him from starting to misbehave.
- Try to speak calmly, clearly, using short, to-the-point explanations. Say clearly and directly what you want and expect from him.
- Make eye contact, keeping your posture, gestures and facial expression relaxed or neutral.
- Ask your child questions and pay attention to his answers. Discuss what's going on in the present, not things he's done in the past, always with a view to solving problems.
- Don't scold, curse, talk about old issues, yell, make assumptions about your child's behavior, or use negative body language.
Step 2. Don't react angrily
While it's difficult to rein in your emotions in certain situations, do your best to ward off anger when dealing with your child. Say what happened, explain why it shouldn't happen again, and affirm that he needs to change. Be sure to assign consequences related to bad behavior. Once that's done, withdraw and don't get involved in any conflict.
If you find yourself getting nervous, take a deep breath to calm yourself down, or mentally repeat a phrase that will help you become more relaxed. Take your time not to say anything that might cause you to regret it later
Step 3. Don't play the blame game
Don't blame your child ("my son is ruining my life. I don't have time for myself because I'm always needing to discipline him") and don't blame yourself ("if I were a better parent, maybe he wouldn't act that way" If you find yourself thinking something like this, stop and take time to acknowledge these feelings. Remember that your child is not responsible for your emotional well-being. Only you can be responsible for how you feel.
Take responsibility for your own feelings and attitudes by becoming an example for your child
Step 4. Be consistent
The relationship with parents in general can be confusing for a child. If she sees an opportunity to get what she wants, she probably won't let it go. A common tactic of children is to try to wear you down until you say yes. During discussions, respond consistently. Be clear about your expectations and be strict when enforcing your rules.
- Create a behavior and consequences chart that allows your child to visualize what certain behaviors can do to him. Be clear and consistent so your child always knows what to expect from you. Reward good attitudes and punish bad behavior with appropriate consequences.
- If the child tries to wear you out, be clear. Show firmness and say “no it's not”. Show her that you wouldn't back down just because she keeps asking for the same thing. Try simple answers such as “this is not up for discussion” or “I will not discuss this issue. This conversation is over.”
Step 5. Adjust your thoughts
If you get into an argument, assuming your child is trying to annoy you or get you into trouble, this will define your responses. It's natural to want to fight someone who fights with you, even if that someone is your child. Don't expect him to correct your attitudes on his own, he needs to be guided. When you have negative thoughts about your child, try to replace them with more positive ones.
If you find yourself thinking about how your child is always trying to start a fight, replace that thought with the notion that all children have strengths and weaknesses. Know that your efforts can help your child acquire the skills he needs to express himself productively
Step 6. Identify family and environmental stressors
Consider the kind of life the child leads. Is the family always fighting with each other or does any family member have problems with substance abuse? Do you spend enough time with your child or make him watch a lot of TV and play video games for hours to keep him distracted? Identify situations, obvious or more subtle, that may be negatively affecting your child. Once that's done, do your best to change these things.
- Consider limiting your child's TV and play time, holding mandatory family dinners, and seeking advice if you and your spouse are fighting too often. If there is substance abuse or a mental disorder in the family, help the person to seek treatment.
- Other possible family and environmental stressors include economic stress, mentally ill parents, very harsh and severe punishments, frequent moving, and divorce.
Step 7. Help identify emotions
Your child may be feeling anger or frustration and not knowing how to express these emotions in a positive or constructive way. If you notice he is angry, label the emotion for him. State explicitly that he appears to be angry. Indicate their feelings and those of other people he lives with. Say that when you feel sad, you prefer to stay cool and not talk to anyone.
Talk about how to express feelings. Ask if your child can identify when someone is upset. Find out if he notices when people around him are happy. Ask how, in his opinion, a person is when they are angry. Talk about how your child feels and expresses each emotion
Step 8. Emphasize the importance of respect and limits
Make it clear that your child and others have a right to set limits and respect them. Learning the principles of consent can help your child recognize that hitting, poking, or kicking someone isn't right.
- Put limits on the people around you, if necessary. For example, you can say that his sister doesn't like to be hugged, but just shook hands, if that's the case. Reinforce that he must respect this.
- Impose limits related to your children. For example, if the other children are ruffling your daughter's hair even after she asks them to stop, give them a serious look and make it clear that this is not right.
Method 3 of 3: Looking for Help
Step 1. Start a treatment as soon as possible
Children with ODD can get better. Studies show that up to 67% of children diagnosed with ODD will become asymptomatic within three years if treated. The sooner you start treating ODD and any other problems, the better your child's chances of recovery.
Unfortunately, 30% of children diagnosed will develop conduct disorder. This disorder is considered more serious and can lead to antisocial behavior, as well as cruelty to other people or animals, in addition to physical confrontations, arson tendencies and forcing sexual activities
Step 2. Find a therapist for your child
If you're having trouble getting along with your child, it's quite possible that your child may also have difficulties of his own. Although outwardly he may just be misbehaving, inwardly he may not know how to express his needs and desires in a way that is easily understood. A therapist can help you express yourself in a healthier way. He can help your child understand his emotions and express them in a constructive way by dealing with anger.
- Behavioral therapy for children is to help them let go of negative behaviors and replace them with more positive ones. Therapy often requires parents to help enforce new behaviors learned at home.
- Therapy can help your child develop conflict resolution skills, empathy and social skills, and reduce aggressive behavior.
- Find out if there are any programs nearby that help children develop social skills. These programs help children interact with their peers in a more positive way, as well as improve school performance.
Step 3. Treat other mental health issues
Often children with ODD will also have other emotional problems, such as anxiety, depression, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. If you suspect your child may have any of these disorders, make an appointment with a therapist to get a possible diagnosis. The child will not progress with ODD treatment if there is a co-existing disorder that is not being treated.
Step 4. Participate in family therapy and parent training programs
While you may not have found it very difficult to deal with your other children and their problems, a child with ODD can be an unimaginable challenge. It might be helpful to adjust your techniques completely. A parenting course can be beneficial in developing the necessary adjustments to your approach.
- You can learn different ways to approach your child's behavior, manage behavior systems, and find support in the experience of other parents who are also having problems with their children.
- Family therapy can help the whole family to interact positively with the child with ODD and give voice to the concerns of everyone involved. It also serves to educate family members about TOD.
Step 5. Listen to adults and teens who had childhood ODD
Find out what their parents did to deal with them and what they wanted their parents to do to help. These people have already been in your child's shoes, so they can offer great tips on how to handle the situation.
Step 6. Join a parent support group
Support groups can provide a kind of help that no other resource can replicate. Meeting with other parents who are experiencing similar problems can be a relief as well as a way to share your frustrations and inspirations. You can start friendships with other parents who are experiencing similar difficulties and foster mutual support.
Look for online resources such as blogs, websites, support groups and other help available for parents who need to deal with disorders such as OCD, attention deficit disorder and others
Step 7. Include medications in your child's treatment, if necessary
By themselves, no medication is an adequate treatment for ODD, but some can help treat mental health problems and reduce some of the more serious symptoms. Make an appointment with a psychiatrist and discuss with him the need to medicate your child.