Living With A Child With Oppositional Defiant Disorder

August 23, 2023

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a scary ordeal to undergo whether you are a new parent or a seasoned one. The challenges are endless, but it’s possible to get through it. Develop a positive plan for behavior, discipline, and consequences and be consistent. This won’t change your child’s behavior overnight but will begin to grow and expand as you build your child’s skills and emotional resources. Find out what ODD is and the various ways to help make life with a child who has this condition a bit easier to manage. All of this information should help parents feel quite a bit more confident moving forward.

What Is ODD?

Oppositional defiant disorder is an affliction affecting 10.2 percent of all children. All kids will act out, but what makes children with ODD different is parents will notice a pattern of behavior. These behaviors will manifest in many ways, but will largely be comprised of disobedience, anger, irritable moods, hostile and defiant actions, and argumentative conduct.

Children won’t always display all of the symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder. Some afflictions may come and go, and some may be more severe than others. It’s important to record what behaviors you see in your child so you can come up with the best strategy.

Some typical behaviors parents will want to be on the lookout for are challenging authority, lying, blaming others, becoming easily annoyed or annoying others, and low self-esteem. This isn't a comprehensive list of behaviors, however, but just a few of the most common examples.

Keep reading to learn the importance of paying attention to your child's behavioral signs.

Know Your Child’s Signs

It is key that a parent knows their child’s signs, and can already tell when and if their child is going to act out or is going to indulge in any negative behavior. Recognize the basic signs of ODD, such as excessive arguing, your child appears annoyed or irritated and deliberately attempts to annoy or upset others, as these are clear signs that they are trying to elicit a reaction from you and others, as well as the buildup to a possible meltdown.

Don’t force certain issues or discipline your child too harshly if you notice that they are exhibiting signs of fatigue, hunger, or are feeling sick. This will not only add to your frustration levels, but it will not benefit your child as they will not learn any positive behavior or change their attitude. Rather, compromise with your child to find a solution together that works at that moment. If your child is clearly agitated, frustrated, and overwhelmed, back off and let them cool down and then revisit the situation once both you and your child are in a more calmstate of mind.

Next, find out how a parent's reaction to their child's behavior can make all the difference.

Parent-Management Training: Manage Your Reactions

ODD is not personal even though it may feel like it sometimes. It's easy to get our feelings hurt when a child is reacting aggressively in physical and verbal ways. Remember they're suffering from a disorder and patience is the ultimate tool in a parent's toolkit.

Work with your child to develop a behavior plan, which will involve coming up with troubling behaviors, what the warnings will look like, what reminders are necessary that work for both of you, and what the consequences will be for unfollowed requests. The last thing parents want to do is develop a plan without the child because it's setting them up for failure. Once a behavior plan is made, consistency is key to adjusting to ODD behaviors. Well-defined rewards and praise should be proffered when appropriate. Established boundaries and consequences for any negative behaviors should be made clear as part of a behavior plan. It's not just you and your spouse who need to know the discipline process but your child as well.

Remember, this is a learning experience for everyone involved, so find room for compromise when you can. Take time to brainstorm with your child and find ways to have mutual agreements and demonstrate problem-solving skills. Your child will take cues from you and take in feedback from their environment. If you are constantly flying off the handle because you are frustrated, your child will pick up on the behavior and mimic it themselves.

Keep reading to reveal the significance of picking your battles.

Pick Your Battles

It may sometimes feel like an uphill battle, or like you’re entering into World War III when it comes to disciplining a child with ODD. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to feel this way. Try to always pick your battles when it comes to disciplining an ODD child. As you need to remain consistent with discipline, an ODD child has difficulty accepting any type of authority, therefore you need to stay vigilant and only choose the battles that are worth pursuing and let go of the small things and avoid power struggles. For instance, if you give your child a time-out for misbehaving, do not add more time to the clock for any additional arguing or rude behavior, as you do not want to reinforce negative behavior by continually disciplining your child.

Similar to managing your reactions, if you begin to feel overwhelmed or know you are about to overreact and completely escalate a situation, give yourself a personal time-out. To properly discipline and help your child, you need to maintain a sense of calm to deal with the situation effectively. This is not only a fantastic way to ensure you provide a good role model for your child to model their actions after, but it also gives a positive solution to negative behavior.

Continue reading to learn the three steps to discipline an ODD child.

Calmly Discipline In Three Steps

Positive discipline begins with having a behavior plan. Your child should know the consequences of not following commands. They should display the expected behavior but if not, here is how to calmly discipline in three easy steps.

The first is to give a clear, concise, and calm command. For example, if you asked your child to do a task, but they continue to play video games, it’s ok to remind them to please turn off the video game. You have reiterated your command and done so politely with a calm tone. The next step is to allow time for a response. If your child argues and begins to escalate, stay calm and do not engage. Remind them of the consequence laid out in the behavior plan. For example, you could say, "We agreed you have two minutes to respond to my request, I’m setting a timer now."

The final step is to enforce the consequence. This is where things can get a little dicey, but it is important to remember to stick to the behavior plan. To continue with our example, let’s say the timer does go off and they have not stopped playing video games, or they have continued to argue. You could calmly say, “Ok, the timer has gone off, and according to the behavior plan we both agreed to, this action has a consequence. I am turning off the video game, and it will be off limits for the time agreed.”

At this point, you have remained calm, clear, and concise with your requests. Your child will either choose to continue to fight or accept the consequences. Being consistent with discipline is key to building the skill in your child.

Continue reading to learn about the importance of getting everyone on board.

Get Everyone On Board: Be Consistent With Discipline

At home, it's crucial to get everyone involved with the behavior plan. This involves your spouse, relatives, the child’s siblings, and the child’s friends. Behavior plans only work when everyone is on the same page, and consistency will build memory pathways in the child’s mind allowing them to rethink the way they react to situations.

Away from home, it is a little harder to tell complete strangers how you discipline your child or to explain their disorder. One place that is extremely beneficial to be on the same page is at school. Your child’s teacher will want to know the behavior plan in place so they may use the same style and techniques to keep things uniform.

Continue reading to learn about dealing with good behavior.

Praise Good Behavior

Parents of children with oppositional defiant disorder quickly get to the end of their rope when dealing with the issue. Reacting to negative behavior is easy. What is difficult is paying attention to their behaviors to react to the positive behavior. Positive action should lead to quick feedback. One of the surest ways to deliver this positive feedback is through praise.

Think of it as filling a bucket. The first praise will enter the empty bucket and may not mean much. When you get angry or react negatively, it will remove the praise from the bucket and begin to fill it with negative feelings and emotion. Avoid this by playing down the bad behavior and playing up the good. Fill the bucket with positive praise and eventually it will spill over.

Next, discover why it is essential for every parent to indulge in a bit of self-care.

Taking Care Of Yourself & Others

While a parent’s main priority will always be their children, with a majority of their attention focused on the child with ODD, it is vital that both parents also take care of themselves and their mental and physical wellbeing. Remember to take some time for yourself, as you deserve it and need a break sometimes too. Managing a child with ODD takes a tremendous amount of time, energy, and effort, as any parent of these bright, energetic children know, therefore it’s worth it to invest in yourself sometimes too. Indulge in your favorite hobby or try a new activity such as writing, painting, dancing, yoga, playing a sport, running, hiking -- essentially, any activity that destresses you, eases your mind and helps you feel rejuvenated.

If there are other children in the house, it can also be highly beneficial to spend some quality personal time with them as well, away from the rest of the family, to strengthen your bond and ensure you have special moments with them as well. The same can be said about your spouse. Try going for a date night once a month to not only give each other a break, but to keep your relationship healthy and strong without all the constant worrying and stress that comes with living with a child with ODD.

Keep reading to discover why it may be necessary to reach out for help.

Counseling And Therapy Sessions

For some parents who are struggling to help their child and coping with their ODD, it may be beneficial to seek counseling for not only the child but the family as a whole. Individual psychotherapy sessions can help to develop effective anger management techniques for the child, while family psychotherapy can help all family members improve their communication and coping skills. Every family member needs to be a part of the solution. Otherwise, the situation may begin to feel overwhelming and hopeless. Specific programs, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, can help both parents and their child with problem-solving skills, while Social Skills Training can increase a child’s ability to communicate and socialize with their peers effectively.

Continue reading to find out why a support group is vital for raising a child with ODD.

Seek A Support Group

It is essential for any parent dealing with a child with ODD to have a solid support system that has their back. Often, it can feel like you’re alone and no one understands your struggle or the amount of stress you as a parent endure, as well as what your child deals with on a daily basis. Friends, neighbors and even some family members may not completely understand ODD and the behavioral issues it comes with, which can make it difficult for you to reach out and ask for help, hence why it is incredibly important to seek a support group comprised of families dealing with the same disorder.

Decreasing the amount of stress in your home is a constant, ongoing process that takes immense effort and is necessary for you, as the parent, to maintain the appropriate level of care that your child needs to overcome their disorder and strengthen their social skills. A support group is vital for any parent who has a child with a behavioral disorder as it is a safe place, free of judgment, where parents can vent their insecurities, discuss different discipline techniques, and unique strategies for coping with their child and family.

Next, learn the different treatments that are available when it comes to living with an ODD child.

Treating ODD

Considering ODD and ADHD are closely related, it makes perfect sense that if you are going to treat your child with ODD, you should start by controlling symptoms of ADHD. Medications for ADHD have proven to help reduce a child’s impulsiveness, inattention, and hyperactivity, which can greatly help with improving symptoms of ODD. Certain stimulant medications have been proven to reduce ADHD and ODD symptoms, such as amphetamine or methylphenidate, by approximately fifty percent. However, if a child does not respond well to stimulants, a physician may prescribe non-stimulant atomoxetine, which can significantly reduce ODD and ADHD symptoms, according to one study.

MORE FROM HealthPrep