Oppositional defiant disorder or ODD is a disorder that affects up to 16% of school aged children according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. To someone who has never experienced a child with this disorder it may seem like yet another disorder to excuse bad parenting skills or just a strong personality. It often accompanies learning disabilities, behavioral disorders and mood disorders.
In 67% of children who are diagnosed with this disorder, the signs and symptoms of ODD resolve within 3 years. Thirty percent of children will develop conduct disorder which is a more serious disorder according to research. Ten percent of children diagnosed with ODD will eventually develop a more lasting personality disorder, such as Anti-Social Personality Disorder.
Although how you parent affects a child with ODD, it is not the cause of this disorder. There is no medicine to “cure” it and the only way to cope with a child with ODD is through therapy and a re-evaluation of how you discipline your child. Any medicine a doctor may recommend will be for a co-existing condition such as ADHD or depression. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the exact reason why a children has ODD is unknown.
These are symptoms of the typical ODD behaviors.
• Frequent temper tantrums
• Excessive arguing with adults
• Often questioning rules
• Active defiance and refusal to comply with adult requests and rules
• Deliberate attempts to annoy or upset people
• Blaming others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
• Often being touchy or easily annoyed by others
• Frequent anger and resentment
• Mean and hateful talking when upset
• Spiteful attitude and revenge seeking
Any parent who is reading these symptoms probably has seen one or more of them in their child. Even in families with more than one child, you might see some of these behaviors especially during the so-called “terrible twos”. Many people are probably thinking that the child with these symptoms just needs discipline. Yes, effective, consistent discipline is part of the “cure” or coping skills, but this is a real disorder.
Children and tweens with ODD exhibit these symptoms on a regular basis. It destroys their relationships with their peers, makes them a disciplinary problem in school and makes them a nightmare at home.
It is important for your child to be diagnosed as soon as possible in order to help them learn how to fit in to the demands of life. A child psychiatrist can evaluate the child and also recognize if there are other disorders present.
So, what are the ways a parent can cope with their child’s ODD?
Recognize positive behavior. Give the child praise and positive reinforcement for when he shows flexibility or cooperation.
Walk away from conflicts that you can sense have the potential to get out of control. Arguing with your child will just make matters worse. This also teaches the child how to deal with conflict. If your child chooses to take a time-out in order to show self-control, make sure to acknowledge it. Prevent overreacting which will not help the situation.
Choose your battles. The child with ODD has trouble avoiding power struggles. Prioritize the things that you want the child to do. Give your child time-outs in order to cool down but don’t keep them in time-out for an extended period of time.
Be reasonable with your expectations on behavior and set limits with clear consequences that are enforced on a consistent basis.
Take time for yourself. Parenting a child with ODD can be overwhelming. If you are extremely stressed or tired, dealing with a demanding child can cause you to overreact or not be consistent with discipline or praise.
Work with and gain support from the other adults in your child’s life. Teachers, coaches and your partner or spouse should be able to help you with dealing with your child.
Manage your own stress with coping skills like regular exercise and relaxation techniques.
Parenting a child with oppositional defiant disorder can be a challenge that if not handled correctly can bring a lot of stress into a home. It does take a lot of patience but once you learn how to deal with your child effectively and more efficiently, you can expect the symptoms of ODD to lessen.