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ODD: The Oppositonal Child

Updated on February 25, 2015

Oppositional Defiant Disorder: A strategy for Bad Behavior

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is, among other things, one of the most draining traits a parent and family can deal with in a child.

ODD is also a behavioral problem. That doesn’t mean that an Oppositional child may not have other issues. In fact, ODD is a red flag that the child may have some issue(s) that he/she is uncomfortable with or unable to resolve. This is very isolating for the child.

While coming to understand and deal with the underlying issues, the behavioral issues need to be dealt with in a very consistent way. The oppositional child deflects attention away from what they are responsible for and blame others. They deflect away from the fact that they stole your money and direct your attention to how the world is unfair. So be it. The world is not fair. We can deal with that after the matter of the theft is resolved. Perhaps they are ADHD or depressed and they will justify their behavior on those grounds. While those things need to be addressed, many people suffer from depression, ADHD and other disorders who do not steal. In fact, holding them accountable may be the only way they really feel your love – IE the only way they have to come to terms with the unfairness of the world.

These other challenges could be a mental disorder or an unresolved trauma or a learning disability. It can be anything the child has not found an effective means of managing. One key component in helping them work through those other issues is often by holding them accountable for what they do have control over, giving them a sense of control in a world they may otherwise experience as random.

As a parent of the ODD child, examine how parenting behavior and the other people in the child’s environments support and reward the target behaviors. This does not mean you or other people are necessarily doing something “bad.”” However, whatever is happening is not working for this particular child. Each child is different. Some children are able to effect change through talk and reason; for others, not so much. Rather, they need boundaries and consequences.

The importance of consistent application of boundaries and consequences cannot be over-stated. If you took an introduction to psychology class you may remember that there are different kinds of positive reinforcement. The type of behavior that is the most difficult to eliminate is the behavior that is rewarded randomly. It’s like the phone calls you get from direct call marketers. Logically it would seem that they would stop with so many people hanging up on them. But who knows, this could be the one that says “yes.” As a contrast to that, if you work, you get paid, say, every two weeks. If your pay stopped getting deposited to your account, it would not take very long for you to stop taking that hour commute to the office. One is random. One is not. The moral of this story is that once you make a commitment to apply boundaries and consequences, be consistent or the ODD child will get even more extreme in his/her behavior.

If there is a proper application of boundaries and consequences, and the other issues are being addressed, over time, the behavior will change. In the next page we will address how to apply boundaries and consequences.

The Defiant Child: A Parent's Guide to Oppositional Defiant Disorder


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