As parents we sometimes find it difficult to discipline our children but we know that it helps in molding them morally and in being productive citizens. What happens when you have tried several methods and you realize that your child’s defiance is completely out of control. Your child may be suffering from a childhood behavior disorder such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Per the DSM-IV the following are a list of diagnostic criteria for ODD. Keep in mind that four or more of these symptoms have to present for six months or longer:
Diagnostic criteria for 313.81 Oppositional Defiant Disorder
A. A pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at least 6 months, during which four (or more) of the following are present:
(1) often loses temper (2) often argues with adults (3) often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults’ requests or rules (4) often deliberately annoys people (5) often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior (6) is often touchy or easily annoyed by others (7) is often angry and resentful (8) is often spiteful or vindictive Note: Consider a criterion met only if the behavior occurs more frequently than is typically observed in individuals of comparable age and developmental level.
Children with oppositional behavior pose a unique challenge to parents. These parents must learn to view their child from a whole different perspective. In essence, they must learn the motivations and unconscious intentions of their oppositional child. This task can be made even more complicated when there are additional children in the household who are not oppositional. Parents then are faced with the difficulty of understanding the difference between their oppositional child and his/her siblings. According to an article written by Janet Lehman MS here are some ways to assist in dealing with the ODD child.
Here are four things you can do as a parent to effectively manage your child with oppositional Defiant Disorder:
Respond without anger: It’s important to respond to your ODD child without anger—try to be as calm and matter-of-fact as possible. Just acknowledge the behavior, state it as you see it, explain how it will need to change and then remove yourself from all arguments. You really have to pick your battles and decide what’s most important to you—and ultimately to your child.
Be clear and consistent: The nature of oppositional defiant behavior is to wear parents down so that they eventually give in. You need to be strong, clear and consistent in your follow through.
3. Do not take things personally. Do not take your child’s behavior personally. When your ODD child acts out, as hard as it might be, stay as neutral and objective as possible. You need to be clear and concise and not get pulled into a power struggle—it’s really not about you, it’s about your child and what he needs to learn. We as parents sometimes need to be great actors and actresses with our kids. The key is to keep practicing calm, consistent parenting and following through.
Don’t be your child’s friend—be his parent: Remember, being a parent is not a personality contest. There are times when he won’t like you—he may even shout, “I hate you,” or call you foul names. But if you keep setting limits with your child and follow through by giving him consequences and holding him accountable, then ultimately you’re doing the best thing for your child.
Believe me, I know from experience that it’s difficult to manage ODD behavior. It takes work and support from partners, friends, and the school system; it requires all the important adults in a child’s life working together to help change the behavior, but it can be done.