A Parents Guide to ODD

Whether your child has recently been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), or you suspect they have ODD, learning more about the disorder is beneficial for both you and your child.

ODD can cause disruptive behavior and can have far-reaching consequences for everyone in the family.

What is oppositional defiant disorder?

ODD is a behavior disorder that is typically diagnosed in childhood. Children who display the signs of ODD are quite often defiant, uncooperative, hostile towards their peers at school, and also display hostility to their parents, coaches, teachers, and anyone else in a perceived position of authority.

It’s expected and considered healthy for children and teens to push boundaries as they try to figure out who they are, but ODD takes it to a new level. It is important to differentiate between typical developmental milestones that include defiant behavior or oppositional behavior and ODD.

Children with ODD will display unusual levels of anger that may not be warranted for the situation they are experiencing. They could also throw unprovoked tantrums. What’s most alarming is children with ODD may also deliberately hurt others, including children who are younger or smaller than them.

Use this easy reference list to determine whether your child is displaying some of the signs of ODD:

  • Unusual irritability and anger, often without apparent cause.
  • Refusing to follow the rules of the house, classroom, or school.
  • Easily annoyed and quick to lose their temper.
  • Being openly defiant to those in positions of authority and becoming argumentative.
  • Being deliberately annoying to provoke a reaction out of peers and adults.
  • Not taking responsibility for their actions and behaviors, being quick to blame others for their own mistakes.
  • Reacting by throwing or breaking items that don’t belong to them.
  • Vindictive behavior in response to things they don’t like.

In truth, many children can display a version of these same behaviors periodically. The key difference is that children who have ODD will display extreme versions of these types of outbursts and for several consecutive months.

Another trademark consequence of living with ODD is that it can take a serious toll on other family members. It can also damage the relationship that parents have with their child. With daily frustration, hourly arguments, and not knowing when to expect the next explosive outburst, parents may find themselves pushed past their ability to cope.

As a parent who may have other children in the home, you may feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and even a little bit frightened of your child. Being faced with ODD in your child can leave you confused as to how to best help your child.

You could even find yourself reacting in extreme versions of yourself. You may not typically yell at your child, but ODD could lead you to out of pure frustration. Your once strict rules may start to bend a bit as you give in to your child throwing a tantrum to get his way.

While it’s understandable to react this way, these behaviors can potentially and inadvertently reinforce ODD behavior. He may decide that it’s okay to yell because you do. He may be firmly rooted in the belief that a tantrum will get him what he wants.

So, what should you do to help your child with ODD?

How can you help to restore a sense of normalcy and calm in your home?

How can parents help kids with ODD?

In a family with a child with ODD, it’s important that parents get treatment help not just for the individual child but for the family as a whole. Parents need to know how to work together as a team, siblings and other family members need to know how to live with a defiant child.

Early intervention and treatment for your child can help to avoid a more serious concern as your child grows into adolescence and adulthood.

For your part, there are a few things that you can do to help your child, including:

  • Make sure that you keep up with all appointments scheduled with your child’s therapists and other healthcare providers. Life can get busy, but maintaining a routine for treatment can prove beneficial for a struggling child or teen.
  • Schedule and participate in family therapy. Encourage all members of the family to attend and participate. Each person in the family should be encouraged to speak their mind and be open about how they are feeling.
  • Be involved with every member of your child’s care team. Your child may be seen by counselors, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and more. His care team will be an important part of helping him to cope.
  • Be open with your child’s school so that they can not only be aware of the concerns but can work with you and your child’s care team to develop a treatment plan that works for your child’s needs.

It’s important that you reach out for support from other parents who have experience with what your family is going through. Your child’s care team may be able to direct you to a helpful support group for parents of kids with ODD.

What treatment methods are available for ODD?

Treatment for kids with ODD doesn’t just help the child who is struggling. It can help to restore and even improve the relationship between parents and children.

Treatment is also an essential part of ensuring that your child has a bright future. While some may grow out of ODD, others will continue to display behavioral issues. This can lead to trouble within their peer groups, difficulty establishing and maintaining healthy relationships, and of course, discord within the family.

Children who don’t grow out of ODD are at an increased risk for trouble in their teen and adult years. They could potentially struggle with their education, reducing their odds of pursuing a degree and solid career. Some may even develop a more severe behavior disorder called conduct disorder, which includes criminal activity. The sooner that you get help for your child, the better you can help them with a positive trajectory for their life.

Your involvement in your child’s ODD treatment is a crucial part of helping treatment be successful. The best approach to treating ODD is to help parents learn and use several parenting strategies tailored to their family dynamic.

As a part of treatment, parents will also learn the following:

  • How to anticipate and manage problematic behavior.
  • How to manage and appropriately respond to angry outbursts and tantrums.
  • How to create structure and consistency for the child, as routine can be key.

As a part of treatment, parents can learn modification strategies, including some of the following:

  • Repairing damage to the parent and child relationship so it’s warm and loving.
  • How to provide a structured home environment with a predictable schedule.
  • How to establish simple and clear rules of the household.
  • Learning how to focus on positive behaviors and how to praise and reward these positive behaviors.
  • Focusing on how to ignore negative and frustrating behaviors.
  • Learning how to stay consistent with consequences for negative and destructive behaviors.

Some of the treatment options to consider for your child with ODD could include social-emotional skills training and medications to help treat some of the symptoms of ODD.

Social-emotional skills training includes learning ways to identify and manage feelings, how to get along with peers, and strategies to help make better decisions based less on emotions and more on thinking.

What’s next?

Your next step should be to seek valuable treatment to help your child with ODD learn how to cope better. Outpatient therapy is beneficial for every member of the family.

In some cases, your child with ODD may benefit more from time spent in a residential treatment center. In this structured environment, your child can learn those new behaviors that can help them better interact with peers and adults.

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