Setting Consequences for Children with ODD

Has your child been diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder (ODD)?

Getting a diagnosis for your child for any behavioral disorder can be overwhelming and upsetting for a parent to hear. That said, even with those emotions, you may be feeling a sense of relief to finally have that diagnosis. After struggling with your child’s behavior for quite some time, it can be a relief to understand why he is acting out.

Once you have a diagnosis, you’ll be in a better position to get him the right type of help. It will also enable you to better understand how to consequences for a child who doesn’t respond the same way your other children may.

Understanding ODD in children

This behavior disorder may go undiagnosed during childhood for some who are otherwise labeled as a “bad kid,” but it is during childhood that the signs of it are most frustrating. Children who have ODD are seen as defiant, uncooperative, angry, and even aggressive to their parents, teachers, siblings, and peers.

Generally speaking, ODD is seen more in boys than girls. Some other mental health disorders can increase the potential for a child to have ODD, including:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Conduct disorders

Signs of oppositional defiance disorder

ODD cannot be prevented, but with early intervention, you can help your child learn how to live with this disorder. Recognizing the signs of ODD can be some of the first steps for parents.

Common signs of ODD may include but are not limited to:

  • Frequent meltdowns and tantrums
  • Refusing to follow instructions or do what they are told
  • Arguing constantly with authority figures
  • Deliberately annoying other children and adults
  • Not taking responsibility for their behavior
  • Vindictiveness
  • Constant angry or aggressive attitudes and behaviors
  • Refusing to comply with consequences, or not caring about any consequences

It’s important to have your child seen by a mental health professional if you notice any behavior concerns that are not readily addressed with consequences.

Keep in mind that typical kids will start to change their behavior because the consequence makes them feel uncomfortable or upset. They don’t want to feel that way again.

However, a child with ODD may feel uncomfortable or upset by the consequence you set for them, but they are hyper-focused on resisting any consequence. They will constantly argue and try to find a way to skirt the consequence, so they don’t need to deal with it. It doesn’t interest them to deal with it, so they won’t.

Finding the most effective and appropriate consequences

So, what is your next step if your ODD child typically does not respond to the consequences set for them?

With a typical child, consequences will help them learn not to repeat certain behaviors. Children with ODD will shrug off the consequences and behave like they don’t care what you think.
This can make it challenging to find consequences that are going to be effective.

After all, how can you develop effective and appropriate consequences for children who don’t respect you, don’t respect the rules, and don’t care about consequences?

As you work on finding the appropriate consequences for your child, remember that the behavior your ODD child is displaying is not personal. It may feel very personal at times when your child is behaving with aggression, but your child is trying to navigate a disorder that makes life complicated and confusing for them.

You can take some steps to help your child with ODD learn better behavior or at least start to adjust their poor behavior, including:

  • Avoid unnecessary conflict. Children with ODD positively thrive on conflict and chaos. This means that it’s important you don’t take the bait when they’re trying to set you up for a frustrating argument. A child with ODD will argue to argue and rile you up. It’s all too easy to lash out in response, but this will not help the situation for anyone.
  • Pick your battles. Some things are not worth arguing with your child about. Remember that your ODD child will love to go to war with you about something that’s not important in the grand scheme of things.
  • Work on a behavior plan with your child. Identifying the troubling behaviors can be a starting point for you and your child. Sit down together and identify those troubling behaviors. Establish what the warnings will be when they display those behaviors. Define what the consequences will be.
  • Compromise when you are able. Both you and your child need to be willing to compromise on a few things every so often. This is something to consider when your child is displaying positive behaviors and slips up a little.
  • Consider reframing rules and control. Children and teens with ODD do not want adults controlling in their life. Grounding them will set off a cascade of anger, door slamming, and likely seeing older kids and teens breaking curfew or running away. Instead, opt for consequences that don’t allow them to wrestle for control.
  • For example, if you disconnect the Wi-Fi or take away their phone, you will have the control you need. This is a consequence that your child will not enjoy. There’s no room for an emotional outburst. It is just a restriction that your child needs to comply with, whether they like it or not.

  • Remember the follow-through. Any restriction or consequence for your child should be something that you can and do follow through on. It can be more of a challenge to follow through on issues with an overly defiant child. This is particularly true if your child is defiant about following the rules set for them and outright refuses to comply. You will only have the control you need if you follow through and stand your ground.

As a parent to a child with ODD, you need to think about consequences in a way you’d not previously thought about them. Consequences for your other children may have helped to alter their behavior by putting an end to their poor behavior.

But just because your child or teen is given a consequence doesn’t mean that they will learn the lesson it was intended to teach.

It can take a fair amount of frustration, patience, and trial and error to find consequences that work effectively for your child with ODD. What is important to remember is that you don’t need to work through these difficulties independently.

Reach out for help and guidance

Early intervention and treatment can help to keep problems from escalating as your child grows and interacts with more people. It can also help keep your child from getting into trouble that impacts their education or future.

Treatment for children with ODD will depend on several factors, including the child’s age and how many options you’ve already tried. Some of these options could include:

  • Family therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Medications
  • A different environment

Residential treatment centers can offer a fresh start and a brand-new environment for a child struggling with ODD. Your teen will receive the support needed to overtime each of the challenges that they are faced with.

Parenting a child with ODD is beyond challenging. Even seasoned parents need to change their game plan when it comes to parenting techniques. What worked for your other children won’t work for your child with ODD. Adjust as needed, and keep a world of patience about you.

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