While it might seem that all kids are occasionally less than obedient when it comes to their parents' or other adults' request, children with diagnosed oppositional defiant disorder demonstrate a continuous pattern of hostile, uncooperative and defiant behaviors. While an array of treatment options exist for a child with ODD, non-pharmacological ones typically feature a combination of therapy and activities that help to build problem-solving abilities.
You play a powerful role in shaping your child's behavior. He is watching what you do, and getting cues from your own actions. An easy daily activity that you can do to help cut down on your child's oppositional defiant behaviors is to consistently model appropriate ways of acting. While you don't face the same challenges that your child does, when he sees you follow directions, handle stress without lashing out or cooperating with others, he might want to follow suit. For a more in-depth modeling activity, try a game of role-play where you are him and he acts as you. Create a scene in which he -- playing he role of the parent -- tells you -- playing the role of the child -- to do something such as pick up your toys. Work together to come to a cooperative conclusion.
One of the main consequences of ODD is the resulting conflict that arises from the child's opposition and defiance. Instead of giving in to your child's uncooperative nature, which might escalate the circumstance, try a redirection activity. If you are having a heated argument -- or if your child is having her own one-sided heated scream-fest -- change the topic. If she is yelling at you about how unfair it is that you make her clean up her room, switch the subject to the book that she is enjoying reading. If you have a younger child, try redirecting her to another activity such as playing catch outside or kicking a ball.
Rules and Consequences List
Unlike a typical child, a child with ODD will have added difficulty following rules and obeying orders. Don't expect that your child will immediately obey your rules because you shout out a consequence midway through his tantrum. Create a clear rule list that also has concrete consequences. Write this list with your child, and post it in a prominent place in your house such as the kitchen bulletin board or the family room wall. Draft a list of items or activities that you will take away if he breaks the rules. Discuss what is fair -- such as taking away TV time -- and what isn't. Have your child read the rules with you daily to keep them fresh in his mind.
As your child ages, she will need to develop the self-regulation skills to better manage her disorder. While this is certainly a challenge for any child with ODD, transitioning your child from adult-imposed time-outs to self-time-out can help her to gain control over her feelings and behavior. The New York Hospital, Cornell Medical Center suggests self-imposed time-outs as a self-management activity that can help kids who suffer from ODD to turn their condition around and make a "recovery." Have your child think about her actions, reminding her to take a look at what she is doing and saying, and impose a self-time-out when she feels it's necessary. This might mean that she takes a few minutes to herself or that she sends herself to her room to sit quietly until she calms down.
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Oppositional Defiant Disorder Resource Center
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Frequently Asked Questions
- Mayo Clinic: Oppositional Defiant Disorder: Lifestyle and Home Remedies
- Guidance Facilitators: Solutions to Oppositional Defiant Disorder
- New York Hospital, Cornell Medical Center: Fact Sheet: Oppositional Defiant Disorder