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Exercises for Oppositional Defiant Disorder

by
author image Ashley Miller
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.
Exercises for Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Mom attempting to talk to stubborn child. Photo Credit altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Oppositional defiant disorder is a childhood mental health disorder characterized by difficulty regulating and controlling emotions. Children with this disorder have little regard for those in positions of authority. They tend to be aggressive toward their peers and persistently try to bother and disturb others. Sometimes, oppositional defiant disorder can be an early indicator of conduct disorder later in life.

Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Specific signs and symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder include constantly talking back or arguing with parents or teachers, having frequent temper tantrums, disobeying rules even when they are expressly stated to the child, refusing to listen to or obey parents and teachers, trying to purposely annoy others, being spiteful and taking revenge on others when they feel slighted. If you suspect that your child has the disorder, you should consult a qualified psychiatrist who specializes in working with children and adolescents. The psychiatrist will conduct a thorough evaluation to rule out any other possible causes and disorders such as attention-deficit disorder or a medical condition. Treatment usually centers on parent and child education and skills training, individual and family psychotherapy and in certain cases, medication to control some of the symptoms.

How Training Exercises Work

Social skills training exercises, such as anger management, conflict resolution and getting along with others, and problem-solving exercises are useful for helping children with oppositional defiant disorder. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, individual psychotherapy can help teach the child appropriate behaviors. The psychotherapist will involve the parents in treatment by asking them to use certain exercises geared toward teaching these behaviors. This may include boundary exercises, listening exercises or engaging the child in physical activity as a way of releasing pent-up energy and feelings of anger and hostility. Parents also are encouraged to participate in their own relaxation and stress relief exercises, as dealing with a child with ODD can be draining and frustrating for the entire family.

Exercises for Children

Specific exercises for children with the disorder may include keeping a journal of emotions to become aware of certain patterns and triggers for their behavior. Guided imagery or visualization exercises are also used to promote self-awareness and to help children get in touch with their underlying emotions, according to author Tammie Ronen in her book, "Cognitive-Constructivist Psychotherapy with Children and Adolescents." The therapist may instruct the child to practice alternative interpretations for the behavior of others, instead of viewing classmates or authority figures in a negative light. Relaxation, deep breathing and other stress relief exercises are also beneficial for alleviating or reducing some of the disorder's symptoms.

Exercises for Parents

Not only children benefit from specific exercises for the disorder. Parents of children with oppositional defiant disorder can also experience benefits from performing specific exercises geared toward alleviating the stress and frustration of dealing with a child with the disorder. In his book, "10 Days to a Less Defiant Child: The Breakthrough Program for Overcoming Your Child's Difficult Behavior," child and adolescent psychologist Jeffrey Bernstein suggests that parents try deep breathing, relaxation and visualization exercises to change your viewpoint and experience the joy of having your child. For example, try a visualization exercise by closing your eyes, breathing deeply and recalling a pleasant memory or experience with your child as vividly as possible. This may help to counter the negative images you experience and help restore your perspective.

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