Working with Oppositional Defiant Children
It is common for children of any age, particularly teenagers, to express their autonomy by defying parents and fighting tooth-and-nail to assert authority over their own lives. But if this behavior continues for more than several months, or reaches an intensity that parents find uncontrollable, parents may want to seek help from someone with expertise in working with oppositional defiant children.
Oppositional defiant disorder “is a condition in which a child displays an ongoing pattern of uncooperative, defiant, hostile, and annoying behavior toward people in authority. The child’s behavior often disrupts the child’s normal daily activities, including activities within the family and at school” (webmd.com).
Often, children with ODD also display “other behavioral problems, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, mood disorders (such as depression), and anxiety disorders. Some children with ODD go on to develop a more serious behavior disorder called conduct disorder.” (webmd.com)
In working with oppositional defiant children, it is important not to utilize negative discipline techniques, because this tends to aggravate the behavior. “Always build on the positives; give the child praise and positive reinforcement when he shows flexibility or cooperation … Take a time-out or break if you are about to make the conflict with your child worse, not better. This is good modeling for your child. Support your child if he decides to take a time-out to prevent overreacting” (aacap.org).
A child or teenager with ODD is driven to conflict, so you should be careful not to rise to the occasion at every opportunity. “Pick your battles. Since the child with ODD has trouble avoiding power struggles, prioritize the things you want your child to do” (aacap.org). Focus on getting the child to complete the most important tasks, and do not fight about less vital matters.
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