Strategies for Parents of Children with ODD

All children are oppositional at times, particularly when hungry, tired or stressed. They may talk back, disobey, argue, and defy parents, teachers, and other adults. Oppositional behavior is often a normal part of development for both toddlers and early adolescents. However, uncooperative and hostile behavior is a serious concern when it is so frequent and consistent that it stands out when compared with the child’s peers and when it affects the child’s social, family and school life.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

ODD Symptoms, Causes, Prevention & Treatment

Risk factors for Oppositional Defiant Disorder

  • Temperament: difficulty regulating emotions, being highly emotionally reactive to situations, or trouble tolerating frustration
  • Parenting: abuse or neglect, harsh or inconsistent discipline, or lack of parental supervision
  • Family Dynamic: family discord, or family member with a mental health or substance use disorder
  • Environment: defiant behaviors reinforced by peers, or inconsistent discipline from other authority figures, such as teachers

Problems caused by Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Children and teenagers with oppositional defiant disorder may have trouble at home with parents and siblings, in school with teachers and peers, and at work with supervisors and other authority figures.

  • Poor school and work performance
  • Difficulty making and keeping friends
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Impulse control problems
  • Substance use disorder
  • Suicide

Prevention of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Although there is no definitive way to prevent oppositional defiant disorder, positive parenting and early treatment can help improve behavior and prevent the situation from getting worse.

Treatment can help restore a child’s self-esteem and rebuild a positive relationship between parent and child. The child’s relationships with other adults, such as teachers and caregivers, will also benefit from early treatment.

Parenting Strategies for Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder

A child with ODD can be very difficult for parents. Parents also need support and understanding. The following strategies can help parents help their child with ODD:

  • Positivity: Always build on the positives; give your child praise and positive reinforcement when he demonstrates flexibility or cooperation.
  • Take a time-out: Model appropriate behavior by taking a break if you are about to make the conflict with your child worse, not better. Support your child if he decides to take a time-out to prevent overreacting.
  • Pick your battles: Since a child with ODD has trouble avoiding power struggles, prioritize the things you want your child to do. If you give your child a time-out in his room for misbehavior, don’t add time for arguing. Say “your time will start when you go to your room.”
  • Consistency: Set reasonable, age-appropriate limits with consequences; then enforce those consequences consistently.
  • Maintain Other Interests: Having a child with ODD can be overwhelming, but you mustn’t let it consume all your time and energy. Work with other adults (teachers, coaches, and spouse) and get support for dealing with your child.
  • Make Healthy Choices: Manage your own stress with exercise, relaxation, respite care and other breaks.

Many children with ODD will respond to positive parenting techniques. Nevertheless, parents who suspect their child has ODD should consult a qualified child and adolescent therapist who can diagnose and treat ODD and any coexisting psychological or behavioral condition.