Oppositional Defiant Disorder (Child)

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a pattern of negative, defiant, and angry behavior toward parents, teachers, and other authority figures. These behaviors can be seen from time to time in all children. In ODD, these behaviors happen more often than in other children of the same age level. They are present for more than 6 months. Such behavior may include:

  • Getting angry or losing temper easily

  • Arguing with adults, teachers, and other authorities

  • Refusing to go along with requests

  • Not following rules

  • Blaming others for his or her mistakes

There are factors that increase the risk of your child having ODD, such as:

  • Having a family that does not get along, that shows lots of conflict or physical violence in front of the child

  • Having friends who use alcohol or drugs, or friends who show violent or delinquent behaviors

  • Feeling rejected by peers

  • Having other siblings with problem behaviors

The following factors can also play a part in developing ODD:

  • Divorce or unstable family structure

  • Family economic stress

  • Mental illness in one or both parents

  • Inconsistent parenting rules

  • Frequent moves

The goal is to teach the child to replace the defiant behavior with responsible behaviors. These strategies may help reach that goal:

  • Family and individual counseling

  • Parenting support groups and parenting classes

  • Cooperation between parents and teachers to reinforce the plans made

  • Coordination of care and intervention strategies among healthcare providers, school personnel, and parents 

Home care

These tips may help at home: 

  • Work closely with your child's teachers and the school's mental health professionals. Develop a school multidisciplinary team (teacher, principal, psychologist, social worker, and nurse) to help both your child and your family manage the disruptive behaviors.

  • Listen to your child without giving advice or trying to fix the problem.

  • Talk to your child about the difference between right and wrong behaviors. Model appropriate behavior.

  • Focus on the important issues like "safety" concerns. Don't overreact to the minor things.

  • Hold your ground. When you take a position or say things your child does not like, don't give in just to be his or her friend. Holding a strong and consistent boundary is more important than pleasing your child during this stage of his or her life.

  • Recognize anger without trying to make a point. ("Sounds like you are really mad about that..."). Realize that there are some things that you won't ever agree on. Allow for that.

Follow-up care

Follow-up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. Keep all appointments and planning meetings with school staff. Try to develop a trusting, respectful relationship. Then when problems come up, they can be shared and changes made at both home and school.

When to seek medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of these happen:

  • You think your child has become a danger to him or herself or others

  • You are concerned or confused about how to manage your child's behavior or where to go for help

  • Your child's behavior is getting worse at home, school, or in social situations 

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