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Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a recurring pattern of negative, hostile, disobedient, and defiant behavior in a child or adolescent, lasting for at least six months as compared to the behaviors of children the same age, which cause significant problems in home, school, or social settings. ODD is normally more prevalent in boys than girls and is often accompanied with other behavior disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders. ODD is usually not diagnosed in children until they are approximately eight years old.
Symptoms of ODD may include; frequent temper tantrums, excessive arguing with adults, active defiance and refusal to comply with rules, deliberate attempts to annoy or upset people, blaming others for mistakes or misbehavior, being overly sensitive and easily annoyed, frequent anger and resentment, speaking of others in mean and spiteful ways, and seeking revenge.
The causes of ODD are unknown, but may be related to; the child’s temperament and the family’s response to it, an inherited predisposition to the disorder, a neurological cause, like a head injury, or a chemical imbalance in the brain. Oppositional Defiant Disorder appears to be more common in families where at least one parent has a history of mood disorders, conduct disorder, ADHD, antisocial personality disorder, or a substance abuse problem.
A child with symptoms of ODD should have a comprehensive evaluation by a professional. Other disorders will be considered and treatment will be based on all conditions that may be present. Treatment plans may include individual therapy, family counseling, parent training, anger counseling, social skills training, behavior modification and, if necessary, medication. A child with ODD can be very difficult for parents. The parents need support and understanding from other adults-relatives, co-workers, and neighbors. The following are some ways parents can help their child with ODD:
- Always remark on and reward good behavior. Positive reinforcement, such as saying, “Thank you” or “Good job!” will encourage your child to repeat the behavior.
- Take a time-out or break if you are upset enough to make the conflict with your child worse than it is. It is also good modeling for your child to see that when you are angry, you know to take a step back and cool off.
- A child with ODD has trouble avoiding power struggles. As the parent, you need to prioritize the things you want your child to do. Pick your battles-not everything is worth arguing about.
- Set up reasonable, age-appropriate limits with consequences that can be reinforced consistently.
- Maintain interests other than your child and his ODD. Sometimes you feel so involved in trying to control your child, you lose sight of the enjoyable things in life and become too stressed out to help your child.
- Ask for help. If your child is involved in some type of therapy or counseling, ask if you can be included, or at least get feedback from the therapist. This will help you with your child on a daily basis.
- Find support for yourself. Seek out friends and relatives you can ask for respite care. Explain your child’s behavior to them and how to approach your child when he is exhibiting those behaviors. Occasionally ask if you can have the relative or friend stay with your child to give you a break.
- Use positive parenting whenever possible. Ask the counselor for tips on how to use this technique.
Some tips for children with ODD to help cope with the disorder:
- Use a daily planner to help keep organized. When you feel organized, you feel more in control of your life.
- Find a place at home you can be by yourself to calm down. If playing music or reading helps calm you, try to recognize when you need a “time out” and go to your quiet place and do whatever will calm you.
- If you are going to counseling or therapy, follow through with appointments. Talk with your therapist about what is going on in your life. Find out what increases your anxiety and look for ways to decrease it.
- Write a journal or record your feelings rather than acting on them.
- Write down your goals and read them each morning or more often if you need to, to remind yourself of what you want to accomplish.
- Exercise at least once a day. Physical movement helps release stress, anxiety and anger.
- Do some things you enjoy and that make you feel good. It helps when you look beyond the immediate situation and have something to look forward to.