Coping with Oppositional Defiance


I received this through a listserve for parents of Asperger kids. It contains alot of useful, practical tips.

Coping with Oppositional Defiance

In many cases, oppositional disorders coexist with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. In this case, the
impulsivity and hyperactivity of ADHD can greatly amplify the defiance and
uncontrolled anger of ODD. Symptoms of ODD can also appear as part of major
depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, or mania. Some children
with separation anxiety disorder may also evidence oppositional

So, what do we do?

Unfortunately, there are no simple solutions. But, here are some of the key approaches.

Individual Psychotherapy
Finding a psychologist or play therapist with whom your child can develop a good relationship can be very
valuable. Often children with ODD feel as if they don’t live up to their parent’s
expectations and this frustration exacerbates their disorder.
When a therapist provides unconditional acceptance, the therapist is in a position
to help your child learn some effective anger management techniques that
decrease defiance and naturally lead to more positive parental feedback.
The therapist may also employ cognitive behavioral techniques to help your
child learn effective problem solving skills that will improve social
interactions inside and outside the home. The support gained through
therapy can counterbalance the frequent messages of failure to which the
child with ODD is often exposed.

Social Skills Training
Coupled with other therapies, social skills training has been effective in improving social behaviors that result from a child’s angry, defiant approach to rules. Incorporating reinforcement
strategies and rewards for appropriate behavior helps children learn to generalize positive behavior.
Social skills training, can help children learn to evaluate social situations and adjust their behavior accordingly. Metaanalyses of research on social skills has shown that the only
successful social skills training interventions are those that provide training in the child's natural
environments (home and classroom) – so that generalization is built in.To accomplish this you will need your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) from school to includeCommunity Based Instruction using social skills training.

Medication is only recommended when the symptoms of ODD occur with other
conditions, such as ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)), or anxiety
disorder. When stimulants are used to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders, they also appear to lessen oppositional symptoms in the child. There is no medication specifically for treating
symptoms of ODD where there is no other emotional disorder. In lieu of medication, you might
wish to investigate EEG neurofeedback, a nonpharmacological intervention which is effective at teaching children to self-calm, thereby increasing their adaptability and decreasing oppositionalism that results from poor adaptability. In addition, if your child is often moody and angry, you may ask your pediatrician to explore the possibility of prescribing transcranial electrotherapy for your home. This involves the use of a
portable unit called Alpha stimulant, which generates low voltage alpha waves (the kind of waves the brain generates when it is calm and focused). Your child can wear this noninvasive devise for 20-30
minutes per day, to induce a relaxed, peaceful state without need for medication.

Practical Suggestions for Parents

Enlist others to help you: You need help on a consistent basis. This means you need to
speak with your parents, your siblings, your husband’s parents and siblings, your neighbors and let them know that your child has a disorder which is difficult to control and very demanding
on you as a parent. Therefore, you need help on a regular basis from now
until your child is grown. Ask each to commit to help in some concrete fashion. This might
mean that someone watches your child every week so you can go grocery
shopping without a hassle, it may mean that grandma has the kids for dinner
every Saturday so you and your spouse can have a meal and a conversation
without interruption. It might mean that Uncle Mike takes you son for a
bike ride on Sunday’s after church so you and your husband can pay your
bills. You decide what you need, and ask each person in your support
network to make a specific commitment to help you. In short, do
everything you can to share the burden of parenting. This includes asking all
interested parties to learn about your child’s disorder(s) and IDEA and
to participate in IEP meetings with the school district.

Set up an appropriate school program: If your child is not already classified,
make a written referral for your child to be evaluated for special education. Request a Functional Behavioral Analysis as part of the evaluation process. Once eligibility is determined, you want to
advocate for an IEP that include a Behavioral Intervention Plan with positive
behavioral supports to reduce the occurrence of oppositional and defiant behaviors. You also want this plan to stipulate that in or out of school suspensions may not be employed as a disciplinary measure with your child, and that your child may not lose recess. It is also important to have weekly counseling sessions with the school psychologist as part of your child’s IEP with goals to develop relaxation and anger management skills, along with problem solving and coping mechanisms. Additionally,insist on having monthly parent training sessions in behavior management in your child’s IEP so that you can carry over any effective interventions the school is employing to the home environment. Be certain that the IEP also indicates your child will be staying after school for aftercare and that a
staff member is to utilize this time to assist your child in completion of
all homework assignments and projects. This component is important because
it will eliminate a major source of conflict at home.

Finally, don’t forget to make certain that the IEP includes community based instruction at
home and other locals your child frequently visits using social skills training.

Access community services:
Consider putting your child in daycare before and after school. Insist that homework is completed
in the afterschool program so that this source of conflict is eliminated from
the home environment. For weekends and holidays and summer vacations,
consider having your child participate in programs offered by Big Brother
and Big Sisters or Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts. Summer camps provide an
excellent opportunity for your child to “start over” with adults and
children who don’t know their history of defiance and who will expect and
therefore automatically reinforce compliance. They also provide you much
needed time to self-nurture so that you will replenish your own
reserves and be better equipped to deal with your child when s/he arrives
home from camp. Don’t forget to ask for help from your local religious
organization. Someone from your church or temple may be equipped
to provide some spiritual counseling for your child. This can be important
as prayers have been documented as an effective method of stress
management and anger control. Additionally, there may be someone who is
able to assist concretely by providing some much needed tutoring, or
picking up your families’ groceries while they pick up theirs or even
picking up.

The last step is respite foster care on a regular
basis: If your child becomes too demanding and it begins to impact on your
own physical or mental health, consider respite foster care. This might
mean your child spending one weekend a month with a foster family in order
to provide a break for you to nurture not only yourself, but also
other children in the home, and your marriage. Many parents indicate that
they would feel like complete failures if this became necessary. In
reality, this is a healthy effective way to equip yourself to handle your
child’s special needs over the long haul.

Make consequences relevant to the offense: Avoid using generic consequences such as time out
or grounding. Instead, customize the consequence to the offense. For instance, if your child throws a shoe and break your favorite crystal piece. Then, assign your child an hourly wage, and have him work over the
next several (days, weeks, months) to earn the money to replace that item.
Each day when it is time to do the extra chores, give a reminder that helps the child connect the behavior to the consequence. For instance, “Joey, it is time to rake the lawn to earn some more money towards paying for the crystal that broke when you choose to throw the shoe”. If you child steals something, then the consequence might be a visit to the police station, witnessing some criminals in cells
and a discussion with a police officer about what happens to children who steal. If your child, lies then
the consequence might be to do a research report on the value of honesty.

Discover what your child is truly interested in:
Some children devote so much time to being disruptive that they never
develop any appropriate interest. This is another way that camps can be of
help. For instance, you might try a few sports camps, or a music camp, or
an art camp and in the process your child may discover something that
truly interests them; which can be used as a reward and a motivator during
the remainder of the year. If you haven’t the funds for camps, try
your local YMCA as most will offer scholarships based on financial needs.
The YMCA and Big Brothers or Sisters and Scouting all offer positive
activities for your child to be involved in during the school year along
with opportunities to interact socially with nondisabled peers who may
provide good behavioral role models. These organizations all teach values
that include respecting parents and giving back to the community, and
thereby reinforce the values you are trying to teach your child.

Residential Schools:
If your child’s behavioral problems grow to the point that you and your child’s school have difficulty dealing
with them, consider a therapeutic residential school. This can be a
win-win-win situation. It alleviates the need for your ill-equipped local
school to address your child’s behavioral needs, it provides, you, your
spouse and your other children extended periods of normalcy, and it
provides your child the structure and therapy that are needed in a
situation where they can no longer alienate those closest to them.
Additionally, when your child does come home for weekends, holidays and
vacation it is always an opportunity to start off on a positive note with a
clean slate. Moreover, relationships can be fostered while your child is
at school through letters, emails, on-line photo albums and phone calls
without having to deal with day to day conflict.

Someone to talk to: Whether it is a friend, relative, friend,
pastor, or a counselor, you need to be able to talk to someone on a regular
basis; and most especially when things are going badly. Issues you may
need some help with are:

· Carving
out time for your marriage

· Nurturing siblings of your difficult

· Communicating your child’s home and community needs to
IEP team

· Behavior management

· Effective advocacy within the educational

How to begin
dealing with your child’s behavior

· Start at ground zero. Tell
your child that his/her behavior
has not been acceptable and that the whole
family is going to start over.
Develop a list of expected behaviors and
consequences for noncompliance.
Post these in a predominant spot. Then,
develop a list of your child’s
responsibilities and privileges that can
be earned by completing those
responsibilities without a hassle or
reminders. Start with only essentials
being provided: bedroom, basic
food, clothing etcetera. Make it so that
your children need to earn TV
time, computer time, having friends over,
visiting others, trips to the
library or bowling alley, and extra half hour
later bedtime, and so forth.
The children in your family without
oppositional and defiant behavior will
follow the same rules and as they
are already compliant should have no
problems earning their privileges and
setting a good role model.

- Build
on the positives, not the negatives. Create ways for your child
experience positive feedback. This might involve having them
in a formal volunteer program in the community. Or, it may be
as simple as
asking them to tutor a younger sibling in an academic area
where they have
strength and then providing plenty of praise. Creating as
opportunities for positive reinforcement as possible, and in so
create as many opportunities as possible for your child to help those
fortunate than themselves. This helps combat their feelings of
and begin to understand the perspective and needs of others. It
provides opportunities for you to compliment their hard work in
undertaking.As a general rule, each day children should
hear more
positive than negative comments about themselves.

- Use
teachable moments to your advantage. Kids with ODD would like to do
but they have been prewired such that they lack the necessary
to adapt easily to environmental demands. You can help your
child by
teaching adaptive skills. The easiest way to do this is to model
behavior and to verbally mediate your actions. For instance, when
cuts you off in the Wal-mart parking lot and steals the spot you
have been
waiting for. You can calmly drive on while saying: “That
person’s rude
behavior was very upsetting, so I’m going to breathe
deeply to recompose
myself.” Or, I’m really frustrated that I didn’t
receive a promotion
at work after all the extra hours I have been putting
in. I know Joe got
the promotion just because he is friends with my boss.
So, I’m going to
direct the energy from my anger into looking for a new
job with more
advancement opportunities. Maybe you can help me print
copies of my resume
and search the internet for possible openings.”
Involving your child in
these types of constructive actions can help your
child learn to
effectively direct their own anger energy into similar
activities. Or, you might say, “I’m tired and frustrated
and feel
grumpy, so I’m going for a walk to refresh myself. Would you
like to
join me?” Physical activity releases endorphins that improve our
so modeling physical exercise as an outlet for anger or frustration
is very
positive. You can also direct teach. For instance, if you see a
tease your child, before the situation escalates you can step in and
“Bob, I heard you teasing Joey. I’m certain that hurt his
Now Joey may choose to ask you to go home, or he can choose to
ask you for
an apology. Joey what do you want to do?” Bear in mind
though, that
oppositional children tend to respond more positively to
verbally mediated
role modeling than they do to direct teaching.

- Pick your battles. Most
children with ODD are doing quite a few things
that you dislike, but if
everything is a battle you will get nowhere. If
something is simply
annoying you might choose to ignore the behavior. For
instance, if your
child interrupts while you are on the phone you might
tell the other party.
I need to get off the phone now and I’ll call you
back later. Then, when
your child requests attention appropriately. Thank
him or her for waiting
until you were free to speak. Some things you may
be willing to
occasionally negotiate on. For example, if homework is always
to be done
before friend’s visit; but a very good friend is visiting from
out of
town and has only this time to visit you might say to your child:
Paul is a special friend and is only here for today, we will make
exception and let you play now and do your homework later. But, if
homework is not completed without hassle by 7pm, then the next time
visits, we will not make this special exception.” Some things
never be negotiated: being disrespectful, lying, stealing or being
must always meet with consistent consequences.

- Take a break from
the conflict. If you lose your cool, the child will
see it and know that
s/he has the upper hand. Learn to take time to say.
“Right now, I am
very angry with you. Go to your room, while I think
about how we will deal
with this”. Then, call a resource person or do
something that helps you
calm down. Later, when both spouses are present,
address the issue

- Don’t keep your child’s misbehaviors a secret: When
your child has
chosen to be defiant and have a consequence doesn’t hide
it. If they
can’t go to the movies with Uncle Mike because they stole
something, tell
Uncle Mike the full reason. This may bring the reproach of
others to back
up your position that such behaviors are not acceptable. If
your child’s
best friend may not come over because your child did not
complete his
homework, let the friend know: “Joey can’t play today
because he
hasn’t completed his homework. You may help him with his
homework or you
may come over another day.”

- Quality time: When you
have a child who is oppositional and defiant you
may feel as it all or most
of your interaction with that child are
stressful and conflict ridden. To
counter this, when you child arrives
home, make certain you have a full
half hour free of other commitments.
Devote this time to engaging in an
activity of preference with your child.
For example, your child might enjoy
Webkinz; if so play this with him. Or,
your child might like a particular
Game Boy or Nintendo Game. If so, learn
to play it and have a contest.
Or, perhaps you have a child, who likes
certain board games, then sit down
and share some pleasant time together.
It might also be time painting or
drawing, or working on a wood working
project. The activities don’t
matter, as long as your child enjoys it
and you get at least a half hour a
day of uninterrupted time with your
child engaged in a positive activity

Additional Advice...

· Don’t take it personally.
You child may call you
“mean”, but they are really frustrated by their
own lack of
adaptability and are lashing out at the nearest target. When
this happens,
just tell your child that even though they are angry with
you, you love
them and will continue to do what is best for them.

These children are experts at pushing your buttons, so don't
let them.
Keep your composure, no matter how difficult. Do not fight with
your child.
If need be, walk away, take a bubble bath, use the Alpha stimulant,
do deep
breathing exercises. Then, when you are calm, and your child is
address the issue that gave rise to the conflict.

· Give genuine
choices. Give them appropriate control when you
can. For example, “Joey,
you need to clean your room today. You may do
it now and then have the
afternoon to play. Or, you can play for just two
hours and then stop to do
your room. Which do you prefer?” “Or, "
Joey, your teacher says your
are behind in AR reading. Do you want me to
read with you a half hour each
night at bedtime, or do you want to read a
half hour by yourself every day
before going out to play?”

· Connect with what you like about
the child. Don’t forget
that he or she is a child with many wonderful
features. Work on that part
of your relationship and help them remember
who they are


New Member
I think I'm going to print this out for husband--it's been pretty hard on him to see our difficult child act out and not be able to effectively handle it (hard on me too!)


New Member
Kate, I am a newbie to this forum and having read the advice / information you provided I must say I found it enlightening to say the least. Our son (14) was diagnosed as suffering from ODD in late 2007 and has been receiving Psychological therapy since last January (2008). Last weekend he went missing after school and would not answer his phone or reply to text messages. As you can imagine we were worried and fearful rolled into every imaginable emotion one could experience throughout the weekend not knowing where he was or being assured at least that he was safe. He returned home on Sunday at lunchtime. On the day following (Monday) we were called to his school where he was placed on final warning status for skipping classes and for being a member of a fraternity. Following our meeting in the school we went for his therapy session, and, following the session we had a briefing and chat with his therapist who in a nutshell told us that our sons going away for overnights is acceptable and in fact is a 'need' for 14 year old children (note - we are not referring to organized summer camps or pre-organized overnights with people whom we know). I said I believed (to the therapist) that I believe he was referring to a 'want' rather than a 'need' but the therapist disagreed with my opinion. To be honest, my wife and myself - already battle weary following the weekend disappearance and being summoned to our sons school - were devastated by the attitude of the Psychologist and are wondering what we can do now, in particular, living in the Philippines there is always a danger to foreigners and our son is now doubly exposed to such dangers. We cannot accept that he will stay away for overnights without our prior permission and without us having knowledge of where he is going to be and the type of people who he is going to be with. As his Psychologist is a junior (perhaps recently graduated) we wondered should we write to the lead Psychologist regarding our concerns about his 'therapist' but worry that in doing so could we be making an already difficult situation worse, any tips from you veteran parents out there who have had any similar therapy experiences will be most gratefully received. Many thanks in advance - and we are delighted to discover this forum.


New Member
Thank you so much for this article. I am new and though my son has never been officially diagnosed, in my own struggle to find answers I have determined that my son has many ODD qualities. I have found more answers and help on this forum than I have from the many counselors and books that I have consulted.
I have the same issue with my husband. I will be emailing it to him.


Active Member
Thank you for posting this, Kate.

I do have a few issues with it, however (not with you, of course!).

There IS some great information in this, but it is very much what many of us have been saying. I DO take issue with the repeated use of the word "defiant" because I feel it implies that these children are choosing to be defiant, that their behaviour is purely obstinacy for the sake of causing trouble; I personally believe that this is not the case, many children with a combination of other disorders (not always diagnosed) have a desperate NEED to understand their environment and to try to keep everything controlled, so they won't be taken unawares or challenged by Change. Add in a short fuse, anxiety and often communication issues, and you have a child who has an almost knee-jerk hysterical reaction to the possibility of change or lack of predictability. These children often WANT to be seen as good kids, but repeated problems make them feel as if this is so far beyond their capabilities that is it not worth trying. Ross Greene explains this really well in "Explosive Child" - a lot of the good suggestions in this article are, I feel, also well-covered in "Explosive Child".

A concern with this article - it doesn't make clear that a common aggravator for ODD is the sort of strict, controlling parenting that was a hallmark of the upbringing of so many of our generation; a type of parenting which can work well for many kids but which, for the difficult children of ours, can make them much worse. This is information I HAD to know - that I needed to change my entire thinking, my way of dealing with my problem child, or he would continue to be a problem.

Now, to analyse the article:

Yes, ODD-type symptoms often co-exist with other disorders especially ADHD. But it needn't be too pessimistic.

What to do?

Individual Psychotherapy
Yes, this can help a lot. But you need other things in place as well. The value of regular individual therapy is to keep everything heading in the right direction and to also deal with problems as they arise, before they get too deeply entrenched or too far out of hand. But depending on how well the child responds to your change in parenting, individual therapy may not be as vital as this article seems to say.

Social Skills Training
Very important, certainly something to keep working on (even more than the individual therapy, above) BUT the child's brain needs to be ready to take this on board. If the child is just not ready to learn something, not all the intensive lessons in the world will make one skerrick of the lesson stick. A parent needs to keep tabs on the child's development and ensure that when the child IS ready to learn, that social skills training is available.

Yes, you should medicate other conditions where appropriate and where recommended; but yes, ODD itself isn't the sort of thing that has any medication therapy that is valid, for it alone.

Practical Suggestions for Parents
Enlist others to help you.
Yes, whatever methods you choose to use to manage your child, you need as many people on board as possible, for the sake of consistency. Also making use of extended family (where they are on board) is valuable for buying parents much-needed time out, to recharge batteries.

Set up an appropriate school program
Again, some good ideas here. Making sure that homework and assignments are dealt with in school and not at home - I applaud. A considerable amount of trouble is caused by homework being given to kids who simply are feeling burnt out by the end of the school day. Also, if you have a child on medications for ADHD, then those medications have often worn off by the end of the school day. Trying to get such a child to be able to concentrate well enough to do homework is a recipe for major battles. Handing the problem back to the school - definitely. And if the school knows just how difficult it is for the child, they may be more willing to find other ways to ensure that the lessons of the school day have been learned effectively. Also, if the child is on medications for ADHD, then getting homework done as an extension of the school day will help because it will be making best use of the last dregs of medications in the child's system. It also keeps the problems associated with schoolwork, in the school environment and not encroaching into the home environment.

Access Community Services/Respite Foster Care
Again, a heavy emphasis on homework happening at school after school. Also a good point (already made) to get as much help as possible from whatever services are available, in order to prevent parents burning out too fast.

Make consequences relevant to the offence
This is natural consequences - again, I agree. After all, natural consequences are far more like what happens in life generally. If you damage someone else's car in the car park - you don't get grounded by them with loss of TV privileges; you are instead expected to pay for the damage.

Discover what your child is interested in/Handle the child positively
Again, this is important (but also common sense). A child with ODD-type presentation is a child who is responding to what they perceive to be obstruction by others, to negativity, to the feeling that they can't do anything right. If you instead show the child that they are valued, that they have something worthwhile to contribute - it can begin to give them a glimmer of hope that perhaps it IS worth making the effort, after all.

Residential Schools
I have absolutely no experience here, so I bow to the article as a higher authority.

Then comes a number of small points - all good common sense suggestions that have already been made.

How to Begin Dealing With Your Child's Behaviour
Start at Ground Zero.
I do feel this will depend on the situation and the child. What I saw at this point of the article seemed not only a bit heavy-handed but also to be setting up for possibly harsh reactions. First, it begins negatively - "Your behaviour lately has been far form satisfactory." It then says to put up a list of expected behaviours and at the same time to pull back EVERYTHING until you're providing the bare basics only, with everything else to be earned. And I really do have a problems with this as a blanket discipline method.
First - it's too easy for the list to be too long. Ross Greene says to keep the list of what you want to change, to a small number. Don't have Basket B too full or it will be overwhelming and seem far too hard. You also need to only work on the behaviours that the child CAN change - too often we as parents are guided by the calendar, or by family/friends/teachers who say, "He should be doing much better than this, at his age."
Age is not the issue - what the child can actually do, IS the issue. Don't set up unrealistic expectations FOR THAT CHILD. If your child is unable to copy information accurately from the blackboard at school then some other way needs to be found, to make sure the child DOES get access to the information being presented. THe method you choose will have to take into account any problem the child might have. A child who has coding problems may need to have the information presented on paper, beside his workbook. A child who is blind will need information on tape. A child who is deaf will need information presented in whatever way he can best absorb the information. You modify the instruction method according to what the student can handle. A three year old child should not be expected to do complex algebra, unless he is a maths prodigy. A fifteen year old child who is learning-impaired and/or developmentally delayed should not be expected to learn differential calculus at quite the same rate or in the same way as other non-impaired students the same age. He certainly shouldn't be penalised for his failure to learn this.
We need to THINK and see things from the child's perspective, before we assume the behaviour problems are under the child's complete control. To punish for something not under the child's complete control, is (I think) to risk setting back your progress.

But if you feel your child IS able to learn/comply, then yes - the suggested method is good.

Build on the Positives
Certainly. Some good advice in this. With the proviso - you do need to make sure you are praising appropriately, also be careful to not sound patronising.

Use Teachable Moments to your advantage
Always a good thing, although my kids now roll their eyes when I snap into didactic mode. Be careful to not overdo this, like I have clearly done! But certainly, you should explain things as best as the kids can understand. It is very important to give these kids as much understanding as they can handle - it actually increases their sense of being in control, of not being caught by surprise. It thereby reduces their anxiety which should then flow on to a reduction in raging in response to things they can't change or control. Again, common sense.

Pick Your Battles/Take a break from the conflict
Again, very much what Ross Greene makes clear. To argue is tiring; for a parent to argue with a child is just as tiring. For a parent to LOSE an argument with a child is to not only lose face, but to lose authority. This predisposes you to a greater chance of losing next time, because the child will feel stronger and will have learnt that if he persists, he has a better chance of winning.
So pick your battles, choose only the ones you know you will win.
Taking a break - when you feel tired, when you feel the argument is beginning to repeat, when you feel you are in danger of losing - walk away. But you shouldn't do this to often simply if you are losing, because the child will pick up on this and will follow you, persisting in arguing because they can smell victory. They will also lose respect for you if you use avoidance as a debating technique. So be careful, don't overuse it.

Don't keep misbehaviour a secret
I can't see why this deserves a point on its own, this is perhaps better covered with "Speak the Truth". If your child sees you being truthful, you are modelling truth for them to learn to use it also. It sometimes takes courage to be truthful, it is also deserving of respect. Instead of saying, "Don't keep misbehaviour a secret" the emphasis needs to be on honesty, on frank communication, on keeping people in the loop, on Truth.

Quality Time
Definitely important. Again, this comes in with being positive, showing your child you love him/her unconditionally, in 'catching your child being good', in saying positive things, in appropriately praising your child. Spending quality time with the child SHOULDN'T need to be reminded, but sadly we often don't do this. Spending one-on-one quality time with ALL your children is also worthy of mention here. Connecting with your child should be emphasised here as well. Connecting with your child is really important - because it helps you have a better understanding, which helps YOU have a better idea of what to expect from them.

Remaining points:
don't take it personally, stay calm - very important. Again, it's all been covered. But when the word "defiant" gets used, it is very hard to not take things personally, when they are being done by a child bearing the label of "defiant". The reason you shouldn't take it personally - because often the child is NOT in control, what you are seeing is not a considered, deliberate response of a naughty child but is more likely the panicked, terrified, desperate behaviour of a very anxious, panicked kid.

I had to bathe a stray kitten that was covered in fleas. The only way I had to do this was in the shower, with me. A warm shower, followed by a hot air blower (not too hot) to dry him off. But the kitten in a panic scratched my arm. Should I have been angry with the kitten? Of course not - he was being held under the shower faucet, HE didn't know that I wasn't about to drown him. Later while stroking the kitten as he was drying in front of the warm air blower, the kitten was purring. The scratch was forgotten. It was no longer relevant. I'm sure the kitten was also more comfortable without all those fleas. I know we household members were very happy the kitten had no more fleas. I did not take the scratch personally, although my wrist still bears the scar.

Give Genuine Choices
This again comes back to the WHY for these kids, and is a point that should be up near the beginning. It comes to the heart of why these kids are so prickly much of the time, because they are trying to make sense of the world, plus they are often impulsive, plus they have s short fuse. Ross Greene calls these kids"inflexible-explosive" for good reason. A lot of apparent ODD is caused when we try to over-control these kids, because it seems the logical way to handle them. But it is not. It is counterproductive to try to assert OUR controls onto them, when these kids are struggling already with their own sense of being out of control. If we instead give them the sense that they CAN exert their own controls, that our role is to help them apply their own brakes instead of us doing it for them, then we will see a reduction in them fighting us every inch of the way.

I know I keep championing Ross Greene's "The Explosive Child". It was you guys who taught me this (so blame yourselves!). It's darn good stuff, it explains it all well, it is SIMPLE, common sense, self-explanatory.

There are some very simple rules. It needn't be so complicated.

1) Get inside the child's head, work out how the world seems form their point of view. What can they do? What can't they do? What makes them upset? What makes them happy?

2) Then USE that information in a positive way to give the child back some sense of control, become the child's facilitator and stop being the person who only exists to say, "No," or "Stop that!". Instead, be as positive and supportive as you can be.

3) Don't take any of the negativity or hatefulness on board personally, recognise that a lot of it is born in anxiety and frustration rather than directed at you. Keep calm, stay positive, do not engage in any battle you can't win.

4) Work on lists of what you want to change but keep those lists small and manageable (for all of you). KISS Principle.

5) Don't ground, remove privileges, put restrictions in place unless they are also natural consequences/related to the misdemeanour. For example, a child who consistently comes home past curfew will need to stay home for a few evenings instead, to recover from the stresses of being so late; and to also help them learn a better relationship with time.

6) Communicate. be open. Get as many people on board with this system as possible, to ensure consistency.

7) Look after yourself, keep up your own strength emotionally and physically.

Above all else, learning to handle a kid with ODD generally requires you to change your mind-set. Even if you think you already have - you need to always keep mentally touching base, to see if you have inadvertently slipped back into old habits, if you have let more negativity creep back in than is good for your relationship, or if there is anything else you need to be alert to.

It is very difficult to do all this, while at the back of your mind lurks the word "defiant". If any part of you thinks the child is doing this deliberately, you will feel (rightly) resentful. This then sets up a competition between you and the child, which you, the parent, feel you MUST win. Once you step away from your necessary role as facilitator, you are stepping back into the role of adversary, and the child will then automatically snap back into competition mode, to oppose your every move/action/word and you will be back in your old rut.

It's not easy to parent a child with a label of ODD. But it needn't be made too impossible, either. Some of us will struggle more, depending on what else is wrong. All we can do, is our best. If this falls short - then don't bet yourself up about it. You DID do your best, after all.

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Well-Known Member
Thanks Kate. Very informative.
We've instituted many of the suggestions already, but I csn do more.
I had to chuckle at a few of them, like the gentle reminder to do chores to earn money to pay for the broken crystal. That would earn a loud retort of "I'm NOT paying for it!" Heh heh. But we proceed with the chores somehow, anyway.