Need advice with what appears to be PASSIVE oppositional defiance disorder

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by sbateman, Mar 5, 2011.

  1. sbateman

    sbateman New Member


    I thought I had a normal, even smart, adopted 4 yr old daughter - although I had been warned that she could be very naughty, disruptive.
    So I was always firm and consistent with her from the beginning, and always followed through on consequences, so there was no ambiguity. Things were great. She was happy, did puzzles, her memory for places, people, events was amazing......astonishing. She could be saucy and sarcastic in her newly learned english language (sign of intelligence).

    Then she started school. Thats when things started to go wrong. Or problems started to appear. She's always been highly manipulative (especially with anyone new, and more so if they are pretty with a sympathetic attitude), and my feeling is that slowly but surely she started to manipulate the teachers at school in this way: she would pretend not to understand them, or do what they wanted her to do (get more attention?).

    At first this happened just at school, but then she brought this behaviour home with her. She will 'pretend' not to know what she is doing. For example, she will act like she does not know where her shoes are (even though they are always kept in the same place). But after 2 time outs.......she will be able to go to her shoes and put them on. She will then repeat the same behaviour with her jacket, the bathroom, her schoolbag......whatever it is that you want her to do or comply with, she will stare blankly at you and in my opinion 'pretend' not to know what you mean. Of course, this infuriates me, because I think it is deliberate, and it is continual.

    I began to really worry that she had some serious mental issues, but consistently, if I stick it out long enough, she will find what she can't find, do what she can't do, or remember what she can't remember. 5 times today alone, I have taken a stand with her, and every time, if I'm persistent and stick it out, she will eventually comply. So I know that it is not a mental disorder, but a behavioural disorder. The school does not have a free 1/2 hr to wait until she will comply, and so they 'help' her to find her shoes, bag, jacket, desk, they tell me that she has ADHD and Learning Disability (LD).

    I really believe that this is ODD. She has also shown previous behaviour such as pretending to cry or tantrum in the street, then she will BURST out laughing into my face....then she is more angry at herself for 'giving the game away' then she will scream harder and louder. If she knows that she is making you angry, then at first she would start laughing....but now she just stares blankly and waits for a reaction, time-out, whatever. She always has to push it to the limit. She also does things like taking a ****, then putting it in the cupboard.

    She will now claim that she cannot do the simplest baby puzzle...whereas before, she could do a 60 piece puzzle, no problem. But put an incentive in front of her, and she can do it.

    I myself would believe that she had serious mental issues, if it wasn't for the fact that if I say 'Oh well, if you can't find your boots....then you can't go out and play in the snow!' She will then either find her boots, or rage, or both!

    My psychiatrist shakes his head.....says that she could be the poster child for ODD.....but we are also exploring ADHD....and Learning Disability (LD), but how can a child who presented for a year as being SO BRIGHT and INDEPENDANT suddenly turn into a child who cannot (or will not) dress themselves?

    Can anyone else identify with this type of passive opposition? Or am I going completely crazy? How do you handle it?
  2. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Hello. I am sorry you are finding your daughter so difficult at the moment.
    I am sticking my neck out here, but I wonder if you can try to look at things from your daughter's point of view? Very hard with a 4 year old, I know. What might she be trying to communicate with this behaviour, what might she be hoping to achieve through it, or what might she be asking for or wanting? Not complying with adult's wishes is very annoying and frustrating for the adults but there is, in such a small child (particularly one with a troubled past), something behind it that the adult needs not to blame or "punish"... Again, very hard I know!
    These are just a few thoughts that occur to me... Others may have more salient or specific advice.
  3. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    Some of it could also be boundary testing. She can use this tactic *there*, so let's try it *here*. We did this go-round with shoes for about a year. She would just refuse to put them on, or what have you. I started keeping a pair in the truck and gave her the choice - put on a pair now, here, or go down there in your socks and put on the pair you hate on the way to school. Should you still choose not to put them on, you will walk into school in your socks and I will carry in your shoes and your teacher can deal with it in front of your classmates.
    She never walked into school without her shoes on.
  4. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Regardless of what she has or doesn't have, being consistent is going to be the key. And if you can get her teachers on board as well......all the better. Tough but it can be done with enough parent/teacher communication.

    Was she older when you adopted her? If so, this may be learned behavior due to her past. It paid off for her then, she's hoping it will pay off for her now. Boundary testing is big in this age group to begin with....add in the background and a whole new environment and I'm not really surprised you're seeing this sort of behavior. She may or may not be ODD.....time will tell.

    When Travis was little I had to be "on it" so much for his behaivor......that if I wasn't careful I'd forget to praise him when it was earned and to just sit and snuggle him ect. Sometimes a kid you've had to have such battles with all day long it can be hard to feel affectionate with on occasion. So I'd have to stop and remind myself to do these things. It of course didn't make all the behaviors vanish......if it did he wouldn't be a difficult child lol.....but it did help if nothing else than with our relationship to each other.

    ((hugs)) And welcome to the board. :)
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I have four adopted kids. How old was she when you adopted her? Those early infant and toddler years are very important. Do you know anything about her genetics? She is actually acting like a child who could have attachment issues. It is so much harder to figure out what is wrong with our adopted children if we don't have a strong history. I adopted one child from Hong Kong (at age six...he never really attached) and one from Korea (at five months). We knew very little about our daughter's biology...still don't. She was smart and overly sensitive and as a teen she did get heavily involved with drugs. Luckily she came to her senses. The adoption IS an issues with almost all adopted children.

    If the child was in an orphanage, often the child did not get the stimulation and love an infant is supposed to get...that can cause many problems. Our adopted son from Hong Kong is now thirty-three. He spent six years in an orphanage and struggled with attaching to anybody until he finally met his wife. I think things are better for him now, however he doesn't speak to anyone in the family anymore. Sadly, I just don't think he felt he ever WAS a part of the family. Talking to a psychologist who ONLY sees adopted children, he explained that S. has attachment problems which can manifest in many ways. His being in an orphanage for his earliest years had a profound effect on his mental health (sigh). He was not a BAD kid in any sense, but he never believed he fit in anywhere.
  6. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Ugh! That kind of behavior must just want to make you shake her until her teeth rattle in her head!

    I wish I had some good answers or advice - but I agree it's going to come down to consistency

    AND unfortunately, this child is probably going to decide situation by situation whether the "reward" for complying is going to outweigh the "fun" of causing a disruption.
  7. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    I'm sorry, respectfully, I just do not agree... We are talking about a four year old ADOPTED child who is not "manipulating" adults from some sinister intent. Such behaviour IS very aggravating for adults and I know how much self-control and generosity of spirit (and imagination) it takes to be the adult in these situations. But acting as if the child is just being deliberately naughty really does not get at the core of the problem, which is very likely to do with attachment. I disagree that this child is having "fun" by doing what she is doing. She sounds as if she is in pain and it sounds much more like a cry for help to me. In the maladaptive way of small children.

    If she could behave, she would...
  8. nvts

    nvts Active Member

    I see where you're coming from Malika and there are some really valid points to what you're saying. The only thing I would check into: are there other kids in the class doing these things. Sometimes a zebra is a zebra. Occasionally, especially at 4 years old, if they showed no issues in the past, it could also be learned behavior - someone else in the class may not be blessed to have a Mom like you and Malika who are comfortable asking tough questions OR may still be being told that their child is "just acting like a kid".

    If she's seeing behavior like this get a kid in the class what that kid wants, and she is so intelligent - let's face it, there are a lot of gifted kids at the age of 4 - she may be just testing boundaries that are in place.

    I think I'd have a really good conversation with her teacher to see when these things started, if there are any "things" that seem to launch the behavior and then come up with common language/strategies that you both will use to redirect her or to get her to comply. If there are issues, you'll be may be able to try to pinpoint the stimulus behind the behaviors.

    So welcome to the crowd! We're a good group offering suggestions and shoulders!

  9. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I 100% agree with Malika.

    How old was your child when you adopted her? Was she moved around a lot?
  10. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    I think there may have been a mis-understanding of what I meant when I used the word "fun"....

    Right now - the child's behaviors are putting a hold on certain activities. Mom is doing her best to be very consistent. Natural consequences seem to work when Mom can say 'If you don't put on your boots, you cannot play outside'....and the result is that the child puts on her boots.

    What happens when the boots need to go on so that the child can get to the dentist or the doctor? Will the child still put on the boots? or will the child feel that fooling around and NOT putting on the boots seems like a lot better alternative than going to the doctor?

    Perhaps that is what she is already doing at school? If she wants to avoid a certain activity because it's difficult, boring, noisy - whatever - the disruption seems like a better choice.
  11. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    I'm sure you are right about that, Daisy Face. But... I was a child once (and I guess you were too :) ) and I remember what it was like not to want to go to the doctor but to prefer to go out to play... this seems to me the normal "business" of a child... Now I am on the other side of the fence and I understand that it is the normal business of an adult to want to get to the doctor's... Quite understandable that the adult should want the child to put the boots on - but it can happen without blame or admonition, it seems to me (if one is being really mindful!)
    We forget all the time what it is like to be a child, that children just do not see the world as adults do (adults have not made such a great success of it) and that their reasoning and functioning is not that of the grown-up... The thing is, children are the easiest scapegoats of all our impatience, unkindness, unresolved anger and frustration - I absolutely include myself in this - and they need to be protected. In my humble opinion.
  12. sbateman

    sbateman New Member

    Thanks to everyone for their comments.

    I think that everyone has something valid to say, and really nothing that I haven't considered already. I agree that there could and probably are attachment issues aswell. The problem as always is trying to help my child without encouraging 'helplessness'. I asked the psychiatrist, whether I should allow her to roll-back to being a 'baby'.......I fear that this would encourage her more, and disable her. He said that she needs to go forward, to learn at school and keep up with the others as best as possible.

    her history is this: Alcoholic young mother, who neglected and often left her abandonned while she went on drinking binges, or was passed out on the floor...until child was 3.5 and apprehended by the authorities. Entered the orphanage in a pretty wild condition, but settled well into the orphanage life, I'd say that she enjoyed it there (reliable food source, attention, warmth etc). Played up in the orphanage by deliberately soiling her bed (so I'm told).

    5 moves in a year.....spent 2 months in hospital before being adopted, where I was told she would also just stare at the nurse and deliberately soil her bed while doing so.....if she was told to do something that she didn't want to do.

    Yes, there is a lot going on for her.

    But I do not want her to learn to be treated 'sympathetically' at school, with the result that she runs the entire class and learns nothing, with the teacher pulling out her hair. She has no respect for even the principle or vice principle. She is now 6. Adopted at age 4.5.

    Sure, she needs attention and loving, but she also needs to learn, and not get away with being disruptive, then taken off to the staff room to be allowed to wash the teachers dishes (yes, this has happened).

    As I am trying to type this. she is trying to get my attaention, turning lights on and sure, she needs attention. But she also needs to put her boots/clothes on......and it's not doing her any favours to 'act' like she does not know what she is doing for attention....because people believe that that is the way that she really is. I just sat her down and she did successfully did her phonics, a dot to dot, and practiced writing her letters....and she felt good about herself, and is now being co-operative. So one-on-one attention def pays off. I do feel that because she gets away with things at school (1 teacher to 20 kids) she thinks she can bring that home. Yep, it's complex, so i do appreciate your comments and advice, and to have finally found a group that I can talk to !!!!! (I'm not crazy after all then - lol !)
  13. crazym&p

    crazym&p New Member

    OK, I also have a child that I refer to as "passive ODD." difficult child 1, who actually has a diagnosis of ODD, started out this way. She never refused to do anything - she just didn't do it. She ignored. She would even say "OK," then never do what she was asked. Eventually it escalated to refusing. When she was prompted over and over again, she pretended she didn't know she was supposed to do it. She is intellectually gifted, but would say "Really?" very innocently whenever I reminded her that she had ignored 4 or 5 prompts to take a shower. I completely understand your frustration. The only thing that I found to be helpful was using natural consequences. Another poster referred to this - when she refuses to put her shoes on, offer her a choice of putting them on or going to school barefoot (this works especially well in the winter :) If she "can't find" her backpack, let her go to school and explain that to the teacher. The key is that you have to get the school on board with you - if it works there you won't make any progress. Make sure they know she is completely capable, not "prompt-dependent," and should be allowed to suffer natural consequences.

    To those who are repeating the TEC mantra of "if they can do well, they will," I don't agree in this case. This is not an explosive child. I have a child who is both explosive and also has these passive ODD behaviors - they are not the same. There are times when they can't tolerate frustration, but there are other times when behaviors are planned and intentional. This is just my opinion, obviously, but this has been my experience.
  14. sbateman

    sbateman New Member

    PS. yes, my daughter has already walked quite a few times to the car without her shoes's when she is standing in the doorway of the bathroom...looking into the bathroom, and then says: 'where is the bathroom?' that my blood starts to boil over. We've lived in this same house ever since she has been home, and we have 5 rooms including kitchen and bathroom so it's not exactly big enough to get lost in. Then she went through a week of walking out of the kitchen to put her dirty dishes in the bathroom sink......instead of 3 steps to the kitchen sink. Again - DESPAIR! That behaviour has now stopped. I just wait for the next version. We have the 2 opinions going at the moment (much like this thread): ME: She knows what she is doing, even if it is a cry for more attention,at the end of the day, she knows what she is doing. SCHOOL: She is totally confused and clueless. If she continues to get more attention for being clueless, then surely this is the behaviour that she is most likely to adopt, and is being enforced. As her parent, I cannot allow her to allow herself to become disabled. At 6, she does not know any better or understand the repercussions of preptending not to understand or know.
  15. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Thank you for giving us more information about your adopted daughter. Things begin to make a bit more sense... My first feeling on reading about her history was "Wow..." Not "wow, poor child", the attitude you (rightly) don't want to inculcate but "wow, of course her behaviour is now troubled". All that you say about needing to get on in life by getting on in school, etc, is eminently reasonable and right but it is of course irrelevant in terms of the unconscious and unmet emotional needs of a child who sounds as if she was severely emotionally deprived in the earliest and most critical years of infancy. Without knowing any of this, the first thing I thought on reading your original post was that your little girl wants/needs to regress - she does not want the "responsibility" of knowing where things are, she wants to be babied and mothered. She has presumably missed out on a crucial stage of development.
    My adopted son came to us when he was three months old, so quite young, but the first three months of his life that he spent in a group creche still had an impact on him, I believe. He occasionally asks me to wrap him up in a blanket, very tightly like a swaddled baby, and I am happy to do this for him, making it like a game. He has also in the past (not now) wanted to suck my breasts as though feeding - I'm afraid I wasn't able to go that far, but understood his desire.
    It's difficult... it's honestly difficult adopting a child and especially an older child. in my humble opinion, you simply cannot treat her like an "ordinary" child or expect her to slot into "ordinary" life seamlessly, without difficulty. My own thought in your position (easy to say!!) would be to want to work with a psychologist or therapist who SPECIALISES in adopted child.
    Have you read "The Primal Wound" by Nancy Verrier or other books about adoption? Unfortunately, one cannot just dismiss these aspects of the experience of the adopted child as just "over-psychologising"; they are well-documented and widespread. Not to be scary but just realistic...
    My good wishes for your family.
  16. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Agree again with Malika here. I've adopted four kids and my experience has been that, although I desperately wanted them just to respond to our love as in "Love cures all", they didn't. We fostered a few kids who had been around the block a few times and they were actually AFRAID of being loved and got worse the more lovingly we acted. Since no caretakers had ever been there for them, we were simply a means to an end...if they wanted something, such as a treat or money, they had learned "survival skills" or how to be charming. If they didn't get what they wanted, they pitched a fit. Has your child ever been evaluated? All of my adopted kids were evaluated thoroughly to see if they had any physical or emotional or intellectual delays or problems. It is different than if you had given birth and knew their prenatal and genetic history. Did she drink when she was pregnant? This can cause serious memory problems. I have a son who was exposed to drugs/alcohol in utero and he is on the austism spectrum (common in drug/alcohol exposed babies).

    I don't know w here you live, but do you have psychiatrists who specifically have learned about adopted children? We have one here and he is everyone's lifesaver. Even psychiatrists can expect these children to behave just like any child, and they just don't. The children I adopted as babies pretty much bonded to the family just like biological children do, but the older The first three years are so important. I would not treat this as a regular behavioral problem. I would evaluate her thoroughly then take her to somebody who has tons of experience with adopted children and understands the difference. It is possible that your child has been tossed around so much that she can not and may not want to relate to a mother figure, at least not yet. And there are things that you can do to help the bond, which is very important. Again, a regular psychiatrist or regular therapist probably would not know what to do.

    I am going to provide a link on attachment issues. If you like, you can look it over and see if it rings true. The thing is, most older adopted children have attachment issues. It's almost unavoidable and it has to be confronted. Here is just a paragraph from the site.

    Special needs children do not succeed when parented as a "normal child"; they need special help. When parents, teachers, therapists, and respite providers join together we can have a powerful team to help heal a hurting child. I hope you will find the answers you seek here in our humble offering of pages. I believe every child can learn to be respectful, responsible and fun to be with. And every home filled with love and laughter.
    We can make a difference!
    Nancy Thomas

    Good luck :)
  17. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    I do echo what seems to be the sound advice of Midwest Mom, based on much experience.
    Just another thought that occurred to me (two actually!) First, do you talk to your little girl about what happened to her, about the mother she lost (pretty huge an experience and a loss, I would have thought) and about your taking into your lives? What country is she from? Has she also lost contact with that culture? The wise literature on the subject seems to concur that one needs to acknowledge the child's natural and inevitable grief for the mother that has been lost, that has "abandoned" the child. I think we really cannot imagine what this experience is like for a child. Maybe there is some mileage to be had in thinking how remarkably well your little girl is doing, given the circumstances... I really I am not trying to evoke "pity" for your child... but she does need to be understood, I would have thought, if she is to be truly helped.
    The second thought that occurs to me is the wonderful intelligence of the unconscious mind... because it sounds like she has become more "troublesome" of late, as she is starting to go into an environment of learning rather than play at school. And this makes sense to me... She is being asked to do something cold, intellectual, without the warmth and creativity of "play"... and now she chooses, unconsciously, to regress. She is not ready for it, she is perhaps saying in the very graphic language of "acting up". This business of intellectual learning and performance does not matter to her. Why should it matter to her? I am just guessing here, obviously, imagining myself in the place of a six year old in her position (as far as I can).
    I think she needs to heal through play! Plenty of time for all the serious stuff later, when she is better able to handle it...
    Hope this doesn't seem interfering or off-key. This whole subject of adopted children and attachment problems obviously interests me...
  18. andreajackson38

    andreajackson38 New Member

    It's interesting you spoke to your doctor about allowing her to revert back to a baby role and he didn't think this was a good idea. Have you tried it? Just reading this without actually knowing your daughter my instinct was to let her experience that time of life that she missed out on when she was neglected/moved around. It definitely sounds like attachment issues and my personal instict would be to reverse her lack of early attention with an attachment parenting style. What do you think? I know this is a bit late!
  19. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Hi there, another adoptive mommy here! Her pre adoption history is classic for kids who end up with attachment problems including the spectrum that is Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) (which can range from milder attachment problems to full blown not being attached to any human or feeling for other humans--doesn't sound like your difficult child is on that end of the spectrum).

    the symptoms of soiling her pants can be related to that (and to abuse which can contribute to Att.Dis.)
    the multiple moves, multiple caregivers, etc.

    It was likely that when she had her most fearful moments and most disgusting behaviors, she did not receive the kind of attention that kids get from parents... the unconditional love that builds trust in their primary caregiver. Even when being disciplined. birth to three is the time that these pathways in our brains are formed. We learn to bond to others in this time and people who say...well they wont remember do not understand that... they dont have to remember, any other baby can't tell you why they DO attach to others.

    I have shared these links before and will with you. MWM and Malika have shared ideas I agree with too. I will say that our attachment center here does do a kind of reviewing of past but it is very systematic and geared to the developmental issues and mental health issues of the child. For ideas for that (and maybe make sure you do it with a professional in adoption and attachment because what it brings may need help)

    the other site I love is attach-china they have both a web site and a group of parents like this. It is not only for families who adopted from china, just started that way. They really help explain the range of attachment challenges and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and other parents who are going through what you went through can share ideas for how to improve things.

    yes, her behavior looks very ODD, but that is what the behavior does not help you to address it. Even if it is just boundary testing... it is likely to have more to it than just typical development.

    the clues are... you said she had always been difficult. She is polarizing the adults around her....that is very common in kids iwth attachment disorders...... She can look you right in the face (and probably not around others so they dont get how it really appears, and then when you act angry you seem like the unreasonable and mean mom) and laugh at your upset. Just the very fact that she is passively oppositional... that really smacks of this issue.

    Kids with attachment challenges all look different and there is not any one profile so do not be deterred if you see sites that talk about kids who set fires and do not care about other people or are sociopaths.... that is the minority and most dramatic. But it clearly makes sense intuitively that anyone would be hurt by the kinds of early bonding breaks our kids have had, even given the most loving adoptive parents on earth.

    you are doing a great job in being consistent. You may need to add some interestingly different parenting strategies because typical anger really feeds these kids. You never let them see you sweat. My son actually did try to crawl under my shirt to be my baby in my tummy and wanted bottles etc. when he was 2-5 yrs old. I did feed him bottles just for bonding, only in private and he did not get them for comfort without ME. I bounced him to sleep every night for years on a big exercise ball. only I could tie his shoes and help him when he was hurt. Believe me, this was not because i was selfish or wanting all of his attention.... It was on the advice of adoption professionals because my son was indiscriminate in his bonds... would go to anyone even a stranger for help and support... including asking for food.

    there are some wonderful books and I would be happy to share them, or the attach china web site will lead you to resources too.

    It is worth checking out. What do you have to lose. Well, time will obviously be one thing and it is on your side. Regardless of what this ends up being...the suggestions here will only strengthen your bond and future chance to solve problems.

    All my love and support, Dee
  20. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    Thanks for your input andrea and buddy. This thread is from March 2011 and the original poster hasn't posted since this thread.

    (Sorry you took the extra time to reply, Buddy. I always check the dates--at least I try--ever since old posts show up in the "Similar Threads" section below.)