Is your child's defiant behavior out of control? Learn about oppositional defiant disorder and where to seek help.
Lynda W. realized there was something different about her son around the time he began crawling. In preschool, Jesse was often in trouble for fighting. At age four, he threatened to call the police and have his mom arrested for child abuse when she refused to take him to a restaurant. In kindergarten, he was suspended for throwing a shoe and a chair at his teacher. At home, he hurled a toy box through a window and kicked holes through walls.
"I was constantly screaming and sobbing," Lynda says. "I was a total wreck. I went to counseling to find out how not to hate my son." Finally, following a harrowing third grade year, Lynda arranged to have Jesse tested for behavior disorders. The diagnosis?
Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).
What Is ODD?
Oppositional defiant disorder, also called ODD, is a type of disruptive behavior disorder in children. It is characterized by negative, hostile, and defiant behavior that lasts at least six months and also includes:
- Often loses temper
- Often argues with adults
- Often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules
- Often deliberately annoys people
- Often blames others for his mistakes or misbehavior
- Often is touchy or easily annoyed by others
- Often angry and resentful
- Often spiteful or vindictive
It is important for the doctor to rule out other conditions, like a mood disorder, conduct disorder, or attention deficit hyper activity disorder (ADHD).
Children with ODD often do have learning problems, and many meet criteria for ADHD. Conditions like bipolar disorder may be associated with symptoms similar to ODD, but may have different treatment approaches. Keep in mind that if your child is not responding to treatment, he could have the wrong diagnosis or possibly co-occurring conditions, like ODD and ADHD.
What to Do? TOP
Find a Therapist
If you have concerns about your child's behavior, ask the pediatrician for a referral to a child psychologist or psychiatrist.
Learn New Parenting Skills
Parenting a child with ODD can be difficult for parents and requires a different set of skills. Parents need support and understanding from others in order to help their child.
Traditional parenting that uses reason and logic may only result in anger and frustration in a child with ODD. This then leads to arguments with a child who feels no compulsion to play by the rules, and who is at his most natural when he is in conflict with someone. Parents must teach their children that the only way to access the good things in life is by playing by the rules. Children must be given clear pictures of how they are expected to behave and interact within the family. They must understand that failure to comply will result in losing access to those things they value most, which will then have to be earned back.
There are parent training programs that have shown to be effective in treating ODD. In these types of programs, you learn how to use techniques like positive reinforcement and time outs to manage your child's behavior. Other types of treatments that are available for you and your child include: psychotherapy, family therapy, training to learn problem solving skills, and social skills training.
Learn About Medication Options
In some cases, the doctor may recommend medicine to treat severe symptoms of ODD, especially if your child also has ADHD. Examples of medicines that may be prescribed in these cases include risperidone (Risperdal), clonidine (Catapres), and stimulant medicines such as methylphenidate (Ritalin).
How Is Jesse Doing? TOP
Since Jesse's diagnosis, Lynda has gotten Jesse counseling, arranged for interventions in school, and created a good support system at home. "He is becoming part of the world now, instead of being the center of his universe," says Lynda. "Two years ago, I was afraid I was raising a potential front page horror story. Now my kid is fun and he is going to be fine."
Jesse, now 11, remembers a time when it was hard to find things to do that would not get him in trouble. Today, he is a skateboarder and frequently a role model for others in the classroom. He says, "It feels good that I can be an example to other kids who are having a harder time than me."
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