Children with oppositional defiant disorder are not so good at handling the word no. They hear “If I’m not in control, bad things happen. When bad things are happening around me, the only way I can survive is by being in control.” For oppositional defiant disorder children being out of control is the worst thing that can happen to them because they don’t feel safe.
Most of us learn at an early age, around 3 or 4, that while “no” is disappointing because it means you don’t get want you want, that no is okay and they learn to adapt. For ODD kids, they react with kicking or hitting or property damage which ultimately makes them feel more out of control and the wheel starts turning.
However, every child needs to learn to handle the word no and the oppositional defiant disorder child is no different. So there is hope because there are things parents can do to avoid or to redirect their child’s behavior, or escape from explosive behavior.
Avoid the conflict – This is one strategy that is very successful. These kiddos need structure and a great way to give them that is to set up a daily schedule.
3 – 4 Snacks, relax
4 – 5 Homework and chores
5 – 6 Dinner
6 – 7 Play time
7 – 8 TV
So when Bobby asks to play during homework time. Instead of saying “no”, you can say something like “You know the schedule. This is homework time. Play time is at 6.” This not only avoids having to say no, but also teaches them how to follow a schedule, which ultimately gives them the structure they crave.
Redirect the behavior – If the situation starts to escalate, redirect his attention. “Remember, you can play at 6. Stay focused on your homework”. Then walk away. If you don’t think this is going to work, then redirect for a moment with something else like “Can you go get the frozen roast out of the freezer and put it in the microwave to defrost. That would be a great help.”
Escape from conflict – If the situation has escalated, simply state your position and turn and walk away! “It is not time for you to play, it is time for you to do your homework”. Do not turn back once you walk away. They will most definitely try to turn you around (and if you do the ODD kid wins and you lose the power), even if they are backtalking all the way to the chore.
The oppositional defiant disorder child can learn coping skills and as parents of these kids, that is very important to remember! As the poet Theodore Roethke said “a slow growth is a hard thing to endure.” Time and age helps with these guys. It just takes more patience on our part. Stick to a plan and I believe you will see real change.
For many more tips and techniques to deal with an oppositional defiant child, check out The Total Transformation. It’s one of the best child behavior programs I’ve ever seen – it worked for our family, I’m sure it can work for yours!