What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

sometimes there is more to it than "bad" behavior

ODD is one of the most common behavioral disorder among kids

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Please note, the information in this post is not a replacement for personal medical advice.
By Megan Conrad LMHC, NCC

The term oppositional describes behavior where an individual engages in conflicts, resists following directions and disagrees with caregivers or authority figures. For children, this is often reported by parents and teachers as refusing to listen, not following directions, being argumentative, talking back, and being “controlling”.

Unfortunately, people exhibiting these behaviors are sometimes mislabeled as “naughty” or “bad”, which can be damaging. It’s important to recognize that there may be some underlying mental health conditions causing these behaviors.

It might be more than just “bad behavior”

In mental health, we might see these symptoms and find that a child is struggling with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). This is a behavioral disorder where children display uncooperative, defiant, and sometimes hostile behaviors. This is especially true towards authority figures. This definition may feel overwhelming and cause worry about children and their future.

However, let me break down the symptoms and requirements for figuring out children who suffer with ODD. The definition reveals specific behaviors shown by the child. This list includes:

  • losing their temper
  • arguing with adults
  • defying/refusing to comply with requests
  • annoying others on purpose
  • being easily annoyed
  • often being angry and agitated.
  • blaming others for their mistakes or show hurtful behaviors towards others

At what point is it a problem?

However, something to note is that most children will ‘act out’. This does not mean that they automatically have ODD. In fact, this can be an indicator of healthy development.

“Tantrums and other kinds of acting out are often a normal and even healthy part of childhood. They are a sign that a child is becoming more independent — indications that a child is testing boundaries, developing skills and opinions, and exploring the world around them.”

– ChildMind.org

To be diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, children typically need to show these behaviors daily for at least 6 months and in multiple settings. These behaviors will also cause major issues at school, with academic performance, and in relationships with parents and peers.

Potential Solutions

One technique parents can try is to find the goal of the behavior. For instance, what is your child gaining from their actions? Children will use either positive or negative behaviors to get their needs met or to avoid negative things. These physical or emotional needs may include:

  • fear/anxiety
  • attention seeking
  • stimulation (too high or low)
  • pain
  • control seeking.

Additionally, finding the goal of the behavior offers space for redirection. You can teach your child healthier ways to get those needs met. For example, using communication or coping skills.

Praise, Correct, Praise Method

Another skill parents and adults can use is the PCP method. Also known as the Praise, Correct, Praise method, this is effective by giving praise, softly changing the behavior, and then giving more praise.

For example, maybe your child is cleaning their room. You notice their dirty laundry is pushed under the bed, so you could say: “Wow, all of your dirty clothes are in one spot, but where do those clothes go?” Your child may respond by saying, “the laundry basket”, or you can gently guide them to that answer. After that, you could say, “I know you are great at shooting baskets. I think you could try throwing your clothes into the basket like a basketball!” Not only does this make it more fun, but you’re offering praise instead of punishment. This skill is useful for many different situations.  

It’s okay to ask for help

If you do notice signs or symptoms of ODD in your child, please know that you are not alone. According to HealthEngine, ODD is the most common behavior disorder among children. We are here to answer your questions and offer support. Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a hard issue to deal with for both child and parent, and we would like to help you kickstart your journey to healing.

Contact Covenant Family Solutions if you would like additional information about scheduling an appointment.

Megan Conrad LMHC, NCC
Megan Conrad LMHC, NCC
Megan strives to create an environment where client’s and families feel welcome and cared about. She believes the client is the expert in their own lives and develops a collaborative working relationship with her clients.
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Megan Conrad LMHC, NCC
Megan Conrad LMHC, NCC
Megan strives to create an environment where client’s and families feel welcome and cared about. She believes the client is the expert in their own lives and develops a collaborative working relationship with her clients.
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