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Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD): Symptoms and Management

If your child struggles with behavioral issues, they may have oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Follow along to learn more about what this condition is, the symptoms that accompany ODD, and how you can manage it if your child is diagnosed with it.

What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ODD?

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a behavioral disorder in children characterized by a clinically significant level of negative, disobedient, and defiant behavior.

Children with this disorder tend to act out against kids their age as well as parents, teachers, and other adults who are in a position of authority.

Children with this condition often have anxiety or mood disorders, and they may also have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorder.

For a child to be diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, symptoms must be present for more than six months. Behavior must be markedly different than typical children of the same age and developmental level and must not be better explained by another disorder or event.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder Symptoms

A child with significant behavioral issues may exhibit signs of anxiety, have frequent and severe tantrums, be manipulative, and/or be repetitively defiant towards those in authority. Often these children are labeled by teachers, peers, and parents as disruptive, frustrating, mean, or even “bad.”  Many of the children act in ways that are similar to what is common with a younger age group. 

Some of these symptoms are commonly seen in children when they get hungry or tired. However, the difference for a child with ODD is that the symptoms happen more often and interfere with learning and social interactions.

Symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder include:
  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Refusing to do what a parent or other adult asks
  • Arguing with adults
  • Questioning rules and refusing to obey
  • Intentionally annoying others
  • Blaming others for their behaviors
  • Getting annoyed easily by other people
  • Often acting angry
  • Speaking in a harsh tone
  • Being vengeful

With that said, one of the challenges of diagnosis is that these symptoms can indicate other mental health problems.

How to Handle ODD: Oppositional Defiant Disorder Management

It can be challenging and frustrating for you as a parent to handle a child with ODD. While you can’t cure their mental health diagnosis, you can focus on managing ODD and avoid some of the conflicts with the right parenting resolutions.

If your child exhibits behaviors associated with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, manage his or her behavior with the following strategies:

1. Use a calm voice when dealing with ODD in kids.

A child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder is often hoping to engage his or her parents in a battle of wills. Explain in as few words as possible your position or parental requirement then do not continue to discuss the issue. It is difficult for kids to argue when they have no one to argue with them! If you engage in a back-and-forth argument with a defiant child, you have given the child the power to control the exchange. Remember, the house rules apply to everyone in your home. If you break one of the house rules, give yourself a consequence like apologizing or taking a short time-out to gather your thoughts. Since kids with ODD often see themselves as victims, lead by example to show your child that you aren't too proud to apologize and that the house rules apply to everyone in the family.

2. Celebrate your child's successes.

Kids with ODD have trouble regulating their emotions, which can lead to the severe outbursts and tantrums associated with the disorder. If your child is able to successfully manage his or her behavior for a a longer than usual period of time, celebrate those successes with a family dinner at a favorite restaurant or some other fun family activity. Let your child know you notice and appreciate the extra effort. Make time to have fun and connect with your child when he or she is calm and functioning well.

3. Create a structured environment for ODD management.

It's no secret that when children are well-rested, physically fit, and get sufficient nutrition, they are better able to regulate their emotions. Make exercise, healthy meals, and adequate sleep a priority. A structured, healthy lifestyle will not only benefit a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder but your entire family!

4. Set a few non-negotiable house rules and enforce them with consequences.

Kids with ODD are often anxious and have an overwhelming need to control their environment and others. Keep house rules simple and limited so kids don't feel stifled or overwhelmed. For instance, rules may include, "We don't hurt ourselves, others, or property. We use kind language and don't raise our voices." Display house rules and decide ahead of time on consequences for breaking a rule so kids know what to expect if they do. Once your child has completed the consequence, move on from the incident. Show your child that each new day is a chance to make better choices.

How Brain Balance Can Help Children with ODD

If your child exhibits oppositional defiance or is unable to regulate his or her emotions in an age-appropriate way, we invite you to consider the Brain Balance Program. This program uses exercises and activities to build new pathways in the brain, which enables it to develop new behaviors.

Is your child disruptive or do they struggle with behavioral issues that inhibit his or her daily functioning? Start with our preliminary online quiz. Call to learn more about how we can help your child with our program. 

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Disclaimer: The information presented on this web site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment of specific medical conditions. Discuss this information with your healthcare provider to determine what is right for you and your family.

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