Oppositional defiant children have a hard time dealing with someone in authority saying "no". They have trouble moving from one activity to another, and they have difficulty letting go of an idea once they have decided something should be a certain way. Their response to these things can include crying, screaming and even lashing out physically. As a result, they are frequently in conflict with parents, other family members and teachers.
Children Do Well If They Can
Ross W. Greene, author of "The Explosive Child" states that "Children do well if they can." This is an important statement when applied to an oppositional defiant disorder, or ODD, child. It implies that there is a reason why they explode in response to a situation. Whether it makes sense to parents, siblings, friends or teachers, the child has a reason for this extremely emotional response. ODD children might have one or more cognitive areas where they do not process requests or expectations in the same way as other children. As a parent, your role is to help her develop skills that will relieve the frustration and find a better way to deal with problems.
There is no one set answer for helping children who are oppositional defiant. Each child is different, and the reasons why they defy authority are different. The one thing they have in common, is that the child is too emotionally upset to think about the situation or to explain her feelings. Letting the child role play family situations, draw and paint pictures, or write out their feelings can be enlightening both for the child and for the adults who are trying to help her. It lets the adults in on the feelings she has that lead up to the stubborn refusal to follow rules or the explosive outbursts of temper.
Collaborative Problem Solving
Greene suggests using empathy, listening and collaborative problems solving to develop a mutually agreeable plan for coping with problem situations. Using this model, instead of repeatedly insisting that the child follow directions, the parent restates the child's initial response, listens to her response to his repetition and listens, with empathy, to the child's reasons for not complying. Once your child and you are calm, you can look at the problems with the situation and mutually find a solution.
Consistency and Keeping Promises
ODD kids often see things as right or wrong, without any middle ground. When schedules change or when you are not able to do something with your child as promised, they have a hard time accepting the change. Some ways to deal with this is to be as consistent as you possibly can. Sit down with your child and develop a schedule that includes some of what you each want, such as homework, recreation time, chores and special time spent together.
Cool Down Space
Some types of oppositional defiance runs in families. You and your child need to develop signals for when both of you need time to cool off. Calling it a "time-out" might not work very well, because "time-out" is often used as a punishment. If your child's response to your directions spikes your emotional meter into the red, you might both need some space before discussing the problem. Selecting a way to do that without feeling as if you are giving in to your child is an important part of dealing with oppositional defiance.
- The Explosive Child; Ross W. Greene
- Your Defiant Child: Eight Steps to Better Behavior; Russell A. Barkley
- Good Therapy: Oppositional and Defiant Behavior in Children and Teens
- Guidance Facilitators: Solutions to Oppositional Defiant Disorder
- Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent and Energetic; Mary Sheedy Kurchinka
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