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Classroom Strategies for Oppositional Behavior

by Christopher Cascio, studioD

Oppositional behavior is a symptom of Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which is most often seen in children younger than 10. Students with ODD often throw temper tantrums, refuse to follow directions and tend to lose self-control easily. When managing a classroom with a defiant student, you should follow certain guidelines to avoid escalating the disruptive behavior or triggering preventable outbursts.

Establish Your Perameters

Make classroom rules and boundaries clear; that way, students with ODD understand what you will tolerate and what is nonnegotiable. Children with ODD often exhibit too many disruptive behaviors for you to manage simultaneously, notes Northern Michigan University. So, decide which misbehaviors to address and which to ignore. For example, you might ignore comments a student routinely makes about not wanting to do her homework but not tolerate the student leaving her seat without your permission.

Maintain Your Composure

When a child acts out because of ODD, remember that this is not personal. Respond calmly and without anger or excitement. One instance of you losing your temper could incite an even greater outburst from the student. Children with ODD tend to thrive on conflict and escalating levels of anger. To get the student to play by your rules, remain calm and consistent. Clearly state what is unacceptable and what the student needs to do differently.

Praise Good Behavior

Praise is an effective tool for encouraging good behavior in all students. However, praising ODD students when they behave well helps them understand that you are on their side -- and are not the enemy. Building trust in this way can help motivate ODD students to behave better in class and try to suppress the urge to act out. However, use praise only when it is warranted; otherwise students might view it as an empty gesture. Offer praise that explains what the child has done well, so he understands -- and believes -- your words.

Show Students Respect

Another way to show a student with ODD that you are not the enemy is to respect her at all times. For example, include the child in designing a plan to help her behave better; she could choose between reward and punishment options. Listen to what a student with ODD has to say. Such children suffer from high frustration levels, so ignoring or interrupting her could cause an unnecessary outburst.

About the Author

Christopher Cascio is a memoirist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and literature from Southampton Arts at Stony Brook Southampton, and a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in the rhetoric of fiction from Pennsylvania State University. His literary work has appeared in "The Southampton Review," "Feathertale," "Kalliope" and "The Rose and Thorn Journal."

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