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ODD and Child Behavior

by Sara Ipatenco, studioD

ODD stands for Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which is what it sounds like. Children who have been diagnosed with ODD display frequent anger, tantrums and disruptive behavior, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. If your child has been diagnosed with ODD, it can be reassuring to have a diagnosis, but it can also help you with discipline techniques that will reduce the frequency of poor behavior, and increase the time your child spends happy and well-behaved.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

ODD is defined as a "pattern of disobedient, hostile, and defiant behavior toward authority figures," according to PubMed Health. It's more common in boys than girls, and studies show that it affects up to 20 percent of all school-age children, according to PubMed Health. The defiant behavior usually shows up before the age of 8, but it can start during preschool in many children. There isn't one specific cause of ODD, but a child's personality and disposition, as well as developmental delays, lack of supervision, harsh discipline and abuse can be contributing factors, too, according to MayoClinic.com.


While all children have the occasional temper tantrum or display of anger, children with ODD show these on a frequent -- and often -- on an increasing basis. To get a diagnosis, the behaviors usually have to be present for at least 6 months and cause major disruptions at home and at school, according to MayoClinic.com. Outright defiance and disobedience are two primary symptoms. Your child might also have regular temper tantrums, argue with you, deliberately annoy others, display frequent anger, act aggressively toward other children and have difficulty making and keeping friends. Children with ODD often have learning problems and low self-esteem, as well. If your child has any of these symptoms, speak with his pediatrician who can refer you to a mental health specialist.

Behavioral Interventions

Consistent discipline goes a long way toward teaching your child appropriate ways to behave. When your child understands the rules and has a clear picture of the consequences of poor behavior, he's more likely to behave himself. Positive reinforcement can also work, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry notes. Pick your battles and don't get into conflict with your child either. If these home-based interventions don't work, many children show improvement with psychiatric intervention, which teaches a child how to rein in his temper and deal with anger in a more appropriate manner. Family therapy is another option that helps the child, but also teaches the rest of the family how to react in ways that help decrease negative behavior.

Advice for Parents

While you're waiting to see your child's pediatrician, there are ways to help manage your child's behavior. Use positive reinforcement as often as possible. Tell your child how proud you are of his good behavior, which can motivate him to behave more often. Pick your battles, too. If it's not worth the argument, skip the fight and let it go. Create a consistent daily routine so that your child knows what's expected of him and that can improve his behavior, as well. Set aside one-on-one time to spend with your child as another way to motivate your child to behave more appropriately and to treat adults with more respect.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

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