Although nearly all parents at some stage wonder, “Why is my child so defiant?!”, it is when these behaviours are quite intense and occuring frequently that a diagnosis of Oppostional Defiant Disorder or ODD may be made.
ODD may be come noticeable from toddlerhood, and may escalate over time and in the teenager years, as they seek to gain and maintain control over authority figures such as parents and teachers by ignoring and defying requests from adults, and refuse to follow rules. They tend to:
- have a low frustration threshold, being quick to lose their tempers and to blame others for their mistakes and misbehaviours;
- be resentful and vindictive;
- refuse to take responsibility for their own behaviour;
- deliberately try to annoy or aggravate others, behaviour which only worsens if they notice the adult reacting and becoming upset or angry. The child with ODD will then use the adult’s responses to his or her advantage in family, school or social environments (or all situations if the condition is severe).
- thrive on large amounts of conflict, anger and negativity from others and frequently ‘win’ in battles of negativity against others.
Children with ODD exhibit a persistent behavioural pattern which includes breaking rules, screaming, insulting, distracting, provoking and prolonging arguments at home and in the classrooand generally refusing to co-operate. It can be exhausting and upsetting for parents, and other members of the family; and extremely distracting and challenging in the classroom for teachers and students alike.
The Defiant Child at School
Generally, children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder:
- struggles academically;
- loses interest in school
- has poor relationships with their peers
- and behaviours such as chronic lying and stealing increase as they reach teenage years.
Truancy from school, and runaway behaviour can both be common, leading to high drop out rates or being excluded from school. More and more they isolate themselves from family and peer groups and involve themselves with delinquent groups.
Treatment for Children with ODD
It is easy to see that if this condition is left untreated, it can lead to more serious issues such as alcohol and substance abuse, crime and other serious mental illness. The child or young person with ODD may suffer problems with low self-esteem and confidence, and experience depression.
Treatment for children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder alone does not usually involve medication.
However as ODD can often be accompanied by other conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), medications may help to reduce these symptoms, so that the child can respond more effectively to their behaviour therapy.
How do I handle my Defiant Child?
As children with ODD seem to enjoy power struggles and like to stir up anger and strife – it is important to maintain a calm response instead of reacting emotionally to their negativity and misbehaviour. As a parent, it is important that you model the behaviour that you want from your child.
Of course this is easier said than done, which is why parents often find it helpful to seek professional support.
A psychologist can not only support your own mental health and wellbeing when they are being challenged to the limit, but can also work with you to develop a management plan. This will involve planning in advance specific behaviours to be targetted, and effective strategies to be implemented, one negative behaviour at a time. Praise is also extremely important when your child does respond positively.
If you are a parent struggling with a defiant child, please make an appointment to see me. Together we can work towards improving the behaviours and atmosphere in your family!
Author: Dr Jan Philamon, PhD, BA (Hons) Psychology, C Teach, JP (Qual) Qld, MAPS.
As a registered teacher and psychologist, Dr Jan Philamon has a wealth of experience with children, however she enjoys helping individuals and couples at any stage of life. Jan aims to help people to be the best they can be and find success: improved wellbeing, gaining a sense of empowerment that allows them to actively problem solve and manage obstacles constructively, as well as positively plan and achieve their personal and career goals.
To make an appointment with psychologist and hypnotherapist Dr Jan Philamon, try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129, or Vision Psychology (Mt Gravatt) on (07) 3088 5422.