Understanding Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Working through Challenges

Oppositional_Defiant_Disorder-3-smallRaising children is a tough job. As a parent, you want to protect them while also ensuring that they learn the right lessons and have every opportunity to maximize their potential. This can be even more challenging if your child has physical or mental health issues. If your child has oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), it can be stressful and frustrating trying to connect with them and feel as though you are making a difference and doing the right thing. Educating yourself and engaging in counseling and other forms of support can help the entire family to cope and adjust.

What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Children who have ODD often display negative behaviors and attitudes towards adults and authority figures in their lives. They try to be in control of situations and refuse to follow directions, defying authority. They frequently lose their temper and engage in arguments. Other signs include blaming others for mistakes, acting out of spite, and intentionally annoying or bothering others.

These behaviors and actions can add stress to family life. Parents may feel helpless in controlling their child’s behavior and preventing outbursts. Arguing can be exhausting, both physically and mentally. Sometimes the child’s outbursts can lead to physical destruction of property or abuse of others. While these situations are challenging and stressful, there are ways that parents can help to reduce acting out and respond more constructively.

Coping with Negative Behaviors

  • Remain calm. Although this is often easier said than done, try to resist responding to anger with anger, as this can escalate the situation. The child is looking to get a reaction and feeds off of this negative energy. Choose your battles and what issues are worth pressing. Take a step back and gather yourself before responding. Be firm and straightforward without yelling back or getting defensive.
  • Implement structure and routine. Having free time can seem like a good thing, but can actually lead to more trouble. Setting expectations, following a schedule, and structuring activities can help you to maintain control. It is important to have some flexibility, but to set boundaries and follow through with established consequences. Constantly giving in to the child’s demands makes them feel as though they have won. Being firm yet loving shows authority while helping them to make better decisions.
  • Problem solve together. One trigger is often that the child is confronted with a problem and is unsure how to resolve it. The problem may be that they don’t want to do their homework or eat dinner. Calmly discuss why it is an issue and how their defiant behavior will not solve it. Work with them on an alternative solution and be supportive. Help them learn ways to cope with challenges more effectively and praise them for making good choices. Positive reinforcement for doing things that are difficult or that they don’t want to do can ease power struggles.

Reach out for support

Counseling can be an effective way to support the entire family. It can help parents become more proactive and confident in dealing with children with ODD. For the child, it can help them to work through struggles and better manage their outbursts. Even siblings can benefit by being able to talk about how they are feeling and ways that they can cope with a sibling having ODD.

At Safe Harbor Christian Counseling, our trained staff can help you and your family to work through these challenges and create a more supportive, respectful, and loving environment. Visit www.safeharbor1.com or call 1-800-305-2089 for more information or to schedule an appointment.


About Safe Harbor Christian Counseling

Safe Harbor Christian Counseling serves local communities by providing Christian-based, clinically sound counseling so that people experience the recovery of their hearts. Our unique approach to marriage counseling, family counseling and individual counseling includes offering an inviting atmosphere whereby a healing relationship is experienced in the counseling room. Safe Harbor consists of 7 partners with over 70 counselors trained in the mental health field.
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