Defiant Child: Dealing with Oppositional Defiant Disorder


A child sometimes seeks attention by refusing to comply with demands or what you merely ask out of him or her. Persistent defiance, on the other hand, may make you wonder, “Why is my child so defiant?” It is not normal when your kid is always acting out. Whether they need your ears, testing you or wanting to demonstrate the level of frustration in their lives, taking time to understand why they do it is a crucial step towards getting a working solution.

Now, if you are not aware, the reason towards frequent arguments with your child may be caused by a more complicated problem known as Opposition Defiant Disorder. However, if nothing is ailing the child, it means they are still okay but will be pulling their strings to see how far you can go.

In this detailed guideline, you will learn about:

  • What is ODD?
  • ODD Causes and Risk Factors
  • Defiant child symptoms
  • Diagnosing Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • How to deal with a defiant child
  • The Kazdin method for parenting the defiant child
  • How to discipline a child with oppositional defiant disorder
  • What if there was no defiance?

What is ODD?

It is the acronym for Opposition Defiant Disorder which defines a child with frequent patterns of anger, irritation, arguments and defying against the authorities which often comes with vengefulness. Some children with this disorder will only show the traits in one setting – at school or home. Repeated defiance usually occurs in multiple situations. When your child is diagnosed with this ailment, the intensity of the scenarios goes out of the level of development, culture, and gender.

ODD Causes and Risk Factors

By now, you might be asking yourself why my child is defiant and disrespectful with no particular answer pointing to the issue. Well, there is no specific cause of ODD which means some factors come into play. Here are some of the different reasons that may cause your child to refuse almost anything you have to say to them.

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Physical risk factors

ODD Causes and Risk Factors

Your child presenting a defiant disorder can be linked to an imbalance of particular brain chemicals. Commonly referred to as neurotransmitters, one of their functions is to keep the present brain chemicals well balanced. In case of an imbalance, there is improper communication with other brain aspects which may bring out the ODD symptoms.

Genetic risk factors

This is a leading cause of ODD when compared to another child with no exposure to ODD causing genes. If one or more family members have had mental illness before, then you can relate that to what you are seeing out of your child. Some of the complications may involve personality, mood and anxiety disorders.

Environmental risk factors

Where are you raising your child? The environment he or she engages in also plays a role towards being defiant or not. If your child is in a home filled with arguments and violence, then there is a reason as to why your little one will act out when talked to. Also, if the friends out there act in the same manner with uncontrolled recklessness, your kid might pick up from there and reveal the ODD symptoms.

Regarding surrounding, see if your kid is exposed to the following:

  • Familial discordance – nature of disagreements in the family
  • Mental illness history in the family
  • A non-adaptive home life
  • Drug abuse
  • Violence exposure
  • Neglect or being abused

Defiant Child Symptoms

They vary from one individual to another. Also, boys and girls can show different rebellious child behavior strategies. Here are some of the signs to look out for when you suspect that your child is trying to cope with ODD.

Symptoms showed in behavior

  • Losing temper easily
  • Fights
  • Arguments
  • Deliberate annoying behavior
  • Refusing orders
  • Being hostile towards others
  • Placing blame on other people
  • Short-term friendships
  • Giving no room for negotiation or compromise
  • General disobedience
  • Always seeking revenge

Symptoms involving cognition

  • Often frustrated
  • Mostly driven by speaking before thinking
  • Concentration difficulty

Socially related symptoms

  • Low self-esteem
  • Few or no friends
  • Frequent annoying feelings
  • Often negative

Diagnosing Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Diagnosing Oppositional Defiant Disorder

There is a need for a distinction between usual child and teenage rebellion with ODD

symptoms. The physician diagnosing the complication will need a detailed history of the behavior coming out in different scenarios and times. If your child is five years or younger, the reaction will be recurrent after a duration of 6 months. For the older children, they may show signs once per week for a period of 6 months.

The difficulty of diagnosis extends to the findings that the child can portray this behavior in one setting – mostly at home. Children may also reveal their claws when interacting with adults they are used to or other peers. That means the clinical officer may not see the full extent.

How to Deal With a Defiant Child

When you can no longer handle the child’s behavior, you may also tend to yell back and say things in a manner that will only escalate acting out. You are a parent who is worried and confused, so we get the feeling. On the other hand, there is a way out – a better one to handle defiance if your goal is to foster a healthy relationship and motivate the child instead of having punishments and consequences that don’t add up.

Here are five strategies you can use to help you compose when the kid is shouting ‘No!’ back at you.

1. Take it easy

If your child is refusing to eat, then something is wrong, and they do not mean to frustrate you. A moment of being rigid means that the child feels as if there is no connection to you. So, they are doing it since they need your ears, eyes, and mouth all attending to what they have to say for once. If you get angry too and start placing some control measures, that is a wrong move.

2. Consider their side of the story

Now, imagine when you were young, always being told what to do. From the time you wake up, you have instructions on where you are going, what you will eat, drink, wear and so on. Now, they do not need to dictate all this since they are still developing but being the ruled all the time will make you see their desire to have a say in matters. That means even defying.

3. Have a small talk with you

have a talk with the children

Stay calm at the negative response or behavior and use some positive inward talk. So that you can be able to take it easy, you need to talk about what your child is doing. Instead of responding ‘I don’t care’ to ‘I don’t want to,’ take a deep breath and say to yourself ‘I can stay calm despite the tantrum.’ Now, once you have seen yourself out of the will to engage negatively, you will find the best way to respond towards finding a solution.

4. Look into the child’s feelings and find common ground

In the moment of allowing they are feeling, try to engage in friendly talk. It will be possible if you just had a small conversation with you. If you narrate something that goes on to reflect that you are inquiring ‘what is the matter?’ the child will pose for a bit and refrain him from getting in the spiral of anger that was about to explode on you. They eventually feel recognized and since you did not show some power struggle, there is nothing to cause more chaos.

5. Be humorous and have a power game

When used appropriately, it can ease things faster. Instead of teasing, go for something silly in a conspiratorial tone. For instance, if your child resists putting on his or her uniform, you could respond by saying, “Wow! Then it seems someone will go naked today.” As they giggle and shy away, the next part would be to comply. A power game would consist of an activity where the child dominates which gives them an influential role. For this one, do it when the kid is free.

The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child

Nurturing a rebellious child can be a difficult task if you do not know how to go around handling unwanted behavior. That is why Dr. Alan Kazdin, the head of Yale University Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic goes on to provide the appropriate guidelines to use if you are a parent to a child with ODD.

Here are several tips from his work that are based on the following: Attention to lousy behavior increases lousy behavior while attention to good practice rises good behavior.

1. Let them know about proper behavior

Pay attention to good behavior. Let the child be aware of anything that you vie for and would like it frequently done. If something is great, walk to them and give a thumbs up. This helps them recognize what to do to make you happy.

2. Smile after something good

Reward positively by smiling or praising. When doing it, let the kid know you are happy by saying something like “You finished your homework, that’s great!”

3. Find the positive opposite

This is what it means. Instead of having the word ‘don’t’ or ‘stop’ to respond towards unwanted behavior, find something else to say when rectifying the behavior. An example, instead of saying ‘don’t leave your plate on the table,’ that transforms to ‘Please take your plate to the sink.’ Praise or say something that complements after that. It is okay to say ‘don’t’ and ‘stop,’ but you will need to minimize how many times you say it and focus on the positive opposite.

4. Exuberance counts

It is essential that you let the kid know how happy you are every time they respond appropriately or portray good behavior.

5. Have a reward system

Start a way to reward the kid for something they do if they rarely agree to anything you say. Make it fun though for them to engage fully. Find a time when everything is calm and introduce a game of rewarding every time he or she does something you tell them first round. If they don’t, tell them you are not going to pay anything for it. Now, for this to work effectively, tell them what they can get out of obedience without having to complain. You don’t have to spend on the rewards. Choose something the kid likes such as swinging or one more story before bedtime.

6. Give orders only once

You do not have to keep reminding your children what you just said. If you focus too much on each defiant act, the tendency may increase.

7. Walk away when it is burning

Learn to step out of the room every time they throw tantrums or ignore. The child sees that you are not giving any attention to what he is doing, they will have to comply. They might throw more tantrums since you are not conforming to what they want, but they will eventually know that that is not how it works.

8. Be easy on it

It was one of the ways to help you calm down and deal with a defiant child. The primary objective here is to get through it and move on. Help yourself calm down, and the child will follow suit even faster.

9. Be brief on punishments

At times, you need to punish the kid for wrongdoing. When doing it, don’t prolong it and don’t postpone or delay either. If they are complaining, don’t add more punishment. Take a possession they love most for some time, and that will be all.

10. More praise, less punishment

Now, you need to remember the first point. You should be praising much more than when you punish. Remember you are dismissing a disorder here and you want the children to remember positive behavior.

How to Discipline a Child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Practical ways to discipline a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder may vary from positive reinforcement to enforcing consequences and breaking the rules. You should teach virtues to your child while keeping the love. Always teach by example as children learn what they live. Even in instilling discipline shows forgiveness and tolerance. Parenting is not easy, and at times, you may not always know how to deal with a defiant child. So, if you are wondering what to do with a rebellious child, check out a couple of strategies for disciplining a child with ODD:

Teach your child accountability

Children are supposed to know that there are family rules in everything no matter their age. This includes helping out in the house chores, completing their homework, bedtime and mandatory curfews, and how to behave with others. Discuss these matters with your child when things are calm. Sitting them down and letting them know what you consider unacceptable behavior in your family is the best way to deal with a defiant child. Point out the things you do not like such as being disrespectful to others, rudeness, calling names, refusing to help out in chores or doing their homework, mistreating possessions and any form of physical aggression.

Let your child know what is expected of them before hoping he or she might turn to be compliant. Teaching your child to be accountable does not result in a 100% obedience streak, but you set the limits, providing a consequence if your child breaks the rules with finality. The child learns the lesson that implications are there when rules are not followed.

Save your breath

Parenting is already hard enough when your children are not purposefully mischievous.

 Discipline a Child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Choose to save your energy on occasion that your child is defiant. For example, if your teenage son wants to put on something inappropriate, don’t start by criticizing his poor choice of style. Choose to save your breath and not to hassle him over his closet choices.

Don’t engage in anything that lessens your energy when the kid says they are not going to school just because they don’t want to. The most crucial lesson you need to learn as a parent is always to change your attitude first so that your child can follow.

Don’t be reactive

Most parents make the mistake of getting angry and losing their temper in the event their child becomes defiant. Instead, calmly let them know that you disapprove of the behavior and you will deal with it at a later time. Your child’s mind becomes aware of potential consequences and has time to contemplate on their misbehavior. If you deal with a defiant child in this way, you get time to calm yourself down and also teach your child about the importance of the same.

Enforce Consequences appropriately.

Effective ways on how to discipline a child with the oppositional defiant disorder are mainly put into two categories: impositions and removals. “Impositions” refers to forcing a new situation onto the kid. You could have them pay a “fine” with their own money into a family jar, have them do additional chores, and have them run errands with you since they could not keep up with their behavior.

A “removal” implies taking away from the kid. It may include your attention, an environment they consider exciting to a pleasant activity. Ground your child from social events, take away gadgets and toys for a period or leave the park immediately. Giving your child a timeout is also a useful removal technique. Enforcing practical consequences is time and energy consuming. If you do not follow through with implementing consequences, it sends a wrong message to your child. There should never be a question as to your expectations.

Retain your Power

Engaging your child in an argument is a good idea towards dealing with a defiant child. It gives them the illusion that they can challenge you. Giving your child more control of the situation may lead to more defiant behavior. If you detect a power struggle, do not be tempted into engaging. Make it clear that the said consequences are not up for discussion and leave the room. By doing so, you keep all the power with you.

Don’t bribe or give Second Chances

Consistency is key in how to discipline a child with ODD. Giving your child repeat chances when they know there are consequences to bad behavior reinforces bad habits. He learns to get away with indiscipline a few more times knowing you are not serious enough to follow your own rules. Bargaining with your child, offering ice cream or money for good behavior is not the best countermeasure. You only enable the child to behave poorly, and in the future, they keep pushing as they eye for another bargain. Giving second chances or bribing takes away the motive to spend time thinking about bad habits they have done or said.

Set Regular Times to Talk Your Child

During neutral times, when you are less likely to quarrel with the child, talk to them. It is crucial to inform them how serious you take your job as a parent and you have good intentions even in punishment. Let them know that following rules is essential towards growing into responsible and a well-fulfilled life. Remind them of the family rules and values expected. This is the video about handling defiant kids.

What if There Was No Defiance?

If there weren’t a certain degree of disagreement in the world, we would not have some of the significant breakthroughs we are enjoying today. Some defiance once faced some of the laws that have changed the way we live and view certain aspects of human life.

Now, we are not suggesting you tolerate the tantrums thrown at you, but when children have the oppositional defiant disorder, we might ask ourselves the following:

  • How do they feel?
  • What do they want from you?
  • What can I do to help?

From experience, defiance shows that there is something more profound that needs attention, especially in children. At times, they need fair treatment, and when they do not see it, you will get an annoying behavior that suggests something should be done.

♣ Learn More about:

Reasons Your Toddler’s Tantrum Can Be a Good Thing

Why Are Our 3-8 Years Old Children Aggressive?

How to Save Our Children from Emotional Child Abuse?


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