I think my child may have ODD. How would I know for sure?
Distinguishing Oppositional Defiant Disorder from age appropriate normal defiant behavior isn't easy. Symptoms of the disorder tend to mirror (in exaggerated form) child rearing problems common in all families. In addition, different families have various levels of tolerance for defiant behavior. In some, a minor infraction of the house rules produces major consequences, while in more liberal homes, defiant behaviors are largely ignored until they cause major problems.
In kids with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, there is a pattern of uncooperative, defiant, and hostile behavior toward adults that seriously interferes with the youngster’s day-to-day functioning. Regularly, they lose their temper, argue with adults, actively defy adult rules, refuse adult requests, and deliberately annoy others. The symptoms are seen in multiple settings (e.g., home, school, in the neighborhood, etc.) and are not simply the result of a conflict with a particular mother/father or educator.
Blaming others for their mistakes, these kids often appear touchy, angry, resentful, spiteful, or vindictive. Although overtly aggressive behavior tends to be limited, some kids engage in mild physical aggression. However, their language tends to be aggressive and often obscene.
Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder were probably fussy, colicky, or difficult to soothe as babies. During the toddler and preschool years, when a certain degree of defiance is considered normal, ordinary points of contention in the family become battlegrounds for intractable power struggles with these kids. These defiant episodes typically center on eating, toilet training, and sleeping. Tantrums are usually extreme in a youngster with Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder consistently dawdle and procrastinate. They claim to forget or fail to hear and, as a result, are often referred for hearing evaluations, only to be found to have normal hearing. The issue is not obeying what was heard rather than a problem with not hearing.
As the youngster matures, struggles may center on keeping his room picked-up, cleaning-up after himself, taking showers, going to bed on time, not interrupting or talking back, and doing homework. In all cases, winning becomes the most important aspect of the struggle. At times, a youngster with Oppositional Defiant Disorder will forfeit cherished privileges rather than lose the argument.
Milder forms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder are limited to the home environment, while at school the youngster may be more passively resistant and uncooperative. More severe forms involve oppositional behavior toward other adults (e.g., teachers, coaches, etc.).
The defiant youngster typically has little insight and ability to admit to the difficulties. Rather, he tends to blame his troubles on others and on external circumstances. He is always questioning the rules and challenging those he perceives to be unreasonable.
Help for Parents with Oppositional Defiant Children and Teens