Tricks To Getting Compliance From Defiant Children and Teens

Children and teens with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) talk back, refuse to do chores, use bad language, and say things like "You can't make me" nearly every day. While all children display this kind of behavior from time to time, with Oppositional Defiant Disorder children, the symptoms continue for six months or more. Thus, moms and dads feel they are always struggling with their youngster.

Even more confounding, conventional discipline strategies usual fail. Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder refuse to go on a time-out from an early age, and claim not to care about losing privileges. If their exasperated mother or father shut them in their rooms, they may destroy their own belongings or go out the window. When parents resort to spanking, the ODD child focuses on the parent’s behavior (e.g., "I'll call the police and report you for child abuse") instead of his own. Defiant kids actually believe they are equal to their parents.

It's typical for a parent with an Oppositional Defiant Disorder youngster to feel isolated. You don't know anything about children like this until you have one. Until people have been in your shoes, they have no idea.

==> Parenting Children and Teens with Oppositional Defiant Disorder 

The notion that moms and dads are to blame is often reinforced by the fact that some Oppositional Defiant Disorder children are model citizens away from home. Many get good grades at school, cooperate with teachers, and are polite with their peer’s parents. Some are even able to convince therapists that their problems are caused entirely by their mother or father.

No one knows exactly how many children have Oppositional Defiant Disorder because it is a relatively new diagnosis and tends to overlap with other problems. The best estimates are that 6 to 22 percent of all school-age kids have Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Mothers and fathers often seek help for Oppositional Defiant Disorder children around five or six, an age when most children become more social and start to be more cooperative rather than less so.

Most experts think that a youngster's inherent personality and disposition contribute to the disorder, and it may be heightened when moms and dads aren't educated about how to handle it. Oppositional Defiant Disorder often coexists with other problems (e.g., ADHD, learning disabilities, mood disorders, etc.). It is sometimes more effective to treat an Oppositional Defiant Disorder youngster once some of the related problems have been treated with medication.

In many cases, the problem is evident almost from birth and only grows more pronounced over time. In other cases, the disorder is latent, only triggered during a crisis in the youngster's life (e.g., divorce, illness or death of someone close to the family, etc.). Sometimes Oppositional Defiant Disorder is more like a fever than a disorder (i.e., it's symptomatic of something else).

Many moms and dads find they do best with their children when they start to think of Oppositional Defiant Disorder as a mental disorder – and not a willful act. Oppositional Defiant Disorder children are essentially handicapped in their ability to be flexible and handle frustration. These children maintain a defiant attitude even when it's clearly not in their best interest. So we have to assume they would be doing well if they could, but they lack the capacity for flexibility and frustration management that ordinary kids develop.

Thus, expecting perfectly compliant behavior from an ODD youngster who may not be able to deliver the goods is unrealistic. Instead, you have to remain as patient as possible, and try to teach your youngster skills that help him deal with frustration, irritability, inflexibility and other difficult feelings.  It may help to consult a therapist who can check to see if your youngster really has Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and can give both you and your youngster some coping strategies.

Here are some tricks to getting compliance from your defiant child:

1. Because defiant children react so vehemently to direct commands, many moms and dads get better results when they rethink the way they communicate with their ODD youngster. Instead of issuing a direct command like, "Clean up your room," say something more neutral like, "These dirty clothes need to be picked up before you leave to go to your friend’s house." For older ODD kids, some moms and dads sidestep an argument by putting what they want in writing.

2. Changing the Oppositional Defiant Disorder reflex is hard for these children, so moms and dads need to notice and appreciate even small instances of cooperation.  Create as many opportunities for positive reinforcement as possible. If, for example, you're working on a household repair, ask your youngster to hand you a tool. When he does what you ask, thank him specifically for his willingness to help out. If he doesn't, move on without comment. The idea is to make your request so easy that your youngster will comply without thinking about it. Then, for just a moment, he'll experience the positive feelings associated with compliance.

3. Don't take the ODD child’s behavior personally. That's a tall order when a youngster is yelling at you or calling you a “bitch.” Often, moms and dads can't help feeling that their ODD youngster could control his Oppositional Defiant Disorder behavior if only he'd try harder. But it's critical to gain some distance. Realizing that "it's not personal" makes it more likely that you will respond constructively rather than vindictively to your youngster's behavior.

==> Parenting Children and Teens with Oppositional Defiant Disorder 

4. Mothers and fathers with Oppositional Defiant Disorder children are keenly aware of the problems their children cause. But these children are also often bright, vigorous and very creative. Appreciate the strength that's attached to the defiant drive. A simple technique called affirmation can be quite helpful. For example, when your ODD youngster is reading in bed or watching TV, just sit down beside him. If he says, "Why are you sitting here?" …simply say, "We’re always so busy around here. Everybody's going in every direction. I just missed being with you." Don't try to have a heart-to-heart talk. Simply honor your son or daughter with your presence (you'd be surprised how powerful this can be).

5. Oppositional Defiant Disorder children are masters at turning everything into a power struggle. The best way to avoid such struggles is to keep the focus of every conversation on the problem at hand. This is easier said than done, of course. In a typical disagreement with an Oppositional Defiant Disorder youngster, you might start by stating a simple rule (e.g., "No playing video games until your homework is finished"), and before you know it, you wind up fighting about your child’s cussing and defiance. In other words, you're suddenly in conflict about whether your authority is legitimate. To avoid this, calmly repeat the rule and the reasons for it. Above all, keep your composure. These children crave a reaction from you. So you have to learn not to react. That doesn't mean ignoring your youngster's behavior – just deferring your comments until he's able to hear them.

6. Oppositional Defiant Disorder children want to be in charge, so give that responsibility whenever you can. For example, instead of arguing with your ODD son about whether he needs a jacket, tell him the weather forecast. If he comes home shivering, be sure not to lecture. Instead, sympathize with the fact that it must have been colder than he imagined. Gradually, he'll take responsibility for his own choices instead of blaming you when things go wrong.

7. Oppositional Defiant Disorder is not something you, your spouse, or your youngster has chosen. So take time for things that will relieve stress (e.g., exercise, have lunch with a supportive friend, watch funny movies, etc.), and treat your husband or wife as your ally. Go out together and talk about anything but your Oppositional Defiant Disorder youngster. Although Oppositional Defiant Disorder does put a youngster at risk for more serious future difficulty, it is a problem that can be resolved by moms and dads who may work collaboratively with therapists and the youngster's educators.

8. Rules have no value unless they are backed up by swift consequences. Oppositional Defiant Disorder children can make this difficult. They often provoke moms and dads into escalating consequences. If you say, "You're grounded this evening," and your youngster replies, "I don’t care"'s very tempting to respond by upping the ante. You might angrily threaten, "Well, then make it a week." Remember that such a reaction will only inflame things. Instead, stick to consequences that are fair and dispassionately enforced.

9. Unlike typical kids who usually pick up essential social skills, Oppositional Defiant Disorder children need them to be spelled out again and again.

10. Oppositional Defiant Disorder children don't readily comply, so the more requests you issue, the more the opportunities for the youngster to get stuck. Divide the things you want your Oppositional Defiant Disorder youngster to do into three categories:
  • Category #1 holds a few mandatory rules, which are usually about safety (e.g., wear your seat belt in the car; siblings can't hit each other; no using drugs, etc.).
  • Category #2 holds issues on which you are willing to negotiate when you think your youngster is able to do so. 
  • Category #3 includes rules that aren't worth bothering with until your youngster can handle frustration.

Every parent will put different behaviors in different categories. Using profanity, for example, is a category #2 issue for some moms and dads, and an ignore-it-for-now issue for others. Only work on one or two high priority behaviors at a time.

==> Parenting Children and Teens with Oppositional Defiant Disorder


•    Anonymous said… THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! This fits both of my boys to a T and helps clarify how we should be parenting.
•    Anonymous said… Omg. Thank you for this. It has been a struggle for me but I am certain this is my child to the exact. He has already been diagnose with ADHD since age of 6. Je is 8 now and the behavior and bad language is awful.
•    Anonymous said… I need a oppositional defiance disorder spouse article. Please!
•    Anonymous said… Wow,my child will be evaluated for this soon. $800 before ins??? He's also been evaluated for ADHD. His Dad (my ex) believes in "the belt" and told me when my son comes to my place tomorrow to spank him 6 times for the word respect. Our son is 8 and was disrespectful to a substitute teacher today. Our sons behavior has been going on since age 4 or 5. Often he is an enjoyable child, the behavior is mostly at school interfering with learning. Corporal punishment not my form or discipline.
•    Anonymous said… So sad your son has to deal with his dad and his back in the day beliefs (the belt) for bad behavior. Don't you worry about this punishment when he goes with his dad? I wouldn't like the idea of my son coming home from his dads, with a nice blue mark from my ex's belt. This is sick. I'd report him to child & youth services in your area. He shouldn't go with his dad, until his dad changes his discipline method. There's other means of discipline, not "the belt".
•    Anonymous said… It's sick to whoop your son with a belt I'm sorry but the Bible specifically instructs us spare the rod and spoil the child I understand that there's more modern behavioral techniques of dealing with a rebellious child but I used to get my butt whooped by my stepdad and I'll tell you I was on my best behavior the majority of the time with the fear of the belt in mind. Reporting them to Child Services is a bit extreme may be having a talk about methodologies would be in order before you take such Extreme measures. And all day the belt mate maybe an old school way of dealing with it but that person almost invariably got that from their parents and it's hard to break life-long habits.
•    Anonymous said… I don't always think of it quickly enough but the idea of trading a tidy bedroom for favour really works. My Aspie teenage son is dreadful at getting up in the college holidays. So I relate this directly with things he wants, like pop and sweets that day or a lift to his girlfriends. I'm trying to impress that favours go both ways.

Post your comment below…

ODD Children Who Hit Their Parents

The first thing a mother or father should realize is that aggressive behavior is common in children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). The young child suffering from ODD simply lacks the maturity to hold back his impulse to hit or kick. He may actually know that hitting is wrong, but can't control himself in the middle of his anger and frustration.

Anger and frustration are major issues for ODD kids. When the defiant youngster gets angry, he is expressing his utter frustration at the lack of control that he has over his world. Something happens that deeply troubles him, but he lacks the tools to express his frustration appropriately. This further frustrates him, and he explodes in anger. He may strike at parents with the only tool at his disposal – by hitting.

Growing up is hard work. Many times, kids who face mental health issues and are under a lot of stress go through an aggressive phase. This can be because they have less energy for self-control, or because the stressful event just pushes them over the edge and makes every little inconvenience seem so much bigger. The result is that such a youngster is more likely to resort to hitting.

Reasons ODD children resort to hitting:

1. To get attention: Your youngster needs your attention. Normally he would prefer to get it in a positive way. However, negative attention is better than nothing. An ODD youngster who is frequently ignored may quickly discover that he becomes center stage when he fights and hits others. If parents react strongly to their youngster’s violent behavior, they may be fueling a lot of future problems. Reacting strongly to negative behavior encourages the youngster to continue behaving badly.

2. To feel in control: We all need to feel like we have control of the world around us, and ODD kids are no exception. However, this youngster has very little control over what happens to him. Often hitting is his way of trying to control some aspect of his world. It can be his form of self-assertion.

What can parents do?

1. First of all, acknowledge your youngster's feelings. ODD kids hit because they can't communicate their feelings. When you acknowledge your youngster's feelings, you eliminate this reason for hitting. You can say something like, "You must be very disappointed that I won't let you do _______." This doesn’t mean you are giving in, but it will remove one of the causes of his anger by showing him you understand his feelings. It is alright for your youngster to feel angry. What you want to teach him is to express anger in ways other than hitting.

2. Be a good role model. ODD kids are much more likely to hit if they see their mom or dad hitting someone. If you are concerned about aggressive behavior in your youngster, then your youngster should not see you use spanking as a form of punishment. That means if you choose to spank another youngster, you should do it privately and in a way your aggressive ODD youngster does not see or know about it.

3. For most ODD kids, violent behavior is just a stage. Sooner or later, they grow out of it. Your job as a parent is to understand the cause of your youngster's hitting. When you know this, you can begin to help your youngster express himself in more appropriate ways.

4. Limit exposure to aggression. You should keep your ODD son or daughter from seeing aggressive images on television, in movies, books, video games, toys, etc.

5. Pay attention to your youngster's daily cycles. Is there a particular time of day that aggressive behavior increases? If your youngster loses control before dinner or after school, it may just be a sign that he is hungry. Healthy snacks like nuts, vegetables and fruits may take care of the problem. Does your youngster hit when he’s tired? Then quiet time might be the answer. If you pay attention to what is happening in your youngster's world, then you may find an easy solution to his aggressive behavior.

6. Redirect your child to another activity. Parents can get their ODD youngster to stop hitting by giving him another outlet to express his frustration. For example, parents might be able to channel the child’s desire to hit by giving him something appropriate to strike (e.g., a punching bag, doll or stuffed animal). One mother chose to teach her ODD youngster who had a biting problem to bite a doll.

7. Review the incident. After the crisis has passed, go back over the incident and talk it over with your youngster when he is calm and rational. Make lists of what might work when he gets angry or when there is something you need to tell him that he won't like. Now you are ready. When the next episode takes place, you can remind your youngster of your earlier conversation. For example, "You are getting upset again... remember what you and I have talked about? We wrote this down. We agreed that the next time you got mad about something, you agreed you would ________ (insert redirecting activity) instead of hitting me."

8. Teach communication through language. It is very healthy for an ODD youngster to learn to use words to express negative emotions. Teach him to say things like, "I am really angry right now!" or "I am starting to feel like hitting you right now!" Once the youngster can express his feelings in a more direct and mature way, the hitting will slowly stop.

9. Teach that hitting is wrong. Even though your youngster may not be old enough to help himself, it is important that he knows that aggressive behavior is wrong. ODD kids don't know automatically that hitting is wrong. This is something they have to be taught. When your youngster tries to hit you, grab his hands firmly, look him in the eyes and say something like, "You are not allowed to hit your mother."

10. Be patient with your defiant child as he learns less violent ways to express his anger and frustration.

Parenting Tips for Defiant 3-Year-Olds

As exasperating as her behavior is, your 3-year-old’s defiance is really about her asserting herself. While a 3-year-old defies her mom and dad because she's caught up in the excitement of her autonomy, a 3-year-old is likely to be reacting to something. When your youngster doesn't comply with a request you've made, what she's really saying is, "I don't like your rules."

When this happens (and it will — often), don't be harsh, but do be assertive and consistent. This lets your 3-year-old know that you have established rules that she has to follow, and that mom and dad are in charge. Most 3-year-olds understand the concept of rules, so take time to explain to your youngster what they are and why they're important. Explain, too, what will happen if she breaks them. Be specific (e.g., "If you go into the street, you'll have to play inside for the rest of the day"). Also, enlist your child’s suggestions, because she'll be more apt to cooperate if she helps determine the consequences for particular actions.

No two kids are alike.  Thinking about the following questions can help you adapt and apply the information below to your unique 3-year-old:
  • How do you respond when your youngster is being defiant? What works? What doesn’t? What can you learn from this?  
  • What does your youngster tend to be most oppositional about? What, if anything, do these things have in common? 
  • Why do you think these issues bring out your youngster's "oppositional" side?  How can this understanding help you help your youngster cope better?

Parenting Tips for Defiant 3-Year-Olds:

1. As much as possible, reward good behavior rather than punishing misbehavior. 3-year-olds respond well to positive reinforcement (e.g., charts and stickers), so use them liberally. Say your youngster gets out of bed every night, though you've repeatedly told him that he has to stay there after he's tucked in. Instead of chastising him for getting up, reward him with a sticker on a cheery chart each night that he complies. At the end of a successful week, treat him to a small toy or a trip to the park. Of course, you can't make charts (or even put your foot down) about every little thing. But when your 3-year-old really is being defiant, it's vital to let him know — firmly and calmly — who's in charge.

2. Avoid giving in. If you give in to tantrums, your youngster learns that if he pushes hard enough, he’ll get what he wants. This will also make it more difficult for you the next time you try to enforce a limit.

3. Avoid the “Okay?” pitfall. “Let's go to bed now, okay?” …or… “Time to get dressed, okay?” Although this is a very common way that adults communicate, it is confusing for young kids. They take your question at face value and think they have a choice to say, “No, I really would rather not go to bed right now.” This can create unnecessary power struggles.  Be sure to communicate what is and isn’t a choice very clearly.

4. Engage your youngster’s imagination. For a youngster refusing to go to bed, you might something like, “Elmo is so tired. He wants to go to sleep and wants you to cuddle with him.” Or, for a youngster refusing to clean up, you might say something like: “Our favorite books want to go back on the shelf with their friends.  Let's a have a race to see how fast we can get them back up there.”

5. Give kids a warning before a transition needs to be made. You can use a kitchen timer so they can actually see and track the time. Making a poster of pictures that show the steps in your daily routines can be very useful as well. For example, pictures of tooth-brushing, face washing, reading, and then bed will show kids what they can expect to happen next. Give some concrete cues about transitions (e.g., “Three more times down the slide before it’s time to go”). It’s very important to then follow through on your limit.
6. Ignoring the behaviors you want to eliminate is the fastest way to be rid of them. The only exception to this rule is if your youngster is being physically hurtful—hitting, slapping, punching, and so on—in which case you calmly but firmly stop the behavior and explain that he can feel mad but he cannot hit.

7. Offer a few choices. “Do you want to put your pajamas on before or after we read books?” Or, “Do you want to put your pajamas on or should mommy put them on for you?” You might also give a choice between two pairs of pajamas that he might want to wear. Giving choices offers kids a chance to feel in control in positive ways.  Giving choices can actually reduce defiance.

8. Set limits.  “It is time for bed now.  You need to sleep so your body can get some rest and grow big and strong.”  Use language your youngster understands.  Keep it short and clear, but non-threatening.

9. Think about your own behaviors:  Could you be sending mixed messages to your youngster? Sometimes our own choices and behavior as moms and dads can influence our kid's behaviors.

10. Think prevention. Anticipate the kinds of situations that lead to defiance from your youngster and help him problem solve and cope in advance. This might mean letting your 3-year-old know that you understand leaving the house to go to child care is difficult for him, and then offering him the choice of a book or toy to bring in the car to help him make the transition.

11. Use humor. This is a great way to take some of the intensity out of the situation and throw a monkey wrench into a power struggle. You might try to pull your youngster’s pajama bottoms over your head, or see if they fit onto her favorite stuffed animal.

12. Validate your youngster’s feelings. As moms and dads, we often skip this step and go right to setting the limit. But acknowledging a youngster’s feelings first is very important as it lets her know you understand where she’s coming from, and that her feelings matter. Keep in mind that it’s not the youngster’s feelings that are the problem, rather it’s what the youngster does with her feelings that is often the challenge. Labeling your 3-year-old’s feelings also helps her learn to be aware of her emotions and, eventually, to manage them. Keep language simple and direct (e.g., “I know you don’t want to put your pajamas on. It’s difficult to go from playtime to bedtime”). When you skip this “validation” step, kids often “pump up the volume” to show you—louder, harder, and stronger—just how upset they are.

==> Parenting Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Effective Disciplinary Strategies for Children and Teens with Oppositional Defiant Disorder

The term “discipline” refers generally to the practices that parents use to teach their kids rules of conduct and to enforce those rules. Disciplinary practices for children and teens with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) include: (a) creation and discussion of rules and expectations, (b) reminders of rules, (c) positive consequences for adhering to rules, and (d) negative consequences for breaking rules. In discussions with children, rules can be referred to as “expectations.”

Experts describe at least four different approaches to discipline:

1. Inductive Discipline Style: The term “inductive discipline” is commonly used by psychologists to refer to the most effective type of parental discipline of kids. Inductive or positive discipline is designed to avoid power struggles, arbitrary use of parental authority, and other forms of negative interaction around discipline. This approach to discipline is often associated with “authoritative parenting,” which is the positive middle ground between extreme permissiveness on one side, and extreme arbitrariness or “authoritarian parenting” on the other.

“Authoritative” moms and dads maintain their proper role as their youngster’s authority figure, but also discuss and negotiate with their kids and turn over decision making to kids when it is proper to do so. When kids behave in ways that are considered positive, they receive positive reinforcement and the reason for the reinforcement is clearly explained. For example, “Jake, you’ve done a great job of keeping your room neat and your things in order. That means that I don’t have to nag or spend time cleaning up after you. That saves me time, so we can go to the movies.” Or in the case of negative behavior: “Jake, your room is a mess after you told me you would clean it up. Now we’re both going to have to spend extra time getting your room ready for guests. So we won’t be able to go to the movies. That’s what happens when you don’t do the little things that you promise to do.”

Moms and dads who use inductive or positive discipline also listen to their kids and invite them to explain why they did what they did. Discussion is frequent. Moms and dads are understanding, but also consistent in their enforcement of the important rules of the house.

Because of the clear explanations, ODD kids come to understand that there are clear rules for them to follow, good reasons for the rules, and natural and logical consequences that follow behavior that is consistent with the rules and or that is in violation of the rules. When homes are organized around inductive or positive discipline with more positive reinforcement than consequence, kids recognize the orderly organization of life around them and develop better self-regulation than kids who do not receive inductive discipline. Kids who are raised in these homes tend to have better self-regulation later in childhood and adolescence than kids whose moms and dads rely on less positive styles of parenting. In effect, kids “internalize” reasonable rules of conduct and their rationale, and they come to use these principles as their own decision-making system. Kids develop positive self-regulation in part because they have lived in a world that is organized and predictable, including well understood rules of conduct.

2. Deductive Discipline Style: In homes characterized by “deductive discipline,” rules are created and then enforced by moms and dads with consequences and rewards. The youngster is expected to “deduce” or figure out the rules by seeing how his behavior is rewarded or punished. There are few clear explanations given for rewards or consequences. Although enforcement might be consistent, consequence may come to be seen by the youngster as arbitrary, rather than a natural and logical consequence of violating a clearly understood rule. Power struggles may be common.

3. Arbitrary Consequence Style: In homes that use arbitrary consequence, moms and dads discipline their kids in ways that are not clearly related to any rules or standards. Often consequence is physical. A consequence can be imposed for whatever reason the parent decides on the spot is a good reason for the consequence. There is no consistency or obvious standard. Rules and standards are not discussed with the kids. There is little negotiation or respect for youngster decision making. Kids are confused about what they are supposed to do and come to fear their moms and dads. Power struggles or other forms of parent-child conflict are common.

This type of discipline is usually associated with poor child outcomes and, in particular, poorly self-regulated kids. If a physical consequence is used, the lesson learned by kids is to use physical power over others if you are bigger than they are. Peer relations are often poor among kids who come from homes in which a physical consequence is used.

4. Permissive Style: In contrast to homes in which arbitrary consequence is used frequently, permissive homes are characterized by very few rules and few disciplinary practices. Kid’s choices, including impulsive behaviors, are largely respected and accepted. Few boundaries are placed around the youngster’s behavior. Although on the surface, this may appear to be a “child-centered” home, the kids may not experience the regularity and organization they need to learn how to think for themselves and make good decisions. Because there are no boundaries, the kids may feel insecure and confused. ODD kids develop positive self-regulation in part because they have lived in a world that is organized and predictable, including well understood rules of conduct.


1. When it comes to parenting ODD children and teens, it is critical to focus primary effort on preventing negative behavior rather than reacting to that negative behavior. This is common sense when dealing with toddlers who are famous for being impulsive. Moms and dads try hard to “child proof” the environment so that they do not have to spend their days reacting to the difficulties that an impulsive toddler will inevitably get into. Many kids with ODD, ADHD, and other diagnoses are like toddlers with respect to impulsiveness. Thus prevention is the key.

2. When ODD children behave in ways that are difficult to live with, it is easy to fall into the trap of attending only to the negative behavior. But even children with severe behavior problems act in acceptable ways some of the time. It is critical to pay attention to positive behavior, call attention to it, and reward it with praise or some other reward. Otherwise the child will learn that he only comes to the attention of parents when misbehaving, and may also develop a sense of personal identity associated with negative behavior. This can easily create a cycle of negative behavior followed by negative consequences, breeding more negative behavior, and so on. Moms and dads should work to create opportunities for positive behavior, which can then be highlighted and rewarded.

==> Parenting Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder

3. At home and at school, the rules and expectations should be very clear. They may need to be posted and reminders may need to be frequent. Written reminders in a child’s organizer and reminders to review these notes are often necessary. There may need to be frequent review and discussion of the reasons for the rules. These discussions should take place when the child and parents are calm rather than during a time of behavioral crisis.

4. Complete consistency in implementing behavior or discipline programs from person to person, from and time to time, and across parents and educators is a desirable goal, but fraught with limitations and sure to lead to frustration. However, it is important for all parents and educators to “be on the same page” with respect to rules, their implementation, and consequences for violations. Substantial inconsistencies will likely lead to increased behavior problems.

5. ODD children should have a clear understanding of why specific rules exist and why specific consequences are associated with violations. These discussions should occur during periods of calm, not during a behavioral crisis, and should be available in written format for the child to use as a cue in future task assignments.

6. Many children with ODD do not learn efficiently from the consequences of their behavior. Therefore, their behavior management plans are primarily focused on antecedent (advance) supports to prevent negative behavior. Nevertheless, when they do behave in negative ways, there should be consequences so that the child learns that certain behaviors are followed by specific consequences. These consequences may not modify the behavior, but at least the child learns about how the world works. Ideally these consequences are naturally and logically related to the behavior so that they make sense to the child. For example, if a child trashes his room, a natural and logical consequence is to have him clean it up. It is not a natural and logical consequence, for example, to be forced to sit in the corner for an hour.

7. When it is necessary to discipline an ODD youngster, this should be done calmly and quickly with the youngster removed from other kids. There should be no conflict over who is in control. The focus is on rule violation only. Parents must choose their battles wisely so that they know that they will successfully administer discipline if it is required.

8. When the child AND the parent are extremely upset, it is not the time to administer any consequences. Under these emotionally charged circumstances, the net effect of a consequence is to increase anger, not to learn anything. The goal when ODD children are in crisis or emotionally upset is simply to end the crisis and reduce the emotionality of the situation without anybody getting hurt. Thus, the most immediate action is to remove the child from the environment or stop the environmental stimulation. The time to discuss the consequences of negative behavior is later when the child is calm. Again, prevention is the key to minimizing aggressive or angry outbursts.

9. When a child engages in negative behavior as a result of neurologically-based impulsiveness, lack of initiation, inability to recall the appropriate response, or reduced “reading” of social cues and situations, moms and dads must first understand the source of the difficulty. However, understanding is not the same as excusing. Inexcusable behavior is inexcusable even if it is in part a product of the child’s neurological difficulties. Rather than excusing behavior, moms and dads should redouble their efforts to help the child avoid the negative behavior in the future.

10. In a classroom or home, rules should be formulated positively, in terms of what parents and teachers want the children “to do” versus what they want them “to avoid.” For example: 
  • “Be sure to put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher” -- versus -- “Don’t leave your dirty dishes in the living room!”
  • “Pack you back pack the night before and be ready for your bus” -- versus -- “Don’t dawdle in the morning”
  • “Say goodbye and leave quietly, please” -- versus -- “Don’t bang the door when you leave!”
  • “Speak nicely to your little sister” -- versus -- “Don’t yell at your sister!”

==> Parenting Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Biology

Is the cause of Oppositional Defiant Disorder biological?

There appears to be no single cause that produces Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD); however, researchers do agree that there is a strong genetic and biological influence involved.

Research suggests that behavioral problems in ODD kids may occur as the result of defects in - or injuries to - the brain.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder is associated with abnormal amounts of neurotransmitters (i.e., chemicals that enhance communication among neurons in the brain). If these chemicals are out of balance or not working properly, messages may not make it through the brain correctly, leading to symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and other mental illnesses.

Other biological factors found in those diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder is (1) a difficult temperament, (2) above normal levels of testosterone, and (3) low physiological arousal (i.e., under-arousal) in response to stimulation.

Several theories have tried to explain why under-arousal may be associated with increased behavior problems. Some researchers suggest that under-arousal results in sensation-seeking and perhaps in disruptive behaviors to maintain optimal arousal. Others have suggested that the under-arousal results in an under-reaction of guilt or anxiety, which in turn would inhibit these behaviors in typically developed children. A third theory suggests that both under-arousal and aggressive behaviors are results of deficiencies in the functioning of the prefrontal cortex, limiting the child’s reasoning, foresight, and ability to learn from experience.

Many kids and adolescents with ODD also have other mental illnesses (e.g., ADHD, learning disorders, depression, anxiety disorder), which may contribute to their behavior problems.

Parenting Kids with ODD: The Do's and Don'ts

The best way to treat a youngster with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) involves behavior management techniques, using a consistent approach to discipline, and following through with positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors.

Here are the Do’s and Don’ts:


1. Do apply established consequences immediately, fairly and consistently. Be consistent and set down specific rules, because changing the rules mid-stream can be confusing to the ODD youngster. Be sure that BOTH parents are on-board with the same rules.

2. Do explain why you are disciplining the ODD youngster. Kids need not only to understand what they did wrong – but why it was wrong and what they should have done right. This also needs to be conveyed to them in a way that they will grasp. This allows the youngster to grow and not just stop the immediate behavior that is in front of you.

3. Do limit the time ODD kids can watch television, play video games, and listen to music. Sticking to these rules allows time for the kids to think on their own and to use their creativity.

==> Parenting Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder

4. Do think about how the consequence will affect you and the rest of the family. If you have a youngster who likes to control you or others in the family, choose consequences carefully. Be sure that the consequence ONLY affects the youngster who misbehaved and not anyone else. Do not say, "We are not going until you clean your room." 

If you are going somewhere he wants to go, this threat may work. If he does not want to go, you have just given the youngster a lot of power. No one can go until the room is clean. You are giving this youngster control over the entire family! What do you do with a youngster who is not permitted to go somewhere with the rest of the family? Get a baby-sitter and then go and have a good time. Your youngster will learn that his misbehavior will not prevent the family from having fun.


1. Don’t allow electronics to become a babysitter for your ODD youngster. Moms and dads often wonder how to take TV privileges from one youngster. If they have to shut off the TV, the other kids will be punished too. That's true. Do not shut the TV off because one youngster is restricted. That punishes everyone. Watch TV as usual. 

The youngster who is being disciplined should go in another room WITHOUT TV or games. If no one can watch TV because he/she cannot watch TV, you are giving your youngster control over the entire family. Who is being punished?

2. Don’t play "Let’s Make a Deal" with the ODD youngster, "If you clean your room, you can go to the movies tonight." Too many moms and dads use this approach to get the youngster to do something, and bargaining becomes a way of life. The mother or father is constantly caught in a struggle to make the deal. Instead, enforce predetermined consequences and apply intermittent reinforcement for good behavior. 

A reinforcer is anything that the youngster likes or desires. Examples of reinforcers can include praise, spending quality time together, or going to a movie to name a few. Once you have issued a rule or instruction, you shouldn’t back down. The primary rule is that the youngster must obey the parent!

3. Don't allow the youngster to manipulate you. Kids with ODD are very cunning at getting their own way.

==> Parenting Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder


Thank you very very much! My 3.5 yr old son wants to control me and his elder brother as well. Nowadays he becomes too much obstinate several times. Even though he is not vindictive and he is quite good a boy when he is not angry , I am afraid if his illogical anger or his intention to find out some reasons to be angry is a sign of O D D anyway!

What is Antisocial Personality Disorder?

Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) is specifically a pervasive pattern of disregarding and violating the rights of others. Diagnostic criteria for this disorder state that this pattern must include at least three of the following specific signs and symptoms:

• A lack of feeling guilty about wrong-doing
• Disregard for personal safety or the safety of others
• Failure to think or plan ahead
• Lack of conforming to laws, as evidenced by repeatedly committing crimes
• Persistent lack of taking responsibility, such as failing to establish a pattern of good work habits or keeping financial obligations
• Repeated deceitfulness in relationships with others, such as lying, using false names, or conning others for profit or pleasure
• Tendency to irritability, anger, and aggression, as shown by repeatedly assaulting others or getting into frequent physical fights

Other important characteristics of this disorder include the following:

• it can’t be diagnosed if the individual only shows symptoms of APD at the same time they are suffering from schizophrenia or when having a manic episode
• it isn’t diagnosed in kids younger than 18 years of age, but the affected individual must have shown symptoms of this diagnosis at least since 15 years of age
• it tends to occur in about 1% of females and 3% of males in the United States

What is the difference between Antisocial Personality Disorder and psychopathy?

In contrast, psychopathy, although not a mental health disorder formally recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, is considered to be a more severe form of APD. Specifically, in order to be considered a psychopath, the person must experience a lack of remorse of guilt about their actions in addition to demonstrating antisocial behaviors. While 50%-80% of incarcerated people have been found to have APD, only 15% have been shown to have the more severe APD-type of psychopathy.

Psychopaths (also called sociopaths) tend to be highly suspicious or paranoid, even in comparison to people with APD. The implications of this suspicious stance can be dire, in that paranoid thoughts tend to lead the psychopathic individual to interpret all aggressive behaviors toward them, even those that are justified, as being arbitrary and unfair. A televised case study of a psychopath provided a vivid illustration of the resulting psychopathic anger. Specifically, the criminal featured in the story apparently abducted a female and sexually abused her over the course of a number of days in an attempt to prove to investigating authorities that his step-daughter's allegations that he sexually abused her were false.

What causes Antisocial Personality Disorder?

One of the most frequently asked questions about APD is whether or not it is genetic. Many wonder if it is hereditary. If this were the case, kids of antisocial parents would be highly expected to become antisocial themselves, whether or not they live with the antisocial mother/father. Fortunately, people are just not that simple. Like all personality disorders, and also most mental disorders, APD tends to be the result of a combination of biologic/genetic and environmental factors.

Although there are no clear biological causes for this disorder, research on the possible biologic risk factors for developing APD indicates that the part of the brain that is primarily responsible for learning from one's mistakes and for responding to sad and fearful facial expressions tends to be smaller and respond less robustly to the happy, sad, or fearful facial expressions of others. That lack of response may have something to do with the lack of empathy that antisocial people tend to have with the feelings, rights, and suffering of others. While some people may be more vulnerable to developing APD as a result of their particular genetic background, that is thought to be a factor only when the individual is also exposed to life events (e.g., abuse or neglect) that tend to put the person at risk for development of the disorder. Similarly, while there are some theories about the role of PMS and other hormonal fluctuations in the development of antisocial personality disorder, the disorder can, so far, not be explained as the direct result of such abnormalities.

Other conditions that are thought to be risk factors for APD include:

• a reading disorder
• attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
• conduct disorder
• substance abuse

Individuals who experience a temporary or permanent brain dysfunction (also called organic brain damage) are at risk for developing violent or otherwise criminal behaviors. Theories regarding the life experiences that put individuals at risk for APD provide important clues for its prevention. Examples of such life experiences include:

• a history of childhood physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
• a parent who is either antisocial or alcoholic
• associating with peers who engage in antisocial behavior
• deprivation or abandonment
• neglect

How is Antisocial Personality Disorder diagnosed?

There is no specific definitive test (e.g., blood test) that can accurately assess whether an individual has APD. Professionals conduct a mental-health interview that looks for the presence of the symptoms previously described. Due to the use of a mental-health interview in making the diagnosis and the fact that this disorder can be quite resistant to treatment, it is important that the professional know to assess the symptoms in the context of the person’s culture so that particular individual is not assessed as having APD when he/she doesn’t. Unfortunately, research shows that many professionals lack the knowledge, experience, and sometimes the willingness to factor cultural context into their assessments.

What are the treatments for Antisocial Personality Disorder?

While it can be quite resistant to change, research shows there are a number of effective treatments for this condition. For example, teens who receive therapy that helps them change the thinking that leads to their maladaptive behavior has been found to significantly decrease the incidence of repeat antisocial behaviors.

On the other hand, attempting to treat APD like other conditions is not often effective. For example, programs that have tried to use a purely reflective approach to treating depression or eating disorders in individuals with APD often worsen rather than improve outcomes in those persons. In those cases, a combination of firm - but fair - programming that emphasizes teaching people with APD the skills that can be used to live independently and productively within the rules and limits of society has been more effective.

While medications don’t directly treat the behaviors that characterize APD, they can be useful in addressing conditions that co-occur with this condition. Specifically, depressed or anxious people who also have APD may benefit from antidepressants, and those who exhibit impulsive anger may improve when given mood stabilizers.

What happens if Antisocial Personality Disorder is not treated?

Some societal costs of APD (e.g., the suffering endured by victims of the crimes committed by individuals with this disorder) are clear. However, when individuals with APD are the charismatic leaders of religious cults, the devastation they can create is often not known unless and until a catastrophe results (e.g., the mass suicide that occurred at the command of the Reverend Jim Jones in Guyana in 1978).

People who suffer from APD have a higher risk of abusing alcohol and other drugs and repeatedly committing crimes. Imprisonment is a potential consequence. Individuals with APD are also vulnerable to the following:

• dying from homicide, suicide, or accident
• having other personality disorders (e.g., borderline and narcissistic personality disorder)
• mood problems (e.g., major depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder)
• self-mutilation and other forms of self-harm

APD tends to make virtually any other condition more problematic and difficult to treat. Having APD makes people who also have a substance abuse problem more difficult to help abstain from alcohol or other drug use. Individuals who have both APD and schizophrenia are less likely to comply with treatment programs and are more likely to remain in an institution like prison or a hospital. These risks become magnified if APD is not treated. Statistics indicate that many individuals with APD experience a remission of symptoms by the time they reach 50 years of age.

Antisocial Personality Disorder Summary—

• A personality disorder (PD) is a persistent pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviors that is significantly different from what is considered normal within the person's own culture.

• Although APD can be quite resistant to treatment, the most effective interventions tend to be a combination of firm but fair programming that emphasizes teaching APD people skills that can be used to live independently and productively within the rules and limits of society.

• APD is likely the result of a combination of biologic/genetic and environmental factors.

• APD is specifically a pervasive pattern of disregarding and violating the rights of others and may include symptoms such as breaking laws, frequent lying, starting fights, lack of guilt and taking personal responsibility, and the presence of irritability and impulsivity.

• Diagnoses often associated with APD include substance abuse, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and reading disorders.

• If untreated, individuals with APD are at risk for developing or worsening a myriad of other mental disorders. APD individuals are also at risk for self-mutilation or dying from homicide or suicide.

• Many individuals with APD experience a remission of symptoms by the time they reach 50 years of age.

• Personality disorders are grouped into clusters A, B, and C based on the dominating symptoms.

• Psychopaths tend to be highly suspicious or paranoid, even in comparison to people with APD, which tends to lead the psychopathic person to interpret all aggressive behaviors toward them as being arbitrary and unfair.

• Psychopathy is considered to be a more severe form of APD. Specifically, in order to be considered a psychopath, the person must experience a lack of remorse or guilt about their actions in addition to demonstrating antisocial behaviors.

• Research indicates ethnic minorities tend to be falsely diagnosed as having antisocial personality disorder, inappropriately resulting in less treatment and more punishment for those people.

• Since there is no specific definitive test that can accurately assess the presence of APD, professionals conduct a mental-health interview that looks for the presence of antisocial symptoms. If the cultural context of the symptoms is not considered, APD is often falsely diagnosed as being present.

• Some theories about the biological risk factors for APD include dysfunction of certain genes, hormones, or parts of the brain.

• Theories regarding the life experiences that put individuals at risk for APD include a history of childhood physical, sexual, or emotional abuse; neglect, deprivation, or abandonment; associating with friends who engage in antisocial behavior; or having a mother or father who is either antisocial or alcoholic.

• While medications do not directly treat the behaviors that characterize antisocial personality disorder, they can be useful in addressing conditions like depression, anxiety, and mood swings that co-occur with this condition.

==> Parenting Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Parenting Oppositional Defiant Children and Teens: How to Pick Your Battles

What's often tricky in parenting a defiant youngster is figuring out the "is this worth fighting for?" part – especially if you have to think fast. Defiant kids and teens often make a “game” out of getting into battles with their moms and dads, and if the parent gets tricked into playing this game, she finds herself in an endless stream of warfare.

So, how can you avoid fighting every battle and save your time and energy for the ones worth fighting for? Here are some important tips for knowing which battles to fight – and which ones to let go of:

1. Ask yourself, “Will this battle fight itself?” There are some things that will get addressed by default – and you can stay totally out of it (which saves you from being the “bad guy”). For example, you may be tempted to continue to battle with your defiant child over his poor teeth-brushing habits, even when the two of you have had many past battles over this issue to no avail. Instead, give a final warning: “If you continue to neglect your teeth, you will get a cavity, which will result in a painful toothache and a trip to the dentist.” Then, let go of it. You tried. He will have to learn the hard way.

2. Ask yourself, “Can I live with it?” If something your teenager wants to do isn't going to hurt anyone and won't make you terribly unhappy, then let her do it. Say, for example, "Getting your hair dyed pink is not something I would have done as a teenager, but if it makes a statement, then go for it.”

3. Ask yourself, “Is this battle worth fighting?” Maybe the crumbs on the floor and the toothpaste all over the sink aren't worth fighting over, but the toy throwing and TV obsession need to be addressed. If it helps, you can make a list of what you can tolerate and what you can't.

4. Ask yourself, “When my child leaves the nest, what values do I want her to take away?” Those values are your “non-negotiable” items. Those issues are the ones to talk about most. Those are also ones she is most likely to adopt if you explain why you deem them essential. Remember, moms and dads who raise moral children don’t do so by accident. Be intentional! Explain your beliefs. Don’t deviate from what matters most.

5. Adolescents need their privacy. Just as you’re not going to share everything about your life, they won’t either. So let your adolescent know that you will honor her privacy. No reading her diary or going through her drawers. But those rules are immediately broken if you have any founded concern (i.e., a probable cause) that your adolescent’s safety is in jeopardy (e.g., drugs, illegal activities, suicidal thoughts, etc.). Be concerned if your adolescent becomes suddenly secretive or withdrawn or shows unusual amounts of anger or aggression. Then pick those locks and strip-search that room.

6. Choose rules that work for you. Rules can be arbitrary but they are essential to sanity and safety. In some households, kids only eat in the kitchen. In others, kids go to sleep at 7:00. There will never be universal rules for all kids in all homes. But every home needs a few time-honored rules.

7. Engage in diplomacy. Your 5th grader wants to walk to school alone. You may not feel it is safe, but rather than argue, see if you can come up with a compromise that lets him save face, such as driving him to a point a couple blocks away from school and letting him walk from there.

8. It's important to note that there are certain developmental stages at which children naturally assert their need for independence and individuality (e.g., by dressing like a circus freak). It helps to view the push-back as less about defying you and more about saying "I gotta be me!"

9. Keep your family-values list to a reasonable handful. If it's way long, you're going to be fighting a lot. It might feel like your defiant teenager is carrying a sign that says “I reject every decent thing my mom and dad tried to teach me” when she leaves the house wearing jeans with holes in the knees, a lip piercing, and gothic make-up that is caked-on so thick she looks like Alice Copper. But when it comes down to it, chances are “I want my daughter to dress in the clothing I think looks nice” wouldn't make your list of core values.

10. Refer back to the house-rules. Whatever house-rules you have already established should be reinforced. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Minor infractions that can be part of a larger house-rule should be a battle worth picking. So if one of your house-rules is "No Cussing," then you have a point of reference by telling your youngster, "I said no cussing. That's against house-rules."

11. Say “yes” more than “no”. Too many “no’s” are just as ineffective as too few. Your youngster tunes you out or gives up because he keeps running into roadblocks.

12. Teach your youngster the skills needed to follow the rules. A rule is meaningless if your youngster isn’t getting it. It’s important not to lose credibility. If an “inside voice” is challenging to your youngster, practice with toilet paper rolls to make it fun. If running through stores has become a game, make a few trips to the mall when you have nothing else to do but teach appropriate behavior. And leave as soon as your defiant youngster starts to test your commitment.

Is it possible that marital discord causes Oppositional Defiant Disorder in some cases?

The short answer is ‘no’ – it doesn’t cause Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), but it is definitely a contributing factor. Much of the research to date addresses the influence of parents’ attitudes and actions on the behavior of their kids. Studies have consistently shown a strong correlation between marital dissatisfaction and overt marital conflict and kid’s oppositional defiant behavior. Studies have examined numerous explanations for these findings.

One such explanation was that dysfunctional marital relationships lead to dysfunctional parenting practices. Marital conflict has been positively linked with callous disciplinary practices used by moms and dads, lower levels of parental participation, and more recurrent parent-child conflict. Conflicted moms and dads are also less likely to praise their kids, read to them, engage in recreation with them, or spend time with them in relational or social activities. This detachment fuels negative relationships within families.

Families where both the mom and dad blame the youngster and “scapegoat” him demonstrate high levels of marital discord and “acting-out” behaviors in the youngster is evident. This type of parenting strategy, or lack of one, may be seen as an example of how maladaptive parenting styles and the youngster’s misbehavior become intertwined and reciprocally reinforcing. What is most important is the way these behaviors are substantiated through family interaction styles and how they serve a homeostatic function, in that it helps to maintain balance within the family system.

Other factors involving parents’ actions and attitudes have been shown to affect a kid’s behavior. For example, depression in the mother or father is related to a particular style of conflict-management in the home. Parents with depressive symptoms were shown to use more evading and aggressive conflict resolution strategies in the marriage and family relationship. These maladaptive conflict resolution styles can be positively correlated to the kid’s destructive behaviors. Negative parental conflict-management styles can also impact the kid’s ability to manage conflict properly himself, with either family or peers.

Parental antisocial behavior has a monumental influence on kid’s adjustment difficulties. Such detrimental parental conduct plays a major role in family disturbance and the growth of kid’s “acting-out” behaviors. This conduct also leads to adjustment problems in kids (e.g., anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, destructive behaviors, etc.).

Parental hostility and conflict seem to be the most prevalent negative influences on kids within the family system. Antagonism and lack of involvement within the marital relationship are the most caustic form of marital disagreement and are linked to dysfunction throughout many levels of the family system. When parents participate in both aggressive and distancing behaviors in their interaction with one another, they tend to have kids who exhibit harmful affect and non-cooperation with peers who have higher levels of “acting-out” issues. This subject can even be narrowed to include moms and dads who improperly argue about what is proper parenting. This aspect of moms and dads fighting with each other over parenting issues has also been shown to adversely influence kid’s actions and attitudes.

Parental marital conflict significantly increases kid’s anxiety and depression. Marital conflict and dissolution of the marital relationship are early environmental adversities that negatively impact kid’s physical health. The impact of the parent’s behavior on the youngster’s behavior is, therefore, well documented. If moms and dads are able to successfully and understandingly work through problems together, they evidence more involved and supportive parenting with their kids.

Mom’s special influence:

A mom’s special influence in a youngster’s life can be a powerful force for good or ill. Kids with moms who feel uncertain of their parenting skills and use love conditionally tend to report more anxious kids. Moms who display hostile control and discipline are more likely to have kids with conduct problems.

Moms tend to have much more of a positive influence on their kid’s behavior than dads. This could be attributed to the fact that it is socially accepted that moms should be psychologically available to their kids in spite of their own problems. Females may be able to deliberately disconnect their roles as spouse and as mom, thereby lessening the impact of a poor marital relationship on their responsibility as moms.

Dads, on the other hand, tend to have a more negative impact. This may be due to the fact that disconnected dads produce a family atmosphere in which kids feel more at ease with their moms. This may cause kids and moms to create alliances that segregate dads and may lead to the dad’s retreat from family interactions and an increased expression of negative behaviors within the family.

Marital conflict has also been shown to be associated with negativity in the mom’s relationship with the pre-teen son or daughter. This marital conflict has been linked to a lack of responsiveness on the part of the mom in the mother–child relationship.

Moms and dads who experience unremitting marital conflict are likely to have limited emotional availability for their kids. The lower the levels of conflict are, the less negative the parent–child relationship tends to be. Although moms and dads have a paramount influence on their kid’s lives and behavior, other environmental factors contribute as well.

==> Parenting Children and Teens with Oppositional Defiant Disorder

What are the best behavior-management strategies that teachers can use with their oppositional defiant students?

Solutions for Oppositional Defiant Behavior in ODD Students: Tips for Teachers

1. ODD Behavior: Complying with the letter of the law but not with the spirit of it—


• When told, “Take your hat off,” the child may take it off and then put it back on.
• When given the direction “Lower your voice,” the child may speak in a lower tone but use the same volume.
• When given the direction “Bring your chair up to the front of the room,” the child may bring the chair up but then sit on the floor.

Teacher’s Strategy: Teach the difference between the letter and the spirit of the law—

Generally, when faced with the “loophole finding” student, teachers will try to become more precise in their language or to add additional rules. Rather than trying to plug the loopholes, have a lesson at the beginning of the year on the difference between the “letter of the law” and the “spirit of the law.” Unless a youngster has a language impairment, she/he knows what the teacher means and is merely testing the limits. In the lesson, you can give examples of statements an educator might make, and then ask the children in class to identify the intent. 


• No talking. Does the educator mean: (a) be silent or (b) start whispering?
• Stop running. Does the educator mean: (a) walk or (b) start skipping or hopping?
• Turn around. Does the educator mean: (a) face front or (b) turn in a circle?

Not only does this lesson get the point across, it generally is a lot of fun for teachers and children. Once the educator is certain the group understands the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, one additional rule can be added to the classroom list: “Follow the spirit of the law.”

Now, when a child tests the limit, the teacher can ask, “Are you following the spirit of the law?” This effectively derails the child who innocently looks at you and smiles, saying, “But I did what you SAID!”

2. ODD Behavior: Making deals—


The educator says, “You need to finish your English before you go to recess.” The child responds, “If you let me go to recess, I’ll do my English later. I want to do Math now.” If the educator persists, the child will continue to try to “make a deal” (e.g.,, “I’ll do half my English now, only have half of recess, and then come back in and finish my English”).

Teacher’s Strategy: Ask rather than tell—

Many times this type of interchange can be proactively avoided by asking the children what they should be doing, rather than by telling them what they are supposed to do (e.g., “What needs to be done before you go to recess?”). For the most part, children with defiant behavior really don’t want to be doing something different, they just want to have control and not feel as if they are being told what to do.

Children who are trying to make deals are really saying, “I want to feel like I have control over what I’m doing and when I’m doing it.” If the teacher interprets that sentiment out loud and points out that they do have control, children often will comply (e.g., the teacher could say, “You want to feel like you have control and options about the ‘what’ and ‘when’ of your choices. You do have control. No one can make you do anything you don’t want to. It’s your choice. You don’t do English – then you don’t have recess. It’s totally up to you.”).

3. ODD Behavior: Violating rules right in front of a teacher—


• The educator is walking down the aisle and, as she passes, the child puts her/his feet up on the next chair.
• The educator tells everyone to remember to please raise a hand when answering a question, but the child immediately shouts out an answer.

Teacher’s Strategy: Planned ignoring—

Planned ignoring is a conscious decision to not attend to the behavior at the time it occurs. It does not mean ignoring the behavior forever, which would be condoning it. Usually, when a child violates a rule immediately after it has been given, it is an attempt to engage the teacher in an argument and seize control of the classroom. Behaviors that are insubordinate, but do not endanger the physical or psychological safety of others, can be temporarily ignored.

When the child sees that the teacher is not going to “give up” control of the classroom by taking the time to engage in an argument, the behavior often stops. If, however, when the behavior is ignored the child escalates it, the teacher needs to interpret the meaning of the behavior. It is important to let your class know about the strategy of planned ignoring at the beginning of the year. You might say, “There are going to be times when someone violates a rule and it looks like I’m not paying attention or I’m letting them get away with it. I want you to know that I am choosing to ignore them for the time being because what’s most important is that I continue to teach and you continue to learn. I want you to know that the misbehavior will be addressed at a later time and the child will receive consequences for her/his behavioral choices. The rules haven’t changed.”

4. ODD Behavior: Intense need to “have the last word”—

Because oppositional behavior is all about control, children who exhibit it have an intense need to have the last word. Remember that they don’t want the argument to end, because when it does, their sense of control ends also. Unfortunately, dealing with a child who has the intense need to win often generates in teachers the same intense need to come out on top.

Teacher’s Strategy: Give them control—

Make the conscious decision to “surrender to win.” Let the child have the last word. Once her/his goal has been achieved, the behavior generally ceases. Once again, “parting-shot” inappropriate comments can be ignored and consequences given later.

5. ODD Behavior: Constantly questioning “why?”—

Like 3-year-olds, children who are defiant will question the purpose for a direction. Then they will question the explanation. Their purpose is to maintain control of the discussion.


“You need to put your feet down.”
“Because that’s the rule.”
“Because having your feet up bothers other people.”
“Because it bumps their chair or blocks their way.”
“Why is that a problem? They could move or go around.”
“Because people are entitled not to be bothered.”

Teacher’s Strategy: Agree to answer, but during “their” time—

Generally, if you’ve made it a habit of “asking” rather than telling (e.g., “Where do your feet belong?” instead of “You need to put your feet down”), the child isn’t as likely to get into the “whys.”However, if this occurs, the first thing to do would be to try planned ignoring. If the questions continue, you can agree to discuss the reasons – but only during “their time.” For example, “If you’d like to discuss this, I’d be happy to before you go to recess.” Children who are truly interested in the reason will agree to your request. Those who are just trying to get control of the class will usually respond to your reminder (e.g., “It’s not that important. I need to get to recess.”).

6. ODD Behavior: Staff splitting—

Many children who are defiant constantly point out inconsistent enforcement of the rules by teachers and use this as a rationale for their own behavior. What the children are trying to do is make this an issue of whether or not grown-ups are consistent rather than focusing on the real issue—whether they are choosing to follow or break the rules (“I don’t have to follow the rules if the teachers don’t enforce them”).

Unfortunately, many teachers fall for this. There seems to be an irrational belief that if only every teacher in the environment treats children the same way, they will behave. The total weight of the child behavior is put on the grown-ups, and the responsibility is built on enforcement rather than on compliance.

Although consistent enforcement does help keep the rule in the forefront, inconsistent enforcement neither causes nor excuses inappropriate behavior. The issue isn’t whether the teacher is or isn’t doing her/his job, the issue is that the child is violating the rule and is looking for someone else to blame.

Teacher’s Strategy: Put the focus back on the child—

When confronted with “other teachers don’t do anything when I____” rationalizations, say, “You feel because you broke the rule and you weren’t called on it that the rule has changed… it hasn’t.” …or… “You would like it to be Mrs. Jones’ fault that you are breaking the rule.”

7. ODD Behavior: Refusal to comply—


• “You can’t make me.”
• “What are you going to do about it?”

When children say, “You can’t make me,” they are asserting their control and challenging yours. They are silently hoping that the teacher will rise to the challenge and try to control them. Like it or not, they are right. Teachers can’t make anyone do anything against her/his will.

These children are also upping the ante—challenging teachers to come up with some consequence that will mean something to them. The “test” is to show teachers their own powerlessness, and these children will often laugh in the face of any consequences teachers might use, even if at a later time they might wish they hadn’t.

Teacher’s Strategy: Agreement—

You can consciously choose to avoid getting into a power struggle. You might generally agree with the child by saying something like, “You are absolutely right. I can’t make you. The only person who can control you is you. I hope you make a good decision for yourself.”

Children who ask, “What are you going to do about it?” are not so much interested in your answer as they are in trying to prove how incapable you are of controlling their behavior. A good response to this question might be, “You are trying to decide if it’s worth it for you. That lets me know that you are in control and are choosing whether or not to behave. That means you’re also choosing to accept whatever the consequences are.”

Note: Rarely, if ever, tell the child what the consequences will be, because (a) it generally doesn’t make a difference to them, and (b) vague consequences can serve to keep them emotionally off balance. Children who are oppositional don’t like uncertainty, and they are often more likely to make a decision to control their behavior if they don’t know what will happen. You could say, “Because you are telling me you’re in control, and it sounds like you’re just trying to see what will happen, is it worth it for you to act-up just to see what the outcome will be?”

==> Parenting Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder