Children with ADD/ADHD have difficulties in school and social situation. They may have trouble paying attention, or difficulties with impulsiveness or hyperactivity. But for between one third and one half of these children, there may be another condition called ODD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder. The major symptoms of ODD are defiance, extreme stubbornness, temper and anger problems, and being argumentative. Boys are diagnosed with ODD more often than girls before puberty. After puberty, this number becomes more even between girls and boys. Although some experts believe that ODD may lead to Conduct Disorder, other experts disagree and believe these to be two separate mental illnesses.
Symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder include:
- Problem with adults and other authority figures
- Often has hard time either making friends or sustaining friendships
- Anger problems, loses temper easily
- Consistently blames others for their own mistakes
- Annoyed easily
- Can be vindictive
- Frequently in trouble at school
When children are learning to be independent there is often a period of time when they are somewhat defiant. They may talk back to parents and teachers, they may disobey parents rules, defy parents and argue often. This is a normal part of a child's development and occurs frequently when children are around two to three years of age and again in early adolescence. This normal behavior is different than that of ODD. In Oppositional Defiant Disorder, children can be openly hostile, very uncooperative and show anger easily and frequently. Children with ODD can be defiant consistently and more so than their peers.
Parents that believe their child may be showing signs of ODD should contact their physician and request a complete evaluation. Physical causes of behavior should be ruled out. Once that is done, a comprehensive psychological evaluation is normally requested to determine an accurate diagnosis. Children with ODD often have co-existing conditions such as ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Depression or Bipolar Disorder. An accurate diagnosis is essential to creating an effective treatment plan.
For parents of children with ODD, life can be one large battleground. Parents can adopt some strategies to help their child and their family cope with ODD:
Choose your battles. Children with ODD do not try to avoid power struggles. They will argue with you and attempt to defy your rules. Be consistent in your discipline and simple in your approach. If you want your child to clean their room, do not allow yourself to get sidetracked in an argument. State your demand clearly; provide rewards for completing and consequences for not completing. Let your child know that you will not stand and argue with them.
Focus on the positives. Praise your child when they do something well or behave according to your rules. Provide positive reinforcement on a consistent basis.
Allow yourself time-outs in order to avoid a large conflict. Walk away from the situation for a few minutes to avoid over-reacting and then come back calmly. Let your child know that this technique will work for them when they feel they are going to react explosively to a situation.
Review your expectations to determine if they are age-appropriate. Set rules and list the consequences for not following the rules. Be calm and consistent in your approach to discipline.
Become involved in your child's interests to show that you support them. Find out what they are interested in and what they enjoy. Spend time learning about your child so that you can show that they matter to you.
Find ways to give yourself support. Join local support groups. Create outside interests and hobbies to give you time to enjoy yourself. Children with mental illnesses are often demanding and draining on the entire family. Initiating activities that you enjoy will help you to be more relaxed when dealing with your child's behaviors.
Children with ODD need your love and support. They need to know that you will unconditional love them and accept them.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, The National Institute of Mental Health
Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, 1999, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), 2005, Mayo Clinic