Oppositional Behavior

Why Is My Child So Angry and Defiant? An Overview of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Forty percent of children with ADHD also develop oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), a condition marked by chronic aggression, frequent outbursts, and a tendency to argue, ignore requests, and engage in annoying behavior. Begin to understand severe ADHD and ODD behaviors here.

Defiant angry boy with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and ADHD
Defiant angry boy with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and ADHD

Every parent of a defiant child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) knows what it’s like to deal with severe ADHD behavior problems — sometimes even the most well-behaved child lashes out, or refuses to comply with even the most benign request. But almost half of all parents who have kids with ADHD live with severe behavior problems and discipline challenges on an almost daily basis. For them, parenting a defiant child is a daily strain.

Severe ADHD Behavior and Oppositional Defiant Disorder Symptoms

40 percent of children with ADHD also develop oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), a condition marked by chronic aggression, frequent outbursts, and a tendency to argue, ignore requests, and engage in intentionally annoying behavior.1

How bad can it get? Consider these real-life children diagnosed with both ADHD and ODD:

  • A 4-year-old who gleefully annoys her parents by blasting the TV at top volume as soon as she wakes up.
  • A 7-year-old who shouts “No” to every request and who showers his parents with verbal abuse.
  • An 11-year-old who punches a hole in the wall and then physically assaults his mother.

“These children are most comfortable when they’re in the middle of a conflict,” says Douglas Riley, Ph.D., author of The Defiant Child: A Parent’s Guide to Oppositional Defiant Disorder (#CommissionsEarned) and a child psychologist in Newport News, Virginia. “As soon as you begin arguing with them, you’re on their turf. They keep throwing out the bait, and their parents keep taking it — until finally the parents end up with the kid in family therapy, wondering where they’ve gone wrong.”

[Take This Self-Test: Could Your Child Have ODD?]

The strain of dealing with an oppositional child affects the entire family. The toll on the marital relationship can be especially severe. In part, this is because friends and relatives tend to blame the behavior on ‘bad parenting.’ Inconsistent discipline may play a role in the development of ODD, but is rarely the sole cause. The unfortunate reality is that discipline strategies that work with neurotypical children simply don’t work with kids with ODD.

Fortunately, psychologists have developed effective behavior therapy for reining in even the most defiant child. It’s not always easy, but it can be done — typically with the help of specialized psychotherapy.

What Is the Link Between ADHD and ODD?

No one knows why so many kids with ADHD exhibit oppositional behavior. In many cases, however, oppositional behavior seems to be a manifestation of ADHD-related impulsivity.

[Download This Free Guide To Coping Mechanisms]

“Many kids with ADHD who are diagnosed with ODD are really showing oppositional characteristics by default,” says Houston-based child psychologist Carol Brady, Ph.D. “They misbehave not because they’re intentionally oppositional, but because they can’t control their impulses.”

Another view is that oppositional behavior is simply a way for kids to cope with the frustration and emotional pain associated with having ADHD.

“When under stress — whether it’s because they have ADHD or their parents are getting divorced — a certain percentage of kids externalize their anxiety,” says Larry Silver, M.D., a psychiatrist at Georgetown University Medical School in Washington, D.C. “Everything becomes everyone else’s fault, and the child doesn’t take responsibility for anything that goes wrong.”

Riley agrees. “Children with ADHD know from a young age that they’re different from other kids,” he says. “They see themselves as getting in more trouble, and in some cases may have more difficulty mastering academic work — often despite an above-average intellect. So instead of feeling stupid, their defense is to feel cool. They hone their oppositional attitude.”

About half of all preschoolers diagnosed with ODD outgrow the problem by age 8. Older kids with ODD are less likely to outgrow it. And left untreated, oppositional behavior can evolve into conduct disorder, an even more serious behavioral problem marked by physical violence, stealing, running away from home, fire-setting, and other highly destructive and often illegal behaviors.

What Treatment Is Available to Manage My Defiant Child’s ODD & Severe ADHD Behavior?

Any child with ADHD who exhibits signs of oppositional behavior needs appropriate treatment that usually includes a combination of medication and family therapy. The first step is to make sure that the child’s ADHD is under control. “Since oppositional behavior is often related to stress,” says Silver, “you have to address the source of the stress — the ADHD symptoms — before turning to behavioral issues.”

Says Riley, “If a kid is so impulsive or distracted that he can’t focus on the therapies we use to treat oppositional behavior,” he says, “he isn’t going to get very far. And for many kids with ADHD and oppositional behavior, the stimulant medications are a kind of miracle. A lot of the bad behavior simply drops off.”

But ADHD medication is seldom all that’s needed to control oppositional behavior. If a child exhibits only mild or infrequent oppositional behavior, do-it-yourself behavior-modification techniques may well do the trick. But if the oppositional behavior is severe enough to disrupt life at home or school, it’s best to consult a family therapist trained in childhood behavioral problems.

The therapist should screen your child for anxiety and mood disorders. Each can cause oppositional behavior, and each calls for its own form of treatment. The therapist may also recommend cognitive therapy for the child, to help him cope effectively with difficult situations.

How Parent Training Can Help Kids with ODD Improve Their Behavior

In most cases, however, the treatment of choice for ODD is parent management training, in which the family therapist teaches the parents to change the ways they react to their child’s behavior — both good and bad. Between weekly sessions, the parents practice what they’ve learned, and report to the therapist on their progress.

“Basically, parent training is about carrots and sticks,” says Brady. “On the carrot end, you work on giving your child praise and rewards for cooperating. On the stick end, you lay out clear consequences for misbehavior, usually involving a time-out or the removal of a reward.”

Parent management training is often highly effective, with the child’s behavior improving dramatically in four out of five cases. Parents who undergo the training typically report greater marital satisfaction, as well as improved behavior from their other children.

While some parents balk at the notion that they are the ones in need of training, “they have to learn how to stop getting into the arena with the child and descending to the level of squabbling,” says Silver. Parents often feed the problem by delivering overly harsh or inconsistent discipline. Instead, parents must reassert their authority by setting up well-defined rewards and punishments, and then implementing them consistently and dispassionately.

“My most important rule is that parents should not take ODD behavior personally,” says Riley. “Remain calm and friendly whenever you intervene. Oppositional kids have radar for adult hostility. If they pick up your anger, they’re going to match it.”

Riley recommends a “two free requests” approach: “The first time you ask your child to do something, give him two minutes to respond. If he doesn’t obey, calmly tell him, ‘I’m now asking you a second time to pick up your coat. Do you understand what I’m asking you to do, and what the consequences are if you don’t? Please make a smart decision.’ If you have to ask a third time, the prearranged consequence kicks in — the TV goes off for an hour, or the video game is taken away.”

How Can Parents Focus On Good Behaviors?

Rewarding good behavior or punishing bad behavior isn’t a revolutionary concept, but with oppositional kids, it’s easier said than done. Parents must rein in their impulse to yell or spank. At the same time, they must learn how to substitute “non-aversive punishments” such as time-outs or the loss of privileges.

Many parents of oppositional children are so focused on bad behaviors that they’ve stopped reinforcing positive ones. Yet positive reinforcement is the heart and soul of parent management training.

“Invariably, parents come to treatment with the idea of suppressing, eliminating, or reducing problem behavior,” writes Alan Kazdin, Ph.D., in Parent Management Training (#CommissionsEarned), a manual for therapists. But according to Kazdin, director of Yale University’s Child Study Center in New Haven, Connecticut, parent training emphasizes the concept of “positive opposites” instead. “For example,” says Kazdin, “parents are asked what to do if they want their child to stop screaming, slamming the door, or throwing breakable objects. The answers involve reinforcing talking quietly, closing the door gently, and handling objects with care and not throwing them.”

Kazdin maintains that helping parents learn to praise good behavior is one of the toughest challenges therapists face. He says parents are often “hesitant to praise a behavior or to use reinforcers in general because they feel the behavior ought not require any intervention. ‘My child knows how to clean up his room, he just refuses to do it,’ is a typical parental comment.”

How Parents Can Offer More Effective Praise for a Defiant Child

When parents do offer praise, they should be enthusiastic. “An unenthusiastic statement of ‘Good’ is not likely to change child behavior,” says Kazdin. Praise should specify the praiseworthy behavior and, ideally, include some non-verbal gesture. For example, you might say, “It was wonderful the way you played so quietly while I was on the phone!” and then give your child a kiss.

Appropriate rewards and punishments vary from child to child. The more creatively you tailor your program to your child’s specific abilities and needs, the better. But as Russell Barkley, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, writes in Your Defiant Child (#CommissionsEarned), “Creativity is always an asset to child-rearing, but it can’t hold a candle to consistency. Consistency in the way you treat your child — the way you set rules, convey expectations, pay attention, encourage good behavior, and impose consequences for bad behavior — is the key to cleaning up your child’s act.”

Never lose sight of the fact that oppositional kids usually have a great deal to offer, once their behavior is under control. “Oppositional kids are also often quite engaging and bright,” says Riley. “They tend to be optimistic and very much their own person, with their own way of looking at the world. Once you work through their defiance, there’s a lot there to like.”

Parenting a Defiant Child: Next Steps

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View Article Sources

1 Riley M, Ahmed S, Locke A. “Common Questions About Oppositional Defiant Disorder.” American Family Physician (Apr. 2016) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27035043

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36 Comments & Reviews

  1. My only-child daughter, believe it or not, showed signs of ODD as an infant. When she was diagnosed with ADD as a youngster my husband refused to allow her to be on meds. I knew it was what she needed and I’ll regret not insisting on it until I die. We now have a 24 yr old who is totally mentally exhausting which brings along with it physical issues. I’m 54 years old and feel 74 years old. She has a ton of anxiety, and she takes medicine.. She’s had some anger management counseling which has helped quite a bit, but the meltdowns still happen and can be of epic proportions. I have this ever-present fear that someday her temper is going to result in her being arrested for either hurting someone or damaging something. It’s bad enough when it happens at our house. I’m not necessarily looking for advice. My comment is more of a warning to those parents out there who are against meds and feel they can handle their ADHD/ODD child on their own. Not getting your child the medication and counseling they so desperately need is doing them and yourselves a monstrous disservice! Damn the naysayers, the grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors who criticize you for considering meds! They’re not living your nightmare and they won’t be around when your 24 yr old child is out of control. My mother-in-law finally saw what we had been dealing with when at 3 yrs old our daughter had the meltdown of the year as we were all getting ready to go to Christmas Eve mass. My husband took over trying to get our daughter ready after she has hit, kicked, punched, and screamed at me for what felt like hours. I went downstairs and my mother-in-law looked at the tears pouring down my face and said “I’m so, so sorry. I had no idea it was this bad.” We both just wept. It was a relief to hear the acknowledgement but then we went home and everyone else forgot about it. We were alone again in our struggle and remain that way 19 yrs later. Get the meds. Go to counseling. Don’t be as stressed as I am because as it is slowly doing to me it will kill you too.

    1. I wanted to thank you for your post. I actually registered so I could. Your post hot home with my 4 year old son. Your post may have just saved my family from a lot of un needed stress.
      My heart goes out to you. You seem like a very loving mother. I could feel your pain through your words and it almost brought tears to my eyes.
      I understand you feeling the guilt but I’m sure your daughter knows and will always know just how deep your love is.
      Many blessings

    2. Yes you are a very loving mother. My 9 year old grand daughter has every marker for ADHD & ODD. My daughter knew she needed help and saw to it that she got it for her daughter. Its a very hard decision to give your child medication. She tried natural remedies for her but they did not work. I encouraged her to do what is beneficial for her daughter and their family as our grandaughter is very disruptive. I reminded her that she is doing the best by her daughter in seeking medical and phycological care. She sees some good results and continues to try to receive counsiling for her daughter. We live where there are very few trained professionals and a high ratio of need.

    3. I also just joined because I wanted to say ty. I went through hell myself as a child and then went through hell with my now 20 year old. I now have 4&6 year old boys one which is just now diagnosed with add and just waiting for my other one. I was diagnosed with a mood disorder and know I also have ADHD. I was refusing meds for my one son because of the suicidal thoughts when he took them but now I know I need to do what’s best for them not everyone else.

    4. I also just registered so that I could thank you for your reply and give you a response.
      I have a 6 year old little boy who has shown ADHD and ODD behaviors since about the age of 2. His father has ADHD, ODD, Anxiety, and many other things going on.
      I myself have Anxiety, and was diagnosed with a mood disorder in high school which they said I could possibly grow out of.
      My sons behavior is bringing me to the point of feeling like I have failed him as a mom. It is extremely trying and so hard when you have no support system behind you. His father hasn’t hardly been in his life since we split up when my son was 2 years old, and just recently skipped town to go live with some girl he met online and hasn’t called to speak with my son since.
      My mother doesn’t agree with anything that I say or do because as she says ” Amanda I raised 2 children and know how to handle a child” and well….that just isn’t enough. I was bold when I was young but nothing out of the ordinary for a child.
      I have had my son on medication for almost 2 years now and he also goes to counseling, yet we are still at an all time low. I am at a complete loss for what I can do for him.
      Its so hard doing this all on my own being that I also have my own anxiety which has been terrible because of all that’s going on with my son.
      any encouragement or suggestions are welcomed.
      Thank you so much, and thank you again for your story

      1. I am so glad I joined becuz I was at my wits end with my 14 yr old today! I have already been through this once with my 24 yr old and I have to say we are very proud to be his parents! He is an Eagle Scout , graduated HS and college and is a supervisor at Walmart. I have to say it can be done some days are worse than others. Please monitor what your child is doing online, I had to find out from some kids at school where I substitute that my son had exposed himself on Instagram. I did take away his internet for a week and I can control his phone completely since we have ATT family sharing. So I can turn of any app he has I can control his time on his phone and turn off his internet completely. In other words a little or a lot. I can only suggest that you try a punishment and if it doesn’t work don’t use it again. Every child is different. We went on vacation to Galveston and my 24 came for a few days he tried to tell his brother how to act it was hilarious. I will say don’t punish yourself by not going out or having friends you will have to explain to them your child has a mental disorder and has special needs if they can’t handle it it is not your fault you are doing the best you can with a difficult situation. Many prayers!!!!

    5. I am in a similar situation. I am 53 in my son is 25. He is narcissistic and a pathological liar. He does almost any drug he’s presented with. Has friends steal from him because they know he gets so messed up that he’s going to pass out. He has been arrested several times for multiple reasons. Has been in failed relationships multiple times, one has resulted in a child. He does not take care of his child financially or emotionally. Is now in a relationship with a young woman that has a 6 year old child who is severely ADHD. His mother ignores him and his needs most of the time. Me and my husband are at our wits end because neither of them will use their money wisely to get a place to stay. I don’t want to kick them out because of the six year old. Most days of my life I am miserable. So is my husband. We can’t go on vacations or weekend getaways for fear of something happening to our house or at our house. And just like you, I’m not asking for advice, I think it’s too late for us. This also serves as a warning to all the people that say ADHD medicine and behavioral training don’t work. I wish we would have been able to do more when my son was small, we had trouble affording treatment and medication so it wasn’t on a regular basis.

      1. I am sorry for you,your husband, and your son. I feel blessed that we were able to afford medication and some therapy. I have a friend that has five children three are grown and married.the oldest son however has moved home for a second time with his wife and two boys in tow, becuz they were evicted from their apartment for not paying rent. I just don’t understand where their money is going to becuz his mother( my friend) has been paying the car payment since OCT and he is a plumber so he makes good money. She won’t kick them out becuz the two boys have Cystic Fibrosis and the youngest has had four heart surgeries. Sometimes I am at my wits end but then I remember there are people out there with a worse situation. Good luck to you.

    6. I wanted to tell you I throughly agree that if a child will truly benefit from the meds they should be taking them. From the teacher stand point of which I substitute teach I also do not think my child should disrupt or keep other children from learning. I got on here to read again about ODD , I am going through this for a second time. I have a 24 yr old and 14 yr old. The 24 year old is a very good millennial, he is an Eagle Scout, graduated HS and college with a BA in Criminal Justice. He is a supervisor at Walmart and pays his own bills. But now I am going through it again with the 14 year old he is on the max meds and it is like he never took them most days, I had to come refresh my parenting skills on how to handle the impulsive defiant often rude and hateful behavior. The constant mouth farting, shaking his booty in my face, burping, whistling and constant talking was wearing on my last nerve. I told him this morning we were either doing yoga or Thai chi together because one of needs to be centered at least.

  2. ODD is a serious mental health disorder, a precursor to Conduct Diisrder (in layman’s terms, a “psychopath). It is not an accurate descriptor for an ADHD kid who acts up a lot. The casual use of the term ODD is both inappropriate and disturbing.

  3. I have involved three psychologists and two paediatricians in treatment for my son, not to mention several health and support services.. he is 13 and has severe ADHD and ODD. Our lives have been a nightmare with him. We have tried Ritalin, concerta, strattera, vyvanse, neurofeedback and everything else I could find out about in terms of diet etc. I have read so many books. None of these helped much and often made the situation much worse. The approach with consequences just escalated the situation dramatically, for example we took away his internet access for three days as a consequence for bad behaviour so he got a steel bar off my exercise equipment and smashed our two computer screens with it. His dad and I have been under the glare of criticism from so many people we no longer have any friends over. He has attacked me numerous times, severely, and destroyed our property and property at the school. It has cost us thousands of dollars. We have had to call the police three times, the last one really humiliating as he tried to strangle me in the street and the neighbours got involved. The only person who has provided any useful advice in all of this is a lady from the disability services in the next state. Her specialty is dealing with severely mentally disabled patients. She gave me a different approach. She said to ditch the consequences and work with the problems causing the behaviour. He now has melatonin to improve his sleep and we haven’t had a severe incident for about six months. What I want to know is why are we still pushing the consequences line, when she told me it was discounted two decades ago in her field? Our experience is that it makes the situation far far worse, and there is never any improvement in behaviour no matter how long we persisted with it.

    1. I agree about pushing consequences. Kids with these challenges need to learn the skills to cope with their intense emotional lives. My 13 yr old son has ADHD and ODD diagnoses. Three things have helped. 1) Medication because it helps give him a moment to control himself. 2) getting him help with emotion management skills. 3) Changing parent behaviors. Early on, “Total Transformation” really helped me turn my behavior around. The biggest blessing in that area was the book, The Explosive Child. I encourage all parents to read it, but it’s definitely a must-read for parents dealing with ADHD and or ODD. I wish you all the best!

  4. I cannot tell you how much just reading about this helped me! We are raising an 11 year old grandson – after I finished being stepmom to his mother and her 4 sisters. We have many incidents as described- he has been on meds for a few years and had been pretty stable until this year — puberty and middle school!!! Growing several inches in 1 year! Now temper tantrums are dangerous to people and our things – even the things he values. Recently put him on my insurance to get him better counseling And better variety of meds.DEFINITELY MEDS. Do not let anyone who is not living your nightmare talk you out of meds as our dr said you can’t treat the problems until they are stable enough to work on them. And his mom’ s life is not stable since she stopped the meds and is in denial about her problems. You usually can’t make an adult medicate unless they are willing to. Ps We are not alone although we frequently feel like it!

  5. I’m confused by these two contradictory recommendations:
    “If you have to ask a third time, the prearranged consequence kicks in — the TV goes off for an hour, or the video game is taken away.”
    “At the same time, they must learn how to substitute ‘non-aversive punishments’ such as time-outs or the loss of privileges.“

    1. A suggestion I got from my daughters doctor was to make them sit down and write sentences for whatever they have done wrong. It has to be very specific. For example they said they hated you or they hit their sibling. They would have to write I will not say the word hate or I will not hit my sibling. make them do like 10 sentences and if they refuse to do that then take away something. The doctor I saw told me that taking away things can make the situation worse. Since what they want has been taken away they don’t have any reason to act correctly. It makes a child angry and my daughter would act out worse. It’s very hard and I hope you get some resolve good luck

  6. Looking back, I had ODD from a young age.
    I never got angry or lost my temper.
    Rather, I just did not understand all the social nonsense. It made no sense, and I did not understand what I was supposed to do.
    So I just did what I thought was reasonable.
    Of course, there is a whole bunch of people who get insulted if you do not do what they say, or what they thought they said, or if you are soooo rude as to not think like they do.
    Many people seem to think that if I am different, that I am really saying that they are wrong and I am right and …. They do not understand that not everyone is the same. I think they are the ones with psych problems and a fragile self worth.

    Strangely, I work occasionally with an army officer. No problems at all between us. She is very direct and explicit. “Bob, put those boxes under the table”
    There is nothing ‘polite’ but also nothing rude.

    1. What a facinating comment – thanks! It would be wonderful if more people identifying with ODD behaviour spoke out, hopefully giving reflective insight, or at least a different perspective, to help bridge the gap for us poor saps on the other end of the line!
      To play on with it: An argument can often be attributed inadequate communication – but with ODD it’s not an issue of logic or reasoning; rather a fundamental difference in emotional communication (‘different languages’)? And we are unaware?
      My 13yo daughter is a mild case compared to many stories here, but recalcitrant enough to cause plenty of stress. However, she’s no dummy, show’s both caring and empathy in many situations, and I have no reason to think that she willfully prefers confrontation! I’ve recently begun to wonder just how deep this apparent ‘language barrier’ runs? Is a given exchage eliciting the emotional response I’m expecting/taking for granted, or has it been interpreted in a different (to me bizaar) way? Like we’re both saying out loud ‘The ball is red’, but she actually sees it as blue?
      If this is the case, then I, as the adult, need to get better at learning *her language*; when what I’ve been doing is talk louder in my own language like some foolish foreign tourist? If the mood is right we can really talk about stuff – but am I asking the right questions, saying the right things? Don’t know if this angle holds any merit – but you seem like a good person to ask! It would be great if there were teachers out there!

      1. A reply that is over-simplified is to “not give orders to people”.
        But do not be so polite that no-one knows what you are trying to say.

        An example – Homework has to be done. Not negotiable.
        Avoid ordering the student to do it. Instead, ask them what it is about.
        This gives them a chance to talk about it, say they have no idea, have a rant about its stupidity.
        Return to the actual topic, and discuss that.
        Make suggestions carefully. Maybe suggest they write an outline or a plan of action.

        This is how I get information out of so-called impossible people, such as introverted technical nerds. I ask them what problems they had to solve to get it working.
        The usual reply is an avalanche of information about how they solved this bit and how it now connects to …

        Sorry about the delay in replying, as I must have missed the follow up emails.

      2. I just remembered some advice from a teacher – my daughter thought he was the best ever.

        Don’t order a child to go and wash, ask them if they would prefer a bath or a shower.
        The child thinks they have a choice and they select the best one for them. They feel that they have been given control, which is probably correct.
        You don’t really care which option they choose, as long as they get clean.

      3. I never thought of it that way and I should know better as I substitute teach and I almost have my teaching degree. It is not saying if you don’t take a shower you don’t get to watch TV! You are giving them the same choice in to different ways but my smarta*** son would say neither! Then wiggly his hiney at me smile and go in the bathroom anyway. We have good days and horrible days. I just have to remember his ADHD and ODD is just another learning disability like his dual-dyslexia,dysgraphia, mild cognitive impairment, auditory processing problem, vision impairment and a mild hearing loss. I will get through this and so will he, his brother did and so did you thanks for your comments!!!!!

  7. I am so grateful for ADDitude and it’s articles and support for families struggling with these issues. I am here today, reading the articles and comments to remind myself, I am not alone.

    I am a single mom of a 13 year old son with severe ADHD. He hasn’t been diagnosed with ODD but has all the aggressive behaviors. The anger, outbursts, defiance, aggression, constant arguing, inability to self regulate, etc..

    I feel like I’m imprisoned in my own home when he has a meltdown, which lately has become a daily event. He is on meds and also receives therapy. I am working on the tool of not engaging in the argument, because EVERYTHING is an argument! But I struggle… with balancing all life brings on a daily basis and staying calm in the middle of the storms… Prayer is huge for me.. I read so many posts/comments on a variety of different topics here that really help me to get through each day. So thank you, to all the parents and caregivers who share their stories, struggles and suggestions. I think we all need support from a community that understands.

    1. My 24 yr olds psych used to say pick your battles carefully. Which I took to mean if it will hurt him by all means push the issue. Decide which ones are important and if it will affect his heath or his social well being. I bought him a punch clown to hit when he got angry it saved a lot of walls! If he had a melt down I walked away and let him meltdown and self soothe. I had a lot less issues that way and now we are going through it again with the 14 ur old yes my boys are 10 yrs apart on purpose!!!!

  8. My wife has taken her 11 year old son, my stepson, to professionals and he has been diagnosed borderline ADHD and ODD. He has not been put on medication because the health professionals cannot agree. One says he needs the meds, the other says no he doesn’t, so we are left floundering with what to do.
    Both professionals have said “it has come about through bad parenting”. This answer not only upset my wife immensely but has now stopped her from seeking any firther treatment for him as she is now doubting herself as a fit mother.
    I sat back, watched and listened to these so-called experts belittle my wife until they accused her of being a bad mother, then I stepped in and told them exactly what I thought of them.
    My concern is my stepson isn’t getting the help he needs and my wife is scared and very reluctant to seek further solutions for fear of being labelled a bad parent again.

    1. It can be caused by bad parenting. If the child experienced trauma such as fighting yelling being physical with your spouse this can create those disorders. I’m not saying that that is the case for you I just wanted to share my knowledge on the subject. And if it was caused by trauma then it can be treated with therapy and the correct type of discipline. Again I’m not accusing you of doing anything wrong I just in case that is the case there is hope good luck

  9. Never doubt yourself! and remember, you are the employer and the doctors are your employees who you are consulting with for their professional input on a decision that YOU will be making.
    Keep interviewing, going to web sites, talking to people until you find yourself in a comfortable situation with someone who you can collaborate with on the health and direction to go in with regards to your son’s health and well being.

    I talked to everyone regarding my son, who is now 33 years old and a productive adult. I was told that it was ‘our fault’ by the family priest. I was told that I was making up most of everything I said because it sounded too rehearsed and I was refused help by that school official as a result. (I’m sorry, but when you talk to people every day about your situation and then you’re asked by yet another ‘official’ to tell your story… Well, yeah, it probably did sounds rehearsed!) I was told by one of the county social worker/counsellors that my son was just fine and that the problem was me. I just said, “My son has you wrapped around his little finger.” The day care center owner even thought I was a horrible mother. But then, many years later, many of these same people apologized to me once they spend a few years with my son and figured out that they were being manipulated by him… and this started when he was very young. My saving grace was finally finding a clinical psychologist. He worked wonders with my son for 9 years until he was 18! My son is 33 now. He still has trouble making the correct decisions occasionally, but I think he is doing just great!

    1. We are our own advocates. I applaud you for your hard work and dedication and helping your son become the man he is today. You truly are an extraordinary parent and your son is extremely lucky to have you as their parent.

  10. I am so happy to have access to these forums because its comforting knowing I’m not alone when it comes to the constant struggles with my 15 year old. He was diagnosed at age 6 with ADHD (concerta) and a year later with ODD (risperdol), the latter we thought he’d grown out of by middle school although he still had a short-temper. Well 5 years later and having experienced a series of set-backs beginning in early August, his ODD is in overdrive! He’s failing all of his core classes AND even weight training which he usually aces. He’s destroyed my property, cursed at police officers and runaway for hours at a time. The reward/incentive and consequences system doesn’t work, it has the reverse effect as he just doesn’t feel the need to do anything but whatever his impulses allow. I am mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted and on medical leave for anxiety and depression, oh and ADD so it’s a triple struggle. He just recently started being aggressive towards classmates so I’m hoping him being put on meds for ODD and depression will be effective otherwise he will need to get help in a residential setting to get him stabilized so that we can work on him using tools to self-direct and maintain some self-control.

    1. If you find that medication doesn’t help you may want to consider something called borderline personality disorder. Very misunderstood and under diagnosed. Good luck to you but the symptoms and behavior of your child reminds me of my brother and he was finally diagnosed with borderline personality disorder as an adult and is now functioning productive member of society. It took one good doctor to give him the correct diagnosis and a couple years of hard work for him in counseling because medication does not work for it and I’m proud to say that I’m very proud of my brother today

  11. Changing my reaction has been really hard, I wouldn’t say my child has ODD, but her anxiety causes her to yell or whine or carry on, and it is unbearable. I have ADHD, some SPD, and am in general very sensitive, especially to noise, and kid are noisy. So when she starts yelling, if I can’t get her to calm down I end up yelling, or if she’s been whining all day about anything and everything, by the 12th hour of it, I just tend to lose it. I know she responds more positively to strangers, or people who are not me. It’s like she’s locked into a pattern with me. I also wonder if it’s a way to bet her mind stimulated after a long boring day at home with me. She doesn’t play by herself, if she’s not watching Youtube she’s wanting some direct interaction/ role playing thing with me, that I’m not always able to do. She’s really smart, and gets really bored.
    Make senses?
    So I guess with the ODD child, we are, hopefully re-wiring their brain, if you respond to yelling with yelling, then you re-inforce the yelling. Or you re-inforce hitting, throwing or acting out when upset. The kind of behavior that lands you in jail as a juvenile or adult. If you do your best to teach healthier ways of handling emotions, make CBT available to learn new skills from a 3rd party, get them involved in things that take a lot of energy (swimming laps on a swim team, track, cross country, gymnastics, meds when needed, and really try to create an environment that leads by example, then if they still end up in jail, you will have done all you could. Don’t think you are being soft, if you are being even and consistent, then I think you will accomplish more. After all, teacher’s can’t hit or yell.
    I think the ODD child already has a lot of negativity in their lives, they have receive so many negative messages and probably have a lot of negative voices in their heads. They might think or feel they are not any good, which realists in negative behavior. I grew up with undiagnosed ADHD and it felt like my dad basically rejected me at the age of 3 until I became the child he wanted me to be, which was impossible and he died when I was 18 with this unresolved. I wasn’t defiant, I was independent, but I received 99% negative messages from school, peers, and my parent. I also wasn’t allowed to participate in sports or activities until I got my grades up or became a more compliant child. When infant participating in a sport or something which involved discipline, organization, or endurance would have probably been life changing for me. I still struggle with negative thoughts in my head, and this feeling that I’m a loser.
    It’s hard though, kids push your buttons, you can’t get away from them sometimes.
    But try.

  12. I’d love to know what these kids grow to have as a diagnosis. For instance, autistic kids grow up to be autistic adults. Dyslexic kids have dyslexia as adults. Child psychiatrists have been trying to push this ODD diagnosis since the late 90s (clearly, millennial parents now believe it as fact), but what do these kids become as adults? I never hear of adults with ODD, but I do hear of adults with other psychological issues. Might this ODD thing be a way of avoiding the real diagnosis?

  13. Thanks for this post. We’ve been having similar issues with out 10 year old, and it’s nice to know that we’re not alone – and that’s there’s some solutions (other than counselling).

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