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What Is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

A child accidentally disrupting class while talking to a friend is a normal occurrence. The same person screaming in the middle of a lesson and blatantly acting against their teacher is a whole other issue that's likely a sign of something more serious. 

If those behaviors become a pattern, it may be that your child has oppositional defiant disorder or ODD. While many kids lash out against others from time to time, those with ODD do so incessantly. It's problematic to the point that it can disrupt every part of their life. 

So what are the common traits of oppositional defiant disorder, and how do you find appropriate mental health support for it?

What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Oppositional defiant disorder is a type of behavior disorder that is diagnosed in childhood. As the name implies, children with ODD are defiant and may be hostile towards everyone around them. These are the students that always get into trouble despite numerous attempts to teach them the consequences of their actions. 

Although ODD has similar symptoms to other disorders, it is different than them. Many children with ODD are diagnosed with ADHD due to their tendency to avoid work or sitting still. One of the main differences is that doctors can treat the symptoms of ADHD with medication, while ODD requires extensive training and therapy.  

Some children with ODD eventually outgrow the disorder. However, around a third of them will eventually develop a conduct disorder that may become a personality disorder. 

Traits of ODD

Children with ODD have an ongoing hostile pattern of behaviour that limits their day-to-day functioning. It's not as simple as them ignoring directions or refusing to do their classwork.

A child with oppositional defiant disorder will throw frequent temper tantrums and constantly argue with adults. They question the rules and refuse to comply with them. In some cases, they may deliberately act in a way that upsets others around them. 

The child with ODD may be easily annoyed or angered. They may talk in a rude or spiteful manner. If they feel that they were wrongly punished or even talked down to, they may seek revenge. 

Symptoms of ODD are more commonly seen at home or school due to the nature of these settings. 

What Causes ODD in Children?

Like many mental health disorders in teens, the exact cause of ODD is not known. However, research suggests that it is due to a combination of biological, genetic, and environmental factors. 

There are two leading theories regarding how a child can develop oppositional defiant disorder: the developmental theory and the learning theory. 

The developmental theory suggests that the problems started when the child was still a toddler. The idea is that these children had trouble learning to become independent from their parents and act out as a way to gain their attention. 

The learning theory suggests that the negative symptoms of ODD are a result of learned behaviors. In other words, they are the result of the negative reinforcement methods used by their parents. They reflect their environments and act out because they see other people in their life reacting that way. 

It's likely a result of a combination of both because most children with ODD grow out of it to some extent. That suggests that as they develop and learn, new behaviors begin to take root. 

Coping with ODD in the Classroom

One of the places a child with ODD can prove most disruptive is in the classroom. Many teachers are ill-equipped to deal with a child whose main goal is to draw attention from everyone else to themselves. Even teachers trained to deal with behavior disorders often find themselves vexed. 

Students with ODD may need closer seating to the teacher to avoid disrupting other students. You may need to accommodate them with breaks and more time to complete their assignments. A student with ODD should also have routine meetings with the school counselor or psychologist. 

As their teacher, you need to be sensitive to their self-esteem issues. Provide positive feedback and avoid singling them out in front of their peers. 

Parenting Techniques for Home 

At home, it's a different kind of struggle. While there may not be any other children to disrupt, a child with ODD can still cause disruptions in public places or yell at home. 

For re-occurring arguments, try to find the root cause of the problem. Make changes to the process and stay consistent. Use a calm voice when communicating with them, and explain why it's important to follow the rule. 

In general, effective parenting should include an enforced structure and building affiliation with your child. You should also ask for feedback and respect their choices, even if it isn't necessarily what you had planned for them. 

Finding Mental Health Services

There's no guaranteed way to prevent or medicate oppositional defiant disorder. It's not like your child's doctor can prescribe a medication that will stop their misbehaviour. Only positive parenting and treatment can help improve their behaviour before it gets worse. 

Find a therapist that specializes in treating ODD. You can also purchase behaviour management ebooks online to help build your child's social skills, regulate their emotions, and develop empathy. There may also be parent support groups either in your area or available online that are worth joining. 

Improve Your Mental Health Support Skills

Even the best mental health professionals may struggle to manage the symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder. After all, a child with ODD will defy all the rules and expectations set by an authority figure. Lucky for them, there is plenty of online material that can help.

Upbility provides material in various areas, including special education, learning disabilities, behaviour, and language. You can also search our materials by a role if you're a speech therapist, psychologist, or work in another field. Contact us to learn more about our products or if you have any questions. 

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