It’s not uncommon for children to misbehave or be defiant when following rules set by parents, educators, or other authority figures. While some defiance is typical, extreme or excessive actions can be symptoms of a larger issue such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).
Dr. Michael Manos, a child psychologist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, says a hallmark of ODD is that a child’s actions go beyond what is typical developmentally-related behavior.
“The prevalence of ODD in our population is estimated to be 1 to 11 percent of children,” he says, and it can be tied to disorders such as ADHD.
He explains ODD and what parents can do to help their child.
If you are unfamiliar with ODD, it might seem like a new disorder; however, Manos explains it’s not a recent phenomenon.
“Many people inaccurately believe that ODD is only a product of trauma in a child’s history, or perhaps simply a callous personality,” he says, adding it is also incorrect to assume it is the result of poor parenting style or a mental deficiency.
Beginning as early as preschool age, children with ODD display consistent, significant patterns of stubbornness, blaming others, argumentative behavior, resistance to authority, anger, irritability, disrespectful interactions, revenge-seeking behavior, and can be oppositional to rules and social norms in school, at home, and in other settings.
Furthermore, “a noticeably contributing factor of children with ODD is that they seldom are concerned with the welfare or well-being of others,” says Manos.
Parents can seek help if they suspect their child has ODD by discussing their concerns with a pediatrician or clinical psychologist.
Manos says there are a number of validated rating scales that can be used to determine the presence of ODD symptoms and behavioral patterns; these can be used to make a diagnosis.
“Catching ODD early is very important,” he says. “By changing parenting and teaching styles, we can provide parents and children with the possibility of a successful future.”
Therapy and Medicines
Treating ODD can depend on the individual child, but many families can use behavioral therapy and/or medicine to help manage the disorder.
Manos notes that therapy can include teaching kids with ODD new behaviors, to manage strongly felt emotions. Change agents—such as parents and teachers—can also train specific behaviors to help children manage those emotions.
He adds that parents play a large role in the success of treating ODD, as children tend to adapt their behaviors to the actions of their parents.
”Positive behaviors and constructive consequences can replace negative behaviors and the constant use of punishing consequences” he says.