Activities for Oppositional Defiant Children

By Michelle Blessing
Children with ODD struggle to get along with their peers.
Children with ODD struggle to get along with their peers.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder affects between 1 and 16 percent of school-age children and adolescents, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology. Children with ODD tend to have frequent temper tantrums and anger outbursts, yell or argue with peers and adults and demonstrate generally uncooperative behaviors. WebMD reports the basis of ODD can be both biological and environmental in nature. Finding activities to help children with ODD can make life easier for both of you.

What Are Feelings?

Assist a child with ODD to learn about feelings, as this is generally a skill deficit that needs work. Have the child draw a blank face. Ask him to draw pictures of how he feels when he is angry, happy and sad. Ask him to talk about more complex feelings, such as jealousy and frustration, since these feelings typically lead to outbursts. Help the child to understand negative feelings are a normal part of life. Help the child to develop the necessary coping skills to deal with those feelings more constructively.

Coping Skills

Dealing with negative feelings does not come naturally to children with ODD. Yelling, acting out and being negative are learned behaviors that need to be changed in order to help the child become more positive. Learning that coping with disappointments and negativity is a positive thing can help a child deal more effectively with her feelings. Help the child make a list of all the positive things she likes to do. Write down the list, decorate it, frame it and keep it where the child can easily access it. Remind the child to pull the coping list out whenever she is frustrated and choose a positive activity over a negative one.

Physical Activity

Physical activity can help children with anger and behavior issues expend energy in a positive way. Create an obstacle course for him to crawl through, climb and jump over and run around. Play catch or Frisbee. Run races or play a game of freeze tag. Physical activity will help children with ODD channel their negative behaviors and emotions into something positive.

Guided Imagery

Help a child with ODD learn to use her mind to calm, soothe and deal with the problems of daily life. Assist children in using pictures and deep breathing exercises to calm themselves whenever they become oppositional or defiant and cannot control their behaviors. Instruct children to think of something fun or enjoyable to them, such as playing soccer or swimming in the ocean. Tell the child to breath deeply while thinking of a favorite activity to help center his energy and keep him calm.

About the Author

Michelle Blessing has experience in child development, parenting, social relationships and mental health, enhanced by her work as a clinical therapist and parent educator. Blessing's work has appeared in various online publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and is pursuing her master's degree in psychology with a specialization in applied behavior analysis.