For the parent of a child with oppositional defiant disorder, almost any interaction can become a battle. However, while the parent usually only wants to restore some level of peace and order in the household, the oppositional defiant child is determined to win the battle at all costs. To teach an oppositional child better coping skills, avoid direct conflict whenever possible.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Children with oppositional defiant disorder refuse to acknowledge the authority of their parents or teachers. According to Michigan State University's website on ODD, children with this disorder react with extreme anger, defiance and disrespect against any attempt to tell them what to do or what not to do. They may also go out of their way to try to provoke anger from other people. When confronted with the consequences of their actions, they usually try to blame someone else. Because children with ODD are willing to escalate every conflict regardless of the consequences, indirect methods are often more effective with them.
Positive reinforcement is more effective with oppositional children than negative reinforcement. According to a 2011 article by Childswork/Childsplay, parents should try to create as many emotionally positive experiences as possible for a child with ODD. Praise your oppositional child whenever he does the right thing. Avoid giving him direct commands except for the most important issues. Model the behavior you want to see and praise your child when he imitates the behavior. For instance, if you want to teach him to handle a conflict with his sibling without throwing a temper tantrum, it is more effective to demonstrate your own ability to stay calm and reasonable under pressure than to tell him how he should handle the situation.
According to Childswork/Childsplay, children with ODD respond better to rewards than punishments. Create a set of clearly defined rewards your child can earn by demonstrating appropriate behavior. The purpose of using rewards is to teach your child better social skills based on cooperation and compromise rather than conflict and defiance. Reward behaviors such as getting up for school on time, discussing issues without getting angry and treating others with kindness. Emphasize rewards as much as possible and treat consequences as a last resort.
A child with ODD is likely to respond to any consequences with an angry outburst, so consequences should be reserved for the most important issues and applied only when necessary. According to marriage and family therapist Marilyn Adams, you should structure your family life so that you control a range of consequences that your child cannot prevent you from applying. For instance, if you take away the remote control your child cannot play video games or watch TV. Although the use of rewards and consequences can help you teach your child better coping skills, ODD is a serious mental health problem and always requires professional assistance.