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Managing ODD

oppositional defiant disorder, ODD

Are you the parent of a child diagnosed with ODD? Are you doing your best to parent your child with little progress?  You are not alone.  Research suggests that as many as 16% of adolescents have some degree of ODD.  In order to help your child, it’s necessary to first have a clear understanding of the nature of the disorder.


Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or ODD, is one of the most common mental health disorders found in adolescents and teenagers.  This disorder is characterized by a frequent and persistent pattern of anger, irritability, arguing, defiance or vindictiveness toward authority figures. Teenagers with ODD actively defy rules, refuse to follow directions, and deliberately seek to annoy others. Signs of oppositional behavior are exhibited at home and at school. A diagnosis must come from a doctor or therapist who will use criteria found in the DSM-5 manual to make an accurate determination.


There is no clear cause of oppositional defiant disorder. However, contributing causes may be a combination of inherited and environmental factors.  Genetics include a child’s natural disposition or temperament and possibly neurobiological differences in the way nerves and the brain function.  A child’s environment, including problems with parenting that may involve a lack of supervision, inconsistent or harsh discipline, or abuse or neglect can also factor into an ODD diagnosis.


Treating oppositional defiant disorder generally involves several types of psychotherapy and training for the child — as well as for parents.  Treatment may last several months or longer. Medications alone generally aren’t used for ODD unless another disorder co-exists. If the child has another condition, like ADHD, medications may help improve symptoms.


Best practices in parenting will work for most children, but for children diagnosed with ODD, it may be necessary to fill your bag of tricks with a few more strategies that may work for your child.

  1. Children with ODD require structure and consistency. Be intentional and specific with your expectations for behavior at school, at home and in your community Consequences should be consistent. It may be tempting to “let some things go” but this sends the wrong message to your child.  By doing so, he or she will “test the waters” just to see what they can get away with.

  2. Reward good behavior. Put a plan in place to acknowledge and reward good behavior. The rewards don’t have to cost you anything. A reward can be as simple as an extra TV time or postponing bedtime by 30 minutes. Allow your child to have input on his/her rewards.

  3. Avoid power struggles and never address an issue while angry. Often, children with ODD need a safe space to go for a five-minute break when they notice themselves getting overwhelmed and ready to challenge.

  4. Here’s where you get to outsmart your kid: Give your child choices. Allowing your child to choose between two or three options that are all agreeable to you gives the child a sense of empowerment.  Usually, children can choose the best consequence for themselves and consequently take ownership of its success. Choices empower our children to think for themselves and take responsibility for their actions.


You can call us at Amy Wine Counseling Center if your child has been diagnosed with ODD and you are feeling overwhelmed.  We can help you and your child better manage difficulties at home and at school.  Sometimes, it may be necessary to involve the whole family in therapy sessions to improve relationships and gain a better understanding of the challenges associated with ODD. Whatever the case we can help. Email or call us today at 832-421-8714.



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