Are you racking your brain on parenting strategies for Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)? Do you know a child with ODD and you want more information? Here are ten parenting strategies that are proven to be effective.
Parenting a child with a defiance disorder is difficult and it will require you to implement new strategies. We are here to help provide a few suggestions.
- How to Parent a Child with ODD
How to Parent a Child with ODD
Having lived experience of parenting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) has taught me a lot. Here are the top 10 strategies that have worked when parenting a child with ODD.
1. Start with coregulation
Parenting a child who will not comply is infuriating. You will need to develops skills that help you get out of your feelings and into your problem solving brain. Try coregulation.
Coregulation is a process that allows both you and the child to calm down emotions. We never make our best parenting decisions from a place of anger.
When you feel like you have to give up or throw in the towel, you need to get to a calm state of mind. Your child needs this also.
Coregulation techniques can include using a warm tone of voice or providing a calm inflection to your words. There are many coregulation techniques to try in times of frustration and intense feelings.
2. Use a flat affect (poker face)
Are you someone who shows what you are thinking on your face? If so, you have to strengthen your poker face skills. Come to a situation of non-compliance with a flat affect. Expect that you will not be obeyed and only break character when you gain compliance.
Oppositional Defiance is more than not complying with adult requests. It is a persistent pattern of outright refusal to comply. This goes against the goal of every parent, which is to get our children to listen, and it will get a reaction. Go for the no reaction approach.
Misbehavior has to be separate from your feelings or affection. Lack of compliance is about control, and it isn’t about love or rejection. You can’t respond with your feelings – you have to use logic and conditioning strategies. Calm voice and calm face is the best way to approach the redirection.
We know it is hard, but we also know this will keep you from taking it personally if you can keep that straight face and calm tone.
3. Use “time out”
Time out is not a controversial strategy. Time out is a brief, mild, consequence that is used to address off track behavior.
When you are parenting a child with Oppositional Defiance, you have to utilize tools that you can live with and know that you are going to have to use often. Time out is a tool you can use time after time while also remaining non-emotional, giving yourself a break and giving a safe space to think.
No matter the age of the child, I would recommend a time out place. You don’t have to call it time out but you do need to have a place in your home that is safe for you and them to get space and calm down.
It should be fun free and distraction free. It can have some self affirmations or just have a beanbag. One strategy to make it a positive experience is a technique called Sitting Strong.
4. Don’t ask why
The first thing other adults may ask you is, “Why would they do that?” You may also be asking yourself, “Why won’t they do what I ask?”
Don’t ask why, because there is no answer. The wires for reasoning are crossed and trying to assign reasoning to oppositional behavior is impossible.
This is trying to assign a higher level of reasoning to behaviors that are done without reasoning, and it will only lead to frustration and heartache for everyone involved.
5. Let it go
You will have to let a lot of things go. You have to let go of what you thought life would be like and how things look to other parents.
You will have to let hard feelings go after the punishment is assigned. You will become an expert in letting go and starting with a fresh slate.
If you are angry or bitter, you will self destruct. There is no way to keep your sanity and keep a score card of wrongdoings. It won’t ever balance out and defiance will be the majority. Tracking those odds will just upset you, so let it go.
6. Have clear rules + link consequences to behavior
The world revolves around rules. Children learn at an early age that different people and places come with different rules. A child with a defiance disorder doesn’t understand the rules or feel compelled to follow them. This doesn’t mean the rules don’t matter. In fact, it means that rules are even more important to teach and maintain.
Make your family rules clear and concise. For example: “We use kind words” is a family rule. It isn’t wordy but it is important. All family members must follow the family rules.
The most effective learning opportunity occurs when you correct behavior outside of the family rule. For example, using unkind words means you are grounded from your phone. If you can not follow the family rule of “we use kind words,” then you can not engage in talking with others outside of the family on your phone.
The more you link the rules to your values, the values to your family, and the consequences back to the values, the better you are able to remain matter of fact while teaching and disciplining.
7. Use logical and natural consequences
When responding to non-compliant behavior, expand your options. Consider not only what consequences work, but also what you are teaching with the consequences you select. There are two types of consequences to use in responding to off track behavior, logical and natural.
Logical consequences are parental imposed punishment like being grounded, being sent to time out or taking away TV time.
Natural consequence are what happen when people don’t follow the rules. The parent doesn’t have to impose a natural consequence because they happen on their own. Examples of natural consequences are school suspension, bad grades, peer rejection, or poor relationships with teachers.
8. Only pick the fights you know you can win
That isn’t to say that you just let the child get away with anything. You have to constantly and consistently respond to the defiant behavior to make any progress in compliance.
Picking the fights you know you will win is understanding there will be a point in each conflict where you have to ensure you can continue in the conflict and also remain level headed.
If you see yourself losing composure or if you can’t see it out, you have to at least leave it at a you won intersection. Make a point, or take a break, but walk away at a place where you have taken the high road.
9. Use few words
When you are parenting your defiant child, you will want to explain yourself. Don’t.
You can answer questions or debate when the crisis is over. In the moment, you don’t have to answer questions or be wordy.
More words gives opportunities for arguments. Say no and only no. You don’t have to answer why.
10. Don’t care what other people think
This is the hardest, yet probably most helpful, strategy.
There are many social norms wrapped up in how we see parenting. I find it most helpful to just ignore it. Everyone has an opinion, but no one is living it for you. Only what you can live with matters, not the opinions of others.
Expect that others won’t get it so what they think about how you are parenting doesn’t matter.
We know that parenting a child with ODD is not easy. It requires skills far beyond what typical parenting requires. With these methods, you can do your best to keep peace in your home and help your child grow to be a productive adult.
Do you parent a child with ODD? What strategies work for you? Share in the comments.
If parenting a child has become too unsafe or difficult, they might need residential treatment. Click here for the best residential treatment programs for ODD.