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Parenting ODD Kids: Advice from Two Moms Who've Been There

Q&A with Kim Abraham, LMSW and Marney Studaker-Cordner, LMSW
Parenting ODD Kids: Advice from Two Moms Who've Been There

Nobody understands what it’s like to parent an oppositional, defiant child unless you have one. The exhaustion, isolation and feelings of helplessness and shame can be debilitating for any parent. Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner understand where you’re coming from, because they’ve worked with parents of kids with Oppositional Defiant Disorder for 20 years—and Kim is also the parent of an adult child with O.D.D.

You have to stop taking on your child’s personality as your responsibility.

EP: Many parents of oppositional, defiant kids write in to EP and say that they feel helpless, ashamed, and like they’ve “failed as parents.” Why is it so difficult and exhausting to parent an O.D.D. child?

Kim: There are so many complicated feelings when you parent an oppositional or defiant child. You do feel like a failure much of the time. You’re disappointed with yourself and with your child because you know that you are both falling short of expectations. Your child is expected to behave, and you are expected to discipline them “the right way.” You’re expected to raise your child to be respectful and to be a successful, independent adult some day. And when you see that your child or teen isn’t heading in that direction, you feel like you’re not doing your job. You even dread holidays because people will ask you, “So how’s your family doing?” or “How is your son doing?” And you don’t want to answer that question. To put it bluntly, you just live in fear.

Related: Are you tired of being judged? Learn how to parent more effectively.

As the parent of an O.D.D. child myself, I used to worry about what other people thought of me. I felt judged all the time. And make no mistake, people do judge; it’s human nature. So when you have a child who’s acting out and behaving disrespectfully—and who is also constantly doing things to bring negative attention to your family—you are being judged by society. And even worse, you’re being judged by your family, your neighbors, and school administrators. People are looking at you and saying, “This is your child—your product, so to speak—and he’s not turning out in a good way.” That’s when you really feel like a failure.

EP: Marney, you work with parents of O.D.D. kids. What do parents typically say when they first come to you?

Marney: Many times, the first emotion parents will identify is anger. But underneath that anger is something much deeper. Like Kim said, parents can start to feel like failures, even though that is far from the truth. Feeling ashamed is such a very vulnerable spot to be in. But it’s so understandable, because parenting an O.D.D. child makes parents feel ineffective, weak and exhausted.

I think anger is the first emotion parents have because it makes you feel more in control—you’re mad, the adrenalin is pumping and you’re showing the world that hard front. But when you are able to go underneath those feelings, you can dig out that shame and embarrassment and helplessness.

I always remind parents that you can’t control someone else’s behavior—not really. People are judging you on your child’s personality—something that you’ve got absolutely no control over. When you feel ashamed of something that you’ve done, you can change that. You can apologize, make amends or try to rectify the situation as best you can. But if it’s something your child has done, understand that it’s not your fault or responsibility, even though others may see it that way.

The parents that I’ve worked with sometimes come in feeling ashamed of some of their own behavior. When you raise an O.D.D. child, it’s extremely overwhelming; you make choices that you never expected you would make. You might yell or embarrass yourself in public because your child pushed every button you had, for example. Or maybe you’ve been caught off guard at a family function when your child has acted up. You might have screamed at your kid, grabbed him and left in a huff. Later, you probably felt embarrassed that you “lost it” that way in front of everyone. So there are really two pieces of the shame parents can feel. You might be ashamed of your child’s behavior, but there also may be words or actions you wish you could take back. I think most parents, including myself, have done something, that made them think, “Man, what was I doing?”

EP: What happens if you don’t have a way to get rid of those feelings of shame?

Kim: I can tell you from experience that you become very insecure with who you are—not just as a parent, but in general. Your faith in yourself is so shaken that you start doubting other areas of your life. You begin to think, “I’m not a good parent. Am I good at my job? Am I failing at that, too?” You feel defeated because you begin to believe that you are unable to do the biggest, most important job of your life. And you do feel very insecure and vulnerable. I think that no one really knows what that’s like unless they’re the parent of an O.D.D. kid.

Marney: I also want to say that over time, if you don’t find a way to let go of those feelings, they start to eat you up inside. Some parents who come into my office are extremely depressed. They really believe that they are terrible mothers and fathers. Often, they’ve been beating their heads against the wall for years, trying to figure out where they went wrong; they simply don’t know what to do next. Sadly, there aren’t many places that can teach you how to parent better.

Related: Learn how to get through to your oppositional, defiant child.

EP: So how do you learn to let go of all of these feelings of failure and become a more effective parent?

Kim: I firmly believe the key to all of it—letting go of the shame and blame and learning how to become a better parent—is really acceptance. I personally had to learn to accept the fact that my son was who he was. I have to admit it was extremely difficult to let go of the picture I’d created in my mind of what my child would be like--the picture I held onto for many years.  Once I truly accepted him, everything changed, because I changed. The other thing that parents can do is to learn how to put the focus back where it belongs—on your child and his behavior. Blaming yourself won’t do any good.

The way you shift the focus with others who may be judging or criticizing you is with your words. We call these “Pocket Responses.” For example, if somebody were to say something to you about your child’s behavior, you could reply, “Yeah, that was surprising to me, too.” You’re just sharing in their observation almost as if your child was a stranger on the street who just did something really obnoxious. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t give consequences to your child or hold them accountable for their behavior; I’m just saying that you have to stop taking your child’s personality on as your responsibility.

Related: Give consequences that stick.

Marney: I recommend this to parents: If you’re in a store and your 12-year-old is doing something that’s embarrassing to you, like being loud, demanding or obnoxious, one of the things you can tell yourself is, “This doesn’t appear to be embarrassing him. Why should I be upset?”

With people who judge you, most of the time no matter what you say, it’s not going to change their opinion. Most of us, whether we have an oppositionally defiant child or not, have family members who want to give advice or find fault. Oftentimes there isn’t anything you can say that would really change their opinion. So those pocket responses are crucial, because they help you to avoid getting drawn into defending your parenting skills—or showing your vulnerability. Remember, as soon as you start defending yourself or trying to “fix” your child, you’ve taken the responsibility for your child’s personality.

EP: Just to clarify, what would you say really is your responsibility as a parent and what isn’t?

Kim: I think we have to go back to the basics. Other than providing food, shelter and clothing, your responsibility as a parent is to educate your children and provide consequences and discipline when it’s appropriate. You can teach them your values and morals and let them know what your hopes and dreams are for them. Give them an opportunity to meet those expectations and those hopes. And then model it—and live your life that way so your child sees how it can be done. But beyond that, there isn’t anything more you can do—not really.

Another important pocket response that we use is, “My child is not a reflection of me.” For a long time I believed that my kids were a reflection of who I was until I sat down one day and realized that this was insanity. Think of it this way: If you have a child who does extremely well in school, would you take credit for all of his accomplishments? One of my sons was very successful academically and his teachers would compliment me, but I always said, “No, that’s all him.” I couldn’t take that credit because I hadn’t done the work or earned those honors for him. In the same way, you can’t take credit for the misbehavior of your oppositionally defiant child.

I also want to say that there’s not one parent out there whose child turned out exactly how they wanted them to. In fact, when Marney and I lead parenting groups, in the very first session we talk about how you really can’t predict where people are going to end up in life.

Related: Parents—let go of blame, guilt and shame.

EP: What are some other concrete ways of dealing with the shame and the feelings of insecurity parents might be having?

Kim: Recognize when you’re having self-defeating thoughts that leave you feeling ashamed—and then change those thoughts. Just stop yourself, take a deep breath and say, “This is not helping. I’m going to think about what I can do in this situation instead of what I have no control over.”

If you can actually stop yourself and uncover what the negative thought was, it will probably be something like, “I was embarrassed because I felt like I was a failure as a parent.” Or, “I felt that everyone at the store was looking at me because my child was being obnoxious.” Once you uncover what those thoughts are, you can then change them. Then, take it one step further and put a new thought in your head, such as, “I am a good parent. I do the best I can. I have a difficult child to raise; he’s challenging me and my parenting skills. But I do the best I can every day. People may judge, but I know inside of me that I’m a good parent.”

EP: Can you start to heal as a parent when you’re still feeling like a failure?

Kim: Yes, absolutely. You can begin to heal, but you have to uncover what is making you feel ashamed. And again, I think true healing starts when you begin to accept your child for who he is.

This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with his behavior, or that you think this is the way life should be lived. It just means that you’re accepting that your child is a human being outside of you. He’s a different person and he has the right to choose how he’s going to live his life. None of us wants anyone to tell us how to do that. You don’t want anyone to tell you how to live your life. I don’t want anybody to tell me how to live mine. And these kids don’t want anyone to tell them how to live theirs. They’re going to find their own path. I’m not going to sugarcoat it—some kids might face consequences along the way, especially if they end up breaking the law. But it’s still your child’s journey.  If you continually try to force him to change who he is because you don’t like the path he’s on, you’re just going to set yourself up consistently for disappointment. But when you do get to a point where you can say, “I accept that this is my child,” then you can find a workable plan. You’re not constantly fighting to get your child to change—you’re working with what you have.

Marney: And then you’re still holding your child responsible for the things he needs to be held accountable for. And these include legal issues, safety issues, and health issues. And you can just put it out there and say, “If you’re doing something that’s unsafe, there’s going to be a consequence involved.” But you have to stop fighting with your child over the fact that he is not the person who you thought he would be. Again, you just have to accept your child for who he is and start there.


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Kimberly Abraham, LMSW, has worked with children and families for more than 25 years. She specializes in working with teens with behavioral disorders, and has also raised a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Marney Studaker-Cordner, LMSW, is the mother of four and has been a therapist for 15 years. She works with children and families and has in-depth training in the area of substance abuse. Kim and Marney are the co-creators of The ODD Lifeline for parents of Oppositional, Defiant kids, and Life Over the Influence, a program that helps families struggling with substance abuse issues.

READER'S COMMENTS

My 16 year old stepson has ODD that has been escalating for the past two years. Ironically, he doesn't act out in public, but he's verbally and physically abusive to me and my husband. In the past month, he has physically attacked me and started a fight with my husband. In both cases, we called the police. Because he's a juvenile, he was not arrested. We have to live under the same roof with a child that gets physical when he gets mad. He has been in and out of counseling for over two years and spent four days in a behavioral medical facility after the fight with my husband. We have installed keyed locks on several of the rooms in our house including the master bedroom. We are in the process of getting security cameras installed inside the house, because he invites his friends over when we're not home. Because we can't trust him, at least one of us is usually home most of the time. I feel like a prisoner in my own home - I can't leave him alone, but I'm worried that he will assault me if I make him mad. We don't have particularly high expectations of him. We expect him to pass his classes, do a few chores, and not smoke marajuana. My husband and I are good, kind parents. We have purchased the Total Transformation program and used it with some success. We don't over indulge our son and try to set a good example with our behavior. He has never been physically punished, so we don't know where his violent behavior comes from. We have tried a number of medications; he is currently on his third medication for depression. There will be a court hearing eventually for the two assault charges. We are looking into a 90 day inpatient treatment for depression and substance abuse, however, our son has to agree to go. He is currently getting out patient treatment.

Comment By : VA stepmom

Thank you for this article. My son had terrible behavioral issues in school. I had him tested and we learned he has ADHD. He started on a Rx therapy and things seemed to have worked themselves out for about a year. Over the past 4 months or so, his behavior and attitude have been super terrible, defiant, disrespectful, etc. We have seen a psychologist for 3 months, but things haven't changed a whole lot...better, but not where he needs to be. Lately it seems that he is oppositional in any and every opportunity he has to communicate...be it related to homework, chores, even choice of dinner. I was wondering how exactly you would know if your child has ODD. Is that something they develop over time? Who diagnoses that? Our psychologist hasn't suggested anything of the sort and hasn't even recommended any type of behavioral programs, etc. How does a parent identify if their child is truly ODD or if he's just "acting out?"

Comment By : lacedeno

I am so encouraged by this article. Thank you! My 15 year old son is bipolar and I think, with that, is quite clearly ODD. He is rebellion to the core. He was born that way, and things haven't changed. I relate to all of the feelings of failure, shame, and disappointment you mention in your article, and I am very happy to say that I have done just what you recommend: I accepted the fact that my son is a person unto himself who will make decisions for his life that I do not have control over. I focus on getting involved when it's a legal or safety issue, but things like performing well in school or taking a shower I leave up to him. Yes, he even fights me on taking showers and brushing his teeth. I don't like his behavior, but I let it go in these cases. I've learned that he is the type of person that is often going to have to learn things the hard way and when natural consequences drive him to change, perhaps I'll see a difference. My new attitude has certainly changed the dynamics in our house greatly. We still have some difficult days and moments, for sure, but I don't push his buttons quite so much, and so also he pushes mine less. I also want to say that I often than God for giving me my second son, who is extremely obedient, gentle, and kind. If it weren't for him, I would most certainly believe my eldest son's behavior was all my fault. However, much like you say in your article, I've learned from raising both of my children that I have limited control over their outcomes...that I can't take credit for all the good results I get from the one, nor all the negative results I get from the other. You get what you get with your kids as far as personality goes and you do the best you can to steer them toward the best they can be. Thanks for making me feel both less alone and encouraged that I am moving in the right direction.

Comment By : Tonya

How do you impose a consequence on a child that is 18 and living with you. It seems so difficult.

Comment By : Kim

Hi, our 11 yr old son has been treated for ADHD for the last 4 years, but lately his behaviour has suggested ODD and things have escalated @ school. He has been streamed advanced academically, but lags with social skills. When we were referred to counselling, one of the first things we were told to do was to take parenting classes. We already felt like we were partially to blame for his issues, now we feel that this is being confirmed by the recommendations of the MSWs that saw us.

Comment By : Inaieu

My son is the most amazing kid ever. He is kind, rspectful and obediant to everyone. EXCEPT HIS FAMILY!! We live with his bullying all the time. I have learned to boost him up and show unconditional love even though sometimes I want to rip his head off! He has days when he is sweet and wonderful and some that he is angry defiant and disrespectful. I send out party invitations when he is good and try my best to ignore when he is not. I try on the good days to explain to him what the world will expect of him, what his wife will expect of him, and if he can not perform simple acts of respect and kindness to those he daily interracts with he will have a very hard life. He was born what we call the triple D. defiant, disrespectful and disobediant!! But when he is good, man he is really good, and that is what I try to focus on. I want him to know that God wired him this way for a reason and as him Mom I will support him through anything. I know that God has a plan for his life, he just needs support to try and figure out what that is.

Comment By : cccaseygirl

As a step father of five kids, five kids who have had the exact same upbringing and two sets of whom are twins, I can honestly say that ODD is 95% genetic. Three of our kids have it in varying degrees and two do not have it at all. I agree with the article, you have to accept that they are on their own path. You can provide structure, discipline, and model appropriate choices and behavior, but in the end, you are NOT in control. It is up to them to choose the path they will take in life. In the meantime, letting go of shame, embarassment, etc. is simply letting go of the illusion of control, because you never had to start with. I always like the whitewater example, you can set up right, you can read the river, you can make course adjustments, but you do not control the raft, the river does.

Comment By : church

I think this article does a great job in helping parents to understand that they are not responsible for how their child is wired. From listening to James Lehman, I took away from his CDs that I do want to change his behavior and it is my responsibility to do that with the tools of TT. So when your child is not responding to your consequences, therefore, not behaving appropriately, when do you stop the consequences because it was his responsibility to respond or stop the consequences because they aren't working? Here is an example. Child will not get up for school. He has consequence of not attending sports team practice that night. School dismisses him from sports team because of absences. As a parent, do I let the court system take over because I have no effect on his actions, or do I continue to come up with new consequences to try to change his behavior? At what point do you remove the child from the house because it is affecting everyone else? At what point do you say " I am a good parent there is nothing else I know to do. I will let the courts take over?"

Comment By : Carol

Reading this article has tears streaming down my face. People outside the realm of ODD and ADHD have NO IDEA how stressful, difficult, and de-moralizing it is to have children so hard to parent. I want to give up. I see no hope or end in site. Both of my adopted children will end up in jail and I will be blamed. It's what society does. We blame the parents. Nothing will change that. But just one day in my shoes would change minds instantly. Why can't they find a "cure" for this horrible disease? And in the meantime how do I deal with the calls from the principal, teachers, other parents, my family, neighbors, etc?

Comment By : granolagirltoo

Thank you for this article and for the comments that were shared below. I often feel that I want to disown my son for his outright disrespect, obnoxious and defiant behaviors. He seems to enjoy doing what he likes whenever he wants to,destroying property, playing with and doing things that are unsafe, littering, peeing in public, spitting, farting in his sisters' faces, hurting others with words and deeds. This disturbs me. He bullies everyone in our family. The shame I feel for wanting to disown him is unbearable. His self esteem is waining. He feels unwanted, I'm sure. I do not know how to just accept him. Its very painful...the feeling that I want to give up and withdraw.

Comment By : makuahine

I get it 100%. My 11 yr. old son was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD when he was 7. He is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and is physically and verbally abusive to my husband and me. He has destroyed so many things in our house I just want to cry when I look around what was once a beautiful home. We can not keep up with the repairs of holes in the walls, gashes in the kitchen cabinets, broken furniture, etc. It all happens when he is rebounding from his ADHD meds at the end of the day (we've tried many different meds). We have been to therapy since he was 4 years old. I sometimes count the days & years until he goes away to college and that makes me feel really bad as a parent. I love him so much, but oftentimes I can't stand to be around him. It is not an easy road.

Comment By : Bugsy

I can relate to everyone here about my twins(12 b/g) that are ADHD and ODD. Every day is a mountain to climb. It's exhausting. Is there any support groups or blogs on line that people can connect? I certainly can't find anything in my area, and I've tried. Everything is geared towards kids being abused by their parents nothing for the parent being abused by their child.

Comment By : twingles

I also have a child who is ODD. He has not been diagnosed but he has all the characteristics listed on the internet. I love him dearly. He consumes my life. Every thought is of him, is he ok, in trouble, am I going to get a phone call today from the asst principal at his school, will they want a meeting with me. We pay alot of money to put our boys in private school. My son has a slight learning disability, however he refuses to do school. I do any homework he has if I know about it. I fight to get him up in the morning. I know I am being judged I am at the point I am taking a temp leave of absence from work because the calls are interupting the class I assist in. My life is consumed with breaking up fights between my two sons. My older is the ODD and he is a great kid very polite and well mannered outside the house as long as he deems you as someone who should be treated with respect. At home if things go his way he is amazing if he doesn't get his way or doesn't like the way things are going man it is hell. I am completely depressed, hopless, and feel like there is no end to my misery. He has dabbled in weed until I lost my mind and threatened to kill the person dealing when I find him...My son backed out of that one but I can tell I am losing my mind. I have just ordered the program and am praying it works for me because setting up consequences is a joke in this house...I know I have to accept him for who he is and not who I dreamed he was but I am having a hard time with that because I believe he is more than he is giving himself credit for and is capable of being. My family is on the brink of collapse and this has been going on for years...since he was 2 there have been problems...I am taking him out of the school he is in and putting him in public school which he wants just for peace but I believe that will be a mistake too. Everyone tells me it might be the best thing for him...I don't know......

Comment By : crazymama

The worst thing about this paricular condition is that it's so easy to constantly blame yourself for your child's behavior. I also notice that most comments are about boys, but my daughter has certainly exhibited all characteristics of ODD. I feel like I have been cheated, that this is not the child that I signed up for.

Comment By : JCB

Our son is 9 years old and we've known since he was 4 or 5 years old that something was not "right". It wasn't until we were referred to counseling and psychiatrist specializing in pediatrics that our son was diagnosed with a mood disorder characterized as ODD. There is still disagreement and uncertainty as to whether he is ADD, bi-polar, anxiety, or some combination thereof. One thing is for sure...we definitely relate to the article and comments from others who know what it's like to raise an ODD child. We take comfort in the fact that we are trying to get him the help he needs as early as we can so we give him the best chances of coping with this curse of a mental illness. I would be kidding myself if I didn't worry ourselves sick about what the teenage years will bring -- we hope we'll all survive relatively unscathed. Some days are "normal" and many times he is a powderkeg ready to blow. Once he blows there is no calming him back down until all hell breaks loose. So far he has not been hospitalized but we've come close and we've also given our local police a heads-up what we're dealing with should we ever need to call them. Our counselor recommended talking to the police as a proactive measure and it turned out to be a good idea. The police were very understanding and willing to help us if we ever need it because as they put it, "we understand and appreciate parents trying to do the right thing". We have learned through counseling how to be more effective parents and TRY to pick our battles but it's much harder than it sounds. We've purchasd several of the Lehman products and think very highly of them. I am so thankful for this forum, the articles, and especially the comments from other parents who are struggling to do the right thing for their kids. Our faith teaches us that God will never put more on us than we can handle but it seems like when our son is at his worst that it is too much for us to handle. That is when we try to remember what we've learned and pray for grace to make it through.

Comment By : thomas s

Our ADHD & ODD son is nearly 17. He is failing in school because he refuses to do the work, and he is very verbally & psychologically(& sometimes physically) abusive to me & my husband. We have no other children, so I do not know what it feels like to have a happy and successful parenting experience. We feel completely isolated from our extended family members who all have highly gifted, talented, well-behaved kids. We are constantly being judged harshly, in addition to our son's abuse. He makes EVERYTHING a battle, no matter how trivial. We feel ashamed, alone, isolated and in fear of what the future holds. We are at rock bottom. We can see NO HOPE....only misery ahead.

Comment By : Trapped in ODD hell

* Dear Inaieu: Unfortunately, a lot of professionals, including therapists, do tend to judge parents. Inaieu: Remember, unless you've raised an ODD child, it's difficult to truly understand what parents are struggling with. Also, traditional parenting classes are geared toward parenting the "typical child". A child with ODD is NOT your typical child! You should always leave a parenting class feeling better, not worse, about your ability as a parent. You could talk to the therapist/ instructor about your concerns, or consider the fact that perhaps this isn't really a good fit for your needs.

Comment By : Kim and Marney

* Carol: It's obvious you're a caring, concerned parent, or you wouldn't be on this website, looking for resources. If you've done the suggestions in this article (telling your child expectations, providing opportunities, etc), you can rest your head at night, knowing you've done all you can, all that's within your control. When your child makes choices that result in legal consequences, such as being absent from school so much it's considered truancy, that's when the court system needs to be involved. Depending on his age, if he's under sixteen(or whatever your state's law is), the school may file truancy charges against him and it will be out of your hands. You've already given him a consequence for missing school: no sports activity. He's lost that through the school as a natural consequence as well. You've done your job. If you feel you need to continue to come up with consequences for missing school, you may choose to do so, or you can allow him to experience the natural consequences (failing, possibly probation for truancy) that make him uncomfortable enough to change his behavior. If school is the main issue, once you "let go of the rope" and stop arguing with him, and allow him to experience natural consequences, you may find the effect on everyone else in the home lessens. (Remember to protect yourself: be in contact with the school to let them know you've done everything you can to get him up and that the absence is unexcused.)

Comment By : Kim and Marney

* Dear lacedeno: The term ODD is given by a mental health professional (therapist, psychiatrist) to describe a set of behaviors a child is exhibiting and includes: OFTEN loses temper, argues with adults, refuses to comply with adult requests, blames others for his mistakes, deliberately annoys people, easily annoyed by others, angry/resentful and spiteful/vindictive. If a child exhibits four or more of these behaviors, for six months or longer, he would likely be diagnosed with ODD, unless there was an alternative explanation (for example, a child who's experienced trauma may exhibit some of these behaviors). The key here is frequency and intensity; all kids exhibit some of these behaviors but not to the extent of an ODD child. ODD may develop at any time, over time, and may be secondary to another diagnosis, meaning existing at the same time, such as with ADHD or a mood disorder.

Comment By : Kim and Marney

* Kim: It IS difficult, because your child is basically an adult, and has decided so in his own mind. You could have a family meeting, let him know you respect that he's and adult, but say that he's still living in your house and is expected to follow the rules of your home. A consequence of not doing so may be that he is no longer allowed to live there. As an adult, living in your home is a privelege, not a right. If you're not ready for that serious of a step, you can always restrict access to things you own such as your car, computer, internet, etc. and not give cash for "extras" (clothes, etc) that he is responsible for as an adult. Adolescence is a stage of development and conflict serves to help your child separate and become independent. If you continue to meet all of his needs, he will remain comfortable and in your home. A 99-year-old man I know has a son who is so comfortable, he's still living with his dad at age 67!

Comment By : Kim and Marney

I am releaved to see that me and my husband are not alone. Our son is 15. Our son was diagnosed with ADHD and I diagnosed him with ODD after researching the internet. My son breaks things in our home he kicks doors in, breaks shutters, throws things and basically beats up our home. He treats me his mother like a POW "Prisoner of War" I cant take him anywhere anymore. I took him to the mall to buy him some school clothes and he embarassed me by totally disrespecting me in the store to when we left throwing dirt clawds and rocks at me outside the mall because I would"nt buy him a pair of expensive tennis shoes that didn't fit his foot right. My son gave me a black eye and bruises before. I run from him and lock myself in my office only for him to kick the door down. I try and leave when he goes into his rage of anger and he stands in front of the door so I am trapped. He says everything is my fault and blames me for everything in his life. He hardly has any friends anymore because he has shown this side to them. Now to top it all off he now found some weird religion on the internet that beleives man was created by aliens and he really believes it and is pushing this on me. God has gotten me through all these years with this child and I will never stop beleiving in him. But my son wants to take that away from me. I keep thinking 3 more years and he will be 18 and he needs to move out then. My legal obligation will be done. Which is really sad that I feel this. I love him but I am a battered mom. Why dont they have battered mom shelters out there. I have called the police only for them to 51/50 him for two hours and then send me a bill for $700.00. And the gilt that I have felt over the years has been unbearable. He blames me for everything he has ever done wrong. This disease is a major mental illness nobody will understand unless they have a child with this disorder. The Total Transformation Program has helped me cope with my sons disease but I realize now that I can't change him and never will be able to.

Comment By : Helpless Mom

Sorry that y'all are in the same boat with me, but glad that I am not alone. I have had ot let go of the idea that I can control my 11 year olds behavior, and that he will have to deal with the consequences of his own behavior. I like the idea of not taking responsibility for his personality, which is something I have done in the past. I have been told that I am a neglectful parent, that all he needs is love, that he needs more positive attention at home, the gamut of judgements, biases, and blaming. I have been told by my son that he will fake bruises to get me arrested, because he is a convincing victim. My advice - don't allow who they are to change who you are. Step back into yourself, every single day - especially when they are enjoying pushing your buttons. Remove all buttons, by knowing that the ODD child cannot change who you are, just as much as you cannot change who they are. It is a hard ride, but I think in the end, it is really harder for them. I am sad that he is this way, and thankful that I am not. Thinking that helps me maintain compassion. Most of the time. Much love and strength to you all...

Comment By : Rebecca

I have a 16-year-old son, who at age 14 was diagnosed with bipolar. He is very much ODD. He never cared about consequences and never obeyed me. I knew he was different at about age 3. When he was 15, every night I would get a call from the school, telling me what classes he missed that day -- which was most, if not all, of them. He started not coming home at night, sometimes for several days at a time. I had no idea where he was, and he wouldn't answer his cell phone or text me back. Finally, one night I got "the call" from the police. He had been arrested for possession of marijuana and paraphernalia. I work in our court system here, so it was absolutely humiliating to me to have to take him to court, in my workplace! He pleaded guilty to the two charges, and was sentenced to a year of probation. This was the BEST thing that could have happened. He had a probation officer, a curfew, and had to take random UAs and BAs. He also had to do some classes, and one of his terms of probation is that he had to comply with the rules of his parents at home. Also, he started to go to an alternative school that we have in our area. The first six weeks of school, they have a class that is all day, that every kid who goes there has to graduate from, that teaches them to take responsibility for themselves and have respect for themselves and others. My son had to repeat this class 3 times before he could move on. He is a totally different kid. He had 2 hot UAs in the year he was on probation, but the rest were clean. I have seen him take responsibility for himself on a few occasions. He even hugs me in front of other people! He still is not very good at following the rules at home, but has made a little progress in that regard. I guess what I'm trying to say is, all these kids with ODD need a probation officer. I know you don't want your kid to be arrested, but juvenile records are sealed, and they have to be accountable to a higher authority than their parents, or they have the lingering threat over their heads of going into juvenile detention. My son has one week left of probation. I'm afraid that after he's done, he will go back to his old ways. I hope not. I read all of the comments on here, and some of you seemed SO distressed, like I was at one time. I just wanted to let you know that it can get better -- not perfect -- but my stress level the past year has been lower than in years prior.

Comment By : jenna

Thanks for this article. It helps to know there are others out there going through this. My daughter is 17 and I've given up hope of her every having a normal life. Like granolagirltoo, I expect she'll end up incarcerated or worse and of course, I'll be blamed. She comes and goes as she pleases no matter what I say and is violent towards me if I try to assert myself. My home is a wreck, there isn't a door in the house that isn't smashed and she's damaged thousands of dollars worth of furniture. I don't bother to replace anything beause I know she'll just wreck it again when she gets mad at me. She was has had more counselors than I can count, she's seen neurologists and psychiatrists--the last one of those literally kicked her out of his office and I can't even get her records from him. I've called the police several times but the worst that's happened was a 2 hour detention in Juvenile detention, then I had to go pick her up and listen to her verbal abuse all the way home. I keep telling myself she'll be 18 soon and she can move out. But how? She'll never be able to keep a job and support herself. I see myself living as a prisoner for the rest of my life.

Comment By : SJB127

I have an extremely defiant 11 year old. I would say she is O.D.D., but has never been tested or diagnosed so I am not 100% sure. Her outburst tend to appear when she feels stressed or emotionally threatened. Boy do they come out in a big way! I feel we are dealing with it with some success at home and in public, but at school she is having a difficult time. What are some suggestions to relay to her classroom teacher to assist with this? I'm afraid her teacher is becoming emotionally drained and loosing patience. My daughter is very bright and is of high intelligence (according to the IQ test she has been given). She did not score high on the A.D.D./A.D.H.D. spectrum, but she is impulsive. She has been in counseling to assist with previous tantrums, but was dismissed from the program. Not sure where to turn or what to do. I need help!

Comment By : KD

My son is 15 and diagnosed ODD. He is mostly a very nice boy, clean, takes care of his things, helps me around the house. His problem is that he angers easily and once angry it takes a long time for him to calm down. He blames me for his behavior at school which includes cussing out teachers, skipping school and pretty much flunking everything. He says he does not care. Recently he and his girlfriend got into an argument at school which lead to him pushing her and getting suspended for 10 days for physical abuse. He is only a freshman...the calls from school and suspensions are embarassing and he is not in a position to catch up his school work after so many suspensions. He argues with my husband for the smallest things. I ground him and he leaves anyway. I took his cell phone and he just figured out how to use the computer to text his friends. How do you discipline a child who will not take his discipline? I have been told not to physically discipline him, that I would only be showing him it is ok to hit. How can I make him care about his life?

Comment By : Mom, IL

* To SJB127: I know exactly what you are living through. I, too, had to survive verbal abuse and destruction of my home and property by my child. First of all, remember you are not at fault here. Although others judge us, we must remember those negative judgments or accusations of blame directed toward you are coming from people who haven't walked in our shoes. They have no idea the frustration and heartache we live through every day, let alone the fear we harbor, wondering where our child will end up someday. Keep in mind, we cannot foresee our child's future, and we often get stuck obsessing on our fears, many of which will never come to be. Many of these kids know just how far they can push the limits. Once they turn the corner into adulthood, they don't always push the limits with society the way they did at home and with their parents. Your daughter IS in control of her life and her future. She will make her own decisions regarding how far she will continue to push her limits with people in her life and the rules of society. My son ended up in jail twice; once at age 24 and again at age 26. He talked about playing cards with old buddies he ran into while in jail. His last jail sentence of 60 days resulted in his comment that he was "done with it all" because he didn't like jail food. Remember, they are capable of changing their behavior when they choose to do so. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and 18 years of age will bring some rays of hope. You don't have to be held prisoner in your own home once she turns eighteen. You can love her, but you don't have to live with her, once she's an adult. You can do this - we'll be here to support you through it.

Comment By : Kim Abraham, LMSW

* Granolagirltoo: The cure is within your child. It takes work to change years of negative habits. Oftentimes, these kids tell us that it's easier to continue acting the way they do than it would be for them to put effort into learning how to problem solve, manage anger, or cope with disappointment. Toddlers will have temper tantrums because they haven't yet learned coping skills. ODD kids, similarly, are doing just that: having a temper tantrum. When these kids start feeling miserable or uncomfortable because of the consequences for their behavior, they may decide it's worth putting effort into making changes. Unfortunately, while they remain in a parent's home, it's usually the parent who experiences the most misery from the ODD behavior, hence the parents are the ones putting effort into making changes. Using effective and natural consequences and remaining consistent will help your children start to feel uncomfortable with their behavior and may help motivate them to change.

Comment By : Kim and Marney

* To makuahine: In life, if someone hurts you and enjoys seeing your pain, most of us would want that person out of our lives. It's a natural reaction. Many parents of ODD kids feel like disowning them. You are not alone, by far. Acceptance doesn't mean you accept these behaviors. It means you are ready to be honest with yourself about the type of child you are raising, and that you accept just that. That's it. Just accepting the facts. Then you can make a plan of how you will respond to those negative behaviors. Acceptance helps us get past daily disappointment. We aren't living with the mirage that our child will suddenly behave differently today. When we are prepared for this reality, we can respond more effectively. If you give up and withdraw, your child will gain more power and control over your home. Make a plan of how you will respond to his negative behavior and be confident with your efforts, regardless of the outcome (if his behavior changes, or not). He will learn that his negative behavior will always be addressed and he will be held accountable and at this point, if he wants to feel better about himself (ie, build his self esteem), it's his job to behave in ways that will gain respect from others. The behaviors you've mentioned will leave everyone around him feeling no respect toward him. This is a simple natural consequence. You have absolutely no reason to feel badly about that.

Comment By : Kim and Marney

It would be great if there was more support for ODD. Many people don't believe it's real -- they think the kid is just ornery. It is a constant struggle and the feelings of isolation and failure are nearly unbearable. My son was born ODD and is now 17. We didn't find The Total Transformation program until he was 11. I wish we had found it when he was a toddler -- life would have been a little easier sooner. We have problems with our son but not to the extent that some folks here have. My heart goes out to all of you -- you are not alone. Keep trying and work the program every day.

Comment By : Hopeful mom

My son is 2, he will be 3 june 15, 2011. Is it possible that he may already have this disorder? I've felt this "shame, helplessness, and anger" since a little before he was 2. Everyone keeps telling me he is just in his "terrible 2s". He is mean to our pets, he is constantly saying "No" when you ask him to do something. Constantly screaming and whining, EVERYTHING is "mine", and the list goes on. I understand that these are things that are typical, but there is a limit to typical, right? I've tried every punishment from taking things away to corners to ashamed as I am to say it, i've popped his butt (not enough to physically harm him, but enough that he cried for a few seconds then he turned around and smacked me in my face, so I wont do that again...) In all, is this O.D.D. or another problem, or really just terrible 2s?

Comment By : @3yr.mom

Thank you all for sharing your stories. I feel a little less lonely. My son will be turning 13 in a month and life with him has been a daily struggle for several year, however, it is increasingly getting worse. Weekends and family vacations are unbearable. I can't wait for Monday morning for him to go to school. My husband and I have made a nice home for our kids, we have done it all to make their childhood filled with wonderful birthday parties, fun trips and behind doors, our son is so disrespectful mostly to my hard working husband. I am a stay at home mom involved with school, charities and my daughter special needs' therapies. Each day is filled with obligations, struggles, warnings, and chores and I can't believe this is my life...I am a point where I want to send him away, to a better suited school that would address his diagnose of ODD and ADD because I worry that my husband and I no longer can discipline him. We have done family therapy, spent endless hours trying to understand him and still nothing has changed. My marriage has taken a huge toll and we are both just surviving and enduring life.

Comment By : L.

* Dear @3yr.mom: Yes, it's possible for a 2-year-old to exhibit ODD symptoms, however, his behavior could be due to other factors. Two-year-olds have difficulty expressing their feelings with words, so it's hard to know exactly what they're struggling with. His behavior is telling you there's something going on: he's feeling uncomfortable, and this is the only way he knows to release that tension. You may want to pay attention to possible triggers, ie, when does he tend to have these episodes? When he's hungry? When he's been told "no" to something he wants? When he's tired? Two-year-olds have a difficult time distinguishing between pets and toys, so when they're mean to animals, they don't necessarily understand they're hurting them. It's not terribly uncommon. Sounds like your child has a low frustration tolerance. There is a limit to the Terrible Two's, screaming and whining ALL the time isn't typical. You might want to find a qualified professional, experienced with toddlers, to determine if there's an underlying issue. Sometimes what looks like anger is really something else, like anxiety. Also, consult with a pediatrician to rule out any potential medical factors, such as allergies or sensitivities to certain dyes or foods. Also, keep in mind that two-year-olds haven't developed coping skills yet. It's a good idea to avoid at all costs giving in to his temper tantrums, as that can reinforce that behavior. In other words, giving in to screaming reinforces the idea that "screaming gets me what I want." It could be something simple (he's bored) to something he can't tell us, like he doesn't feel good. Finding support with a child therapist and your peditrician will help you feel like you have covered all your bases. On a positive note, he's a fiesty little guy, and not likely to ever let someone push him around!

Comment By : Kim and Marney

Know the signs of Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Strep Sometimes when children present with difficult behaviors they are given a mental health diagnosis without considering whether an infection might be the root cause of the disorder. When the child’s behaviors are the result of strep antibodies attacking the basal ganglia of the brain, the condition is known as PANDAS: Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Strep. Once the condition is triggered by strep, subsequent exacerbations can be caused by other bacteria or viruses such as the flu. Here are some of the symptoms of PANDAS. Obsessive-compulsive behaviors: can include repetitive behaviors, excess fear nnnof germs, hair pulling and eating disorders Motor and verbal tics (Tourette’s), ADHD symptoms (hyperactivity, inattention, fidgety), Separation anxiety (child is “clingy” and has difficulty separating from his or her caregivers, Mood changes (irritability, sadness, emotional swings), Sleep disturbance, Nighttime bedwetting and/or daytime urinary frequency, Fine/gross motor changes (e.g. changes in handwriting), Joint pains. From a Mom of a child with PANDAS It's worth getting a strep test to see if the child needs antibiotics.

Comment By : PJ

I am SO tired. I have let my opinion of what my son's personality SHOULD BE zap the life out of me. I am glad that you have provided this article, however, I am not 100% better with the whole "my son has ADHD and ODD". This is a challenge that I will have to hurdle throughout the duration of my life. Now, I have a question: Is ODD hereditary? Could it be sparked by alcohol use in the father? These are things I have recently become curious about. Although, his father was quite the rebel growing up, before he abused alcohol.

Comment By : JugglingManyABall

To "JugglingManyABall": You’re right, it’s very tiring to raise a child with ODD and ADHD. It might make things easier if we could say, “This is it, this is why he acts this way!” Unfortunately, there is no clear “cause” of ODD. We do know that certain things can contribute to the development of ODD symptoms such as: natural disposition; if there is a developmental delay or cognitive limitation that may interfere with his/her ability to process thoughts and feelings; chemical imbalances such as Seratonin. These things could be “inherent,” meaning existing from birth. Environmental factors can also result in ODD behavior such as the need for more supervision by parents or inconsistent discipline. The topic has been debated by professionals and most agree there is usually a combination of inherent and environmental reasons for a child’s behavior. There can also be a cycle that starts when a child has something going on, such as ADHD, before the ODD starts. When the child is frustrated, angry, hyperactive or struggling in any way, he/she often “acts out.” As parents, we start getting frustrated with the acting out behaviors and try a range of discipline techniques, searching for something that will “work.” We may become inconsistent, the behavior worsens, we try new techniques, and...here we go. Many children of parents who abuse substances are able to cope and maintain their self-control, while some struggle and exhibit behavioral concerns. There’s no way to know for certain if a father’s alcohol abuse “contributed” to the ODD onset. It may have contributed to some of the inconsistent parenting techniques (environmental factor) that can affect kids who are already at risk or predisposed (inherent factor) to develop ODD. We can drive ourselves into hopelessness if we continue to try to find an answer, look for the magic solution, and question ourselves to the end of time, “Where did I go wrong?” or, “Who or what went wrong?” None of this really matters. Keep in mind if we were all alike, we wouldn’t have those famous rebels who went against the status quo and made the world a different place…in a good way! We are all born with a personality, some more stubborn than others…and sometimes that really isn’t a bad thing. Difficult for the parent/s raising these challenging children…YES, having lived it, I can testify to that! I hope that you will be able to find a way to see your child’s strengths and gifts. Sometimes their gifts are what we struggle with the most ( i.e., determination, steadfast attitude, leader, honest, speak their mind regardless of what others may think, etc). Your child, like mine, will continue to challenge your own personal growth. I’ve come to value that in my life. Hang in there, it’s a tough job, the toughest one you’ll probably ever have. But you’ll get through it and maybe even be able to laugh about some of it later in life.

Comment By : Kim Abraham, LMSW

Thank you, Kim, for the response! My 8 year old second grader has been working with the gifted program since the first grade. He was recently accepted into the program for actual gifted classes to start. Some of that gift may be some of his problem(i.e. being bored in class). He is also an excellent athlete, being recruited to AllStars in baseball. I have come to take the good with the bad. This does not make it any less tiring! His father has been in and out of his life, more out than in. There are SO many things that he is expected to process and accept. I have to admit that sometimes I forget those little facts.

Comment By : JugglingManyABall

My son was "different" since he was born. He seemed to lack empathy for others and would only express it through the years when he knew it would help him get what he wanted. He is extremely bright and can't turn his mind off so he turned to drugs when he was 16. Since then he has threatened to attack me and has hit his father. The police have been called several times and we turned him in when we caught him stealing from cars. He is 18 now, and spent a 30 day stint in jail during which he graduated summa cum laude from high school. Go figure. He has a job and spends all his money on the casino and we can't wait to get him off to college. I feel like I enabled him a lot, but did things so that he didn't blow up. We did what we had to do. Regular punishments never worked with him. If you withhold money, he steals the kids'. I lock my office and he breaks in. Our other two kids suffer his outbursts and we've all missed things because of his behavior. He's been to psychologists, counselors, drug counselors, talked to police, etc. to no avail. We kicked him out and he ended up living with people who had no interest in his welfare. This has been a painful, awful time and I feel for each one of you that has an ODD child. I purchased the Total Transformation, but too late as I think it might have helped us with him earlier. We feel that we've failed as parents on a daily basis. We just keep hoping and praying. Don't be afraid to use the police to help you - yes it can be embarrassing, but they are a very helpful tool in getting your kid to behave. I know we have many more painful years, but I can't help but hope he will find his way out of it.

Comment By : Tcmom

Sad and yet helpful to know that there are so many other people in the same position as we are with our son. We've been married for 21 years, have a normal 20 year old daughter, and a 16 year old son with ADHD, ODD and 2 learning disabilities. We've dealt with everything from the school calling, suspensions, fights, drug use, damage to our home, threatened (but not actual) physical violence, stealing money from us (and driving one of our vehicles without a license, any training or being insured), police involvement for grafitti in our house and community,running away and shoplifting. ODD is, like everyone has said, one of the worst things to deal with because it does undermine your confidence as a parent, make you feel like a failure and introduce a whole slew of negative emotions into all of your relationships (with your spouse, other children, family, friends and work). Because your child appears to be physically normal, and can hold a general conversation, appear to be polite and responsible (superficially), people assume that it is your parenting when they act out. Society's judgement, lack of understanding and fingerpointing makes this that much more difficult to deal with. One thing that I do is talk about this with anyone that will listen. I am lucky in that I have a very understanding employer and boss, and the people that work around me are all supportive. Especially when I just get to work and say I need a break becuase I have already gone 10 rounds with my son that morning. The more you explain to people about this the better it will be understood. To provide a quick (albeit inaccurate) description for people to understand what ODD is, I often ask if they know what OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder) is. If they say yes, I basically say that my child is the same as that but instead of hand washing or counting repetitively, my child deals with a disorder that makes him argue and resistant to authority repetitively, but that there is a psychological cause...that this is not from lack of trying, parenting or anything anyone (including my husband or me) have done. My parents are very old fashioned and a lot of the guilt that I have and resistance I had for putting him on medication was because they made me feel (and even said a few times) that I just was not doing things right (not like my sister - gotta love that one). I finally had a breakthrough with them when I told them everything we have done over the years to try and deal with this. When I said we were going to medicate him and they started in with the normal reasons why I shouldn't I just said, "If my son had diabetes and I could show you on a blood test that he needed that medication, would you tell me not to give it to him? They can't do a blood test for this, but it's just as real, and if we don't get this under control he is going to be dead - either from drug use, stealing cars or something else." Difficult conversation, but then the last time we had a family get together everyone noticed how much better he was and commented on it. We are still not out of the woods - it's summer right now and school will introduce a lot of stress for him, so I can only hope we will keep this small ground we've won. Best of luch to all the other parents. I hope you all keep your faith in yourself and your child. The only thing I can do is to keep loving him, take lots of deep breaths, try to be patient, not worry about all the property damage to my home, and

Comment By : SheilaD

I am a mother of a 4 year old boy who has been diagnosed with severe ADHD/ODD. Although he wasn't diagnosed until this last year, he started displaying the signs by age 2. After 2 years of going to the pediatrician with his behavior, I finally sought out a therapist and a neurologist. Every behavior redirection that was suggested by the therapist would only work for a few days before he would figure out some way aroung it. So every week we were back at square one. The therapist even suggested natural remedies, which proved to be a joke and waste of money. The neurologist has tried several different doses of different medicines. While we did find a dose that would help him listen and focus, it took away so much of his good personality and made his stuttering worse. Everyday is a pure struggle (and I thought being a police officer was hard at times). I wake up exhausted and somehow have the strength to make it through the day, only to be even more exhausted at the end of the day. I had to quit my job after my 2nd child was born (11 month old girl). I fully believe that it was meant for me to stay at home with my children for this reason. I did manage to get him tested and enrolled in the Pre-K program at school, and he loves it. At preschool he was acting out so much that they literally stuck him in the corner with a puzzle to keep him busy all day. While my son has his moments when he is very loving and obeying, they are always followed by a loud, obnoxious outburst of telling me "no" and screaming at the top of his lungs. We have tried every correction that we know of and are at a complete loss as to how to handle him. Even the dog is on anxiety medicine because my son hits and pulls on him so much. We have stopped hanging out with most of our friends, going out to eat, brining the kids shopping, etc. because of the judgement that we get from other parents. One day, I had even had enough and lost it, catching myself saying that I hated my child. Naturally, that made him stop in his tracks and my husband had to sit down with him and explain to him that I really didn't mean to say that. The only think that we have found to work for any aspect of this, is that he takes Melatonin (over the counter) to help him sleep at night. Otherwise, he would be up until he crashes at about midnight. I was shaking my head in agreement the whole time I was reading this article, but am in desperate need of some answers, pointed in the right direction, suggestions, SOMETHING TO KEEP MY SANITY! But, thanks fo rthe article, it hit the nail on the head.

Comment By : firecop207

I can relate to every single emotion mentioned. I relate not as a parent, but as a stepmom who feels the incredible stress felt by his dad trying to cope with an ODD teen, but one who also has two young sons who I am desperately trying to protect from my stepsons torture, abuse, manipulation, control. He makes the house unbearable. Its an absurd amount of stress and potential danger for my younger children...the whole family really. Are there any in-patient treatment programs where he and his father could go for help conquering this terrible addiction? His drugs of choice is anger, conflict, control, manipulation, deviance, danger, absolute rule. The Total Transformation Program has helped, but we fall into the same traps mentioned above. We go to counseling, he is on several medications for ADHD. Is there such a thing as a 30-day or 60-day intensive treatment program where his dad could learn better coaching skills, and he could learn better social skills. I am not trying to blame my husband, but we all need better tools. My only coping technique is to leave (with my kids) when my stepson is there. Even then he raises the bar by abusing, breaking, or stealing my kids stuff as a way to get back at us. He already shows no empathy for his actions. I feel like we're in prison and he's the warden! Isn't there anything more we can try to rein this in?

Comment By : Scared stepmom

* Dear Scared Stepmom, It sounds like you are in a devastating situation. You might want to contact your local Community Mental Health to ask about programs for adolescents in the area. You may also want to do an internet search for programs in your area or find a therapist who specializes in ODD or Conduct-Disordered teens. Hopefully there will be a program in your area that will benefit your family. Some kids refuse to participate in any type of treatment, and if that’s the case with your stepson, know that there are still steps you can take, as parents. Between us (Kim and Marney) we’ve parented an ODD teen and raised stepchildren and understand those unique positions you are in. Living with an ODD child can, indeed, feel like a prison and it can come down to simply surviving. Focusing on the things you can control may help you feel as if you’ve regained some power in your own home. You’re right, the Total Transformation is an excellent program but ODD kids are particularly difficult to parent, so we’ve created the ODD Lifeline specifically for folks in your situation. It covers the missing links that it sounds like you’re in desperate need of. There really is a light at the end of the tunnel. We’re sending you many positive thoughts and hope things improve for your family, whom you obviously love and worry about.

Comment By : Marney Studaker–Cordner, LMSW and Kim Abraham, LMSW

My son has ODD and ADHD. I had to kick him out of the house when he turned 18. He will be 22 years old next month and since I kicked him out he has gone from friend's house to friend's house until he wears out his welcome and gets kicked out. He has worked at several jobs but has gotten fired from every one of them. Now he says he is living in a really bad situation where he is being mentally abused by his "roommate" but he has no money, no car and no job so he feels like he is stuck. I keep telling him that if he gets a job I will buy him a bus pass so he can get back and forth to work but I cannot let him move back home because he disrupts our lives so terribly when he is home. I have a husband and a 7 year old son and a wonderful relationship with both of them until my 21 year old son comes around and then my house is filled with fighting and crying. I feel like I want to help my 21 year old more than I do but every time I help him he quits trying to help himself. I want to know how much I really SHOULD be doing to help him. What kind of opportunities can I give him now without enabling his bad behavior? I do feel guity when I don't help him to get out of his living situation but I also know that it is a consequence of his choices and lack of respect of adults (bosses, etc.). Please tell me what I can do to help him now without enabling him. Thanks.

Comment By : Ilovemyson

* To “ilovemyson”: Thank you for sharing your story with us. You ask a tough question. It’s one that many parents in your situation ask themselves, where is the line between helping and enabling? There are no hard and fast rules to determine this. It can be very difficult to sit back and watch your adult child struggle. In her article, Throwing It All Away: When Good Kids Make Bad Choices one of the first things Debbie Pincus suggests is to draw clear boundaries. It sounds like you have already done that. She then suggests you recognize and acknowledge your own feelings around the situation. Watching the child you have cared for and nurtured for 22 years continuously make bad choices is a hard place to be. You are doing an admirable job not allowing those feelings to undermine your boundaries or determine your reactions to your son’s current situation. You have done what you can; now, it’s his responsibility to turn his situation around. One thing you may be able to offer your son is a way to find out what services may be available for him to find help in your area. Most states have the 2-1-1 referral line. This can be reached simply by dialing 2-1-1. There is also a national helpline if it is not available in your state. The number for this is 1-800-273-6222. Good luck to you and your family as you work through this challenging situation. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

I'm so thankful for this article my son was diagnosed 2 yeaars ago with ADHD/ODD. At 4 years old he was kicked out of pre-k. Went to kindergarten with every documetation I had to let them know that my has this disability and I would like him to get the help he need. They put my son in a class with 20 students and 2 teachers. The first couple of months my son had a few accidents on him self where the teacher left him in the class but put to the side where the kids laughed at him. then he started to act out where he was ignoring the teacher. They set up a minute and didn't feel the need to test my son even with his history and diagnosis. Later toward the end of the school year my son started reacting to violence and talking back to the teacher and principal. Told the music teacher he was going to shoot him. My son don't paly with guns and I don't buy them. He can barely watch television to know what a gun do. He then stood on a chair and pretend he was shooting the class. They gave him detention. Like he know what detention is. Then another incident he was tackling the kids when the teacher grab him and made him stop and then tried to hit her and was sent to the principal office where he couldnt sit still and started touching everything in her office after she repeatedly told him to stop. After that we was told by the teacher she is fed up and don't know what to do with him and he was suspended. My son was not allowed to attend the last week of school. During graduation he was drag out by one arm after performance for misbehaving. Now I'm at the end of my rope and need to know what to do next. Tried medication but made him emotionally depress. I just quit my job because no one can cotrol him. I love my baby and know this not his fault so we fighting this the best way we know how:'(

Comment By : N.Jackson Parent

* To “N.JacksonParent”: We appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us. It sounds like you have been dealing with your son’s behavior for a while. I can understand why you would feel at the end of your rope. From your comment, it seems the majority of the acting out goes on at school. You may still be able to coach him and hold him accountable at home for the behaviors that are happening at school. In her article Young Kids Acting Out in School: The Top 3 Issues Parents Worry about Most, Dr. Joan Simeo Munson offers parents some great advice on how to address acting out in school. One thing she suggests is teaching your child a phrase he could use instead of lashing out when he’s angry or frustrated at school. Another thing we would suggest is implementing a behavior chart to reward your son when he behaves appropriately at school. As Dr. Robert Myers points out in his blog 8 Secret Tips for Parents of Children with ADHD, children with ADD tend to respond better to rewards than consequences. There are charts you can download and print off in the article Child Behavior Charts: How to Use Behavior Charts Effectively. It will be most beneficial to work with your son’s teachers when implementing this plan. Sit down with the teacher at the beginning of the school year and let her know what it is you’d like to work on and maybe come up with ways the two of you could work together to help your son through the year. Your son is lucky to have you in his corner. If you do feel you need help advocating for your son with the school, we would suggest contacting your state Department of Education. Another great resource for finding educational support in your area is the 2-1-1 National Helpline. You can access this valuable resource by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging on to www.211.org. We wish you and your family the best as your work through this challenge. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

I am totally confused as to what consequences to give to my 14 year old son who is very disobedient & argues all the time. He was a very good child till the age of 11 years. Then I had severe problems with my husband and his parents and I moved to another city to live with my mom. He was put to another school which was far low standard than the one that he had attended previously. His behaviour started to change since then and gradually escalated to such an extent that I dread going home from Office. He is not bothered about his studies and misbehaves with his private tutor. I have made a very big mistake of hitting him a few times as I could not tolerate his behaviour. Now after 3 years, his father has come back to us saying that he was sorry and he doesn't keep any contact with his parents. We have started to live in a separate house as a family again but my son's behaviour is deteriorating everyday. His grades are falling drastically but when I visited his school his teachers say that he is an obedient child there and lacks concentration. His sole interest lies in being on facebook most of the time and listening to music and chatting with friends. My friends complain that he is online most of the time. He throws a tantrum when I take away his cell phone. Please help. Please suggest exact consequences & how to hold him accountable. I'm exhausted and depressed.

Comment By : Suparna, India

* To “Suparna, India”: We appreciate you taking the time to comment and ask such a great question. Many parents I talk with on the Parent Support Line also ask what consequence is going to be the most effective consequence. In reality, there is no one consequence that is going to be more effective than any other in any given situation. Different children are going to be motivated by different things. Therefore, while one consequence may work well for one child, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work for every child. How you implement consequences is also important. In his article How to Give Kids Consequences That Work, James Lehman talks about task oriented consequences. A task-oriented consequence is one that focuses more on helping your son learn something rather than just losing a privilege. For example, when you take away his cell phone, instead of just taking it away for a certain amount of time, it would be more effective to take it away until he behaves appropriately for a specified amount of time. Keep in mind, consequences in and of themselves do not change behavior. Consequences are how you hold your child accountable for the choices he makes. You can help your child change his behavior by helping him develop better problem-solving skills. As Sara Bean points out in her article The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: "I Can't Solve Problems" much of the inappropriate behavior your child is exhibiting is a reflection of his poor problem solving skills. It’s great you recognize physical punishments are not an effective way of addressing his behavior. When you combine problem-solving conversations with task-oriented consequences you will be addressing his behavior with a much more effective approach. I hope this has been helpful. We wish you the best as you continue to work through this challenge. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

My son is 18 years old and going to graduate this year. Is a group home a good option for him? I have to focus on my other two kids.

Comment By : shuckabees

* To “Shuckabees” : Thank you for taking the time to ask your question. It can be difficult to determine whether or not a group home is the best option for any child. We would suggest contacting local resources to find out what services may be available in your area to help you in this situation. You can contact the 211 National Helpline at 1-800-273-6222 or by logging onto www.211.org and they can help connect you to local services and resources. It’s going to be most effective to work with someone in your area to decide what options will work best for your family. We wish you and your family the best as you continue to work through this situation. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

I want to state first that I have a background as an educator which includes courses in child psychology. My son is not ADHD, but has been a problem since my divorce. He's ten years old now. You would think with my background that I could manage his behavior, but I've been sorely tested. Hes' been in trouble at school. He's been to the principal's office for cheating on his work, talking back to his teacher, and even stealing some lunch tickets in the cafeteria. I've dealt with a couple of suspensions. At home, he's been in trouble too. He's stolen money from me. A month ago, he got in trouble with the law when he destroyed some property. I've done everything most people would suggest. He's had a comprehensive medical evaluation. We've done family counseling for over a year. The youth minister in our church works with him. I've worked on structure and consequences here at home. We have a list of family rules and I've tried grounding, loss of privileges, and giving him chores as punishments. Out of desperation, I've spanked him although I'm sure you probably disagree with that. I hate doing it, but at some point, a parent runs out of options other than military school. Maybe it shocked him, but the spanking is what seems to have worked the best when I reserve it for really bad situations. I've only done it about 3 times in the last year, but at least it gets his attention. I feel like a rotten mother for doing it. My spankings are with my hand (never an object) and always on a clothed butt. I will admit that I have spanked him in his underwear though. My hand would get damaged slapping the seat of his blue jeans. Am I doing the wrong thing? Its the only thing right now that seems to be helping much?

Comment By : lorij

* To “lorij”: Thank you for writing in and sharing your story. It sounds like you have been dealing with a lot of challenging behaviors for some time now. Parenting a defiant child can be an incredibly difficult job, regardless of your professional background. When you have a child who seems to defy you and other authority figures at every turn, it can be absolutely exhausting and many parents in your case would feel like they were at the end of their rope. Being frustrated and not sure of another way to handle what your son is doing doesn’t make you a bad mother. It’s great you are reaching out for support and have been working with a counselor to address some of these issues. From our perspective, spanking isn’t an effective consequence in the long run because it doesn’t teach a child how to make better choices or a different way of behaving. When we coach parents on the Parental Support Line, we suggest using task-oriented consequences coupled with problem-solving conversations to address inappropriate behaviors. As James Lehman suggests in his article Kids Who Ignore Consequences: 10 Ways to Make Them Stick parents shouldn’t put so much weight on making a child “hurt” that they don’t think about trying to get their child to learn a new behavior. Sara Bean addresses how to have a problem-solving conversation in her article The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: "I Can't Solve Problems". Another thing to keep in mind is there also are natural consequences for many of the choices your son has made. Allowing those consequences to happen is also an important part of holding your son accountable for the choices he is making. We hope this information has been beneficial for you. Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through these challenges. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

Hi, my wson is 11, he is not physically aggressive but seems to be mentally frustrated. He has ADD but I'm to afraid to give him the Ritalin. He hates school, disrupts all his classes, does not learn and lies about school and homework. I work full time and are too tired most evenings to have another fight about school work. Nothing bothers him, I cried, pleaded, warned etc etc him but nothing seems to bother or upset him at all. "making him sit in the corner" does not work, he keeps himself busy with anything and nothing for hours. He does not do chores, his room is a mess and I dont even clean it any longer but he does not bother to clean it either. He dominates his friends, lies, make up excuses and drives me up the walls with frustration. I feel like a real failure, a pathetic other that cant manage her own 11 year old son.... I dont know anymore :(

Comment By : Yolandi31

My son is 13 and in the 8th grade. He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 6 years old. He has been on medication and social group therapy off and on for along time. He is struggling in school and he does not have many friends. He has very low self esteem and thinks he is a loser and that everyone hates him. He is do disrespectful and cuts tantrums all the time. It drains me and makes me so sad to see him go through these issues. It is like the only things he likes to do is play video games and watch tv. He does not care about how he looks, showering, brushing his teeth etc. He is also so disorganized and forgetful. I don't know what else to do. It is so hard and stressful being a parent of a child with ADHD/ODD.

Comment By : Loric1

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