Parenting ODD Children and Teens: How to Make Consequences Work

by Kim Abraham LMSW and Marney Studaker-Cordner LMSW
Parenting ODD Children and Teens: How to Make Consequences Work

Does it ever seem as if you’ve tried every parenting approach out there, only to find that nothing works with your child? Kids who exhibit behaviors of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) can leave you feeling confused, frustrated, angry and disappointed. It often seems like nothing matters to them, which can make it hard for you to know how to respond to their behavior and what consequences to give. Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner are child and family therapists who have worked with parents of kids with Oppositional Defiant Disorder for 20 years—and Kim is also the parent of an adult child with ODD. They’re also the creators of The ODD Lifeline, a new program that offers real help and hope to parents of children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

"To test the effectiveness of the Fail-Proof Consequence, ask yourself, 'Will I be able to follow through with this in the face of my child's potential out-right defiance and refusal to comply?'”

Parenting an ODD Child—Not Your “Typical” Kid
Kids who are oppositional and defiant are not your “typical” kids. They behave in ways that scream “I don’t care what you want me to do” and truly have little (or no) regard for what their parents or society expect of them. Typical kids know there’s a line you just don’t cross and—except for testing limits sometimes—they generally follow your rules and respond to consequences. ODD kids break the rules on a daily basis. It can wear a parent down to the point of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

Related: How to parent an ODD child or teen effectively.

ODD kids also thrive on the chaos that comes from the battles you have over control. Sometimes they’ll even create those situations out of the blue. Maybe they’re bored, irritable or having a bad day. Pushing a parent’s emotional buttons can be entertaining and gives the child a sense of power and control. When you—as a parent—experience this on a regular basis, you start to question yourself: “Am I doing something wrong? Is this my fault?” It leaves you feeling vulnerable, guilty, embarrassed and ashamed. It feels like you’re being judged by others—and, in fact, parents of ODD kids are often judged harshly by society. It feels very lonely.

“Consequences Just Don’t Work with My ODD Child!”
Why does it seem like consequences aren’t working with your oppositional, defiant child? Probably because you’re using consequences you would give a typical child. We usually expect a child will respond to consequences—loss of privileges or losing a parent’s trust—in a way that makes him uncomfortable, which will lead the child to changing his behavior. The problem is, ODD kids will stand there while parents are addressing an issue or concern, and the look on the child’s face says it all: “I don’t care.” Sometimes they’ll come right out and tell you they don’t care! Reactions like that can leave you feeling frustrated, furious and desperate to influence your child in some way. When emotions come into play, any logical approach to consequences goes right out the window. It becomes a control battle—and ODD kids are masters at the game of winning a tug of war.

Related: Does your child argue, threaten and act out to get what he wants?

Also, a typical child will allow you—as a parent—to have some type of control over their behavior. If you ground them, they’ll stay home. ODD kids will climb out the bedroom window five minutes after you’ve grounded them. Typical kids will change their behavior because they are uncomfortable with a consequence and don’t want to experience it again. An ODD child may indeed feel uncomfortable but is committed to digging in his heels as part of the power struggle. He will look for ways to get around the consequence—and ODD kids are often very bright and creative when it comes to this. One mom we know told us, “You know, my daughter would make an excellent lawyer someday—she can argue about anything!”

A Different Approach: “Fail-Proof Consequences”
In our work with ODD kids and their parents, we use something called “Fail-Proof Consequences.” These are consequences that are effective with oppositional defiant kids because full control over the consequence rests with you, the parent. Much of our work involves showing parents exactly how to use this type of consequence.

If your child has any control over the potential consequence at all, it’s not fail-proof. For example, if you tell your child he can’t use the internet, do you have complete control over that? Not really. Your child can always surf the web while you’re asleep or at work or even in the same room. ODD kids are brave and bold and think nothing of flaunting your consequence in your face, something a typical kid isn’t likely to do. Now, if you suspend the internet service for a few days or weeks, do you have complete control over that? Yes. You pay the bill and your child can’t get it turned back on without your permission. It may mean you can’t use the internet at home, but you still have ultimate control over that consequence. You may decide to get Wi-Fi access through your phone so your own life isn’t disrupted. Understand that if it’s not a consequence you can live through, it’s not fail-proof. Your child may try to get around the consequence by going online at a friend’s house or somewhere else, but your consequence—that he isn’t allowed to use the internet at home—stands firm.

Related: Learn about Consequences that work for ODD kids

Another example of a typical consequence parents often use is grounding a teen from the phone. Is it fail-proof? Again, not really. Your child can always sneak and use it when you’re not looking. On the other hand, if your child has a cell phone and you suspend service, is that fail-proof? Yes. You pay the bill and have complete control over the service. Your child may still have the phone, but he’s not able to talk or text on it. Could he get a track phone from somewhere else? Yes. But you have complete control over whether or not you’re paying for his phone. The consequence of shutting off the phone is fail-proof.

To test the effectiveness of the Fail-Proof Consequence, ask yourself, “Will I be able to follow through with this in the face of my child’s potential out-right defiance and refusal to comply?” If the answer is “yes,” then you have complete control over the consequence.

A Different Way of Thinking about Consequences
As adults, we tend to think of consequences as something that will change someone’s behavior—in this case our child. We believe consequences should go hand-in-hand with changing your child’s behavior. But that’s not always the case, with kids or with adults. Just because someone experiences a consequence doesn’t necessarily mean they will change their behavior. Otherwise, everyone would drive the speed limit once they received one ticket. Also, your ODD child may act like he doesn’t care but that’s not always the case. He’s not likely to thank you for giving him a consequence and he may not change his behavior. But by consistently giving and sticking to fail-proof consequences, you’ve done what you can as a parent. You’re teaching your child that when he or she does A, then B will follow. Our job is to prepare our kids for the real world. In the real world, there are consequences.

Is It ODD or Conduct Disorder?
You may be reading this and thinking, “Yeah, but even fail-proof consequences won’t work with my kid. My child is aggressive and destroys my property. He steals from me and uses drugs.” In those cases, you probably have a teen who has moved beyond ODD and into Conduct Disorder. In these cases, kids violate the rights of others and your fail-proof consequences will likely need to involve the police or the legal system. Parents often become frustrated dealing with those systems but there are some tips and techniques for ways to get the police or court to listen to you. We’ll talk more about Conduct Disorder in future articles in Empowering Parents, so please keep checking your inbox and this website for more information.

Related: How to deal with a teen who's moved from ODD into Conduct Disorder

The Strengths of an ODD Child
Each of us has a journey in this life—to decide who we are and what we want to be. Oppositional Defiant kids have existed since the beginning of time–they’re our rebels. They bring about changes in society because they simply will not accept the status quo. We need our rebels. They make us think—about who we are, ourselves—and they offer us many, many opportunities for our own personal growth. They possess strengths like determination, a strong will and the courage to be different. Many of our entertainers, inventors and successful citizens were oppositional growing up. Steve Jobs, creator of what would eventually become Apple and James Lehman, creator of The Total Transformation, were both ODD and went on to impact the lives of others. If everyone was the same—what a boring world this would be.

When you’re the parent of an ODD child, it’s not easy. ODD kids challenge you and they don’t respond to the same kinds of parenting techniques that work with other kids. We’re here to offer you some new techniques that work, so you can hold your child accountable for his behavior and prepare him for the real world. We’ll be talking about techniques that really do work when raising an ODD kid in many future articles in Empowering Parents, so please keep reading—and don’t give up hope. We know what you’re going through and we can help you survive!


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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

Well written. We have learned the hard way that the only consequences we can give are those we can control fully. Like shutting off his phone by the service provider...unplugging the TV and Wii and locking away the cords ( yup..nobody else can use it while he is up, but oh well)...putting locks on our bedroom door to be able to sequester radio, phone, PSP, whenever we need to put him on a "TEASPOT" ( Take Everything Away for a Short Period of Time.). Taking a parenting class for self-destructive teens, and this is the same sort of thing they talk about. Like you said, there are plus sides. Nobody will ever get our kids to do something against their wills! Rebels, if channeled, can lead to solutions to problems..they don't accept "status quo" well.

Comment By : Have recommended Total Transformation to everyone

Thank you so much for all your words of wisdom. So true. I have also found that when my son has a goal or something he wants to earn, that serves as a positive reinforcment. This is so helpful because I hate for it to be about punishment and threats all the time.

Comment By : kris

My Child is 7 years old. While I think these suggestions will be effective for teens, what options do we have for a child.

Comment By : Dan

Wow, sometimes I feel like I am the only one that deals with this. Thank you so much for this information. It helps so much.

Comment By : Pam

Well written. As with most of the solutions, behavioral psychology is at the root of treatment. In my mind, the only hope for these tough issues in kids. It might help if you tell folks what percentage of untreated ODD kids go on to become CD kids/adults as an incentive to early intervention.

Comment By : Dave

OMG ... truly enlightening !!! I've been calling my son "the opposite man" for years ... even as a toddler, if I said white, he'd say black ... argues about EVERYTHING whether he needs to or not ... I truly need guidance ...

Comment By : Diane

Yep, that's my 16 year old daughter, although she's crossed over into conduct disorder, so am looking forward to your next segment. Courts don't help, with budget cutbacks, we'd have to pay for an attorney to represent her. Nor would putting her in foster care, because we'd have to pay the fees for that, besides the fact that she would defy foster parents anyway. Can't force psychiatric help in WA when kid is over 13. At this point, we're just waiting until we can legally kick her out at 18.

Comment By : Colleen

But what do you do with a child that doesn't even care when you take those things away? I have an eleven year old daughter who is this way. We have taken things away and that doesn't even do any good.Take the TV, internet, friends over, etc. away and she does not care. How do you deal with a situation like this?

Comment By : Kerry

The online support has been fantastic l dont feel alone anymore dealing day to day with my twelve year old son who has ODD.Thank you to all that have also written in with there own experiences

Comment By : kathy

This article is talking about my son, and I am already doing this steps with him. It has been hard because this kids are very unique, but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you for this great article.

Comment By : Gabriel

WOW!! We have been battling a 3 year fight with our 11 year old son, and losing miserably. We've tried everything...including every medication that NEVER works. BUT no one has ever told us about ODD, and I have to say, this completely describes my son!! Every day starts with the battle in going to school, a battle that this year we are losing to the tune of truancy officers and the threat of fines. No one sees the same kid we deal with...they see the "other kid" and it often makes me feel like I'm going crazy!! THANK YOU for giving me something to take to his doctors...something that REALLY describes his behavior and what we're dealing with!! THANK YOU for letting me know that I'm not alone...

Comment By : Lisa F.

I have a 15 year old that is disrespecitful, can't stand me,her dad,sister or brother and can't wait till she is 18 and can be on her own. She says when she leaves we will never see her again. There are times I think good and others when I want to knock some sense into her. We are lost at what to do. We have locked down the phone, take away things and she will causes a big scene infront of others. I am encouraged to know we are not alone.

Comment By : rebecca

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this wonderful article & your guidance. I was feeling lost with the behavior of my 13 year old son. Now I am trained enough by you to handle him. I think as parents we have to be brave to handle their disrespectful behavior & never ever compare them to other kids. This triggers off their bad behavior.

Comment By : Suparna, India

WHY ARE ALL THESE KIDS SO ALIKE. THEY ARE THE MOST DISREPECFUL KID'S I HAVE EVER SEEN, BUT MY GRANDSON DOES NOT ACT THIS WAY WITH EVERY ONE ,LIKE MY SON FOR INSTANCE , HE KNOWS NOT TO PULL THAT MESS WITH HIM THAT HE PULLS ON ME. BUT SOMETIMES HE IS REMOSEFUL, ABOUT THE THINGS HE SAY'S AND DO , BUT WILL SAY IN A MINUTE I DON'T GIVE A BLANK. AND WHEN I TURN HIS PHONE OFF , HE WILL CALM DOWN SOME, AND AS SOON AS I TURN IT BACK ON HE ACT'S UP AGAIN. HE IS SO SAD SOME TIMES LIKE HE REALLY WANT TO DO BETTER BUT CAN'T WHEN HE IS AROUND MY SON AND HE TELL'S HIM TO BE QUEIT HE WILL, AND DON'T CURSE HIM OUT EITHER. HE WON'T TAKE HIS MEDS WHICH DOES HELP SOME HE DOES NOT LIKE THE WAY IT MAKE HIM FEEL. THEY DIAGNOSE HIM WITH BI-POLAR AND DEPPRESSION. I REALLY FEEL HEPLESS AT TIMES, I PUT HIM IN A BEHAVIORAL TREATMENT CENTER ONCE , YOU HAVE TO BE CAREFUL THERE TO BECAUSE THEY CAN REALLY GET TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF , AND IF THE STAFF ARE SHADY PEOPLE THEN U DON'T KNOW WHO TO TRUST AROUND THEM.YOU HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT GAMES EVERYWHERE YOU GO NOW DAYS , AND THEY HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO COPE IN THAT INVORMENT. AND YOU WORRY IF THEY ARE GOING TO BE OK . YOU JUST DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO . AND I CATCH MYSELF SAYING I WILL BE GLAD WHEN HE FINIHES SCHOOL, BUT THAT WILL NOE SOLE THE PROBLEM EITHER BECAUSE YOU WILL STILL WORRY ABOUT THEM AND THE DECISSIONS THEY ARE GOING TO MAKE. YOU JUST CAN'T WIN IN A SITUATION LIKE THIS. SO I GUESS PRAYER IS THE ONLY TRUE ANSWER.

Comment By : granny

Thank you so very much for validating all the feelings that we've had for so long. The judgements have been so harsh! Most people are happy to give you advice and then judge you as a "bad" parent when you tell them, been there, done that. I do have one of those kid's that people meet and say "I can't believe you are talking about this kid",when I tell them what we are dealing with at home. He is very well liked, but unbelieveably difficult at home. So thank you for helping us realize we are not alone and this issue is real!

Comment By : fish

Your articles on ODD have been so helpful and insightful. I have a 21 year old son that I am convinced has ODD. This behavior did rear its ugly head until he was about 15. I have learned more from trial and error, how not to let him push my buttons. Since I have found your website, I am able to handle situations so much better than before. I have never discussed ODD with him and I am wondering if I should bring this up with him or not. Please help. Thank you. And yes, it is so good to know I am not out here alone.

Comment By : Hopeful Mom

My almost 18 year old daughter goes to school but does not attend classes.She is failing all of her courses and does not seem to care.I have met with guidance and her teachers and nothing works.I have grounded her and stopped her phone service,bad behavior continues!She lies and now is smoking pot.I do random room checks and have told her if her behavior does not improve she will not be afforded the luxury of living at home.Nothing works and I am frustrated,she wants to go back for a 5th year but I am not sure why?

Comment By : mamaG

I am totally convinced that these kids are genetically wired the way they are so quit beating yourselves up...it's not your fault or your parenting. It's extremely difficult in parenting a child who says "I don't want to do that and I don't care." The internet and cell phone are important to them and earning those priveleges are effective. Please submit other ideas. We have also found that getting our 16 year old involved in sports (strict athletic codes) and good peer group (fellow teammates) help keep him on the right path and encourages him to make good decisions. If he screws up (disrespectful to teachers, smoking, drugs, etc) three times, he's off the team. If he doesn't do his schoolwork and maintain good grades he's off the team. Having an older mentor also helps who encourages him to think before he acts.

Comment By : Randy

Great article. But after 17 years of dealing with my son, I'm exhausted. Even thinking about trying to figure out fail-proof consequences is overwhelming. I appreciated the encouragement to not give up hope, but I still feel mostly hopeless because of lack of support from my spouse. I'll keep reading the articles, though, and maybe in the meantime, I'll get a miraculous burst of energy to deal with this effectively.

Comment By : Weary Mom

I read this article and for the first time I actually read something that totally describe what I have been facing with my son for over two years now. The only thing is, I lived without internet, phone, computer in the home, took away the cell phone, and many more drastic measures and nothing work. Everyday was chaotic in my home. Nothing seem to make him want to do right!! Not even involoving the police. Here in Illinois, laws do not protect the parent. As of now, my son has left the home because he feels he rather be on the street before obeying my rules. I'm at wits end and I haven't seen him since Oct!!! I don't know what to do because nothing works!

Comment By : Anj Marjae

Your stories are and were my life. My daughter is now 18 and I'm still alive. We both made it; I got to the point where just still being alive is something that I now congratulate myself and her for, and I thank God for our lives every day (even sometimes when I'm scared out of my mind, either for her or myself). I appreciated this article mostly for the recognition that we can parent well, even if our children choose not to learn it, and at this stage with my daughter I am thankful to see that some of it filtered into her through the years and at times I'm getting to experience now that she does have some knowledge and is making some choices out of what I have consistently taught her through the years; even though, not seeing the results seemingly at all then.

Comment By : Kari

I have what I hope will be some helpful suggestions and encouragement! I am forty something, have a 3 y/o and 7y/o and read this article as I realize my oldest has some of these characteristics. And, as some of you may know, the siblings will learn from, emaluate and be affected by personalities! I have a college degree, ten years corporate experience (I am a SAHM now but work part-time) and even at my older age, I have been very challenged by the opposition I have encountered in parenting! Sometimes I feel like the "weary" mom too! Hope you don't mind some observations, not meant to be accusing or make anyone defensive, only to help. In looking at the big picture, generationally speaking (here again, I do not have a psychology degree!) times have changed were parents have different and more stresses on them, make less time for one on one attention, contact and attention with their children! I notice when I take extra time to look my oldest in the eye, stop what I am doing, intentionally spend time with him and take the time to ask questions and show that I care- his behavior improves! Kids don't say they don't care for no reason! They may need more attention, time and someone to really listen and care! This has been REALLY HARD for me as I have A lot to do with work, school, extracurricular activities, home, cars, etc, etc BUT this extra attention does seem to help the behavior. Before I realized this- I just thought, well I am always home and accessible!- I was VERY frustrated. I know it is hard with all the pressures but MY goal is to raise these kids I brought into this world to be the best they can be!Oh! ALSO, if you don't already, it makes just as much of an impact by telling them as often as you can that you LOVE them. Imagine being a child and a parent does not spend much time with you and rarely tells you they love you...I would say "I don't care" too! Best of luck! Commit to do the best you can for your children and it will impact up to three generations!

Comment By : suggestions and encouragment with kindness

It is also important to know that kids ARE wired differently from birth. It is called TEMPERAMENT and it is not a disorder. They are "choleric." The earlier you understand their temperament, the earlier you can parent them better. They are motivated by power and the key is to give consequences that limit their power and reward good choices with power that continues to support their good choices. I have two of these, also. While frustrating, I have learned that when I explain their strengths and that in order to be good leaders with loyal followers, they have to learn how to motivate people different from them thru compassion, helping, and positive interaction. They are future leaders or tyrants - depending on the choices they make. While not perfect, I am so proud of my very stron-willed children as young adults.

Comment By : Emily

l am a grandmother raising a child at 76yrs this is tough and she is a very defiant 13yr old we need an affordable camp (that we know is safe) sometimes a little rest from this type of a child is a blessing & i have found your webb site most helpful

Comment By : virginia

All of your comments ring true for me. My son is 17 and diagnosed with ADHD at 6yrs old. He remains on medication but the medication alone is not what has helped him. We are proactive in monitoring his diet and sleep habits. We talk openly about issues he has w/ school or home and have a plan of attack. We definitely have consequeses in place that are not a surprise to him when inforced. Almost daily I address his disrespectful attitude but he would never curse at us or sneak out of the house. I feel like he knows how far he could push us and that it what is so important. Dont be bullied by your own kids. You make the rules and they abide. Love them inspite of how difficult they are and never stop praying for them. I know first hand that God can change things that we cant.

Comment By : Kelly W

I am in tears. I often think, "what did I do to get us here?" But the truth is there was never a start to this, it has always just been. I have other children, I am the same mom, they would NEVER act like our ODD son. My heart aches because I want him to be someone one day. Thank you for this site- it means so much.

Comment By : ODD\\\'S MOM

Great article. Thanks for sharing. I have two boys, 15 and 10 years old. The teen has ADD and is presenting all the ODD characteristics described in the article. It is exhausting parenting him... I have to start using consequences that I have control of and will stand.

Comment By : Mom in MD

* Dear Dave, Interesting thought. We aren't aware of any studies done or if it's possible to find out what percentage of untreated ODD kids go on to become Conduct-Disordered. All Conduct-Disordered kids began with ODD and some ODD kids who receive treatment still go on to become Conduct-Disordered. It would be hard to determine but you raise a good point: early intervention is certainly important whenever parents begin to see ODD behaviors in their child. Thank you for your comment.

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

* Dear Dan, With younger children, it still helps to keep in mind that you’re trying to teach real-world understanding and skills. At age seven, children are still learning to develop coping and problem-solving skills (this is actually a life-long process, by seven-year-olds are still fairly new to it and they tend to react strongly to stressors or disappointments). By using fail-proof consequences (which would involve more age-appropriate things than cell phones or internet, such as losing the privilege of a favorite t.v. show or getting to go someplace special/a special event), during which time your child may need to control their behavior so he or she may earn that privilege back. Your child will learn at an early age that when you give a consequence, it will happen, no matter how she responds. And you’re teaching your child that when he or she behaves in a certain way, consequences will follow. The key with younger children is to make the fail-proof consequence something that is special and for a limited amount of time.

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

* Kerry, You’re right – it can be very frustrating when a child doesn’t seem to care when you give consequences. Remember: when you provide consequences for your daughter, you are doing your job as a parent. You are teaching her that when her behavior is inappropriate, she loses privileges. That’s Real Life, and our job is to prepare our kids for the Real World. In the Real World, adults don’t always care if they have consequences. Some people are terrified of being disciplined or “written up” at work; others don’t seem to mind. Also, your daughter may act as if she doesn’t care, but that’s not necessarily the case. Some kids don’t want us to know they are bothered by consequences. They won’t allow us that satisfaction. If your daughter truly doesn’t mind when these things are removed, she may just be very good at adapting to situations: “Eh, so what? I’ll live.” That can actually be a strength that gets people through tough times but it’s frustrating when you’re looking to change her behavior. But remember, your job is not to change your child’s behavior – it’s to teach her what to expect from her behavior. *Her* job is to change her behavior. You are doing your job. Hang in there and know that you are preparing your daughter for the world she will interact with as an adult someday.

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

Helpful article. My son is nearly 17, and I have been dealing with his ODD for about a decade. It is such a relief to see some real help coming from the mental health field. In the beginning, most everyone though I was just too lenient or was not parenting him correctly. He was just "rebellious." I knew after raising two other children that his actions were out of the normal range. Finally, I pulled him out of school when he was about 12 and have pretty much homeschooled him ever since. The struggle with the school, him and me was ruining his and my relationship. It was the best thing I could have done for us both. I am a single mom, and it is extremely challenging to have to deal with him mostly on my own. But, I have more control over the consequences I enforce with him too. As I told the school when I pulled him out, if you can not motivate him, I can. And I have. I still worry, of course. But things have gotten a bit better. His social life is very, very important to him with him being home schooled, so if I pull away his internet and social outlets, it gets his attention pretty quickly (even though he will say he does not care). This past year, I went to see a juvenile detention officer after a particularly nasty interaction with my son. He knows I am serious, and will have him put on probation is he verbally abuses me or breaks my things. Know your rights, and like James Lehman used to say, don't be afraid to get the authorities involved.

Comment By : Alice

My son is turning 13 this month and has been getting increasingly aggressive when faced with consequences he doesn't like. He actually tried to beat me up last night. I've never been so scared to think that my little boy is capable of this level of violence. I never thought he'd turn it on me. What do you do when the kid gets to this point? He didn't do well in team sports, hates anything physical, gets mostly F's in school, refuses to do homework, refuses to do chores most of the time. He won't talk to any of the councelors he's been to...now what? We need help.

Comment By : Tina

I am like so many other parents struggling with our genius ODD children who leave no opportunity to give us heart aches.I am dealing with my extremely talented(one time the best student )daughter who has come to the stage that nothing works for her.Sometimes i doubt she is bipolar,sometimes she seems manipulative,threatening me in hidden words for her life.I need strength and insight and this article has instilled some courage in me.I will keep reading and waiting for more

Comment By : neely

How do you implement consequences that work in stepfamily situations? It doesn't matter if we take away my husband's daughter's cell phone or the internet. Her mom and other relatives will give her anything we take away from her. She enjoys making trouble at our house just to cause more trouble and turn her dad into the bad guy. She complains that she "suffers" at our house and knows any consequences is over as soon as she goes to her mom's house?

Comment By : Stepmom

* To 'Stepmom': It’s hard to parent in a step family for exactly the reasons you describe. James Lehman talks about creating a culture of accountability between you and your child. This is basically an understanding of “This is how you treat me; this is how I treat you. These are the rules that you are responsible for following in this house, and this is how I will hold you accountable to them.” You cannot control what happens when your stepdaughter leaves your home, and you cannot control what her mother chooses to do in response to her behaviors. What you can control is her use of privileges while at your house, and how she is able to earn those privileges back with showing desired behavior. I am including links to some articles you might find helpful: How to Control Your Kids Outside of the House (Hint: You Can't) & How to Create a Culture of Accountability in Your Home. Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

Thanks for highlighting these problems, my son of 16 has always been difficult. The school he went to said they had never had a pupil like him !! He left school with low grades and couldn't cope with a college course, so he left. He's home all day and I can't cope with his moodiness and swearing so I SENT HIM TO HIS DAD'S. Now I can't stop crying because I miss him so much, I feel so confused what do I DO ?

Comment By : julesgee

* To 'julesgee': It can be really tough when you feel like you are at the end of your rope and cannot deal with your child’s behavior anymore. It’s OK, and normal, to miss your son since he is not around anymore, even though when he was around, he was difficult. We recommend looking at ways you can take care of yourself right now, and doing something that you enjoy, such as going for a walk, calling a friend or taking a class through your local adult education program. It might also be helpful to find some support in your local area. If you are not currently working with anyone to get support in your local community, a good place to start is www.211.org. 211 is an informational service that can help to connect you with resources in your area. You can also reach them by calling 1 (800) 273-6222. Good luck to you as you continue to work through this. We know this isn’t easy.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

My child is 13 years old. The ODD fits her also she is ADHD. Along with this she flat out lies about everything. I can see her do somethiung and she knows I have seen her do it I ask her why she did that she says I did not do it. Or she will say something and I ask why did you say ... she will say I did not say that. Her dad and I always tell her we love her. She told me one time that she does not like those words. But the next day she may say it first. One of the may hurtful things she says is she don't like her dad. He loves her very much and tells her often, even if she has been hateful he will say I love you anyway.

Comment By : fosterslady

I am pretty new to all this. My son has been defiant pretty much as long as I could remember. I have always just said it was because he was smart and questions things. However, this year it has taken a turn for the worst. he still has great grades but has recently been in trouble a lot lately at school. everything is his teacher's fault he thinks...she hates him and he did nothing wrong. Then I talk to her and he wasn't even in trouble for what he said he was in trouble for but something else. I have it pretty controlled on the homefront but how do you deal with it when it is at school. I can't very well accuse him of lying. It is frustrating and a bad day at school means a terrible evening for me,

Comment By : frustration station

* To “frustration station”: What a frustrating situation this is. I can hear how much you want to help your son behave better at school. It can be difficult, though, if you’re not sure exactly what the negative behaviors are. Talking with him is definitely a great first step. This is an effective way to help him develop better problem solving skills. I would start the conversation with what the teacher had told you happened, something like “I talked with your teacher today and she told me you talked back to her in class. I’d like to talk to you about that.” It’s not unusual for a child to attempt to deflect the blame onto someone else when you are talking with him. When he does this, bring the conversation back to his behavior by saying something like “we’re not talking about your teacher, we’re talking about you and how you behaved in class today.” Since this is a school behavior, I would suggest focusing on problem solving as opposed to consequences, especially if there are natural consequences for him at school. A great article that addresses how to problem solve with your child is The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: "I Can't Solve Problems" . I hope this has been helpful. Good luck to you and your family as you work through this issue.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

My son is 18 and going to be a senior in high school. He has gotten so violent we had to call cops on him. We have two other children and feel that we are neglecting them. We plan to put him in a group home when he graduates so we can focus more on the other two children. Could you tell me if that's a good choice? I try to be calm with him but it is so hard. He makes a's and b's and doesn't do drugs. He just wants to stay home all the time. I am just so tired.

Comment By : frustrated

* To frustrated: It is exhausting, frustrating and scary to have a child who becomes violent with you, especially when that child is an older teen or young adult. I’m glad to see that you recognize the importance of remaining calm with your son, which is certainly easier said than done when behaviors are escalating. It is also encouraging that you are holding your son accountable for his behavior. You may want to contact some resources in your area around what your options are for removing your child from your home as he is legally an adult. Ultimately, it is your decision about what to do when your son graduates and you know what is best for your family. Your concern about your other children shows in your question as well. You may find it helpful to work directly with someone in your area to work through these tough issues. If you are not already working with someone, the 211 helpline is a great place to start. You can also reach them by calling 1-800-273-6222. You may also find it helpful to look over The Lost Children: When Behavior Problems Traumatize Siblings, which talks about how to address your son’s violent behavior with his siblings. Good luck and we wish your family the best.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

I have an 8 year old daughter that is a favourite at school. gets good grades and constantly rewarded for good behaviour. yet at home she is oppositional, manipulative, jealous, lies and bullies her 5 year old brother and tries to get him into trouble. What do you do when you are running out of privileges to confiscate, they are upset and wants to earn them back, and tries to do nice things, but then will start trouble with her brother and be oppositional still, she will just have toned down her oppositional behaviour to try and sneak it under the radar like some stupid competition. sometimes i get sad and think maybe i am being too hard on her, maybe i have too many rules. but then her brother has no trouble with these things and i know she was difficult and stubborn right from birth so it cant be my fault? I want us to be able to be nice to each other and have happy times together. I am a single mother and it takes so much time and energy trying to figure out the best way to fix the problem. :(

Comment By : frustrated

* To “frustrated”: We appreciate you sharing your story with us. It can be frustrating when it seems as if consequences aren’t working because your child’s behavior doesn’t appear to be changing. It’s good she is able to turn her behavior around, even if it’s only for a little while. That shows she’s able to make better choices. When we talk to parents on the Parental Support Line who are in similar situations, we suggest using task oriented consequences paired with problem solving conversations. For example, when your daughter has been bullying her brother, you would sit down with her during a time that is calm and talk with her about what she was doing and what she could do differently next time. As Sara Bean points out in her article The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: "I Can't Solve Problems" most children act out because they don’t have effective problem solving or coping skills. By helping her develop better ways of solving her problems, you’re giving her the tools necessary to handle different situations effectively. A task oriented consequence looks a little different than just taking away a privilege. With a task oriented consequence, your daughter would have to exhibit the appropriate behavior for a certain amount of time to earn a privilege back. In a situation such as bullying, you could say to her something like “When you show me you can go for 2 hours without bullying your brother, then you can have your television privilege back.” If during those 2 hours she bullies her brother, then the time restarts. We don’t recommend taking away all of her privileges or using open ended consequences (consequences that don’t have a specific time frame) because they usually are not effective in the long term. Oftentimes, when children lose all of their privileges or don’t have a plan for how they can earn privileges back, they will give up and stop trying, thinking “Why bother? I’m not going to be able to get it back anyway.” Janet Lehman discusses these and other aspects of how to give effective consequences in her article How to Get Your Child to Listen: 9 Secrets to Giving Effective Consequences which you may find helpful. We wish you and your family luck as you continue to address this behavior. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

I am so tearful at this moment. Just had a conference with my 9 year old son's teachers, just like every year, he does not listen in classroom and just is not motivated. He tells me he does not care and he has good and bad days. I try to read and learn as much as i can since I am practically raising him on my own. To top that I come from a complete different society. I come from Suth America where we try to control our kids and practically hover over them all the time. I appreciate so much this articles, are being very helpful.

Comment By : caring mom

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Related keywords:

Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ODD, Behavior, Fail Proof Consequences

Responses to questions posted on EmpoweringParents.com are not intended to replace qualified medical or mental health assessments. We cannot diagnose disorders or offer recommendations on which treatment plan is best for your family. Please seek the support of local resources as needed. If you need immediate assistance, or if you and your family are in crisis, please contact a qualified mental health provider in your area, or contact your statewide crisis hotline.

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