Do you ever find yourself wondering, “When will this child stop defying me and start doing what I ask?”

“I won’t do it!”“You can’t make me!”“I’m not going!”

It can be incredibly frustrating, not to mention exhausting, dealing with a young child or toddler who finds it necessary to challenge your every request, act in a defiant manner, lose their temper, and be generally disruptive or annoying.

Parents oftentimes find themselves drained as they come up against this behavior, and wind up feeling hopeless about how to handle the situation. They might also start worrying about what the future holds for such a strong-willed child. The good news is there is help in dealing with defiance in young kids—and the solutions are easier than you may think.

If your child can’t calm himself, setting limits for him to work through his rage can help. The point is to not jump on the crazy train with him.

Why Is My Child So Difficult?

Many parents want to know why their toddler or young child is so difficult.

“Why can’t my child be more like my niece who’s so pleasant and calm?”

“Why does my son have to be the one who is always saying no and acting so angry?”

It’s normal to want an answer to why your child is the one who’s always acting out and hard to manage, and there may be concrete reasons for his behavior.

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No Control

It’s important to take into account that young children have very little control in their day-to-day lives. If you think about it, most kids float through their days with most decisions already made for them: when they wake, when and what they eat, what they will wear, when they will do chores or play, and finally, what time they go to bed each evening.

For many kids this isn’t a problem; they ride the wave of parental control without incident, some even enjoying having decisions made for them. Other kids, especially those who have strong personalities and definite opinions, find this level of “control” confining and annoying. What better way for a young child to express his displeasure than to habitually refuse to listen or to be argumentative?

Communication Skills and Temperament

Young kids and toddlers have a limited vocabulary and become frustrated when they can’t articulate what they want or how they’re feeling. They’re learning how to communicate with parents and teachers, so it makes sense that anger, defiance and irritability may be the only route they know to take when feeling overwhelmed and out of control. Another reason for a child’s defiance can simply stem from the strong personality they were born with. All of us can probably identify at least one strong-willed person (maybe even ourselves?) in our family tree.

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Is It ODD?

When looking at your young child, it’s important to understand that for some, this period of defiance is just a phase that they will pass through as they mature. Other kids may meet the criteria for Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), which is a persistent and frequent form of defiant behavior.

Examples of ODD include any time a child has a pattern of being angry and irritable, argumentative or defiant along with displays of vindictive behavior. These characteristics can show up in a child who easily loses their temper, is unusually touchy or annoyed, and is often angry and resentful of those around him.

In addition, the child with ODD will argue with authority figures, refuses to comply with rules or requests and will annoy others on purpose, all the while blaming others for his behavior.

When you read this description, you may be thinking, “My child does all of that!” In fact, you’d be correct in noting that all children at some point or another probably engage in these kinds of behaviors. The key here, though, is whether or not your child has a pattern of displaying such behavior on a regular basis towards those around her, as opposed to occasionally refusing to do chores, teasing her younger brother sometimes, or being angry at you in the moment for getting called out for bad behavior.

While a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder does act out on a more regular basis, as opposed to a child with simply a difficult temperament, parents should generally take the same approach to handling the behavior.

Below are 5 things not to do when dealing with a defiant or “difficult” child.

1. Don’t lose your cool

The most crucial first step you can take when dealing with a defiant young child is to not lose your cool. I know this is easier said than done, and can be incredibly challenging for any parent who’s going up against a screaming, uncooperative child! But the primary point to keep in mind when this happens is this: You are the adult and you are modeling how to act appropriately in a difficult situation for your young child. Defiant kids often lack resources for knowing what to do next and are looking to you for guidance. There can be a number of reasons why your child is acting out, some that you (or even your child) may never be able to fully understand, but the bottom line is that in that moment of rage, they don’t know what to do. This teachable moment can allow your child to truly learn how to respond when experiencing a full-blown emotional crisis. Some useful responses for your young child might be:

“We don’t yell. Please stop.”
“You can’t talk to me like that. Stop now or you will need to sit by yourself.” (If your child is old enough and it’s appropriate for them to sit alone.)

This can also be a good time to teach your child some calming techniques that can help them regain control. Showing a young child how to stop, count, and breathe involves explaining to your child when she is calm how to stop herself in her tracks by physically sitting down, closing her eyes and slowly breathing in and out, all the while counting to ten, however many times it takes for the crisis to pass. Practicing this regularly with your child can allow her to have a tool ready when the crisis hits. Note however, that for some kids this will not work, in which case you will need to move to the next step.

2. Don’t go down the well

There’s a reason why the saying “Misery loves company” makes sense. Many times when children are defiant, they want everyone around them to experience their pain as well. The important thing is to not let them pull you into their momentary misery. For some kids, upping the ante and getting everyone in the family involved in their personal drama is extremely satisfying for them and serves to reinforce future outbursts.

If your child can’t calm himself, setting limits for him to work through his rage can help. The point is to not jump on the crazy train with him. Secure a safe spot for him to go when outbursts occur and guide him there. If your child is old enough and you think it’s safe to do so, you can walk into another room and give him or her some time to calm down. Some things to say include:

“I understand you’re upset. Can you calm down so we can talk?”
“Since you won’t stop yelling I’m leaving the room until you calm down.” (If your child is old enough and it’s appropriate for you to leave the room.)
“When you’re ready we’ll talk, but not until you get ahold of yourself.”

3. Don’t take the focus off responsibility

Since defiant kids often have a hard time taking responsibility for their actions, it’s important to tell them your expectations (“We don’t hit our sister”) and provide consequences for them upfront. Try to consistently reinforce them, all the while pointing out that they are ultimately in charge of their behavior. In the moment when the behavior is happening, you can let him know there will be a consequence of some kind. Then, after things have calmed down, you can follow up and implement an appropriate one. (“Since you hit your sister, there will be no TV tonight.”)

By consistently not letting your child off the hook, he knows you mean business, that you care enough to hold him accountable, and that there are boundaries in your home that shouldn’t be crossed. Even though your child may rage and yell in the moment, ultimately this provides him with a sense of security. This may not necessarily stop his defiance at this point in his development, but it will prevent it from growing into a more severe problem as he gets older.

4. Don’t Flash Forward

Too often when a child has a difficult temperament or a full blown Oppositional Defiant Disorder, parents fast forward to the worst case scenario possible, imagining all sorts of gloomy forecasts for their child’s future. This is easy to do when your child rarely seems happy, is often irritable, and has unrelenting behavior. As hard as it is though, try to be mindful of the here and now and what your child needs from you in this moment. When you find yourself worrying that your child is going to end up unemployed and living under a bridge because he talks back so much and won’t take no for an answer, try to ground yourself and move on to the next step.

5. Don’t forget to pay attention to the good things about your child

Parenting a defiant child is likely one of the most difficult tasks any parent will face. It’s hard, it’s tiring, and it can be depressing at times, which is why it’s so important to remember to find things about them that are loveable, kind, and sweet, even if it may seem like a stretch on some days. Accepting one’s child doesn’t mean excusing bad behavior, but rather acknowledging that they experience the world differently than many of us. Too often parents become so entangled with the daily struggles of parenting a child who behaves like this that the goodness that exists within them (and it’s in there, even if you have to dig deep) gets lost. Actively search out examples on a daily or weekly basis that confirm not the worst in your child, but the best. These can be instances when your son was kind to his sister for one full day, or your daughter said “thank you” instead of giving you a rude answer. It can come in the form of them putting away their dishes on their own or not arguing with you or blaming others. Point out to your child that you noticed by saying, “I like how nicely you answered me. Thank you.” Or “Thank you for not losing your temper just now.” Remember, it’s the behavior that you may not like, not your child him or herself.

A final point to keep in mind is that children with these personality traits may not be the easiest to live with while they are at home, but it is exactly these types of kids who can grow up and change the world. Everyone agrees that a calm, sweet child is easy to raise, but those traits, while admirable, may not be the ones that stop injustice, forge new ways of thinking, or uncover the unfairness and inequity of the world we live in. Often it’s the very qualities in our children that make us crazy—the stubbornness, the defiance, the anger—that are not only useful, but are necessary for a person who wants to make society a better place. That idea of not giving up, so annoying now, can propel our children to greatness as adults. When we look throughout history at who has changed the world, it has rarely been the meek or the quiet, but rather those who charged through difficulties, wouldn’t take no for an answer, and sometimes had to get angry to bring about change. When you combine firm, loving, consistent boundaries together to form a parenting style in which to deal with your defiant young child, you are laying the groundwork towards helping them take responsibility for their temperament while also honoring who they are as a person. This gives you both the opportunity to be the best that you can be, now and in the future.

Related content: How to Discipline Young Kids Effectively: 4 Steps Every Parent Can Take

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About

Dr. Joan Simeo Munson earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Denver. She has worked with incarcerated individuals, families, adolescents, and college students in a variety of settings, including county and city jails, community mental health centers, university counseling centers, and hospitals. She also has a background in individual, group, and couples counseling. Dr. Munson lives in Colorado with her husband and three energetic children. She currently has a private practice in Boulder where she sees adults, couples and adolescents.

Comments (51)
  • Chris
    I love these suggestions. But I have a 3.5 year old and 1 year old twins. Many of the power struggles are because the babies require extra time and attention; she obviously doesn’t understand. I feel really torn and like I’m a helicopter parent.
  • Cindy
    My 3 1/2 is fighting and or defiant! I’m trying to talk to her, and using time out and or spanking. Nothing helps! She’s loving and kind one day and then the next has meltdowns. What can I do?
  • Colleen
    Our 14.5 year old son, adopted from China at the age of 9.5, has always had a temper, but it's escalated to the point now where we just don't know what to do with him. His language and speech are both still so far behind even after 5 yearsMore home. He gets so mad when he's told he can't do something or have something. He's ruined his bedroom by breaking things, writing on the walls, smearing ink on his closet doors, cracked his window, punched a mirror, etc. He's perfect at school. Everyone loves him and it appears he's finally trying harder in school and his teachers are pleased with his motivation, but he's a totally different kid at home, making us (me) fearful. We've had him see several different counselors, and I don't know if it's his lack of vocabulary or if it's just defiance, but it's gotten us nowhere. On Friday when he was given the choice of helping to stack wood and being allowed to go to the football game that evening, or not helping to stack wood and not being allowed to go to the football game, he chose to not help. But then he got so angry and took a pellet gun and shot out our back door and broke his bedroom door. He's refusing to eat meals with us and ignores us. He's constantly thinking of ways to upset or annoy us. If he would follow rules, he'd be allowed to do things, but he just would rather be miserable and make us miserable. Help, please!
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      I’m so sorry to hear about what you are experiencing with your son right now, and I’m glad that you’re here. It’s not unusual for kids to act one way in one environment, and act differently in another environment. While it can be frustrating and scary that yourMore son acts so defiantly at home when he is well-behaved at school, it’s also a good sign because it indicates that he has the skills to manage his behavior appropriately. Now, instead of teaching him those skills, you can focus on helping him to apply them when he is home as Sara Bean outlines in Angel Child or Devil Child? When Kids Save Their Bad Behavior for You. In the meantime, I encourage you to take steps to keep your son and other family members safe when he is upset. I also recommend holding him accountable for any items which he damages or breaks during his outbursts. You can read more about this in Is Your Defiant Child Damaging or Destroying Property? I recognize how challenging this must be for you right now, and I hope that you will write back and let us know how things are going. Take care.
  • Matt

    Just so simple and clear, just what I needed to read to help guide me with parenting my defiant young boy.

    With love

    Matt x

  • Matt

    Thank you, I found your report to be just what I needed to read after a tough week and finally realising that defiance is a core component of my current struggle with parenting my 4 year old.

    Best wishes

    Matt. X

  • Jennifer

    Wow! Loved this article and could relate on many levels. Definitely helped me decipher between what we can work with as parents and signs for something bigger. You have given me a great sense of hope and that we're on the right path with some great advice.

    Thank you!

  • Mary
    I am raising my grandson which is 6 and I have tried it all nothing works. Any other advice?
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      I hear you. It can feel so frustrating when you feel as though you have tried everything, yet nothing works. One thing to keep in mind is that change is a process which happens in small increments, so if you are not seeing any changes immediately with yourMore grandson, that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Being consistent and clear with your rules and expectations can go a long way here. In addition, sometimes it can be useful to check in with local supports, such as your grandson’s doctor, if you need more help. Because your grandson’s doctor has the ability to directly interact with and observe him, s/he will be in a better position to assess what might be going on, rule out any underlying factors, and provide additional resources for follow-up if needed. Please be sure to check back and let us know how things are going. Take care.
  • linds1234
    I have a 6yr old...and totally feel at my word end.Find it hard to stay claim sometimes...Any little thing will spark him off and his behaviour and sometimes how he speaks is all I can describe is like a light switch.When he's good he's a lovely well mannered not.But whenMore he s s switchs it's like a different child sometimes.A simple task such as chores or homework or even getting ready for school can turn into a task from hell ....I contastanly feel I am handling saying or reacting to how he acts wrong ....he makes me question my own parenting skills...we have 3 other children and none of them act or talk too me or my husband how he does...Can anybody please advise me what to try or do.I have already spoke to his teacher and have had some limited contact with a lady from school who deals with child behaviour ....
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      linds1234 It can be so difficult to stay calm when you have a child who seems to have outbursts over simple tasks, and it’s normal to question your parenting when this happens.  I’m glad to hear that you have already reached out to local supports to help you with yourMore son, as they have the benefit of directly interacting with and observing your son, and can help you to develop an individualized plan for addressing his behavior.  Something else you might find helpful can be to focus on your own responses when your son acts out, because this is an area where you have the most control.  You might find some of our articles on https://www.empoweringparents.com/article-categories/parenting-strategies-techniques/calm-parenting/helpful as you continue to move forward, such as  https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/calm-parenting-stop-letting-your-childs-behavior-make-you-crazy/.  Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family.  Take care.
  • LadiiHeart
    I have a four year old who I believe might have ODD. We're currently in play therapy and quite frankly it hasn't helped. For the past month my daughters behavior has worsen, in school, she's hitting, throwing, yelling, saying no, not listening to her teachers, just last week she wasMore excused from her preschool for these behaviors and week by week her behavior has worsen. Last Friday, I made sure she packed up all her toys and we spent the who weekend organizing the house, doing math, reading, and writing activities the entire weekend. I told her she is not to watch tv, play on my phone, pay with toys, or do any of her favorite activities until she shows her teachers and friends that smart, kind, helpful little girl she is. On Monday she started a new school, she didn't even last half the day before I was called to pick her up because she was back to her hitting, throwing, yelling, saying no, etc ways. When we got home I spoke with her and told her it's not nice to hit and throw and because she wasn't behaving in school she's to stand in time out. She does time out and I kept on my guns, no playing with toys, tv, etc we did homework dinner, story time, bath, and bed. She behaves fairly well at home, so it's not much of an issue. Next day, she does the same thing, goes to school, doesn't listen to teachers, no, yelling, and throws, and hits other students. So, I stay consistent, have a talk with her, time out, no play, etc. This entire week, Monday-Friday I've been called and she just keeps doing the same thing. Do you have any advice or suggestions as to what I can do about her behavior in school? I'm afraid she's going to be asked to leave this school as well. I'm scheduled to speak with her therapist this weekend and her doctor on Monday, but I'm just really stressed with her behavior, it's really not like she doesn't know what's right because she really is a sweet, smart, and kind kid. I feel she's really acting out for negative attention all the time and I'm at my wits ends with her.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      LadiiHeart I recognize how challenging it can be when your child is acting out aggressively, and I’m glad to hear that you are working with local supports, such as her therapist and her doctor, to help you address her behavior at school as well as reaching out here.  Something toMore keep in mind is that you cannot punish your daughter into better behavior, because taking away all her toys and activities isn’t going to teach her how to behave differently at school.  As Dr. Joan Munson points out in https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/hitting-biting-and-kicking-how-to-stop-aggressive-behavior-in-young-children/, it could be useful to teach your daughter more appropriate ways to handle these situations at school, and to practice those during calm times at home.  Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going with your daughter; take care.
  • Clarat

    I have a 6 year old son with ODD who has a great dificult playing rule games. He doesnt like loosing and ends up yealing and loosing control.

    1) I would lije to know if it exists a book or story to read with him about accepting rules al coping with them.

    He also takes every situation personaly, as if it was done to him on purpose. For example when there is not yogurt or any kind of thing he would like to have.

    2) What can I tell him in thise situations? I try to explain him this are things that happen to everyone, not just him, and to try to look for a solution, like having something else to drink. But it doesnt seem to work.

    He had a great trouble goong to school. Teachers told me he wants to do something else than coping with activities. What can I do about it? He says he is the worst student and cant learn. He has very little or none self esteem. That makes me feel pity for him.

    We live in Argentina and I love your articles. They helped me and my husband. Our child startes visiting a therapist.

    Looking foward for your ansewer.

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      Clarat Thank you for writing in, and I’m so glad to hear that you have found our articles helpful for your family.  Having difficulty appropriately managing strong emotions, such as anger, disappointment or boredom, is pretty common for children your son’s age.  This is because they tend to have aMore low tolerance for frustration, poor impulse control and few appropriate coping skills to fall back on when they get upset.  In addition to working with the therapist, it could also be useful to start having https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/the-surprising-reason-for-bad-child-behavior-i-cant-solve-problems/ with your son during a calm time about some other ways that he can handle difficult situations.  Then, if he gets angry and starts having an outburst, you can https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-handle-temper-tantrums-coaching-kids-to-calm-down/.  Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family.  Take care.
  • dkstephens53

    I have a 4 year old granddaughter who is very defiant.  She won't mind her mother to do the simple things such as spit when she is brushing her teeth.  She come home from school all excited and she just jump and jump up and down, run through the house, flips on the bed, and hug everyone. When she takes a bath, she act out how the teachers talks to kids in the classroom.  She gets so loud when doing it, that we have to calm her down.  When she stands in the mirror she do the same thing.  I noticed one night I told her to do something, she stopped whatever it was and then she started acting out what happened in school.

    Do you think she needs to be on a ADHD medication?

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      dkstephens53 I hear your concern for your granddaughter, and I’m glad that you are here.  If you believe that there could be an underlying issue, such as ADHD, contributing to her behavior, I encourage you to voice your concerns to her doctor.  Because s/he has the ability to directly observeMore and interact with your granddaughter, her doctor will be in a better position to assess her and provide any necessary referrals.  It’s also quite normal for kids your granddaughter’s age to push boundaries, have a lot of energy, and mimic adults in their lives.  You might find some helpful information in another article by Dr. Joan, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/attention-seeking-behavior-in-young-children-dos-and-donts-for-parents/.  Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family.  Take care.
  • trono

    I have a 2 yr old son who has temperament issue... i consulted this to his pedia and she advised me to bring him to a neuro-dev.so i can get proper ways to prevent and stop my son fr.being defiant... at present i'm observing him until he'll get well fr.his coughs and colds as his pedia's advised.if he gets well and still doing/showing the same attitude that would be the time to go to the next step.for now i still have to give my son a chance while treating his colds.just the same everytime he ask for something that i cnt give he will start to do his tantrums,throwing away his toys,hurting us,by pinching us hard while crying,even his 6 yr old sister is getting afraid, worrying to get hit again by his brother. And if we get away fr.him he will get more wild and very angry. And the worst is that he will hurt himself too esp.when he failed to hit us. I admit i lose my cool and patience maybe bcoz of my health problems (mild vertigo and lateral epicondenitis on my left elbow).one reason for him to cry until he gets angry is that when he ask me to carry him that i cannot able to do it, what i will do is to sit beside him but no effect. But blv me i'm trying my best not to lose my patience everytime we are in this situation.

    Please give me an advise miss rebecca with this matter. I want to help my son so he can improve and get free from this kind of behavior bcoz i dont want my son to grow up with this attitude. So that when he reach the age of 4 and start his schooling i'd be free from worrying especially he will encounter other children and i don't want my son to hurt or fight with other children. Please help me thru your advise. Thank you.

    Godbless and more power!

    Looking forward -- mrs. trono (phils.)

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      trono I’m sorry to hear about the challenging behavior you are experiencing right now with your son, and I’m glad that you are here reaching out for support.  It’s pretty common for most kids your son’s age to act out aggressively.  This is because at this developmental stage, kids tend toMore have a low tolerance for frustration, poor impulse control, and few appropriate coping skills to use when they become upset.  This doesn’t mean that you cannot help him learn better skills, or that you have to accept this behavior though.  I’m glad that you are working with his pediatrician to rule out any underlying issues which might be contributing to his aggression, and I encourage you to continue doing so.  You might also find some helpful information in another article by Dr. Joan, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/hitting-biting-and-kicking-how-to-stop-aggressive-behavior-in-young-children/.  Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family.  Take care.
      • trono
        Miss rebecca ,Thank you for the advise. Sure i'll let you know.maybe after a month or more after i apply the tips and the help you advised me to do.i believe this will work out of course in God's help... actually i tried already one of the tips iMore have read in your link and it works... also i'm reading the other problems of the senders here and ive learned that lots of parents have the same issues like mine. I will also pray for them to over come this... :-) ? looking forward.trono.
  • Turbo224

    okay first blog I've ever went on I need help! my 8 year old son lives with me (father) and step mom. his mom left four years ago and he remembers the drugs and abuse from her side. so he's damaged in that sense. Now my girlfriend of four years has been there to help and lives with us. we have a 2year old and her daughter is 4.

    my girlfriend is only 24 so she doesn't understand the things talked about here with how to deal with defiante. but she is very argumentative and gets nasty. so not going into details she has jeopardized my son and her relationship. by doing things an adult shouldn't with a kid. as far as treat him like an adult and bother where she gets annoyed bad with him.

    Any ways I've always seen problems but now my son when told not to do something like yell at little brother. He always has an explanation. I tell him to listen to what we say and I don't want a debate. he cries he says we hate him he gets real panic and upset. this morning his little sister had his school supply pouch. her mother gave it to her cause they drove me to work kids cranky in morning. so my son started crying cause we gave his sister his supplies. worried he won't have it crying how is he Gona get it back. when my girlfriend clearly stated he will have it before he leaves for school.

    now he acts up more when I'm home cause in my eyes he likes to see me and her argue (well more her). I disagree with screaming at kids and in front of them with partner. now he will cry over everything say we hate him and simply doesn't listen without an argument or debate as to what happened or why he did it. the age difference between siblings I see bothers him. Because he always has to play with them.

    but then he gets mad about it and blows them off. he seems confused hurt he seems as tho something is wrong.

    When I'm home he does this but is up my ass.

    like this morning whole car ride to work was a debate and crying for over a supplie pouch. my girlfriend said as soon as I got out for work there was no mention about the pouch.

    or when he does what she says when I'm not home and when I'm home go against her or gets his crying everyone hates me fit.

    I guess my question is I need help with structure. and that also goes for me. trying to teach or raise my girlfriend as well as kids and her way is best. when in fact I've told her mnt times what I just read in this article I know most of that. she doesn't think it's right so we have no structure in this house.

    what do I do and is my kid just acting out or is this a stage. Rebecca I need advice.

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      Turbo224 I hear you.  It can be quite challenging when your child is constantly arguing with the rules, and making excuses to avoid taking responsibility.  As you noted, part of addressing these outbursts could be to create a consistent structure, because when kids do not know what to expect, theyMore can act out in defiant ways in order to determine where the boundaries are.  Something that could be helpful is to talk with your girlfriend during a calm time, and try to https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-blended-family-wont-blend-help-part-i-how-you-and-your-spouse-can-get-on-the-same-page/ around rules and expectations for your family.  Another aspect will be talking with your son privately during a calm time, and setting some limits around his behavior.  James Lehman outlines this in his article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/stop-the-show-putting-a-lid-on-your-childs-attention-seeking-behavior/.  I recognize how challenging this behavior can be, and I hope that you will  write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.
  • robinseggblue
    My 4-year-old is having a rough time with many of these issues. I don't think I was responding as well as I could have and will be trying to remember the 5 things not to do. He can listen so well sometimes and really wants to do good and behave.More Sometimes he just loses it and won't listen to anything I say, yells at me, calls me names (butthead, stupid, etc...just childish things), throws things, makes mean faces at me, and at his worst will pinch and scratch me if I try to put him in timeout or his room to calm him down. He's very verbal, started talking in full sentences very early, and is very smart although he holds back on showing us that he knows things until he is 100% sure he's got it. We've tricked him a couple times into showing us how much he knows (letters, numbers, etc...) just to find out if he really is just pretending he doesn't know stuff. Sometimes he'll call himself stupid or an idiot if he says something wrong (no one does that to him so we don't know where it came from). Anyhow, thank you for giving me some understanding and hope, I am especially thankful for that final point, brought me to tears.
  • Mawde1961
    My eight year old grandson currently resides with my husband and I due ti the fact his parents cannot control his aggressive behavior and physical abuse he acts out on them. He cannot go to school in their district due to aggressive behavior toward the teachers, the last straw wasMore when he threw the teachers laptop across the room and shattered it. He has busted out 2 of their t..v. Screens. At my house he is calm, helpful ,well behaved and does great in his new school. As soon as he comes in contact with his parents all hell breaks loose. We are baffled by this behavior.If he is O. D. D how is he able to control himself when he is with us. His home with parents is extremely chaotic , mom and dad arguing, 4 other siblings with behavior problems. He has no discipline at his home, my question is can children control O.D.D. Are does it sound like his behavior is due to other circumstances?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      Mawde1961 Thank you for your questions, and it sounds like your grandson is fortunate to have you and your husband in his life.  It’s not uncommon for kids with ODD to behave one way in one environment, yet act completely different in another.  It’s also not uncommon for kids inMore general to act out in aggressive and/or defiant ways when they don’t have more appropriate skills to handle a given situation or environment.  If you are wondering whether ODD might be a factor in your grandson’s behavior, I encourage you to talk with his doctor.  Because his doctor has the benefit of directly interacting with and observing your grandson, s/he will be in a better position to determine any underlying issues which might be contributing to his actions.  Please let us know if you have any additional questions.  Take care.
  • Becky
    I have a 6 year old daughter who is always defiant and naughty she never listens and destroy as she's told she spits, bits ,screams,  nips,  scratches punches and kicks me and lots of other people and doesn't take any responsibility for her actions and when I punish her sheMore just laughs and takes the mik more. I don't know what'd wrong with her but she has been like this for over a couple years and there is no letting up I think there is something medically wrote g with my daughter what are your thoughts
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      @Becky 

      I hear how

      concerned you are for your daughter, and the aggressive behavior she is

      showing.  If you are worried that there might be something wrong, I

      encourage you to voice your concerns to your daughter’s doctor.  Because

      s/he has the ability to directly observe and interact with your daughter, her

      doctor will be in a better position to determine if there are any underlying

      issues which might be contributing to your daughter’s behavior.  In

      addition, many young children are aggressive at this stage in their

      development, because they tend to have a low tolerance for frustration, poor

      impulse control, and few appropriate coping skills to use when they become

      upset.  That doesn’t mean that you cannot address it, though, and you

      might find some helpful information in another article by Dr. Joan, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/hitting-biting-and-kicking-how-to-stop-aggressive-behavior-in-young-children/. 

      I wish you and your daughter all the best moving forward; take care.

  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

    Helpme7182 

    I

    hear you.  It can be so draining when you are not able to sleep nor spend

    quality time with your other children due to the attention required of one

    child.  It can also be frustrating when you are doing everything “right”,

    yet the behaviors persist.  I’m glad to see that you are working with

    resources available to you locally, such as therapy and her doctor, and I

    encourage you to continue doing so.  For assistance locating other

    possible supports in your community, try contacting the http://www.211.org/ at 1-800-273-6222.  I also

    recommend https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/the-lost-children-when-behavior-problems-traumatize-siblings/ with your other children to keep them safe from their

    sister’s aggression.  I recognize how challenging this must be for you,

    and I wish you and your family all the best moving forward.  Take care.

  • Dawn
    I have a 3 year old grandson who hss aggressive behavior. He bites his mom and she just sits there snd lets him..is that the right thing to do? She says she doesnt dtop it cause he eill just chase her
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      @Dawn 

      Thank you for your

      question.  Aggressive behavior in young children is quite common, as young

      children tend to have a low tolerance for frustration, poor coping and

      communication skills as well as poor impulse control.  As a result, many

      young children turn to aggressive behaviors, such as biting, hitting or

      kicking, as a way to meet their needs.  This is not to say that parents

      cannot address these behaviors when they occur.  Dr. Joan Simeo Munson

      offers some tips on how to handle aggression in her article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/hitting-biting-and-kicking-how-to-stop-aggressive-behavior-in-young-children/. 

      Take care.

  • Azzri

    Our son has an IQ of 121we recently found out ...he is four. Just turned four, although his traits of this are very much there, and rather exhausting at this point. It is not frequently, Could the reasoning behind these extremely outlandish behavior be due to higher understanding, (No logic in his mind to sleep if not tired, or respect an adult that has not respected him) .he states..things iv never spoken or taught him. Or is it possible that this ODD, can be borderline? Not a daily thing but holds signs within Everyother day, ? And what be recommended when starting school for children with things like this? Is it treated as a main behavior issues, (non violence episodes) Or actually worked with? The private school he was excepted too is far too expensive, (10,000 a year) as 27 year old non married mother (first child) im unsure if public schools deal with these things, properly. .

    Ty. Ashley.

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      @Azzri 

      Thank you for your

      questions.  Defiance is common in many young children, as it is part of

      their developmental processes at this age to test limits, and to assert oneself

      as an individual.  You make a great point that many of these behaviors can

      also seem illogical from an adult perspective as well.  If you are

      concerned that there may be an underlying issue contributing to your son’s

      behavior, like a diagnosis, I recommend checking in with his doctor. 

      Because his doctor is able to interact with and observe your son directly, s/he

      will be in a better position to assess him and rule out any contributing factors

      to his behavior.  As for your concerns about school, it can be helpful to

      talk with teachers and school officials directly about how they typically

      address misbehavior in the classroom, and to work together with them as a team

      to help your son to succeed.  Dr. Joan has some tips which you might find

      useful in her article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/young-kids-acting-out-in-school-the-top-3-issues-parents-worry-about-most/. 

      Please let us know if you have any additional questions.

  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

    @m 

    Thank you for writing in.  I can hear how concerned you

    are not only for your stepson, but also your 2 year old and pets as well. 

    If you have not already done so, I encourage you to check in with your

    stepson’s doctor about his destructive behavior and constant chewing. 

    Because his doctor has the ability to directly observe and interact with your

    stepson, s/he would be in a much better position to rule out any possible

    underlying issues as well as offer any necessary follow up referrals in your

    community.  In the meantime, I also recommend limiting the amount of time

    that your stepson is left alone or unsupervised with your 2 year old or your

    dog in order to keep everyone safe.  I understand how challenging this can

    be, and I wish you and your family all the best moving forward.  Take

    care.

  • TiahLyon
    I just got told my 6 almost 7yr.old son has ODD...and she prescribed him prozac..... I have had difficulties with him the last two years but I'm very well aware of children like this my 14 year old has ADHD plus OCD back when she was younger so she wasMore put on a non-narcotic non-habit-forming non stimulant medication I am just baffled at why they would want to put my son on Prozac
    • TiahLyon
      I would love some feedback on this now is I'm kind of a pose to the Prozac this is the second time around for me as far as going through this he's very defiant very disruptive evacuated the kindergarten classroom twice this past year he was standing up on tablesMore throwing chairs he's like night and day when he's at home he absolutely does not do these things I'm just baffled at how he has such a disrespect for adults other than me I am a single parent I'm just baffled so if you have any responses or replies I would greatly appreciate it
      • ElizabethMKB

        TiahLyon TiahLyon  Tiah,I can't speak to anyone else's experience, but as an ADD teen I was put on Ritalin and a year later, my doctor also prescribed Prozac. I have an ADHD son (almost 12) and an ADD/OCD/ODD stepdaughter (14). We have struggled with these conditions our entire lives. I've known he has the condition from the moment he turned 1. I suspected my stepdaughter did at almost 9, a year after I met her.

        We have cycled through Adderall, Focalin, and Concerta, with supplemented meds such as Zoloft, Intuniv, Risperidone, among others. I have recently returned to medication after 17 years off.

        The most important thing to remember is that there is no cure or quick fix for these conditions. There is no 'growing out' of it. For many, such as myself who went off the meds, you can come to a point where you have developed good coping mechanisms and techniques sufficient enough to go off meds. But there is always times where things can get tough again. It is definitely okay to go back on meds, but it is definitely a decision that should be discussed with doctors at length before making a final decision.

        The second thing to remember is that there isn't a single, proven effective treatment that works for everyone. Each person's brain chemistry and DNA is slightly different, even in full siblings. If your son does not have ADD as well, Prozac or something similar may be the way to go until you are able to talk to him in a logical way. ODD is behavior based more than brain chemistry, though it may also be a contributing factor. We deal with our girl differently because she refuses to take her medications and she is older. It is a bit easier to have a conversation with a teen than a young child.

        Talk with your son's doctor at length about your concerns. If you are not comfortable with the results of that conversation, get a second or third opinion. Never be afraid to question the doctor about medication concerns. When they added Risperidone, I wouldn't let him take it because I was confused why a schizophrenia med was being prescribed. After talking with his doctor, I started him on it. For us, the combination of meds finally started to work.

        If he does have ADD or ADHD, there is also a new genetic test I had them perform for my son which helps determine which medications are the most beneficial based on his DNA. Ask your doctor about it. I don't remember what it is called.

        Good luck.

  • Craig Hunnel

    ODD is a real stretch for me...I don not agree that it is a disorder that requires a medical or psychological evaluation.  That is oversimplification of a behavior dysfunction.  you are comparing this disorder to real and emotional disorders that may or may not be symptomatic to previous events or situations. Most, if not all the cases we see have allot to do with the behavior that a child does or does not develop when he/she is a young infant/adolescent.

    to give this a title has not turned this into a professional diagnosis, and, takes responsibility out of the hands of the parents aND child to fix this...get people on their team, and be about problem solving...

    As for the rest of the article, there are some good points that merit parents attentions.

    T hanks for providing them for our families 

    Sincerely,

    Craig Hunnel

    Family Education Program Facilitator and Coordinator

  • Elle
    The author pointed out that "for some" defiant behavior is normal. I disagree. Defiant behavior in MOST children is NORMAL. I'm not talking about extremely defiant as the author does explain. In that it is repetitive no matter how they are responded to. And in that case, sometimes, it is somethingMore else, perhaps ODD. I do agree with the author about being calm, telling them what needs to be done and ignoring unwanted behavior is the best way to guide and teach them before it does get to be a habit.
  • Ashley
    Your articles hold so much meaning for me right now as my almost-8 year old son's behavior is totally exhausting.  His father and I are divorced and he splits his time relatively equally between us; we have an amicable relationship and see each other weekly for scouts and other activitiesMore my son is involved in.  It seems he acts out more towards me than his father.  The hours between picking him up from school and putting him to bed seem so long when his behavior is terrible.  He is both overtly and passively aggressive.  He growls at me and others that discipline him.  He likes to get in my face, act like he's play fighting me, scream/screech, and antagonize me to try to get a response from me.  When I try to calmly talk about the behavior, he makes noises or speaks over me at the exact time I'm talking.  It's obvious there's no respect.  It drives me absolutely crazy.  I am trying my hardest to remain calm and non-controlling, but it's like he's pushing every button he can think of to get a rise out of me.  Consequences don't seem to matter at all.  This just seems to make him more defiant.  It's definitely more obvious when he's tired, and he's always been emotionally behind his actual age.  We have an appointment with his pediatrician in a couple weeks to see if we should start taking him for counseling (which we have done in the past for other issues).  He definitely does not know how to control his feelings.  I try to focus on the positives and let him make some decisions, and it is helpful. It's just so very draining.  I will be checking in here for guidance for sure! Thank you so much for your articles!
  • EK
    Thank you for this article and the others found on ODD on this site. The struggles of dealing with an ODD child feels like you constantly have an elephant on the room that sits on your chest and affects every aspect of your life. So much time and energy isMore spent on avoiding struggles, triggers and then hours and hours dealing with the fall out of screaming, tantrums, and fights that its so easy to just give up. Your articles make me feel like I am not alone and even more importantly that there is hope. That hope is the key! the majority of my days are spent in the pits dealing with all of this and the thought of life continuing this way for years to come is unbearable. Your articles make me feel hopeful, that despite everything we have tried, the years and years of different approaches and fear that this is not modifiable, that there are still options and things we can do better that will work. The greatest fear is that these kids will only get worse and worse and turn into unsuccessful unhappy adults 'living under a bridge.'  It is so hopeful to see these fears shared with others and to believe that things can and may still turn around. Do you recommend any forums where parents with ODD kids can share?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      @EK 

      Thank

      you for sharing-we always appreciate feedback from our readers!  I’m so

      glad that this article, and others, has proved to be helpful to you on your

      parenting journey.  While I do not know of any specific forums for parents

      with kids with ODD, you are welcome to post comments, thoughts, and questions

      on our articles and blogs here on Empowering Parents.  You might also

      contact the http://www.211.org/ at

      1-800-273-6222 to see if there are any supports or resources available to you

      locally in your community.  Other readers might have additional

      information as well.  Take care, and I hope you will let us know if you

      have any other questions.

  • Hhterry
    I have a very energetic, fun loving AND strong willed 1 year old. I know she understands much of what I tell her. For example if I ask her to get me the ball or book she will bring me exactly what I ask for. So when I tellMore her not to do something (get out of the trash, don't put that in your mouth, stop biting, don't squish the cat) and use a stern voice, she will often get aggressive while smiling and laughing. I know she is very young and has no words. I try to be consistent. I don't laugh when she does something I don't want her to do and I try to redirect her attention from whatever she is doing that I don't want her to do. What else can I do? The aggression is very concerning and I want to make sure we are setting up good parenting skills and not creating bad habits.
    • Elle
      Hhterry  Perhaps your voice is too stern. Simply say "Don't put that in your mouth", if she doesn't do it just take it away. Ignore any negative responses unless she is destroying something or being rude to you.  She may be responding to your "firm voice" or other reaction fromMore you. then re-direct her to something else.
    • drjoanmunson

      Hhterry

      You are correct in saying that she understands much of what you tell her, but it is the 1-year olds job to push the limits to see what she can get away with! Do not assume that she understands the intricacies or right and wrong just yet (I'm guessing you know this) because she is too young to fully grasp it just yet. But at this stage in her development she is trying to learn these differences and everything you are doing is exactly correct. The smiling and amusement is simply her way of saying she thinks this is fun and a game. Because she is so young redirecting her when she is aggressive, while saying a firm, yet calm "No" is your best best. Ignore the whining, temper tantrum, aggressive behavior while it occurs and continue to redirect her to something amusing, such as a pile of stuffed animals, blocks, a toy, or a book. You're doing a good job and setting good examples for her already.

  • BBoz28

    i live with my best friend she has a 4 yr old daughter that is uncontrolable she screams and throughs her stuff all over her room tells her mum she hates her and that she'll kick her and punch her. She tells her mother how its going to be she does not listen it is to the point where it becomes a game for her. She will not lay down and sleep, she will constantly get up within seconds of laying her down at this very moment it is 2hrs since she has tried to get her to bed.

    Please give us some advice because my friend is at the end of her straws, she is a great hard working single mum that gives her daughter everything she she can give and loves her dearly i see my friend hurting so much i had to write in to ask for help.

    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      BBoz28

      I can hear your frustration. I’m sure it must be very

      challenging to watch your roommate struggle with addressing her daughter’s

      behavior. I understand your desire to help your roommate out. However, our

      purpose on Empowering Parents is helping people who are in a direct parenting

      role develop more effective ways of addressing their child’s behavior. The

      coaching and advice we are able to offer people outside that role is limited.

      We do have several articles on our website that may be beneficial to share with

      your roommate. Two that may be particularly helpful are The Homework Battle: How to Get Children to Do Homework & Hitting, Biting and Kicking: How to Stop Aggressive Behavior in Young Children. I

      hope your roommate is able to find some useful information in these articles.

      Best of luck to you all moving forward. Take care.

  • My 8 year old son seems to be having some pretty upsetting moments in the school setting. The teachers and staff members are using terms such as defiance, angry, "stealing" etc.  Eventually, in the midst of  emotional meltdown, he ends up yelling at them, and running down the hallway awayMore from the situation and refuses to do what he is asked.  Although my son displays a very strong personality, I am not having the same issues at home and neither do other family members or child care minders. He has consequences for his unacceptable behaviour and may pout or stomp when they are given, but he generally accepts that this is the way it is at the moment.. After reading some of the notes sent home in my son's planner, I get the impression that the smallest things are blown out of proportion (ie. he took magnets from the classroom to play with them on his way to the computer lab. I don't see anything malicious here but  a child who wanted to play with magnets.)  Now he is a person who "stole" and can't be "trusted".  I don't condone taking things without permission and certainly he should be spoken to and appropriate discipline given.  I don't condone the label they are giving my child. I guess what I am trying to say is that I don't agree with the approach they are taking and the labeling they have given my son.  I believe the outbursts he is having and the angry moments that escalate into an erupting volcano are avoidable.  Having said this though,  I am second guessing myself and wondering if I am missing a bigger picture.  :(

    • drjoanmunson

      @Nancy
      It does seem like your son is behaving in ways that are developmentally normal, but also annoying to the school and disruptive to the rest of the class. First, I would call a meeting with his teacher to discuss a few things: what are your son's best qualities? CanMore they talk about them? Can they list what they see as his areas that need the most improvement? How are they defining his poor behavior and what are the school's rules for discipline (and by this I mean, if he's taking things that don't belong to him, how do they handle this with all kids in a way that the child receives an appropriate consequence rather than being labeled);  What are the teacher's goals for your son for the rest of this school year? Be up front with your son's teacher that you feel he is being singled out and labeled and reaffirm your commitment that you want him to succeed in school and that you are working with him at home to act appropriately at school.  What can she do to help him succeed? How has she handled kids in similar situations in the past? How can the two of you work together to help your son be the best student he can be? Is there a specific place your son can retreat to in the classroom when he is feeling out of control, angry, or frustrated? Can the teacher have him be more engaged in the classroom as a helper or a leader so that excessive energy is channeled properly? Try hard not to be defensive and to really listen to the teacher's responses, keeping in mind that your goal is to create the best environment for your son. 
      At home create a Good Behavior Chart in which your child receives a sticker for each day that he behaves at school.  Let the teacher know you are doing this and perhaps she can encourage him at school.  After so many stickers he should receive a reward, such as a trip to the library, special time with you, or a favorite DVD on the weekend.  This is difficult for a parent, but your goal should be to work as an ally with your son's teacher so that he finishes his year under the best circumstances possible.  If the teacher is unresponsive or defensive, your next step is to have a meeting with the principal.

  • My son turns 4 next week and we have been having some pretty big battles with him. I am thankful that he does not act out at school or with his caregiver, but he is really being pretty tough with me and his father. He has been having raging tantrumsMore over the smallest things. I try really hard to stay calm and talk him out of him it. He simply won't listen when he is screaming and I can't get through to him. I try time out, but he does not stay in time out and will throw any toy that is in his way. I end up taking away toys and putting them in time out. By the time he is calmed down I end up having almost all his toys put up in time out. I am running out of ideas.

    • drjoanmunson

      @Brandy
      I know it seems logical that you should be able to try to talk your son out of a tantrum, but children this age are not logical, and when they are in a tantrum, they are simply not capable of listening to anyone. Start by creating a rules chartMore with you and your son coming up with a list of house rules for your family.  Next to each rule, list what the consequence will be when he breaks it.  For instance, you can write "No tantrums" and for the consequence, "Sit alone for 4 minutes". Go through each rule and each consequence with your son so that he understands what will happen if he breaks a rule. Hang the rule chart where he can see it. If he gets up from time out, calmly lead him back to his time out chair and say, "You are in time out" and leave. When your son shows good behavior, praise him, saying, "I like how nicely you put your toys away". Consider a "Good Behavior Chart" at home where your son is allowed to place a sticker for each day that he shows nice behavior. After a predetermined number of stickers he earns a reward, which can be a special outing with mom or dad, a trip to the library, or an extra book before bed.
      It's not uncommon for a child to be good outside the home and have meltdowns with parents. It's likely that at the end of a long day he is tired and becomes undone fairly quickly. Make sure he goes to bed the same time each night, has limited access to videos/television, and a regular bedtime routine involving bath, reading, tuck in time. Spend quality time together during the week and on week-ends. Remember that tantrums are a phase, albeit a difficult one, but that they will end soon enough.

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