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Are you a parent who feels like you’ve tried everything—and failed—in an attempt to manage your oppositional, defiant child? You’re not alone. Parenting an ODD kid can be one of the most frustrating things any parent faces. The good news is that there is hope. You may be thinking, “Yeah right, nothing can help my kid!” While it’s true that ODD kids don’t follow normal rules, there is an effective way to defuse their defiant behavior.

Typical children know that there are boundaries and consequences for their behavior, and even though they try to test parents, they also know when to back down. Oppositional, defiant children don’t respect authority or boundaries. They simply don’t think rules apply to them. That’s why parents are often at their wits’ end—they feel helpless and powerless against their child’s negative behavior. ODD kids thrive on emotion and chaos, and seeing their parents in a weakened state just gives them an increased feeling of power and control. If you, as a parent, are experiencing this regularly now, you may be asking yourself, “What did I do wrong?” You’re afraid that others are judging you—parents, teachers, society—and are trapped in a very lonely, emotional place.

The secret to effectively managing your ODD child is through “Fail-proof Consequences.” This means establishing consequences that are uncomfortable for your child and that you have total control over. For example, a regular consequence might be telling your child he can’t use the Internet at home. This isn’t fail-proof because he could always sneak it while you are sleeping or out of the house. Instead, make it fail-proof by suspending the Internet. You are in control because you pay the bill, not him. Another example would be cancelling your teen’s cell phone service. Again, you have complete control. Even though they have the phone, there’s no way they can use it. If your child has any control over the consequence or if you can’t follow through with it, then it’s not fail-proof.

Remember that your ODD child will resist new consequences as much as they can. They will argue, blame, guilt-trip and flat-out refuse to comply. This is normal ODD behavior. In order for your child to learn how to function as an adult, you must commit to enforcing fail-proof consequences. Your child needs to understand that negative behavior results in a consequence happening, just like in real life. They may not necessarily change their behavior, but at least you’ve done your part as a parent. Know that you’re doing everything you can, and don’t be hard on yourself.

Please note that if your child is extremely hostile and destroying property or using drugs, they may have moved from Oppositional Defiant Disorder into Conduct Disorder. If you feel like they are violating the rights of others, contact your local police or a professional therapist for help. You don’t have to try and deal with this alone. Don’t give up—stay hopeful and know that many ODD children have gone on to lead better lives.

Related Content: Parenting ODD Kids: Advice from Two Moms Who’ve Been There

About and

Kimberly Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner 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 (both programs are included in The Total Transformation® Online Package). 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 also the co-creators of their first children's book, Daisy: The True Story of an Amazing 3-Legged Chinchilla, which teaches the value of embracing differences and was the winner of the 2014 National Indie Excellence Children's Storybook Cover Design Award.

Comments (3)
  • Mom in Texas. .

    My son has acted up and out since he was 7. When he was 13 I sent him to live with his dad, who thought he just needed a male figure. It failed. He’s been back for a year, and he’s back to the same issues. But it’s escalated. He’s now 15. I started him in therapy after he rushed me to get back to his electonics I’d taken away, and I had to call the cops. The therapist has been great, but we meet weekly to discuss, based on the issues, and he’s going in for psych testing in two weeks. The therapist thinks ODD, based on her meetings, but I’m trying everything!!! The only thing that doesn’t fit with the general statements is that he thinks he’s the victim. The rest od the the topics are 100%, but it’s like he re-writes reality and everyone just looks at each other, like does he not remember?? We speak

    Often when he’s calm, and he tells me

    Honestly he doesn’t remember. It’s like he just saw red, and then the next morning, he’s like “hey guys”… while all of us are like, “ whaaaat?” He can destroy the entire night or family celebration etc.

  • Mom in Arizona
    I have a nine year old daughter who is diagnosed with ODD & GAD. I have read tons of books that tell you to issue consequences. My husband and I have met with a parenting specialist and have come along way. I’ve made a list of what I believe areMore fitting consequences. Such as: if you decide to throw things at me then they get taken away (and I’ve done this), if she doesn’t keep her room picked up all week then no allowance, if she destroys property, becomes aggressive & violent then I’ll call the police. She knows what the expectations are and has improved a lot too with the clear cut boundaries. I am however, stumped on what to do when she has an outburst and calls me an idiot. She has a younger sibling and he sees this. I try to diffuse the situation, but need help with an appropriate consequence for follow-up and would love an idea?
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      Thank you for reaching out to Empowering Parents. We hear from many parents who are experiencing similar issues with verbal disrespect and abuse. From what you've shared, it sounds like you are dealing with several behaviors. As such, there's something to be said for picking your battles. It can be overwhelming for both the parent and the child when you try to address too many behaviors at once. We recommend focusing on just one or two behaviors at a time, as outline in the article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-childs-behavior-is-so-bad-where-do-i-begin-how-to-coach-your-child-forward/. If the verbal disrespect isn't the biggest issue, you can still address it by using the disconnect technique as described by Carole Banks in her article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/disrespectful-child-behavior-dont-take-it-personally/. What this might look like is saying to your child something like "Don't talk to be that way. I don't like it" then disconnecting and walking away. This allows you to set a limit around the behavior without needing to giving a consequence.

      We appreciate you reaching being part of our Empowering Parents community. Be sure to check back and let us know how things are going. Take care.

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