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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Content:
Parenting ODD Children and Teens: How to Make Consequences Work
When ODD Kids, Entitlement Mentality and Verbal Abuse Collide

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 (39)
  • Jan Lerwick LCSW
    Your website shares a lot of helpful information. Also important to acknowledge is the fact that society is so busy telling parents what they should be doing, when the reality is, there aren't parenting resources which actually work consistently with ODD. There is no cure, there is no magically effectiveMore strategy. You just do what works today and while it's working, keep your eyes open for another strategy to use when this one is figured out. The high intelligence of these kids is truly amazing.
  • Michelle
    So I'm the solo parent to a beautiful little 4 year old who was diagnosed with autism, and adhd and ODD. His father abandoned us totally and lives in another country, that happened when my son was still 1, almost 2, during Covid. We lost everything, More my home, clothing, every personal object. We returned to the US during lockdown. I had nowhere else to go, but my mom's house, which forces my son and I in an area of the house, we share a bed, bathroom and he has a playroom. My mom and her bf spoil him, but also keep a baby gate up because their dogs aren't friendly towards my very very active and extremely disruptive screaming son. He can't help his actions, but it doesn't make any of the violence he perpetuates towards me, any easier. The total defiance and total direction of all of his vindictive behaviors is square at me. I take it, and being an aba therapist myself, I know and understand ABA, ignoring certain negatives and rewarding positives, and giving a punishment that fits the action. I have been trained in it for years, working with kids from age 3 to 14 with all of these behaviors. But it suddenly has gotten so much worse, and my mom and her bf, whose house it is, refuses to participate in any kind of family therapy. My son's actions get worse the more they spoil him. He simply cannot tolerate being told no, and I pick my battles to be consistent, we have a solid schedule, use timers, use a reward system, use a sensory diet.. but I say I use these things.. in truth, 99 percent of the time he will not tolerate any of it. And I feel enormous pressure to keep him from being disruptive in their house because my mom wants peace. The well being of her only grandchild comes far below what is easiest for them. Many times we have been threatened that we have to leave, move out somewhere else due to the behaviors, as they do not understand nor do they want to. I get it. They just want to be grandparents and nothing more. But I have zero support. Even my therapist has absolutely no advice except to stop feeling shame, and guilt because I'm doing absolutely everything I can in an extremely high pressure situation. I have been trying to find a job that pays enough for us to get out of here, as I truly believe some of his behaviors will diminish once its just him and I. But I don't expect them to disappear. All I want is for my son to live HIS best life. I have up on my dreams for him long ago, when he was first diagnosed with autism and was low functioning. He goes to special Ed full time and they don't see these behaviors. No head butting. No biting kicking scratching. No screaming yes fir 3 hours after being told no once. No screaming " mama say something right now!" When I ignore the negative things that are ignorable and ive been doing this for almost 3 years because he is almost 5.. no kicking me, or dumping my hot coffee all over me, to get a reaction he wants. To him, there is no difference between positive reinforcement, and negative consequences. He will just scream " momma stop saying I did a good job all the time" and run around screeching that i need to be quiet. For simply saying great job helping clean the table off ( just his plate , carrying it to the counter) nothing I do and every thing I do and don't do set him off. He cannot accept that he cannot get exactly what he wants the second he wants it and redirection doesn't work anymore. Nothing does. I'm not angry. I'm not even ashamed so much anymore. I'm totally alone despite knowing others understand, and i am losing all of my energy and I feel like any day I will end up hospitalized with a total and complete nervous or mental breakdown. But that can't even happen. I'm the only one who can remotely handle him. I have not, in almost 5 years since he was born in June, had 1 evening away or out of the house on my own, I have no friends and no support groups that help. None. No life for myself. And the advice here sounds good but will only work I'd everyone in the household is willing and able to stick to it. I feel like I'm failing my child by not having the resources after losing my entire small business to covid. I had to start from scratch. I've completed 2 classes and certificates for jobs that would pay enough, but without a babysitter, they are impossible. I feel like the entire world is crumbling around me and no one cares. My son, I love him so much, I see these behaviors as that, behaviors. I love him for the sweet little boy I know is in there, vulnerable and hurting too. He's been in a very structured, but not too structured life, and he has no play skills with other kids. No kids or cousins to play with. I'm almost 45. And i don't have energy to constantly carry him out of these situations in the place we live. I am so desperate. The teachers blow it off, drs say he's too young for meds,and to keep applying the aba, and bringing therapists into the home didn't help it made it worse. Because the minute they left he would have restraint collapse. Just like after school. I needed to vent. Sometimes I wish I never got pregnant. I know. It's an awful thing to say. But that's how horrible this has become and I'm so afraid it's just going to get worse since nothing is helping for years.
  • Jenna M.
    I'm a mom to a 7yo with adhd and ODD.. and I needed desperately to read this. I feel defeated and alone trying to help my son and often blame myself for his behavior.. and have let it sink me so low I quit my job, hobbies, social activities andMore all aspects of who I was; I'm just a shell. I loved this article and cannot thank you enough for it.
  • Niyama

    This is SUCH a good article!! I’ve been killing myself about my sons choices. He has been intimidating to me really since the day he was born. Always breaking rules, lying, sneaking, cheating, being disrespectful to teachers and especially coaches! He is academically smart, athletically gifted, handsome and charming. But when he doesn’t get what he wasn’t, it’s downright scary. In fact, his mantra is, “ I get what I want.” Well, he’s 17 and we took his car because we found weed in it and warned him that since it’s our car, if we find it or you come home high, we will take it. After a period of time we give it back. In the summer he was smoking marijuana in his room. We told him, we do not want it in the house and you better not drive under the influence because if you hurt someone or yourself l, we are responsible. We gave him a clear warning and he did it again. We smelled weed in the whole upstairs and he denied it of course AND we found $700 of weed in his car. So we took the car away and said until you have a clean drug test, your not never getting the car back. Our son called my husband and me “Bitches” and quit football and started missing school and he won’t speak to us except when he needs something. He says everyone smokes and drives and it’s no big deal. We are lame and we ruined his life.

    It’s awful-he’s been angry and domineering his entire life. I’m sure lots of times I gave him what he wanted cause of his reaction.....but this car thing, feels wrong but he is mad and making us pay. He is ruining his current life, not us. I’ve had to go on anxiety medication, I feel down and just really helpless. My husband is happy w the tough love and is able to deal way better than me.

    Anyway, I’m going to keep reading this over and over-it helps so much.

  • K.Reeves
    I have an 11yo son with ODD. I've recently had to make the decision to have him live with my ex-husband due to his behavior. Most of his choices are directed toward me. EVERYTHING I have read in this article is 100% true. I'm sitting here reading this with tearsMore running down my cheeks.FINALLY I've found others who understand this disorder and have tools to help. I often feel useless and ashamed of my sons( and mine) behavior.
  • kim
    hi my name is kim ive been a single parent for 18 y raising my 2 boys. my 2nd son (18 1/2) is dx bipolar, adhd, odd, sleep disorder due to adhd. hes refused for a year now to take his meds and the damage in my home is extensiveMore plus the verbal abuse is beyond control. the cops look at me luke i have 3 heads for not having control and ut doesnt help that my son plays the system and gets released from er or psych. i also care for my 73y mother dx bipolar, depression, dementia who resides with us and is a challenge herself. i love my family but i am having such a diff time holding everything together. its such an exhausting and mind blowing life. i want my son placed out of the house but then i have to pay $723 month child support and that leaves me financially strapped. i cant even finish a sentance without trying to remember what my next word is or how to say it without him blowing up. im a strong person ive come to realise but its now affecting my health and walking away seems so easy but not right. i dont want to continue crying myself to sleep.
  • Blue
    Something you can do for your child as a parent is LOVE them!
  • crissystrub
    I am raising a son who has adhd,odd with defiance and he has been in two schools and they can't deal with his behaviour in the classroom. He is 6 years old with a IEP and the teachers dont fit his needs. I am just so tired of allMore of the rude comments that people make that kids with behavior shouldn't be in the same class as the other kids and my son knows that he is being treated differently cause he cries that nobody likes him and I feel hurt and don't know what to do. I myself have adhd and I went to every appointment with my son and I had never gave up on him. Unless you know all the the challenges that come with adhd/odd should just shut up. They are still human beins just like everyone else. How would you feel if you were born like that and treated different and teachers and parents gave up on you, pretty frigging terrible I would assume. I have read books to my son, do crafts with him and board games to make him feel normal. I love my son and I wouldn't change it for the world. Mommy loves you and I believe that you can have a bright future sweetie. And you shouldn't be judged cause it was not aby of these kids fault that they were born this way. My son is very smart but he doesn't always show it. But in the end kids will be kids they will yell and throw tantrums. I am just so mad that teachers blame the mothers for not discipning their kids. Umm news flash yes we do we do way more then enough stuff for our kids. We tried punishing them, time outs but it just doesn't work for these kids but unless you are a parent then you will know what I am talking about.
  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


    I’m so sorry to

    hear about the challenges you have had to face as a result of your daughter’s

    choices and actions, and I recognize how exhausting this can be.  It can

    be understandably embarrassing and frustrating when your family is well-known

    to the police and to CPS as a result of your daughter’s allegations. 

    While many parents resent this involvement, it can be useful to view them as a

    resource for your family as you attempt to address your daughter’s

    behavior.  With your daughter’s upcoming release from the psychiatric

    hospital, I encourage you to work with her treatment team to develop a

    discharge plan to keep her safe as well as hold her accountable for her

    actions.  I also hear your need for support.  For assistance locating

    parenting groups as well as other resources in your community, try contacting

    the http://www.211.org/ at 1-800-273-6222.  211

    is a service which connects people with available local supports.  I hear

    how difficult this has been, and I wish you and your family all the best as you

    continue to move forward.  Take care.

    • Jessie911ERT
      Thank you so much! I have been in contact when the youth assistance coordinator and because I live in such a small town everything is so far away. So now I'm looking into starting a parenting group in my town that I know alot of families will benefit from.More I know there are alot of troubled kids in my town and I hear about it all the time. There were two teen suicides last year and one of them was my daughters good friend. He was only 15 years old. As a 911 dispatcher I help people everyday and now I want to be able to help other families in my community that are going through tough times raising their kids. I think my daughter will be happy when I tell her I want her to be part of it and to help coordinate it. I think this will give her some positive encouragement to try and do better. Thanks again and God Bless!
  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


    We appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and

    sharing your story. I am sorry to hear about the way that your brother is

    treating you and other family members, and I want to let you know that his

    behavior is not your fault.  Because we are a website aimed at helping

    people become more effective parents, we are limited in the advice and

    suggestions we can give to those outside of a direct parenting role. 

    Another resource which might be more useful to you is the Boys Town National

    Hotline, which you can reach by calling

    1-800-448-3000, 24/7. They have trained counselors who talk with kids, teens

    and young adults everyday about issues they are facing, and they can help you

    to look at your options and come up with a plan.  They also have options

    to communicate via text, email, and live chat which you can find on their

    website, http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/

    In addition, you might also consider contacting the http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) about the threats of suicide your brother

    is making, and what you might be able to do to help.  We wish you the best

    going forward. Take care.

  • Jenjen1
    I'm a medical professional, so I've known my 12y/o was odd since age 8. He says terrible things to me, his dad, and his sister. He gets angry at the slightest thing. My husband wants no part of the family anymore. He stays in his roomMore all day. My son has recently pushed away his grandparents, so now I have no help. Counseling has not helped and has been expensive. His behavior has always stayed in the house, but he's now branching out. Yes, it's embarrassing, but I don't feel ashamed. My son regrets his behavior eventually, and then doesn't understand why everyone has given up on him. I'll never leave him, but I don't know how to help him. I begged his father to stay in the marriage, because I knew it would destroy our son. And it has. He got much worse when my husband decided he wanted no part of us. Any suggestions on how to help would be appreciated
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      Parenting a child

      who acts out inappropriately can be so challenging, and it’s common for this

      type of behavior to put a strain on both the relationships within a family as

      well as the family as a whole.  You are not alone.  I am sorry to

      hear that counseling has not been effective for you to this point. 

      Sometimes, it can take a while to find the right fit for your family and your

      needs.  If you are interested in finding other options in your community,

      you might try contacting the http://www.211.org/ at

      1-800-273-6222.  In the meantime, I encourage you to work with your son

      during calm times to find more effective ways to manage his anger and

      frustration.  We have many articles and resources which address this

      topic; one you might find helpful is another written by Kim and Marney: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/anger-rage-and-explosive-outbursts-how-to-respond-to-your-child-or-teens-anger/. 

      Thank you for reaching out.  Please be sure to write back and let us know

      how things are going; take care.

  • Feeling very helpless

    Feeling very helpless.

    My husband & I have a 13 year old daughter who was diagnosed at 5 years old as having anxiety, depression, & ODD on top of body image complex issues & being very socially shy. She is a great child - we have not had the public angry outbursts that some say they have but my concern & frustrations are more so now that she has entered puberty. She is unable to function & cope with this & will sit in her room not going to school or fun activities with her friends crying & showering a lot. When we try to get her to go to school or events she normally would go to we see the ODD in full force along with extreme anxiety & it is impossible to find any words to help or consequences that will work to push her. We tried to get her to see a counsellor a few times & she refused- not getting out of the vehicle. We are so frustrated and feel helpless. Not sure what to do, how to help. When she is in this frame of mind- or that time of the month no logical explanations, talking, suggestions, or taking away of activities or electronic devises work. She's a wonderful girl who is well liked by her peers & does great in school & is the perfect student but it's at home where her ODD is seen mostly. Her dad & I don't feel ashamed like it is our fault really but feel more helpless & very sad for her future if we can not get some direction or help from someone.

  • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


    I can only imagine how distressing this must have been for

    you. It’s no wonder you would feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Even though your

    son is only 7, it’s going to be very important to take these threats seriously.

    It would be helpful to first make an appointment with his pediatrician. Let the

    doctor know what behaviors you have been seeing as well as the statements your

    son has been making. Your son’s pediatrician either would be able to rule out

    any underlying issues that may be impacting your son’s behavior or determine if

    further evaluation is necessary. It may also be helpful to contact your local

    crisis response to find out what they would recommend in this situation. The

    211 Helpline would be able to give you information on crisis response services

    and other resources in your community. You can reach the Helpline 24 hours a

    day by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by going online to http://www.211.org/. Best of luck to you and your son moving

    forward. Be sure to check back and let us know how things are going. Take care.

  • Needing Hope
    My husband and I struggled to get pregnant for years and we finally did and now my son is 5 years old and he was just diagnosed with ODD and he has an anxious and angry temperament. I feel like we tried so hard to get pregnant and now weMore have to deal with ODD..? Feeling so hurt and disappointed...he was also recently diagnosed with a tic disorder. From day one of kindergarten this year he's gotten notes home from school about his behavior and talking back to the teachers and hitting other kids. We have been meeting with a behavior modification counselor on a weekly basis ever since December of 2015. I've seen some improvements. We've met with his teachers and school guidance counselor and the principal to all come up with a behavior plan. (I never thought I would be a parent who had to come into school in kindergarten to meet with the principal!) ... And I reiterate...we're only in kindergarten! I'm so worried what the rest of his school years will bring... I've read a lot of your posts and understand that as parents of ODD kids we shouldn't feel responsible for our kid's behaviors...that's so hard. Everyday his teacher would send home daily report cards of his poor behavior and I would write back...I'm sorry...And I began to resent the teacher...I was so sick and tired of her telling me bad things about my son day after day...my protective mother side wanted to come out but I know she's only doing her job. It's just so hard to constantly hear bad things about your son... And I'm also having major issues with how my family views him...and how they judge me cause they think it's my fault that he acts this way. I've been avoiding family gatherings as my brothers are very harsh on my son when they see him treating me disrespectfully. It breaks my heart because now my son is fearful of my brothers and he says he doesn't like them. My son feels nothing is his fault, everything is someone else's of something else's fault. So if he gets in trouble with my brother .. It's my brother's fault cause he's mean...or if he runs into the wall, it's the wall's fault and he hits the wall or throws the toy that hurt him. Our behavior modification counselor has given us a lot of helpful tools to use..I just feel somedays are worse than others and on those days I just need support from other moms that are in this also or have been through this...I see kids who are acting so nice in the store and I feel a little jealous...and I have been hurt also by some close people who I found out had talked badly about my son behind my back...about how overly sensitive he is and how immature he acts...that was really hurtful. I find that when he has a good day then our whole family is happy that day...but when he has a bad day at school then our household is sad and disappointed...I try not to let that always happen but it's hard sometimes especially if he did a very bad thing at school. Just feeling down...today was a challenging day...You mentioned your son is grown now, how are his behaviors? Did he turn out to be a successful and respectful adult? I don't mean to pry, I'm just looking for some hope.
    • HeatherLynnPedraza
      @Needing Hope it's now a year later since you posted this. How is your son doing? My daughter just started kindergarten this year and it's as if I could have written this comment myself. Word for word, my daughter is the same way. She got written up today. So todayMore has been as tough one.
    • Odd expert
      Wow there are so many of you in the beginning stage feeling exactly how I did but I will try to make this short because I could honestly write a book but to all of you feeling like no one likes your kid and even you feeling like wth IMore can't stand my own kid!! Lmao but don't worry your not a bad mom, when they are sleeping they look like angels and then you cry because you feel like garbage for yelling at them but you were so angry and flipped. So I decided that I can't live this way every day I love my son but I can't stand his condition. So my son is now 12 and I have a lot of experience with odd. I was going to stop crying!!,feeling weak and helpless !! I'm a professional now and studied since he was 3 , so first thing I recommend is take a parenting class. I actually took two because if it wasn't for that class teaching me all the tools ,strategys omg what I thought wasn't gonna work actually did!! I was able to take my son into cvs and not see a. Flip out. I was at the register and he wanted a slipandslide so I used the strategy they told me too it worked,I said no u can't get that and his response was "ok" and just put it back!! Now I'm crying at the register because it was then I was proud of myself and him. So the trick to this mental illness is to just get into there brain,study,educate, so the thing I learned in parenting class was everything I was doing wrong lol so I will try to help educate but u must try it even if it sounds stupid its not so trust me it does get better but the fits of rage will get worse as they age so you as the mom are your child's "hope" u just need the right tools and strategy so stop everything that you already failed at and change all the negative into Possitive:)
  • daffodil50
    @omom Eventually it will not be your decision. Probably the best thing that could happen to your son is getting put into an eating disorder clinic. This may make him realise that home isn't so bad after all. It sounds as though something else is happening with your son. IfMore he was once a fit, active child, then something must have happened to change this. Has his home circumstances changed in any way. I see boys act up badly in the event of a divorce or break up. Is there an adult male role model in his life?
  • daffodilsareyellow
    @Guest21 Hi. I completely understand how you feel as I work with children. All the theories in the world are not going to help when a child is determined to be the one in charge. Parents have no effective disciplinary tools anymore. In my role as a nanny, I seeMore children in my care turn into complete monsters when their parents get home. They know exactly what they can get away with and with whom. I always start any nannying role by telling children my expectations. I gave up on timeout a long time ago because children have so much stuff that they can be in any room and still be entertained. They also view timeout as a complete joke. The only strategy available to a carer/parent in Australia is to completely ignore the child until they act in a way you want.  Why should a family be held hostage like this?
  • daffodilsareyellow

    I work as an Early Learning professional, currently as a Nanny, but prior to that I worked in Childcare centres and kindergartens. After 6 years working in the field, I am looking elsewhere for employment. The reason? Children are so badly behaved. In Australia, there are no effective discipline policies for children anymore. In our training, we were taught that there was to be no negative language used in the presence of children. They could not be told "no" or "don't" or even "stop". Children cannot be removed from a group or activity, even if they are being disruptive or violent. 

    Parents and carers alike have no effective tools for discipline. I have always had a kind approach to children. I do not even raise my voice. I always try to allow a child to talk through any problems. Children 5 and under are unreasonable. I have a child in my care who has just started school. Last week she told me she loved me, this week she had the most horrific tantrum that ended up as an asthmatic emergency and she would not allow me to administer ventolin to her. It was only when I threatened to call an ambulance, that she self administered her ventolin which is against our duty of care as childcare professionals. If this child refuses to eat dinner or have a bath or get dressed, there is very little you can do. I tried sitting with her and asking if she could use her words and tell me why she was so upset. There is a view amongst childcare "experts" that children always tell the truth and you will get to the root cause of the problem by allowing the little darlings to express themselves. In reality, I have found that children will manipulate a situation simply to get what they want. 

    My strategy now is to completely ignore bad behaviour. I can tolerate high levels of screaming and shrieking, so I just soldier on with other tasks until the child needs something. I refuse to comply with their request unless they treat me some respect. I will not allow whiny voices or unreasonable demands. This can be done calmly, but they need to know an adult is in charge. This goes against another theory that children have all the rights of adults. My belief is that rights go hand in hand with responsibility. 

    There has been a huge amount of social engineering in the area of childcare. In Australia, it is unbelievable the hoops you have to go through when you work with children. I would say that upward of 80% of children 5 and under are badly behaved. I have been assaulted in childcare settings, one time for simply asking a child to help me pack up wooden blocks. This child waited until I was bending down and facing away from them and then hit me over the back of the head with a large wooden plank. His punishment? Nothing! 

    I stood and listened to the Prep teacher trying to get her class to tidy up as I waited for my charge yesterday. It took about half an hour of cajoling, threatening and loud voices to get the job done. One child defiantly told the teacher "he doesn't clean up at home and he wont do it at school". Speak to anyone involved in teaching or childcare and the majority will tell you that the job has become very stressful. 

    So on to solutions. There are no consequences that children respond to anymore. Parents are overworked or simply do not have the stomach to discipline effectively. The ones that do end up in trouble, particularly those that choose to spank. Once children learn that the only punishment they are going to receive for bad behaviour is a talk fest with their parents and carers, it is all over. My husband is a policeman and he is already dealing with a generation of teenagers and young adults who fear no one and respect no one.

  • Walking on Egg Shells
    What should I do when all the counselors, hospital technicians, targeted case managers, judicial associates, and agency staff - ALL tell me to accept the fact that my child is 6 months away from turning 18. It is almost as if I have to grieve the loss that I canMore no longer help my child. How do I accept that? How do I face that?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      Walking on Egg Shells 

      The transition to

      young adulthood can be a rocky one for both parents and their kids, even under

      the best of circumstances.  I hear how difficult it is for you to hear

      these statements from the supports you have in place to help you with your

      child and your child’s behavior.  The truth is, though, that your role as

      a parent changes from being a manager to more of a consultant when your child

      turns 18, and that requires a different set skills.  For assistance navigating

      this transition, check out our article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/when-they-dont-leave-at-18-parenting-an-adult-child-with-odd/.  I

      appreciate your writing in, and I wish you all the best as you continue to move

      forward.  Take care.

  • csmom

    Is age 3 too young to have ODD? Or is he just being 3? My son does everything the opposite of why I ask him; please don't paint on your shirt... paints directly on shirt while looking at me. I try other methods like "The paint isn't good for your skin, please keep it on the paper.... paints on skin.

    Everything I do is wrong, to him... I offered him the wrong spoon, I stacked too many blocks, whatever it is... it's not right. Some days are better than others but we argue all the time.

    I definitely feel like a failure as a mom, and I even feel that I should never have become a parent. Certainly don't want more kids for fear of going through this all over again. He doesn't act this way, with such gusto, with his dad. We all live together happily for the most part but my days alone with him are VERY difficult and end or start in tears.

    Any insight would be appreciated.

    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      You ask a great question. Generally speaking, it’s normal

      for a 3 year to test boundaries as he tries to figure out where his limits are.

      It’s not unusual for them to do the opposite of what their told and “No!” may

      seem to be their favorite word. With that said, if you are worried there may be

      an underlying issue affecting your son’s behavior, it may be helpful to make an

      appointment with his pediatrician to discuss your concerns. Your child’s doctor

      would be in a much better position to determine what, if any, assessments might

      be warranted. We appreciate you writing in and are glad you are part of our

      Empowering Parents community. Take care.

  • odd daughter now is 30
    My daughter was diagnosed odd at age 6. She is now 30. I have spent 30 years of my life parenting her because she has children of her own so I try to get her to be at the very least a good enough mom. The kids have finely beenMore taken by the state. They are age 12, 8 and 1. She has been a drug user and has had criminal behavior for longer than I even want to think about. But she has never been in serious trouble with the law so treatment has never been ordered for her. Now she has caused such an inviroment of violence that the children are not safe living with me. They have had to be placed out of town and my visits with them have to be done without her. Even though your writing is geared more to patenting of children, your words are very helpful to me. Way back in 1991 there was no help or support for me. I still have so many issues to deal with and so do her younger siblings-who are all grown and doing well living their lives....she is the oldest. None of my other children have this issue. Just her. I wish there was something out there for parents of adult odd kids......for daughters as i know this is something mostly boys have. It is awful to have a mother with odd and i feel horrible for my poor grandchildren. I hope she never gets them back and that they can eventually live with me. I feel sorry for anyone who has to live with an odd child. I feel like myself and my other children suffer from some sort of ptsd from having to live with her. And mostly i feel so awful for feeling the way i do. I tried so hard to be a good mom for her. It was so hard. It was like living in a war.
    • Angie1985
      You too the word right out of my mouth! I feel like my family all suffers from ptsd because of my son. We are all absolutely miserable because of him.
    • Jessie911ERT
      Omg... I'm so sorry. My daughter is 16 just diagnosed with ODD and already had a mood disorder and adhd. She is a known cutter, gets suspended at least 2 times a year. Makes false allegations and says such horrible things that her father and their family doesnt want anythingMore to do with her. I'm trying to stop it now before it's too late. She has been thru a traumatizing experience last year when her 15 yr old friend hung himself and lost his life. I basically live in constant fear every single day and having a hard time dealing with it. I hope your daughter gets some type of help for her children's sake and I'm praying for you and your family.
  • Pain101


    I am battling with my son's defiant behavior, he has never been diagnosed.

    I started to feel mentally and physically exhausted, helpless and lost. I am not a happy person anymore. I am always angry and sensitive about my family comments about my son's behavior.

    He tend to get in fight with everyone he plays with including my neice and nephew. He screams and shout in reaction of fear of being blamed. He is clumsy and tends to do silly things. When I teyi to explain to him he ignores and runaway.

    He sometimes outbursts in crying trying to defend himself, most of the time he is not even aware that he accidentally hit someone. He forgets easily. I am confused on how to help him. I am getting complains everywhere and I was become sensitive about being point at. I am a single mom no mental support from my family . Just me and my son. I am having a mental break down point.

    I feel lost angry and most of the time ending up hitting for his behavior.

    I feel extreme sense of guilt and failure. I just feel so lost

  • KimberleyR

    My 6 1/2 year old son was recently diagnosed with ADHD (combined), Autism Level 1, ODD and Disruptive Mood Disorder. He has a long history of social problems in care and school, starting from the first daycare he was kicked out of, including camps and after-school care, through his current class in Grade 1. He's been expelled from two preschools for violence towards other children. He was suspended in kinder for choking a child. He threatens, teases and otherwise bullies his peers. Interactions with adult caregivers also include violence and aggression. 

    He's been improving with ADHD medication, PCIT therapy, our nanny who is ABA certified. But he still has very aggressive and sometimes violent conflicts with his peers at school. We have a 504 and, now with the autism diagnosis, are trying again for an IEP. Things at home have actually been improving at a rate much faster than at school.

    My question: I've been considering moving him from our traditional, public school to a charter school in the area. It's a student-led learning environment, very hands on, lots of small group work, individualized education plans for kids, discipline focuses on helping students resolve conflicts on their own. It had a huge parental involvement requirement so there are always many adults in the classroom. During my tour, I also saw a small group of children working with an adult outside on the lawn. I love the philosophy but wonder if my son would really succeed in this type of educational environment. Is it structured enough for him. Will he do better because he can focus on his specific interests more, or will he find the loopholes to "get out" of assignments. How to ODD kids operate in this kind of a scholastic environment?

    Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!!!!

    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      I’m glad to hear you are seeing improvement. Remember,

      change takes time. Try to focus on the improvements you’ve seen up to this

      point. It would be tough for us to say which educational placement would be

      most appropriate for your son. It may be helpful to talk with his teachers or

      members of his treatment team about this. People who know your son and are more

      familiar with his particular learning style would be in a much better position

      to offer you feedback on this. We appreciate you writing in and sharing your

      story. Be sure to check back and let us know how things are going. Take care.

  • jen
    I am so sorry u r in the boat w the rest of us w a diificult child. Total transformation is a great program. I did it w my son in grade six and rereading the materials now to do a touch up now in grade ten as he isMore flaring up. I have problems slipping back into a negotiating role. As soon as i read it in the book this time i realized that was the main problem before and now a week after i have stopped negotiations his behavior is rapidly changing for the better again. These strong willed kids r a challenge. I want to encourage you to try the whole total transformation program with ur son. It may not have worked well w ur stepdaughters but each kid is different. I will tell u i also have a stepdaughtet so have read a lot about this. Generally the number one rule in stepparenting is do not do discipline. Leave that to the parent. Stepparents should only do discipline if the parent is actually not home. Just like a sitter would. For many reasons which u can find in most books on stepparenting doing discipline w stepchildren is a no no. So trying to do a program like this with stepchildren i can imagine might not meet w success. Stepchildren thrive with emotional support from a stepparent though. And that is a piece where u can really make a difference. Attending ball games consulting on hair styles....and its the fun part anyway! I am not telling u this to put u down but to explain to u that doing total transformation with stepchildren as compared to son- that is two completely different things. You have a much higher chance of success with ur son. I wish u the very best!
  • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


    I am so sorry you are facing these challenges with your

    young son. It can be so difficult when it seems as though you’re not able to

    find your child or family the help they need. I’m sorry your insurance isn’t

    willing to pay for more help. You might consider contacting the 211 Helpline

    for information on other services and supports that may be available to work

    with your family, such as support groups, counselors, and other community

    outreach programs. You can reach the Helpline 24 hours a day by calling

    1-800-273-6222. You can also visit them online at http://www.211.org/.

    Many communities offer low cost or no cost help and support for families in

    need. I encourage you to reach out to see what types of services and supports

    are available. We appreciate you writing in and wish you the best of luck

    moving forward. Take care.

  • michelle bejarano
    my 4 year old son is defiant and does not listen i can tell him no or dont do that till im blue in the face and he still does what he is asked not to do its an all day everyday thing with him and i tried everything toMore correct him putting him in time out punishing him taking toys away and it does not phase him he will cry and yell but when is punishment is over with he goes right back to what he got in trouble for im lost for words and strrssed out he is also in preschool and he ok in school but not at home and when i try to talk to him about how he is acting he does nothing but smile or laugh im a single mom and i dont know what else to do
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      michelle bejarano

      I hear you. Parenting a toddler can be quite frustrating.

      It’s not unusual to have to repeat yourself over and over again, to the point

      where you might sound

      like a broken record. It may be helpful to know that it’s not unusual to see

      this type of defiance in a child your son’s age. He’s at stage where he’s

      trying to figure out where his limits and boundaries are, so, he pushes back

      against the ones you set to see how firm they are. The most important thing you

      can do is to remain as firm and consistent as possible when he is doing things

      he’s not supposed to be doing. James Lehman gives some tips for how to do this

      in his article No Means No: 7 Tips to Teach Your Child to Accept ‘No’ for an Answer.  We

      appreciate you writing in. Be sure to check back if you have any further

      questions. Take care.

  • margo0621


    You still can set your boundaries.

    Use the privileges you give to him. Only use the privileges

    you can take away like, for example, Wi-fi, cell phone, tv. Neither parents nor

    kids do not even realize, how much privileges our kids have. We have a Home

    Plan with rules and consequences. My son knows what exactly he is going to lose

    if he breaks the rule. It is not easy to follow the plan for both sides. But I

    realized that it is easier to have a plan written down , than have nothing and

    your kid has no idea what to expect from you next time. It takes a while for

    plan to start working and there are still times when nothing works. At the beginning,

    when we just started using Home Plan, I was warning my son every time before I was

    taking away his privileges. It was a mistake. Now I do not . I just do it. He

    still get mad, but as I said before, it is better than without any plan.

  • jennifernancy
    My son as odd at the age of 14 recently discovered. Few days ago we had a massive fight over something so simple .I think I'm just exaustion with it all and on that day we'll that was last resort. He then went to other More family members and potraye me as a monster of a mother.now all they are doing is giving in to him and doubting me as a mother .I feel they all have stabbed me in the back I'm a good mother with only my kids happiness in mind. Peaple are quick to judge even family .I feel like odd disorder is tareing us apart as my son refuses to accept it but we have to live with it .I'm scared of loosing my son as we are so close but recently I feel I don't recognise him scared of the future right now .
  • joseph goldberg

    Mother's Day Without Mother, A Holiday of Loss


    For hundreds of thousands of mothers May 10th will pass 

    like so many of their other days without their children. It

    can happen if a child is programmed to hate by a favored

    parent seeking sole custody, and frequently during a time

    of separation and divorce. Weaponizing a child to hate or

    reject a parent for unjustified reasons is called – Parental

    Alienation. The most severe stage of this alienation now 

    has a diagnostic term – Parental Alienation Syndrome or

    PAS. The American Psychiatric Association, uses a DSM-

    5 V-code diagnosis to correlate to this condition. The cod-

    ified diagnosis is Child Psychological Abuse.


    There are polarizing opinions between mental health and

    legal professionals about the validity of PAS, but nobody

    disputes alienating behaviour is a form of child abuse; in

    fact many examples of alienating behaviours are discuss-

    ed in court orders in Final Judgments for divorce and in a

    number of divorce education programs.


    Unfortunately, child protective service ( CPS ) workers do 

    not yet have the training to identify parental alienation or,

    Child Psychological Abuse ( 995.51 (T7 4.32XA) so what

    happens in these cases is decided in family law courts and

    many mothers are losing custody because their cases have

    not been effectively litigated by lawyers and mental health

    professionals who are unqualified in the services that they

    provide to their clients. One of the major reasons for this 

    is a lack of continuing education in the form of workshops

    and conferences offering CLE's for lawyers and CEU's for 

    mental health professionals.


    Mother's Day will be a memorial of loss for so many moth-

    ers struggling to protect their children from child abusing 

    dads, fathers using a form of mind control to seize physical 

    custody, but it is important to state, that an equal or slightly 

    larger percentage of fathers, are also suffering the loss of a

    paternal relationship for the same reason. Perhaps it is even

    more painful for mothers to admit their loss because moms

    are thought of as the traditional caregivers and to lose such

    a relationship leads many to wrongly conclude it must have

    been for a good reason. Sadly, so many suffer in silence, so

    on this day I encourage them to speak out and “ come out “

    there is nothing to be ashamed of when you are a parent that

    has been targeted with hate.


    An organization that has worked tirelessly to bring attention

    to parental alienation is the PAAO, and although April 25th

    is Parental Alienation Awareness Day, I think that Mother's

    Day and Father's Day should both be dates dedicated to a 

    mass public outpouring of support for alienated children and

    for their parents and extended family members.


    “ You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. “

    John Lennon


    For all the mother's that have lost a relationship or now feel

    the struggle to hold onto their relationships with their child-

    ren, try to remember that no matter whoever may be around

    you unconvinced or doubting you as a mother, it's really not

    your fault. Parental Alienation is the invention of a personal-

    ity disordered individual and what comes around -also goes

    around. I know from social science research and from all the

    work I do as a consultant in these cases and in education that 

    even the most hopelessly lost relationships can or, will come 

    back ... if you don't give up hope.


    My Mother's Day message to targeted moms is a reminder 

    that you may not be with your child today but you're still a 

    great mother and don't you forget it.


    By Joseph Goldberg

  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

    Thank you so much for writing in,
    and sharing your struggles with your son.  It sounds like you have done a
    lot to try to help your son, and he continues to act in violent and aggressive
    ways.  At this point, it may be more useful to focus on taking care of
    yourself, andMore keeping yourself safe if your son decides to focus his aggression
    on you.  Sometimes, working with a neutral third-party in your local
    community, such as a counselor or your local crisis line, can be useful in
    developing a plan for how you can effectively respond to such behavior in the
    future.  For information about resources in your area, try contacting the
    211 Helpline at 1-800-273-6222 or visit http://www.211.org  I’m sorry to hear about everything you
    and your family have experienced, and I wish you all the best as you continue
    to move forward.  Take care.

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