Do you have an ODD child or teen who constantly argues and fights your authority, refusing to follow the rules of your home? When the number for his school shows up on your caller identification, do you cringe in fear of what trouble he’s in now? When you have an oppositional, defiant child, it’s painful to read the seemingly endless Facebook statuses of proud parents beaming about how wonderful their child is.

One mom recently shared with us, “I’m happy for my friends that they seem to have such great family lives. But it’s hard to see posts about their kids getting straight A’s, when my son swears at me every night about his homework.”

Whether it’s worrying about what others will think of your child (or you) or, fear for that child’s safety or well-being, fear drives you to try and change their personality.

We understand it’s hard to stay hopeful when you’re raising a child with ODD. Let’s be honest. Every time they challenge us, they push our emotional buttons,bringing to the surface our feelings of hurt, anger, frustration, embarrassment—and even insecurities and fears because their behavior scares us.

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But believe it or not, there are some definite strengths that go hand-in-hand with that challenging, ODD personality. We are going to show you how to see your child through a different lens, including stories of ODD kids with whom we’ve worked. If you can stop for a moment and see the positive aspects of your ODD child’s personality, it can strengthen you. Your child can actually be a good teacher – if you are open and willing to learn.

Creativity

ODD kids can be extremely creative when it comes to getting what they want. The same adolescent girl who can’t solve the problem of how to deal with a sibling can design a plan to get out of a locked house when grounded that would impress Houdini.13-year-old Jack was mechanically gifted. He fought with his parents about everything from going to school to his choice of friends. But put him in front of a car, and he could fix even the toughest problem. Wanting to build on that strength, his parents finally gave in and purchased the old, rundown car he begged for. “He’ll never get it running,” said his father. Six months later, Jack was tooling around town in his “beater.” His law-abiding parents set the rule: no driving until you have a license! Jack, of course, drove it anyway. His parents came up with the idea of putting a “club” on the steering wheel, locking it in place. They were quite proud of their creativity until, a few months later, the car was parked just a little bit off center in the driveway. Jack had (very creatively) purchased a separate steering wheel, which he stashed in the woods. When mom and dad left, he simply removed the original steering wheel – club and all – replacing it with his spare and he was off and running. Was this a dangerous and defiant behavior? Absolutely. Were his parents frustrated at his level of defiance? Sure. But they learned to appreciate their son’s resourcefulness! Ten years later, Jack never has to pay a mechanic to fix his vehicles.

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Determination and Strength

Kids with oppositional and defiant personalities are the most determined individuals you’ll ever meet. Some kids follow rather than lead, quickly complying with rules and traditions. Others “go with the flow,” rarely making waves for fear of disappointing others or possibly failing. ODD kids have none of these traits. Their motto: While you’re all paddling downstream, I prefer to swim upstream – it’s more challenging and interesting! And the more you oppose me on it, the more determined I’ll be to swim upstream.

Related: 5 Things you need to know as the parent of an ODD child.

15-year-old Lindsay argued daily with her parents, skipped school and often stayed out past curfew. She also had an unflinching love for animals. It became her mission to save as many lost, abandoned or abused animals that she possibly could. Her mother warned her constantly, “One of these days you’re going to get hurt. Stop picking up all these strays!” Friends and family were critical, saying her efforts were pointless. Since she couldn’t keep all the animals who needed her – it was against her mother’s rules and simply wasn’t possible as there were hundreds of them – she used her strengths of creativity and determination. She educated herself on how to safely rescue animals, minimizing the risks to herself as much as possible. She became connected to local animal rescues – some as far as a hundred miles away – that would care for the animals she found. When she couldn’t link with such resources immediately, she broke her mother’s rules and kept an animal in the garage for a day or two while she worked on a placement for it.

Lindsay’s determination was an endless frustration for her mom. But it led to hundreds of vulnerable and voiceless animals finding safe haven over the years. Today, as an adult, she is a noted animal advocate and has earned the admiration of those around her, including her mother. Many of us are determined but not all of us have the strength – and courage–to pursue our goals in the face of opposition from others.

Trailblazers

ODD kids seem to live by the slogan, “I took the path less traveled.” Without them, just think of what we’d be missing in the entertainment world alone; many actors and vocalists have expressed childhoods that include skipping or dropping out of school, arguing with authority figures, stubbornness and even jail time. We love the James Deans, Jim Morrisons and Robert Downey Juniors of the world for the cultural icons they’ve become. The road they took was rough, but they didn’t get to icon status by being afraid to challenge norms. In her autobiography, environmental rights activist Erin Brockovich describes her “inner strength” as often the only thing she had going for her. The same strengths that got her through an adolescence filled with school struggles and a love for “the wild life,” empowered her to fight for the rights of others when many would have kept her quiet. Just because your teen isn’t well-known or famous doesn’t mean he or she isn’t a trailblazer. In fact, all oppositional and defiant kids are trailblazers, taking the path less traveled with a willingness to go against societal norms.

Promoters of Personal Growth

12-year-old Candace’s mom was a teacher in a prestigious school district. She was horrified when Candace began wearing clothes to school that she had literally picked up off her floor from the dirty laundry pile. One day Mom groaned in frustration, “The dog slept on her jeans the night before, and she wore them anyway!” If mom put a basket of neatly folded, clean clothes on the bed, Candace would simply wear the clothes she had on the day before, stains and all. Mom tried bribing Candace with expensive name-brand clothes. She begged her daughter, “Please wear clean clothes. You have no idea how embarrassing this is to me. People will think I’m a terrible mother. I teach in that school!” But Candace still rebelled. After months of daily arguing and shamefully avoiding the teacher’s lounge, mom finally gave up. “I just decided there was nothing I could do and that Candace’s choices were not a reflection of me. I can only dress myself in the morning.” Miraculously, the next week Candace began wearing clean clothes. Mom was astonished by her reply: “You always told me it doesn’t matter what people think of you and that your true friends will love you for who you are, not what you have or how you dress. You’re always saying that I shouldn’t judge others. I wanted to show you what a hypocrite you are.”Years later, Candace’s mom remembers how her daughter’s behavior really did lead her to personal growth. “She was right. I cared a lot—too much—about what others thought of us, and I did judge others. It’s a lesson I never forgot.”

Change the Behavior, Not the Child

Why are we telling you these stories and asking you to see the strengths in your child’s challenging personality? It’s because the bottom line in living with an ODD child is always fear and often insecurity. Whether it’s worrying about what others will think of him (or us), fear for that child’s safety or well-being, fear drives us to try and change the personality. In a meeting of multiple adults (teachers, social workers, parents and counselors), 15-year-old Billy shared, “I feel like you’re trying to change me. Not just my behavior – but me. Can’t you just accept me for who I am?” For parents of ODD kids, one of the hardest tasks we face can be accepting our child for who he is. It’s a constant lesson in learning to let go of trying to control someone we would give our lives to protect.

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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 (44)
  • Jackie
    My 15yr old son keeps saying Cs get degrees. He actually isn't getting Cs, some are Ds or other grades as well but it's frustrating just getting him to even pick up his pencil to do any homework. It's a daily battle and we are losing.
  • Worried Father
    I have a 9 year son who has ODD and he is afraid to do anything because his disappointment of failure is so great he cannot handle to lose, or to do something wrong that he often gives up early or does not want to do it at all. WhenMore he fails he often starts saying he hates himself and that everybody hates him. I know that this problem is to complex to find an answer in a comment section. I just wish that my son was more into making his own path like the examples you are talking about here. Instead he isolates and gives up. He thin resorts to hating himself. He was just recently diagnosed with ODD, ADHD, and depression, so it probably has  something to do with the other two disorders.
  • worriedmumof5

    sorry for this massively long post  !!!!

    I have a 12 year old son who has struggled with his behaviour since year 1 in his first school. I was called in to his first school on endless occasions to discuss things he had done. being disruptive not listening to instructions arguing with teachers annoying other children.....this went on right through to year 6 ..... he is 1 of 5 children and is the fourth born..... in yr 6  the issues seemed to get worse with him being excluded from school for days here and there . I had had numerous meetings with the school where I voiced my concerns in that I was unsure if this behaviour was  chosen or if it was something that he couldn't help. he was consistently disruptive and was so different to the other children ..I was told by the special needs co ordinator that she believed his behaviour was chosen and she had performed some tests and nothing had raised any concern with her.... in yr 6 she seemed to change her mind on this and I was asked to see my gp...I told the gp that there were concerns regarding his behaviour and he advised me to contact or local camhs service. I met with a lady there and after a discussion she seemed to think that there was nothing that they could help with and advised me to ask the school to get an educational phycologist to observe him..... this was done but the ed pysch lady came to the conclusion when she visited that he wasn't displaying any of the behaviours which had been described...so it was again decided that his behaviour was chosen.   he was then moved to another class in the last part of the year prior to the summer holidays.. he settled in this class and the teacher seemed to think it was a personality clash between him and the other teacher.....I had thought this myself but didn't want to raise it as an issue given his history.... so he left yr 6 and then in September of 2015 he started secondary school.  Once he started I called them and had a chat with the head of year  regarding his behaviour and asked them to let me know of any issues I  was assured by his primary teacher that all his information would be transferred to his new school ! including all his iep's ( individual education plans) so a few weeks passed maybe even  a month or so and the calls started to come that he had been disruptive calling out annoying other children etc etc,.... we came to around feb 2016 and a meeting was arranged for me to go in to the school to discuss this... unfortunately I had an operation so the meeting was delayed and then my father in law ( my sons granddad ) was diagnosed with cancer and after a vey short period of illness he passed away in march.   again due to this the meeting for my son wa sdelayed .....however a few weeks after his grandaad passing he was walking to school and said that a child form one of the local pupil referral units had punched him on the way to school .... the school nurse had called me and advised me to inform the police....I did this but despite enquiries nothing came of them.  so we got to the day before good Friday when the meeting had ben rescheduled and I was s met by a mob of teachers to say that the meeting had took a more sinister turn...... my son had took a pocket knife to school an old school flip knife with a blade no longer than 63 inches which folded back on itself  but he had took it out of his pocket and showed it to the other children and told them it was for protection.......he was immediately excluded and I was advised that it would probably be a permanent exclusion..... the Easter holidays came and went meetings were held with myself the head teacher and then finally the school governors to appeal the decision in that in my view he had felt threatened and that while I believed he knew it was wrong to take the knife to school I don't believe that he realised the consequences of it. he had also suffered the bereavement of two people he was close to in the space of 8 months  and  sending him to a pupil referral unit would only serve to make him worse. despite my appeal the decision was made to permanently exclude him .. they came to the meeting of governors with a report that contained every single negative point he had gained.... from disrupting the learning of others to calling out in class the most serious incidents were two...one was listed as a health and safety incident - he painted the sleeve of another student and the other was that he sprayed so much deodorant in class that a child had to be removed from the class -  the police were called and they visited the house and he was given an order....he has been at the pupil  referral unit since may and his 'bad' behaviour has escalated ...from throwing chairs to telling teachers to f off and other names disrupting lessons annoying other kids etc....im at a loss and to the point of pulling him out of the education system completely and home schooling him......then last night I watched a programme on channel 4 and there was a child on there that had ODD - I have never heard of this term before so I goggled it and I was astounded thinking omg my son has this it described him to a t ..........now what do I do...where do I go how do I finally try and get the help that this little boy has needed for so very long and how can I make things easier for him ???? please help me x

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      worriedmumof5 I can hear how concerned you have been over the past few years for your son’s behavior, and I’m glad that you are here.  If you believe that there might be underlying issues such as ODD contributing to your son’s behavior, I encourage you to go back to yourMore son’s doctor.  S/he can directly observe him, and provide additional referrals for assessment and follow-up as needed.  I also encourage you to use the articles, blogs and other resources we have available discussing ODD on our website, which you can find https://www.empoweringparents.com/article-categories/conditions-diagnoses/oppositional-defiant-disorder/.  Please let us know if you have any additional questions.  Take care.
  • mother of four
    My son was never diagnosed and I wonder if things would have been different.... Thank you sooo much for all your comments. I'll admit I cried reading your comments... I feel for you ...Its hard when you love your child, you are a strong parent who follows through, you explainMore why they receive the consequence of their actions but it seems to get no where.  My son bullied everyone in the house . I didn't let him let away with it but it didn't stop the behaviour. He would lie to others to get away with anything in school and with other family members.  It was so disheartening because he is a smart, witty boy with so much potential and he throws it away for control. no one else in the house is abusive, The kids all watch movies and play games that are age appropriate. The stuff he says really awful, hateful and I know he says it just to hurt someone. He has always had a snap temper but I thought with guidance and teaching him to get help when he was frustrated that, with time he would mellow but he is 17 and instead of physical hurting someone, he is nasty. He has now left home and the house is peaceful.  I'm a problem solver but after years of switching around behaviour management strategies, it feels like you failed because i've tried so many different avenues to try to stabilize them.
  • Mari5
    @isaiah12042006 I'm in no way an expert but just throwing out an idea, not knowing all the exact details of your son. You mentioned how clever your son is with his hands and was thinking what would happen if the his "time outs" were spent in a room or spaceMore where he could put things together / build / draw / etc. Maybe once he calms down a bit and sees the building blocks or whatever it is..he might get busy with them. Possibly over time he might be able to redirect his anger / frustrations / etc into a more positive direction and then the timing of the "timeout" won't become an issue. Also, keeping an eye / ear out for when he's calmed and doing well you could go in and praise him for what he's created. Anyway, you sound like a loving and caring parent and best of luck to you and your son!
  • Mari5
    The "trailblazers" you mention died or nearly died, Robert Downey Junior, way before their times! You say look what we would've missed without these people but look what a reck their lives were!? Look what they missed out on.
  • aus22

    I am writing as a concerned sibling, not parent, and this article and all of your comments have helped me look at our situation differently.

    My younger brother is 15 and although not being diagnosed ODD, it does seam  to fit his personality to a T.

    I am 20 and it is just my 2 brother's, myself and my dad at this point. My mother passed extremely suddenly when I was 11, my older brother was 14 and my younger was only 7. My older brother and I have done quite well for ourselves, he is a qualified engineer and I'm partway through a University degree. My dad is at a loss with my younger brother. After mum passed he was not a strict parent at all, not that he needed to be, we were all good kids. Often he would give in to anything we asked for, but we weren't spoilt because we knew that even with all the material possessions in the world, we would rather have our mum back.

    My younger brother was at the catholic primary school we all went to when he started acting out, having an attitude with teachers and being downright defiant. Not catching a break dad changed schools (to a more expensive private school), which my brother was pleased about, but it didn't t take long for them to categorise him as a delinquent which worsened his attitude. The most frustrating thing is he is so smart, he will go from getting 98% on a math test and fail one the next week because he couldn't be bothered. now is high school he has changed over to the public school, which seams to be a much better fit for him, but he still lacks motivation and had a bad attitude and antisocial behaviours.  

    He has missed more school days over the years that I could count, being 'too sick' but in reality its because he stayed up all night playing video games. He has an extremely expensive computer in his room with all the high tech appliances to go with it, and because my dad finds it hard to discipline him, he is allowed to stay in his room all day and play games. As a result he is extremely antisocial, his immune system is terrible and he is pale and pasty from lack of vitamin D. Nothing we say will get him outside. All he eats is junk food and highly caffeinated drinks not appropriate for a 15 year old but dad buys them anyway.

    We did have a stepmother for the last 7 years but she recently separated from my father and has severed all contact with us kids. My younger brother is not phased by this, as she was quite unfair and did not connect with him at all. Even though my older brother and I are concerned about dad being alone and having to work very long days to support my younger brother, he remains unchanged. This morning I got up early to cook him breakfast and drive him to school, I stood in his room telling him to get up for about 20 minutes but he claimed he was too tired and eventually swore at me when I said he shouldn't have stayed up playing videogames so late. I am an extremely resilient person but that tipped me over the edge. My university is 5 hours away and I don't see him very often, then when I do come home I get sworn at.

    Dad and my stepmother had taken him to a few counsellors over the years worried that he may have had ADHD, but he always knew the right thing to say and the counsellors claimed there was nothing wrong with him, he just missed his mum. Reading this I do feel a lot better that there are many families out there struggling with the same thing, and we all have accepted him fro who he is, I would just really like to make my dads live easier by getting my brother to have some drive or motivation and most of all appreciation and respect for dad. We just don't know what else to do.

    • golem003

      aus22 I am a mom with an 18 year old son who has ADD and a 21 year old daughter who suffered along with our family as we dealt with his defiant behavior.  I am so sorry that at such a young age you have to carry this burden along with the loss of your mom and the stressful family situation you find yourself in.  This is ultimately your Dad's responsibility, but helping him find resources to support you and your siblings is important.  I would like to briefly share our experience.

      Our family went through some life challenges when our son was between the ages of 4 and 9, challenges that certainly made an impact on him.  His response was to shut down and deal with things on his own in an effort to not cause any more strife for the family.  What we saw, however, was anti-social behavior and defiance.  The school was not particularly supportive and just said, "He isn't motivated" or "He doesn't apply himself."   The ADD tests the therapist gave him was useless (they are typically given to two teachers, two parents, and the child and they are designed to assess ADD/ADHD in much younger children).  Our son refused to fill it out (he would have lied anyways) and the teachers didn't even know him in the 200 kids they taught each day.  We finally took him to a psychologist who specialized in ADD/ADHD when he was 15.  It took two months of assessments and dialogue to finally discover he had ADD.  What we found was that he was very intelligent, but his mind raced 24 hours a day and he couldn't manage his racing thoughts.  Video games were his salvation -- they helped him to focus and gave him a place to be successful and understood.  Unfortunately, they became his escape, too.  On top of the ADD, he also suffered from anxiety which came out as angry outbursts of screaming, swearing, and physical altercations.  In our case, medication helped manage the ADD "racing brain" so he could start to focus better.  And therapy helped him to express his anxiety in healthy ways.  At 18, he is now a completely different person.  He still has moments of anger and defiance, but both he and our family recognize they are a response to his ADD and anxiety and we have healthy ways to respond to them.  

      I encourage you to recommend to your dad the resources suggested by the moderator.  It is important to find someone who specializes in ADD/ADHD in adults as well as children because it shows up very differently in a child, a teenager, and an adult.  A good psychologist will not be "talked out of" the diagnosis (our son was also very charming when he needed to be).

      Please take good care of yourself in the meantime!

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      aus22 

      We appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and

      sharing your story.  I hear how much you care about your family, and want

      to help your dad by addressing your brother’s choices and behavior.  As

      you noted, you are not alone in dealing with these issues in your family. 

      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 siblings, and those

      outside of a direct parenting role. It may be helpful to look into local resources

      to help you develop a plan for addressing your particular issues. One resource

      which might be helpful to you is https://www.mycommunitydirectory.com.au/.

      They can give you information on the types of support services available in

      your area such as counselors and support groups as well as various other

      resources. We wish you the best going forward. Take care.

  • Mike

    My youngest son is now 14 and was diagnosed with ODD and ADHD. His temper can be outrageous at times and 5 minutes later he will be loveable and calm. He will argue about ANYTHING and has to get the last word in. Ive had friends question his behavior and i dont feel that i have ever made them understand his condition because while theyre all fairly familliar with ADHD i dont think they hear the ODD part.

    He is failing every subject in school and ive had too many meetings with them to count. Nothing seems to make any difference and when he's asked about his school work he says "when i do try i still fail so why should i try"

    Im truely at a loss at this point, ive tried so many times to help him with his school work and have set at the table from the time he gets home until its time to shower and go to bed without getting anything done.

    Showering is another fight all the time. It usually takes me at least an hour to convince him to shower and when he comes out the bathroom floor looks like a pool and he rarely gets clean, sometimes he will put dirty clothes back on too.

    I have soo much love for him and want soo much more for him but i have very limited resorces where i live. I dont have the option of moving or even a private school. The public schools here just pass him along so they dont have to deal with him instead of trying to help him.

    Going back to his temper, theres not a wall on my house that doesnt have a hole in it somewhere. My house is 8 years old but looks 20 years old from damage. He breaks things faster than i can repair them. Im scared he is going to hurt himself at some point because when his temper flares he doesnt seem to feel pain and rarely ever shows any kind of remorse which also scares me as he becomes an adult.

    His mother became addicted to drugs and wouldnt get help so i divorced her getting full custody of my boys. My girlfriend helps a lot but he fights with her more than me and curses her etc. Im really very surprised we're still together because of the way he treats her and as we all know trying to punish a child with ODD is like playing with dynomite.

    Theres been a few times that he will go a period of time that all seems well and i start to think he's growing out of some of it and then suddenly all is lost and seems to start over.

    I feel like i could write a book about this but just when i think ive learned something he turns the tables on me and i realize im still ignorant because as i change my tactics so does he.

  • AA
    Thank you. Great piece.
  • barbm123

    debbie f EVERY time I say 'no' to my daughter she throws a fit. She is 18 now and has a part time job and today asked me to go buy her cigarettes, I said 'no', wait for your paycheck (coming in a few days). She was so enraged she screamed and yelled and had a major blow out.  five minutes later she was on the floor beating her fists and feet on the floor in our hallway. It struck me how similar her behavior related to the 'two year old' tantrums she used to have.  I honestly don't have an alternative to 'no, I'm sorry, but that doesn't work  for me.'

    It's explosive, she hurls accusation at me, tells me I never cared about her, etc. I've given up trying to introduce reason into the discussion because when she is in that state, reason is the last thing she wants to hear. So I just shake my head, tell her she knows my position and stop talking.  I feel for you, I understand much of  what you are going through and it's a real challenge for both parents a kids to navigate our way through all of this.  She is such a gifted kid and has so much potential that is being wasted, but  focusing on her strengths helps a little.  She also messed with marijuana and I think dabbled with meth, but is clean now except for regular cigarettes. I'm hoping her court date in November Ishe assaulted a police officer) will drill some common sense in her and bring her up short so she knows she can't do 'anything I want' just because is now 18. My daughter has been kicked out of a very good small school that focused on the Arts and Humanities which is her strength. She still has no HS diploma. It's so challenging for parents and i worry all the time. I will pray for you and your son, lately prayer is the best thing I have to calm my nerves and steel me for the future.

  • barbm123
    @Armytango The human heart possesses such love for our children! I applaud you saying that and I completely agree. I totally love my daughter even through all of the sheer torture of the last 4-5 years. I admit that I have lost my temper with my daughter as well. TheyMore know our tender 'hot' spots and their aim is flawless. I hope things are going better for you now.  These kids are challenging, but we love them and th rough them we grow as human beings.  It's a tough struggle and there are times I want to throw in the towel, but I keep picking up the threads and trying to hold it together. Keep loving him.
  • barbm123
    Bimpy I feel much the same way about my 18 year old daughter. She is so SMART and so talented and so capable with the most loving heart I've ever known (when she lets it show which is rarely thse days). Her Junior High Principal gave her a special awardMore at graduation and in her remarks told the assembly that 'you'll be  hearing from her, she's incredibly gifted'. I wept because I've seen those gifts her entire life.  My concern is that she may never get to that stage in her life if she doesn't find her way out of this mess she's in. After over four years of counseling, 8 months in a residential treatment facility and countless thousands spent in therapy, we still have little change in behaviors. She's a great person, a loving and gifted and talented young lady but the explosive rage, tearing things up, throwing household objects around and just generally destructive behavior may land her in jail. We have court date coming up in early november for her hitting a police officer trying to restrain her from going AWOL while in the residential program. Heaven knows what will come of that. She's only been home from the residential program for 2 weeks and already, I hate to admit it, but I wish she could go back. They have such beautiful strengths, and such a burden to carry for who knows how long?
  • barbm123

    My daughter has been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant disorder. She was diagnosed about two years ago and is very difficult to live with. Her rage is explosive and venomous and is always directed at me. she has hurled a dining room chair across the living room and nearly broke several windows. Now 18, and after 8 months in residentiall treatment facility, she is actually worse because she's of legal age.  I don't know how to manage this anymore. I can't seem to explain to her how her own feelings,when expressed with this rage and defiance, sabotages her own wellbeing and that of our family. When I put limits in place, she goes out of her way to violate them. She was supposed to be in school today, but slept through the alarm. She told me 'I'm 18 and I can deal with my own school issues now' so I didn't wake her up, feeling that natural consequences at school might motivate her to try harder next time. While in residential treatment she went AWOL four days prior to her 18th birthday. Their protocol is to notify the police and when the officer attempted to restrain her, she hit him and was charged with Battery on a peace officer. Now we have a court date that I am mandated to attend in early November.

    I am fearful that they will go too lightly on her, as it is her first offense, but also terrified she will be sent to a Youth Authority facility where she may be hurt or attacked (they have a history of violence at this facility).  I  don't want to 'kick her out' suggested by our local law enforcement, but I'm at my wits end as to how to help her. I dearly love my daughter and I want the sweet kid that she used to be to come back to our family. She's incredibly talented, very creative and doggedly loyal to her friends, even those who may not deserve that loyalty.  I have had to bann one of her girlfriends from our home for incredibly negative behaviors (shouting obscenities at me on our driveway in front of our neighbors, writing obscenities on my daughters bedroom wall in permanent marker, smashing my dishes in the street, giving my daughter step-by-step suggestions on how to best hurt me.among many others. I finally gave up and wrote a letter to her mother asking her to instruct her daughter not to come to our home as well as a few of my reasons for this decision, and was verbally abused by the mother via telephone. I feel so alone in this. I am a single parent, my  husband is deceased and I simply don't know how to provide help for her and healing for our family.

  • tweetyssweety07
    It's true!  I would give my life to protect my child.  He's 18 now and it's even harder to watch some of the ways he chooses to defy us.  But he is an amazing young man!  Caring, devoted to his friends, funny as heck, and smart! He is a hardMore worker, at least when he had a job until he felt he could do a better job than his boss.  Which is all fine.  My frustration comes from him making choices that seem totally illogical to me and watching him get stressed out because he doesn't seem to be able to fix simple common sense problems so he avoids them instead.  It has been difficult, pushing him through high school and fighting for every inch!  Our relationship isn't what I want it to be yet but I am working on accepting his choices and loving him in spite of them.  I'm also learning to love him because of them and I wouldn't trade being  his mom for anything in the world!
    • golem003
      @tweetyssweety07 Thanks so much for the comment!  You have just described our son perfectly except he is 17.  It is so hard to see the illogical decision process and his tendency to avoid any challenge when he is actually extremely smart.  It's nice knowing there are others out there whoMore understand.
  • golem003
    Thank you so much for this post!  Living with an ODD child IS overwhelming and exhausting and there are many days when I think I am counting the days until he is old enough to move out on his own.  Having some type of hope, knowing that their is aMore positive side to the behavior, reminds me that no matter how hard it is, I still need to look for ways to help him capitalize on his strengths and personality.  His behavior in a given moment may not be okay, but the child underneath is okay.  That's a tough thing to remember and reflect back to him when you are overwhelmed and exhausted.  Thank you for the reminder!
  • CJ

    I like this post but then again it's misleading. I understand the the need to place a positive spin on this. However, living with it is overwhelming and exhausting. Parents should not feel ashamed or guilty for how they feel because society places a lot of pressure on them to control their children. Every child is different. These children can turn out great but in the meantime when your child is constantly misbehaving in school, it is not appreciated. This is not as simple as let it be and it will all turn out great. My daughter is constantly misbehaving because she does not make good choices or problem solve well. She is bright, innovative and more than capable. She rejects the guidance as well. She simply wants things her way and believes she has all of the answers. She is 11 years old and has always behaved this way.

    Children who follow the rules or go with the flow are no less innovative or bright. They have different personalities and temperaments. They learn how to solve problems and find ways to achieve the most positive outcomes. Personality and temperament are huge factors that should not to be ignored. While my daughter is bright and innovative she is extremely fearful and fears failing to the point that she does nothing. She gets upset with herself for not doing well at times but it's her choice. It's extremely frustrating and painful to watch your child struggle. Ultimately they have to learn to problem solve and work through their own personal obstacles but in the meantime as they grow and have difficult social interactions with children as well as adults, a parent's job remains frustrating. We are by no means strict or permissive parents. We are fair. And if we find that we haven't been we adjust. Nothing works. I laughed at the steering wheel story because I could totally see my child doing that.

    Also, the school gives up after a while. Then there are people who believe they know what's best for your child when you know your child is manipulating them. When they realize they've been duped then we have to deal with their upset because they didn't listen to us. If schools maybe relaxed their expectations to accommodate children like this and not breath life into everything they do and allow them to deal with the consequences ... That would be a start. They become reluctant because my daughter is sweet or she's given them some story or she cries.

    The only advice I can offer is state the rules, makes the consequences clear and keep on moving. Take emotion out of it because it fuels them to keep up the negative behavior. When you request something or give consequences your expression and attitude should remain neutral. Don't expect the behavior to change necessarily but remain consistent without negotiating, arguing and the like. Also, communicate this to the school. The moment you waiver these children will steamroll right over you.

    Good luck to us all!

    • AA
      @CJ Thank you for your comment. My daughter is 14 now, is the same way and always has been. It's exhausting.
    • natty
      Thank you for the post we are raising our 2 grandchildren and our granddaughter is 8 and I have never been around a child like her. She has ODD although this is the first I have heard about this it fits her to a t. So thank you because myMore husband and I are running our of answers and don't always know what questions to ask. Now I do. I hope this helps as we are starting with a different counsoler soon. We will never give up but We never expected to be raising anymore children but we are greatly blessed we can. Our grandson is 15 and pretty easy. Just normal video game addict so we have control of the controller. Thank you.
    • Keon Price
      Hi CJ, your very last statement is phenomenal. You couldn't have stated the facts any better.This technique works wonders with my 10 year old son at home and only if the school would implement the same, it would eliminate much stress and frustration.
    • HollyPotter1212
      @CJ This is a great response and I fully agree. Whilst the article is perhaps helpful in realising there are others out there struggling with a defiant child, it doesn't offer any solutions or guidance as to how to live with it on a daily basis. I thank you forMore your well worded advice... We are at the beginning of the journey with a 6 year old and we hope that by being firm but fair and consistent with the rules and consequences life may work out ok for the next 10-12 years ;) Thank you! x
    • Sheri
      Thank you for posting this.
  • Siestalife
    My nephew was diagnosed with ODD when he was young. He even threatened his babysitter with a knife once when he was five. His parents were constantly struggling to deal with him and his temper and defiance. He is now a successful lawyer, happily married with a daughter and anotherMore baby on the way. He is a kind and loving dad and a good husband. Keep the faith parents.
    • ZombieMom71
      It gives me much needed hope for my son,11years old, when i read your post. Just spent an exhausting day dealing with the verbal abuse that the beautiful son i gave birth to yells at me all weekend. After being called all the vile degrading names, he then flipsMore a switch in him and is all calm and calling me Mom instead of slut, fat-ass, etc...He knows all the buttons to push. Yet I still am hoping he to can have a decent life happy with his job and family. I am doing all that his team to include myself have recommended over the last 4 years. He goes to a residential school and comes home on weekends. He is wicked smart and enjoys the school but struggles with home life and socializing. Sorry to ramble just really happy to hear about your family member doing so well. That is all we can ask for. Hold strong with love and faith to all the families affected by this disorder.
  • Kim
    My son was diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder about 4 years ago after seeing several different therapists, etc.  Teachers thought he might have ADD, however the psychiatrist who finally gave us the ODD diagnosis said they could be similar but he did not have ADD/ADHD.  He was such a disturbanceMore in school while receiving straight A's that the superintendent suggested he skip a grade whic he did from 5th to 7th thinking that more challenge might help with behaviors.  It worked for the most part except if there is a teacher that he does not "click" with then forget about it.  The odd thing is that none of his coaches hav ever had an issue and he has been playing soccer from the age of 5 and he is now 15.  His coaches thinks he is a great kid -- the reason, he loves the sport and he wants to the best he can be so he works hard and only pushes back appropriately.  A far cry from the homefront or for those teachers that he does not get along with which tend to be very rigid and strict with little flexibility or from our son's perspective, a valid reason for their rules.  So may have said, his strengths are ill-suited for a conformity based situation like school but that he will be very successful as an adult.  I hope so because I am tired, frustrated, annoyed, worried and have been for 15 years.
  • lheb
    I think I ruined my sons life.  He is 23 and living on the streets right now.  We have had him in special programs and tested and have done everything the schools and doctors have told us, but with no avail, the help doesnt stay constant and our son isMore very angry at us for always bringing people into his life that he didnt want, but in our eyes needed to succeed.  Now, we have a team of complex needs people helping, but in our contry of canada, He has his right to choose to stay or not in a program, whether we paid thousands of dollars or not.  He always chooses the streets.  I don't understand.  It makes me sick to think of what he is experiencing and doing.  How can I live my life without this feeling of constant worry and shame.  I would love to boast of my child's accomplishments, but I can't.
    • barbm123
      lheb My daughter is 18 and we have been through multiple counselors for her since age 14. She has made numerous suicide attempts and has been hospitalized in a local locked facility three times. Just recently she spend 8 months at enormous cost at a residential treatment facility. The residentialMore facility accepts kids until they are 18. She had no job, no HS diploma and no other options but to come home when her placement ended. I fear she is facing the same reality that your son has.  Just four days before her 18th birthday she kit a police officer who was attempting to restrain her when she went AWOL from residential facility. Now she has a charge of Battery on a peace officer pending and will go to court in November. I am required by law to be there. In the four years and several different therapists including psychiatrists, I have always been told that I should not take her behavior personally and I am not to blame for her mental health issues.  I'm a MOM so I always feel guilty and responsible, but it was relieving to hear.  I need to tell you the same thing.  I don't know you and/or the level of parenting you provided, but clearly you love your son enough to provide schools, doctors and other specialists into his and your own life to help him.  If what the therapists and MD's have told me is true for me, certainly it must be true for you as well.  I wouldn't blame yourself,  nor would I take the full burden of responsibility on your own shoulders.  Clearly he has chosen a path for the time being that can be destructive, but this is HIS choice, not yours.  Pray for him, think lovingly of him (if not as an adult, as the little toddler or preschooler you remember) , pray some more for yourself and the ability to cope with this. Given time, he may come around.  My daughter is explosively angry with me all of the time.  There have been times when I have had to threaten to call law enforcement to slow her down and try to cool her off.  I have had to ban many of her 'friends' from hanging around our home because of their negative influence on her. Keep praying, keep believing that, when he is ready, he will take the necessary steps to turn his life around.  You have every reason to be proud - you are a caring parent. I am praying for you and your son.
    • natty
      Please don't blame yourself. I know it is hard but you can only do so much. I finally had to come to terms with my son being homeless and it being so normal, it killed me but after much praying and really giving my heartache to God I learnedMore to accept his choices and love him for him, he always called me no matter how muddeled his mind was he found a phone to borrow and touched base. Now after 3 mos in jail he is living in shelters and getting help, I can't help him as we are already raising his children, so my advice is find it in your heart to accept him just as he is. Good luck and God bless.
    • tweetyssweety07
      lheb your son is a survivor!  Maybe he needs you to express some confidence in his abilities.  I know mine did.  It is very hard to find good things to focus on sometimes but I've noticed that if I don't talk to my son about the things I want himMore to change he eventually changes them himself.  For example, he was drinking those high energy,caffeine drinks and we kept telling him that it wasn't good for him and we were worried about what effect it would have on his body.  The more we talked the more he drank them.  We stopped talking about them and he has chosen on his own not to drink them.  It's a small thing but a step in the right direction.  Small things can nurture hope. Hope brings faith and faith brings change.  Look for the good in your son.  Even if it something small. Praying for you!
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      lheb

      I am sorry you are facing such heartache. It can be so painful

      when your child continues to make bad choices regardless of the help and

      support you provide for him. From what you have written, it sounds like you

      have done what you can to help your son through his struggles. Sometimes, that

      really is all a parent can do, especially one your minor child becomes and adult. I know

      that probably doesn’t offer much solace. Many parents in your situation have

      found support groups, such as Al Anon, Nar Anon and others, to be helpful for

      dealing with the stress and anxiety related to a loved one’s choices. http://www.211.ca/

      would be able to give you information on these and other resources in your

      area. You can reach the Helpline 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-836-3238. Bear

      in mind, many people don’t change what they are doing until they becomes uncomfortable enough

      with the way things are. Continue to hold strong and take care of yourself.

      Hopefully, your son will come to a point where he is willing to start making

      different choices. We appreciate you reaching out and sharing your story. Good

      luck to you and your family going forward. Take care.

  • weda1208
    Does anyone know why children with ODD curse so much?? My daughter is twelve and she seems to do it a lot, I continue to get on her for this and tell her it's not very becoming but it just comes out of her mouth.  It's terrible.
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      weda1208

      You bring up an interesting point. It’s not uncommon for

      some children to use curse words when they are upset or angry. This is true

      even for kids who don’t have an ODD diagnosis. For many kids, it’s related to

      their lack of appropriate problem solving skills. In this instance, the problem

      is feeling angry or upset. Without effective coping skills, a child may resort

      to using bad language or other inappropriate behaviors as a way to deal with

      these unpleasant emotions. Other kids curse for the reaction they might get or

      as a way to seem more grown up. This is why you see an uptick in swearing among

      kids in early adolescence. There are a couple of different approaches one can

      take. First, if the swearing is due to poor problem solving skills, helping

      your child develop better skills will also help to decrease the swearing, as

      discussed in the article The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: “I Can’t Solve Problems”.

      It’s also going to be important to hold your child accountable for the

      swearing, regardless of what the underlying cause may be. We find using a task

      oriented consequence, such as loss of a privilege until your daughter can go

      for a couple hours without swearing. For more information on ways you can

      address swearing and other disrespectful behaviors, you might want to check out

      this article by Carole Banks: http://www.empoweringparents.com/do-you-personalize-your-childs-behavior-when-he-disobeys-you.php. We appreciate you writing in with

      your question and hope you will continue to check back in with any concerns you

      may have. Take care.

      • barbm123

        DeniseR_ParentalSupport weda1208

        It's kind of encouraging that this seems to be a common trait among teens with ODD. My daughter, who never uttered a curse word through all of grammar school and junior high, started cursing like the flood gates had opened when she started in high school.  Really vulgar profanity. I too  have put the 'no profanity at home or around me' rule in place, to no avail. When she is challenged, triggered by any negative emotion, the profanity flies fast and furious, keeping pace with the other things she hurls around, pillows, dishes, lamps, even a dining room chair. Poor coping strategies in dealing with her anger, but scary for those of us who DO try to keep the lid on when challenged.  What about apologizing. My daughter never apologizes for antagonizing me, baiting me, pushing my buttons or damaging household property. It's a constant mystery to me.

      • golem003
        DeniseR_ParentalSupport weda1208 We also had problems with our ODD son's swearing.  We established the rule that he was not to swear at us or in front of us and if he swore at school, he would have to face the consequences.  He still swears 'like a sailor' with his friends, muchMore of which we can overhear when he is playing video games.  Somehow he has learned over time to compartmentalize the swearing.  Giving him "permission" to swear with his friends seemed to help him manage the behavior without stripping him of his personal rights.  In the last year, he has only sworn at us twice, and both times he came back later after he had calmed down and apologized.
  • weda1208
    Reading all these just makes me cry, feeling like "wow", I'm not a lone and there are more families just like ours. I find so much similarities as I read these stories it just amazes me. I'm glad I'm not the only one that feels like she's going crazy and always worryingMore about what others think.  Honestly it becomes tiring. It also gives me hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel and I can only hope and pray God continues to give us strength to cope with our beautiful daughter and that we can positively influence and prepare her and as enters adolescence and to her future.
    • Betdan
      I feel the exact same way as you. I have a 12 year old daughter.
    • Mom_TeenageSon
      weda1208  I can relate to most of these stories as I have an ODD teen son. He is extremely smart however he get in trouble at school for arguing with the teachers, being defiant and NEVER learning from his mistakes.
  • Karenxo3
    Reading these articles literally makes me sob as they are so true to the life I am living with my son.  I am amazed that virtually everything that is said about kids like these or parents of ODD kids is everything we are going through and everything I am thinkingMore about as his parent.    It makes me hopeful that I may actually find something here that can help us deal with him and get him prepared for an independent life.  I pray every day for the strength to not get caught up in all the drama of it, to have the patience to keep teaching, and to always treat him with kindness even though he makes me want to scream with anger and frustration!!
  • TamaraB_ParentalSupport

    isaiah12042006 

    It is to your credit that you are able to acknowledge the

    positive aspects of your son, especially at time when it sounds like things are

    challenging. You have rightly observed that kids with ODD often do not respond

    to being told what they have to do. This approach will usually bring about even

    more opposition. Understanding what you can and cannot control when it comes to

    guiding a defiant child is very useful. This article by Kim and Marney,  http://www.empoweringparents.com/5-things-you-can-and-cant-control-as-a-parent.php, offers

    parents a helpful perspective. The reality is, your child will make his own

    choices right or wrong. The trick is to stay the course and remember the

    importance of holding him accountable even though it may not be changing his

    behavior right away. It is in this way he will learn the very important life

    lesson that rules and limits exist regardless of whether he agrees with them or

    not. It will serve him well as he grows. We at Empowering Parents understand

    what a challenge raising a child with ODD can be. Thank you for reaching out

    and please keep in touch. We are here to support you.

    • isaiah12042006
      TamaraB_ParentalSupport isaiah12042006 Thank you so much!! I somehow skipped over my email until now but I will def read this tonight!! We are now going through all these same things with my 7 year old daughter just as we are starting with the medications and all  helping control his behaviors andMore he is like a totally different child but idk if it is for the attention because the amount of time we had to spend on trying to get my sons temperament under control or if it is a problem. I am guessing time will tell!
  • AKMom1994
    Yes, yes, and yes!!!  I always said that my daughter has amazing traits that will serve her well as an adult...if she survived to adulthood :-).  She is now 19, and although her chosen path is far from "normal" or even healthy at times, she is proving to be madeMore of amazing stuff.  She stands up for what she believes in like no one else I know, and is willing to speak her mind and ACT on what she feels is right fearlessly.  Don't give up on your difficult children...search for and find those positives disguised as problems, and nurture those qualities.
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