Karen is ready to give up on parenting her 14-year-old. She feels like she has tried everything with this defiant child. It’s easier to just let him do his thing and count the days until he’s 18 years old and no longer her responsibility. The yelling and disrespect she gets in her home is destroying her peace and her mental and physical health.
She’s had it with his lying and disobedience. She’s tired of trying to get him to do his homework and get to school on time. He’s a brilliant kid, but his grade card says otherwise. She’s tried disciplining him by taking away his things and privileges but he doesn’t seem to care.
Karen, who is a single mom, even sent him off to stay with the relatives for a while. In short order, they literally “dumped” him back on her doorstep saying that they too give up. What’s a parent to do?
Whether or not Karen’s son is diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), the principles of managing a child with this type of behavioral problem can benefit any parent who, like Karen, feels like giving up.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder, as described by Janet Lehman, MSW, in her article “4 Ways to Manage Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children”, is a childhood disorder that affects from 6-10% of children. It is characterized by a negative set of behaviors in a child directed toward the adults in their life.
As Ms. Lehman writes, the diagnosis of ODD is given by mental health professionals to describe a set of behaviors a child is exhibiting that include:
- Often loses temper
- Argues with adults and authority figures
- Refuses to comply with adult requests
- Blames others for his mistakes
- Deliberately annoys people
- Is easily annoyed by others
- Is angry/resentful and spiteful/vindictive
Kids with ODD often see themselves as victims and feel justified in acting out. Parents, like Karen, might find it easier to give in to their defiant child than to deal with and try to manage and respond to the defiant behavior.
Don’t give up and don’t give in. Here are the “4 Ways to Manage Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children”:
- Respond without anger: Try to be calm and matter-of-fact. Remove yourself from all arguments. Pick your battles.
- Be clear and consistent: The nature of oppositional defiant behavior is to wear parents down so that they eventually give in. Be strong, clear and consistent in your follow through.
- Do not take things personally: When your ODD child acts out, stay as neutral and objective as possible. Be clear and concise. Do not get pulled in to a power struggle. The key is to practice calm, consistent parenting and following through.
- Don’t be your child’s friend – be his parent: There are times when he won’t like you – he may even shout, “I hate you”, or call you foul names. Keep setting limits. Follow through with the limits you set. Give him consequences. Hold him accountable.
Listen to Karen tell of her struggle in her own words by listening to my Podcast. I have never felt so helpless with a Life Coaching caller, as I am not a professional in this area of study; so many thanks to Janet Lehman, MSW, for her article.
Thanks also to Karen for telling her story. I made a follow up call to her a week later to tell her how I was certain that other parents are struggling just as she is. Hopefully this little piece of information will give them hope and bolster their resolve to soldier on! As I often say, “we learn from each other”.
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