In our last post, we talked about what Oppositional Defiant Disorder is, what it is not, and what to watch out for with your child.
This week, we’ll provide some helpful tips you can utilize at home to try and manage some of these symptoms.
First, let’s take a look at some of the many things that can prompt a behavioral change in your kiddo.
We should first examine and address any of these concerns before moving forward:
-Have their been any changes in routine, environment, or family dynamic?
-Are there disruptions in your child’s sleep cycle?
-Are they exhibiting a need for control/do they have any control in their daily life?
-Are they trying to get your attention?
-Are basic needs being met?
If you’ve addressed these and none seem to be present, only then we can start to evaluate and tweak how we are responding to the problems at hand.
Let’s talk about 4 things you can do to help manage symptoms of ODD:
Kids like to know what’s coming next.
Having a predictable schedule makes life feel less scary and overwhelming and presents less opportunity for acting out. It is helpful to have a daily/nightly routine that you stick to pretty much every day.
For example, every night they can expect playtime, dinner, bath, story, then bed. And if there are going to be variations in your routine, prepare them ahead of time so they can know what to expect and what your expectations of them will be in these different scenarios.
Also, it’s important to set limits and be consistent in how you respond to disciplinary issues.
Don’t make threats you are not willing to follow through with, and respond the same way every time.
A child is more likely to continue a behavior if they are unsure about how you will respond or if they have “gotten away” with a behavior in the past.
2. Pick your battles and provide choices.
Kids like to feel in control and often melt downs occur because they want to assert their independence.
Whenever possible, offer 2 choices in order to allow them to have some control in their daily lives, this may be in the from of outfits, shoes, or sides at dinner.
For your child, having choices will likely cut down on the amount of defiance you see. Also, maybe the outfit they wear to daycare or school isn’t the biggest deal, or maybe they could he allowed to clear the table in 20 minutes rather than RIGHT this minute.
Would it be so bad to give a little of that control to your child in order to avoid a power struggle?
Save that struggle for when you really need to assert boundaries in order to keep your child safe or when it’s absolutely necessary for the functioning of your family.
3. Respond appropriately.
I cannot stress this enough.
When a kid is testing limits, your response dictates how this episode will end.
If you fly off the handle, yell, or become overly critical in that moment (“I can’t believe you left your shoes out again, you KNOW better, you are always trying to make me mad, when will you do something right for once?!”) you put your child on the defensive and are telling them you are angry at them and they should feel bad.
This can impact their self esteem and lead to emotional outbursts or other acts of defiance in response.
Instead, try reframing their behavior in a positive light (“I see you remembered to take your shoes off! What a big helper! Now I wonder where they are supposed to go? I bet you know! Can you show me?) any opportunity you get to praise them and highlight the good things they are doing, take it!
The things you focus on, you’ll get more of. Pretty soon, they will be striving for that positive attention and praise, rather than testing limits and acting out negatively.
4. Spend time with your children one-on-one.
Let them pick any activity, game, or toy they want and get on the floor and play.
No screens, no phones, just real human connection where you are showing them how much you care about them.
Often kids with ODD feel like no one likes them because all they hear is “no, stop, don’t” and are often in trouble constantly.
So taking the opportunity to demonstrate that you love them, are invested in them, and value them may make all the difference in the world with how they respond when given directives.
Again,these are only a few techniques to get you started on your journey.
There is no magic wand or medication to make the symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder go away.
It takes time, patience, and a whole lot of understanding and love.
Every child is different, and may not respond in the same way to these tips.
Be patient and keep trying to find what works for your kiddo, and don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional if you need a hand!