How Should I Discipline My Child Who Has Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Kids with oppositional defiant disorder love to get reactions from adults.
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Parenting a child with oppositional defiant disorder can certainly be a challenge. After all, kids with oppositional defiant disorder argue about almost everything, refuse to follow directions, and find joy in irritating others on purpose.

Despite those behavior problems, kids with oppositional defiant disorder can be smart, creative, and caring. And with the help of supportive parenting interventions, their behavior can improve over time.

Provide Positive Attention

Kids with oppositional defiant disorder tend to grate on people's nerves. Consequently, many of their interactions with adults are negative. They receive more instructions, reprimands, and consequences than other kids.

Give your child a daily dose of positive attention. Playing and having fun together will keep your relationship healthy. It can also be instrumental in reducing your child's behavior problems.

Spend 15 minutes each day talking, playing or doing an activity together. Commit to spending this quality time together, even on the days where your child is especially defiant. It will reduce your child's attempts to get attention through bad behavior.

Establish Clear Rules

Kids with oppositional defiant disorder love to argue about rules. They look for loopholes and express concern when things don't seem fair.

Reduce some arguments by establishing clear household rules.

Post the rules on the refrigerator or another prominent location in the house.

Then, refer to the list as needed. When your child says, “I don’t want to do my homework right now,” point out, “The rules say homework time begins at 4:00.”

Keep the rules simple and don’t make the list too long. Include basic rules about issues such as homework, chores, bedtime and respect.

Create a Behavior Plan

Create a behavior plan to address your child’s specific behavior problems such as aggression, talking back, refusing to do homework, or throwing temper tantrums.  

Identify the specific consequence your child will receive when he breaks the rules.

Additionally, discuss any positive consequences he'll gain when he exhibits good behavior. Reward systems, especially token economy systems, can be very effective tools for kids with oppositional defiant disorder.

Be Consistent with Consequences

Kids with oppositional defiant disorder need consistent negative consequences for misbehavior. If you allow your child to get away with breaking the rules sometimes, he won’t learn.

IF he thinks there’s a one in a hundred chance that you’ll break down and give in when he argues, he’ll decide it’s worth a shot. And he'll become more argumentative over time. 

Avoid Power Struggles

Kids with oppositional defiant disorder are good at luring adults into lengthy debates. However, it’s important to take steps to avoid power struggles because they aren’t helpful or productive.

If you tell your child to clean his room and he argues with you, resist arguing back. The longer he keeps you in an argument, the longer he delays cleaning his room.

Instead, give him clear instructions and provide a consequence if he chooses not to follow through.

Don’t try to force your child to do anything. You can’t make him clean his room. You can’t force him to do his homework. Arguing, nagging, and yelling aren’t effective.

You can,however, make it unpleasant for him if he chooses not to do what you’ve said by giving him consequences. If he doesn’t do what you’ve told him, give him one warning that clearly outlines what will happen if he doesn't do what you say.

Say, “If you don’t get off the computer right now, you’ll lose your electronics privileges for the next 24 hours.” If he doesn’t comply after a few seconds, follow through with the consequence.

Get Support

If your child isn’t receiving professional help on an ongoing basis, you may want to consider it. Parent training is often a big part of treatment and a professional counselor can assist you with behavior modification techniques at home.

Support groups can also be helpful. Raising a child with oppositional defiant disorder can be exhausting and talking to other parents who understand is important.

Educate yourself as much as you can about oppositional defiant disorder. Understanding it can be key to helping a child learn new skills to manage his behavior.

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