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. Creating a structured environment and providing consistent discipline is key to managing your child's symptoms.

Provide Positive Attention

Kids with oppositional defiant disorder grate on the nerves of the most patient of souls. Therefore, they tend to have a lot of negative interactions with adults. They receive more instructions and more consequences than other kids.

Give your child a daily dose of positive attention. It can help improve your relationship and reduce 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. Over the long-term, positive attention can greatly reduce behavioral problems.

Establish Clear Rules

Kids with oppositional defiant disorder love to argue about rules and fairness. They often look for loopholes and try to get away with whatever they can. Establishing clear household rules can be a good first step in reducing arguments.

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.

Instead, include rules about issues such as homework, chores, bedtime and respect. Also, include rules about any specific behavioral issues you want to target.

Create a Behavior Plan

Create a behavior plan to address your child’s specific behavior problems. Identify the most troubling behaviors that you want to address first.

Aggression, talking back, refusing to do homework, or disrupting his class may top your list. Identify the specific negative your child will receive when he breaks the rules.

Additionally, discuss any positive consequences he'll gain for doing a good job. Reward systems, especially token economy systems, can be very effective with 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. It’s likely that 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.

Take away privileges for misbehavior. For example, don’t allow him to spend time with friends if doesn’t do his chores.

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 the consequence will be if he chooses not to follow through.

Say, “If you don’t get off the computer right now, you’ll lose your electronics privileges for the next 24 hours.” Then, 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 are often helpful for parents as well as raising a child with oppositional defiant disorder can be exhausting. Also, learn 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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