Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is more than just ‘bad’ behaviour. It’s when a child’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour are out of balance, and the child just can’t cooperate. A child with ODD needs a professional diagnosis and management plan.
What is oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)?
Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a childhood behaviour problem. A child with ODD won’t do what people ask, thinks that what she’s being asked to do is unreasonable, and gets angry and aggressive about being asked to do things.
All children are disobedient and cranky sometimes, especially if they’re tired, upset or frustrated. But a child with ODD behaves like this a lot, and the ODD behaviour is so severe that the child has trouble doing ordinary, everyday things.
Diagnosing oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
A diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) can be made only by a health professional like a paediatrician, psychiatrist or psychologist.
To be diagnosed with ODD, a child must have constant angry and cranky moods, along with negative, defiant behaviour that upsets other people. A child must also have at least four symptoms from the following list.
A child with ODD shows the symptoms very often, in a way that interferes with usual daily activities, and for at least six months.
If you think your child might have ODD, it’s best to speak with your General Practitioner (GP) or school counsellor for a referral to the right health professional.
It’s normal to hope that your child will grow out of ODD, but ODD won’t go away by itself. Your child needs professional diagnosis and treatment early on. This will help your child develop the skills she needs to make and keep friends, get and keep a job, and build a support network later in life.
Managing oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
Managing oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) in children is about first accepting that your child will behave in challenging ways.
The next step is working with health professionals to develop a behaviour management plan, which can make the behaviour easier to handle – for you and your child.
A good plan will help your child:
These things will help your child with making and keeping friends, saying what she thinks without getting angry, accepting no for an answer and playing well with others.
A good behaviour management plan will also help you cope with your child’s challenging behaviour by helping you:
Helping your child with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
Working on your relationship
Your child needs to know that she’s important to you.
One of the best ways you can send your child this message is by spending positive time together doing things your child enjoys. This will help to strengthen your relationship with your child.
Changing your child’s behaviour
Here are some strategies for changing your child’s behaviour:
Working with your child’s school
You can also work with your child’s school to improve your child’s classroom and playground behaviour. For example, you could talk to staff about:
Looking after yourself
It can be challenging to balance looking after yourself with looking after your child with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and other children in the family.
Here are some tips on how you can care for yourself:
Risk factors for oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
It’s hard to say why any child develops ODD. It’s probably not because of any one thing. But there are some risk factors that are linked to ODD:
Children with ODD often have other difficulties like learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorders, mood disorders or language impairment.
Because so many factors can play a part in ODD, a child who might have it needs a full assessment from a health professional. This lets the health professional pick up any other conditions that the child has and helps to set goals for treatment.