Dealing with Oppositional Defiant Disorder


What Is Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)?

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a psychiatric disorder that develops in childhood, between ages six and eight, and can last throughout adulthood. The condition goes beyond the regular childhood tantrums and is more frequent and severe. Children who suffer from ODD particularly experience difficulty at home and at school.

Types of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Childhood-onset ODD

Childhood-onset ODD starts from an early age and requires early intervention and treatment to prevent it from progressing into a more serious conduct disorder

Adolescent-onset ODD

This begins suddenly in the high-school years and causes conflict at home and in school.

Children who suffer from ODD display behaviors that are too challenging for parents and educators to handle. These children purposefully misbehave and can be terribly aggressive. They often have difficulty interacting appropriately with peers and adults and can also be argumentative and defiant. Common symptoms of ODD are:

  • Regular temper tantrums
  • Low tolerance for frustration
  • Lying
  • Moodiness and unprovoked anger
  • Noncompliance with even simple requests
  • No sense of conscience
  • Being easily annoyed
  • Causing conflict
  • Purposeful irritation of others

How to Diagnose Oppositional Defiant Disorder

A diagnosis of ODD requires a child to have certain symptoms occurring for at least six months, as well as having negative impacts on their social, educational, and occupational functioning. Here are some of the symptoms checked in diagnosing ODD:

Angry/Irritable Mood

crying childThe child would often get angry, lose their temper, and become resentful. They would also be often touchy or easily annoyed.

Argumentative/Defiant Behavior

The child would often argue with adults and authority figures, actively refuse to comply with rules and requests, deliberately annoys people, and blames others for their mistakes.


The child has been spiteful or vindictive at least twice within the past six months.

ODD ranges from mild, to moderate, and severe degrees.

Causes of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Medical science is yet to find the actual cause(s) of ODD, however, it has been linked to a combination of psychological, biological, and social factors.

Here are some of the biological factors:

  • A parent with a history of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), ODD, or CD
  • A parent with a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder or depression
  • Abnormal levels of neurotransmitters in the brain
  • A parent with a substance use disorder
  • A mother who smoked during pregnancy
  • Poor nutrition
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Impairment in the part of the brain responsible for reasoning, judgment, and impulse control

Here are some of the psychological factors:

  • A poor relationship with one or more parent
  • A neglectful or absent parent
  • Difficulty forming social relationships

Here are some of the social factors:

  • Lack of supervision
  • Inconsistent discipline
  • Poverty
  • Uninvolved parents
  • Abuse or neglect
  • Chaotic environment
  • Family instability (such as divorce or frequent moves)

Sometimes ODD co-occurs with other behavior disorders or mental health issues such as anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD), and language disorders.

How to Treat Oppositional Defiant Disorder

It is important to treat children who suffer from ODD as early as possible so it doesn`t develop into conduct disorder. There are various therapy options such as:

Parent Training

During this training, parents and caregivers of children suffering from ODD will learn behavior management techniques and strategies to manage the children.


Children suffering from ODD may go through individual therapy sessions that can help them learn new skills such as impulse control and anger management.

Family Therapy

There may be a need to invite the parents, siblings, and other family members of the child suffering ODD to improve family interactions and relationships.

Cognitive Problem-Solving Skills Therapy

This therapy helps children learn how to manage specific symptoms of ODD and also identify and solve problems that arise from living with the condition.

Social Skills Training

There are formal social skills training in which children with ODD will learn to interact with peers and adults. Such social skill training sessions will help them manage the condition better.


There are medications that can treat the symptoms of ODD and some other conditions such as ADHD, mood disorders, and anxiety.

Other Ways to Manage Children who Suffer Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Form a Positive Relationship

mother and childTo manage ODD, you need to build a positive relationship with your child. Engage them in child-led play, and give positive reinforcement.

Set Expectations

It is important to always set clear expectations when dealing with children with ODD. Such children respond to annoying parents and teachers by throwing tantrums. With clear expectations, you can agree on behavioral standards, as well as rewards and punishments.

Establish a Routine

A routine would be necessary for helping children with ODD cope with activities at home and at school. Be sure to apply this routine consistently for effectiveness.

Discipline and Rewards

Be specific about discipline and rewards. Offer praise and rewards for commendable behaviors. You could use stickers, tokens, or a behavior chart to show progress toward the desired behavior goals.

Social Interaction

When the child interacts with other people, do well to ensure that there is adequate supervision so that rules can be enforced. The school’s counselor can also work with the child`s peers to guide them in responding appropriately to the child’s behaviors.


These are tips for parents to help their children better cope with ODD:

  • Keep your temper under control.
  • Resist the urge to argue with the child.
  • Don`t let your child see you angry.
  • Use a stern tone without emotion when stating the rule that the child has broken.
  • State clearly what the consequences of the child`s action will be.
  • Be consistent with the consequences of the child`s actions.
  • Allow the child to have a place to vent their frustrations.
  • You may give them a pillow to punch or to yell into.

Facts About Children`s Mental Health

  • One in five children has a diagnosable mental disorder.
  • Children may suffer major mental illness from as early as 7 to 11 years old.
  • Factors that predict mental health problems are usually identifiable in the early years.
  • One in 10 youth has serious mental health problems that are critical enough to affect how they function at home and school.
  • 85% of children and youth who need mental health services don`t receive them.
  • 80% of children with private health insurance and 70% with public health insurance have pending mental health problems.
  • Depression affects more children and young people than it has in the last few decades.
  • Teenagers are more likely to experience depression than young children.
  • Self-harm is a common problem among young people.
  • Some young people report that self-harm helps them manage intense emotional pain.
  • There are more boys than girls who are affected by ADHD, and scientists don`t fully understand the reasons for this.
  • Eating disorders usually start in the teenage years and are more common in girls than boys.
  • Unknown to many, mental illness patients are not necessarily violent; only 3-5% of violent acts are attributed to people with severe mental illness.
  • People who have experienced a major disaster are twice at risk of mental health issues than those who haven`t.
  • There are a number of treatment options for mental health problems; some of which are yoga and OTC medication.
  • Genetics, illness, injury, and traumatic life experiences are common causes of mental illness.
  • Communicating with family and friends during stressful periods plays a major role in preventing mental health illness.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can cause young people to become extremely worried. Young children starting or moving school may have separation anxiety.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur as a result of being the victim of violence, physical or sexual abuse, experiencing extremely frightening situations, suffering bullying, or surviving a disaster.