Most parents have enough to handle with their children, even when there’s nothing more than the usual childhood behavior. But when your child has oppositional defiance disorder (ODD), the usual parenting techniques and patterns seem counterproductive – dealing with ODD can be a stressful and confusing task. To handle it effectively, it seems like you have to work a lot harder and longer to achieve half the success of other parents.
The major problem most parents of ODD children face isn’t so much the opposition itself, but the nature of the children they’re dealing with. ODD goes beyond the usual “problem with authority” every child displays to some degree, and comes primarily from a deep-seated need for the child to be in control. The parent, in many cases, feels out of control… as though the child simply cannot behave.
Underneath the defiance, however, there is the same battle all children fight: the battle for self-determination and independence. Every child wants to be in control, and dealing with ODD becomes much simpler when you understand why the child is being defiant in the first place… because defiance works. It places the child in control, and frustrates any and all efforts by the parent (or other authority figure) to be in control.
When dealing with ODD in your own children, or other people’s children if you are a caregiver or other professional, there is a simple understanding that makes all the difference. All you must do is understand why the child is defiant, and address the needs for that defiance in another fashion.
Children are defiant when they feel out of control. Once they understand that they do have control, and are capable of making choices that affect their own lives, dealing with ODD is not as difficult; the child learns, over time, to make those choices intelligently and correctly.
Even when you’re not dealing with ODD in your child, the same processes can improve discipline in children simply because these desires and impulses – while exaggerated in the ODD child – are universal. Every child wants to make choices that are productive and helpful in achieving their goals, but the difficulty is in identifying which behaviors achieve goals in the long term; not just at the moment.
For parents that feel a little lost without guidance, many programs exist which offer help in dealing with ODD or other discipline issues in children. Newer programs offer novelty; older programs offer time-tested techniques. Some programs, such as James Lehman’s, fall in between the two… being both time-tested, and based on recent understandings of how the childhood mind works.
Dealing with ODD is not an impossible task, nor is it particularly difficult – once you understand the goals of the child and how to help accomplish them. By moving from being the other team (which must be defeated) to being on the same team, working with the child to achieve the same goal, dealing with ODD can actually become a natural and normal process that requires little effort.
To learn more about dealing with ODD I highly recommend The Total Transformation Program, by James Lehman.
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