By Dr. Gerald Deskin, Ph.D.
The most difficult child to deal with is the child who is defiant, angry and oppositional. You will know if you have one because this child may have temper tantrums, argues with almost every request, is demanding, and refuses to follows parent's orders. This behavior may show itself both at school and at home, or just at home. The child doesn't accept parental authority, but sees himself as equal or above his parents or teacher. These children have what is called an Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ODD.
What makes matters worse is that most of the usual methods of discipline do not work.
Whatever parents try, whether it is spanking, depriving them of their favorite toys, or putting them in their rooms, these children are defiant and uncooperative. These children, often called Explosive Children seem to have a need to control their parents rather than accepting control, often right from birth.
The problem often coexists with other problems such as an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. Sometimes the problem seems to begin at birth. With other children it is triggered by a family problem such as divorce or some major change in the family.
What parents need to know is that this is not just having a difficult child, but a definite disorder that needs to be treated. For example, rather than just being seen as difficult these children have a rigid oppositional way of responding that not only disturbs parents, but leads to problems for the children themselves. If the following suggestions do not work, you may need to see a child counselor or child psychologist for additional help.
Parents can learn to cope by not falling into the child's trap. If you tell a defiant child what to do you are about to begin an argument. If you give them alternatives, such as, "When your homework is done you can watch TV," or "When you clean up your room you can go to the movies," there is less chance of an argument. Remember to not lose your "cool." Don't argue; just tell your child what the rules and limits are. Your child will try to get you into an argument, but avoid this trap. The rule is not to be dragged into an argument, since this is what the child wants.
Decide what is really important to you. These children want to win, so let them win in some minor areas, while making sure you win what is most important to you. Since ODD children want to be in charge, let them be in charge in certain areas. You be in charge in the areas that are most important to you.
As hard as it is remember that these are children who need love and acceptance as much as any child. Praise your child when you can appropriately do so. Let your child know that as much as you disagree with his behavior, you still love him.
What else works, depends on each child. Professional counselors or psychologists may help both parents and child to deal with these problems. Medication in certain situations also may be effective. Some children learn to modify their behavior and become less abrasive as they get older and more mature. Some children seem to retain a negative personality pattern for a long period of time.
Suggestions for Parents:
1. Try to control your behavior when dealing with an ODD child.
2. When all your attempts at working with your child fail, seek professional help.