Oppositional Defiance Disorder in Children

I’m the parent of five adopted kids, and I’m here to tell you that I know a little about oppositional defiance disorder in children, or ODD for short. James Lehman, MSW, behavioral therapist and creator of The Total Transformation Program for parents, says that a day with a child with oppositional defiance behavior is a series of battles in an undeclared war. It starts when they wake up, continues at breakfast, intensifies when they have to get dressed, and doesn’t end until they fight with you over bedtime.

What is Oppositional Defiance Disorder?

Children with ODD lose their temper quickly and often. They’re resentful of adults, and pushy and bossy with other kids, and become easily annoyed and frustrated. They blame everyone else for their problems and their inability to cope with life. They tend to gravitate to other kids like them and are usually sulking, angry teenagers.

It’s impossible to satisfy kids with ODD, because their thinking is irrational. They want your attention, but when they get it they’ll tell you to leave them alone. Bottom line is that kids with ODD aren’t very likable, which make parents feel guilty because even though they love the child, they pretty much don’t want to be around them. Plus, they’re hesitant about being in social situations since the ODD child is quite often embarrassing or out-of-control.

I’ve experienced all of these feelings with more than one of my kids, and I tell you, it’s not fun.

What Causes Oppositional Defiance Disorder in Children?

ODD is not a self-esteem issue; it’s a problem solving issue. In a nutshell, they don’t know how to solve a problem, so they try to gain control by bullying, screaming, negotiating, or bargaining. According to Mr. Lehman, there is no evidence that self-esteem leads to compliance, and emotions are not, in and of themselves, a way for kids to cope with their problems.

What can you do to stop the war and restore peace at home?

Mr. Lehman says that one thing to definitely not do is to give the child a time out. A child with ODD won’t use the time out to change his thinking – he’ll use it to plot revenge. Parents need to change their parenting style to deal with a kid with oppositional defiance behavior. Here are 4 tips that he suggests. You can find many more in his wonderful program The Total Transformation. I just can’t describe how much good it’s done for our family.

  1. Children with ODD need structure with aggressive training that is built around how to solve the problems that trigger their defiant behavior. You need to show the child that he has a problem that has to be solved and address it as such. For example: “Lying in bed after your alarm goes off won’t solve your problem. It makes you late and you miss the bus. What can you do to solve your problem?”
  2. The focus of treatment needs to be on developing compliance and coping skills, not primarily on self-esteem. Kids get self-esteem by doing things that are hard for them. Children with ODD need strong praise and support as well as realistic rewards. A pat on the back for something they should already know how to do doesn’t cut it.
  3. Avoid power struggles. Pick your battles carefully and win the ones you pick. Many times you can win a fight by not arguing back. Instead of arguing, set limits in a businesslike way and expect the child to comply.
  4. Have a plan for managing your child’s behavior. When you’re in the car, know what you’ll do if he acts out there. Similarly, if you’re at the mall or at a friend’s place, have a plan for how to handle the situation – for instance, one warning then leaving. Make sure the child learns that defiance doesn’t get him what he wants.

For many parents, ODD is not the primary issue. Rather, they’re dealing with low-level defiance that isn’t aggressive, but is still annoying and disruptive to the family. Left untreated, however, it can turn into full-blown Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and even worse to Conduct Disorder, a more serious problem that is a precursor for anti-social behavior and criminality.

If you’re on the way to ODD, or right in the middle of it, I would highly suggest you check out more great strategies from The Total Transformation –

It’s done wonders for our house and click here to see if it can do the same for yours!

You might be wondering if I’m making money by promoting this program, and the answer is yes! If you buy it after visiting my website, I will earn a commission.  The truth is, I tried it and liked it so much, that I decided it would be something I would feel proud to support and promote, and as a bonus, I get a commission if you buy it.


  1. margaret Hallenberg says:

    I need this advice for school. Very defiant opposional and bullying aggressive little boy of 12 terrorises others in the class.

  2. jayashreedash says:

    Dear madam’
    The write up on ODD is really gud.If by any chance the situation has worsened and the person is an adult with ODD,then what is the remedy?can it b cured?please help me if possible by replying in my e mail.

  3. jayashreedash says:

    My E-Mail ID is jayashreedashus@yahoo.com

  4. This sounds like part of my son’s issue. But does this disorder also pertain to children who get along well with other children, but not their younger sister. My kids are 15 months apart (2 and 3 1/2) and my son is horrible to his sister. He is great with the children that he goes to preschool with and the neighbors children, but when he is with his sister he is very mean. He punches, slaps and kicks her for no reason. He can be playing with something and she goes to play with something across the room he runs over, grabs it off of her and then slaps and pushes her. He is also very defiant to myself, my husband, grandparents and other adults expect for the teachers at his school. I am at a loss and don’t know what to do. I LOVE my little man, but he makes it very hard to like him most days because he is so mean.

  5. Well I was there 13 years ago and now he is 16 and still torturing his 14 year old brother. I wish I could separate them. Dealing with him is bad enough but when he says that everything is his brother’s fault and if he wasnt here everything would be fine…..I just want them in separate places. I am trying to homeschool 14 year old because he has seizures (unknown cause), and finds it really hard to concentrate or focus. Big brother calls him horrible names, pushes him and generally makes his life miserable.

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