Oppositional behavior is a normal part of development for young children and early adolescents. However, openly uncooperative and hostile behavior becomes a serious concern when it is so frequent and consistent that it stands out when compared with other children of the same age and developmental level and when it affects the child’s social, family, and/or academic life.
In children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), there is an ongoing pattern of uncooperative, defiant, and hostile behavior toward authority figures that seriously interferes with the child’s day-to-day functioning.
A child presenting with ODD symptoms should have a comprehensive evaluation from a qualified mental/behavioral health clinician. It is important to consider other disorders which may be present and can have similar or overlapping symptoms, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder), and anxiety disorders. It may be difficult to improve the symptoms of ODD without treating the coexisting disorder.
Treatment of ODD may include parent management training, individual and family therapy, cognitive problem-solving skills training, social skills training, and medication, particularly when co-occuring disorders are present.
Parents can help their child with ODD by providing praise and positive reinforcement for the child’s cooperative behavior, taking care of themselves and managing their own stress and anger to prevent escalating conflicts and model healthy coping skills, avoiding getting into power struggles, setting consistent, age-appropriate limits and consequences, and get support from the other adults in your child’s life.
Parents can ask their pediatrician or family physician to refer them to a qualified children’s mental health professional who can help diagnose and treat ODD and any coexisting condition(s).