Can ODD Be Overcome?

Having recently experienced a student who was oppositionally defiant in one of my classes, I was reminded of the mental health professional description of the behaviors of someone with that type of behavioral issue.

Below is the checklist of a child with the disorder which, by the way, needs to be tracked according to intensity and repetition. In my case the student exhibited all but one of the descriptors.  Not knowing the background of this student because he was relatively new in my class, or if there was some type of trauma in his life that triggered the actions, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and reacted according to how I’ve been trained. Certainly, aggressive behavior such as he exhibited could be excused due to trauma. Otherwise, there are ways to deal with it. Here is the list which seems to characterize an ODD child/teen.

  • Often loses temper
  • Argues with adults and authority figures
  • Refuses to comply with adult requests
  • Blames others for his mistakes
  • Deliberately annoys people
  • Is easily annoyed by others
  • Is angry/resentful and spiteful/vindictive.

Sound like someone you may know?

Please see information below as I found it most helpful and I think you will too

If a person exhibits four or more of these behaviors for six months or longer, he/she would likely be diagnosed with ODD, unless there was an alternative explanation; for example, if the individual has experienced some kind of trauma or if there’s another disorder or condition at play. The most important factor to consider is frequency and intensity. All kids exhibit some of these behaviors, but not to the extent of an ODD child. ODD may develop at any time, over time, and may be secondary to another diagnosis. In other words, it might co-exist with ADHD or a mood disorder.


With oppositional and defiant children, there are very different levels of misbehavior. You might have a youngster who’s having temper tantrums, or an older adolescent who’s exhibited ODD behavior for years and who feels justified in being verbally or physically abusive, or punching holes in the kitchen wall.

A common trait of kids with Oppositional Defiant Disorder is that they often see themselves as victims and feel justified in acting out. And sadly, they see so many examples of people in our culture who act out — from rock stars to athletes to politicians — that they feel even more justified in what they’re doing.

Parents and certainly teachers are often intimidated by their ODD child’s behavior because it’s so difficult to deal with; sometimes it just seems easier to give in than to deal with trying to manage and respond differently. Again, it’s important to remember as a parent that you can change at any time. You might feel defeated because of your own stress levels, feelings of blame or failure, and exhaustion. But here’s the truth: you can learn to respond in such a way as to reduce the acting out behavior.


Here are four things you can do as a parent to effectively manage your child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder: I found this info on the internet to help me deal with my own problems in class. Just google Oppositional Defiant Disorder and you’ll receive great suggestions.

  1. Respond without anger:It’s important to respond to your ODD child without anger—try to be as calm and matter-of-fact as possible. Just acknowledge the behavior, state it as you see it, explain how it will need to change and then remove yourself from all arguments. You really have to pick your battles and decide what’s most important to you—and ultimately to your child.


  1. Be clear and consistent:The nature of oppositional defiant behavior is to wear parents down so that they eventually give in. You need to be strong, clear and consistent in your follow through.


  1. Do not take things personally. Do not take your child’s behavior personally. When your ODD child acts out, as hard as it might be, stay as neutral and objective as possible. You need to be clear and concise and not get pulled into a power struggle—it’s really not about you, it’s about your child and what he needs to learn. We as parents sometimes need to be great actors and actresses with our kids. The key is to keep practicing calm, consistent parenting and following through.


  1. Don’t be your child’s friend—be his parent:Remember, being a parent is not a personality contest. There are times when he won’t like you—he may even shout, “I hate you,” or call you foul names. But if you keep setting limits with your child and follow through by giving him consequences and holding him accountable, then ultimately you’re doing the best thing for your child.



Who Owns the Problem

Who Owns the Problem?

I find it disturbing when I encounter a child in my class who forgets to bring in his/her homework or the important document that a parent needs to  sign for the school administration.  I find myself wondering how it is that the parent didn’t check the book bag or the child’s agenda, or ask the child what assignments were due. Then, I stop myself from this way of thinking because after all, the parent isn’t the guilty culprit, it’s the child.   I’m speaking of children beyond the elementary level.

If you as a parent have to remind, coax, nag, threaten and finally punish your child for irresponsibility, lack of organization and sloppiness,  the consequences should depend on who is affected by the child’s forgetting.  If children forget things which do not involve you, the parent, my take is non- interference.  Let the child learn his lesson and receive consequences, usually from the teacher. You’ll  be hearing from most teachers if this becomes a habit.  For example, the student  may forget to bring his book or money for lunch or a variety of items like writing materials.  I’ve seen kids call their parents and demand that they bring the lunch or the missing item, and often  the parent will show up and be extremely inconvenienced.    In this example, the consequences should occur in the school. Therefore, the problem should not be yours. And, how horrible would it be if your child missed a lunch if that disappointment improved his organizational skills? How terrible would it be if the child received a  low grade or Friday afternoon school to make the work up as a consequence for not being prepared .

Don Dinkmeyer author of ‘The Effective Parent,’ Circle Press states “If their forgetting gets in the way of your peace of mind, then you own the problem. Obviously, the consequences you design depend upon the situation. Find one that’s fitting.”

Also, as a rule Mr. Dinkmeyer states,  “parents shouldn’t interfere in the relationships between their child and other people.  Non-interference is made easier by recognizing who owns the problem and by allowing children to learn from their own decisions.

Don’t Play This Program

Take the word habituation. The root word is habit. Obviously, some habits are positive and others get us into trouble or make our lives miserable. The definition of habitation is doing something in the same way over and over again.  As I said, sometimes it works for us like learning the times table in 3rd grade. The constant repetition helped us cement those tables in our mind and I think to this day, most of us will never forget the multiplication number sequences.

We all have behaviors that become repetitive, habit forming, habitual and if they become a deficit like thinking the worst in any given situation, or becoming wildly impatient on a supermarket line well, it’s time to rethink things and make life easier.  It’s time to get rid of those behaviors that are not supporting you. It’s time to create a new pattern through a form of repetition.

Here’s the key that goes into the lock.  When you observe a behavior that’s not supporting you, that’s the moment of freedom. If you see that you’re running a sabotaging program, you can say stop!  Don’t play this program, play something else. Every time that negative program shows up and you say to yourself, wait, stop, I have to cancel that, you’re creating a repetition of a new pattern. The more times you do it, the more the new pattern gets established.  The more the new pattern gets established, it overrides the old negative thoughts/beliefs and cancels out the negative program. The subconscious then stops the negative pattern from running. Habituation is what this is called according to neuro-biologist, Dr. Bruce Lipton in his highly acclaimed best-selling book, The Biology of Belief.  “Habituation is a fundamental way of re-wiring the consequences of a negative program.”




I was recently reading that about 70% of adults have some form of ADD.  I would count myself in that group and ironically, I’m a teacher of kids with ADD and ADHD.

This may explain why we forget where we put our keys, whether we’ve even brushed our teeth or taken medication. Scientific research tells us that we can only hold 4 chunks of information in our working memory for a brief period of time.  A chunk could even be one word. So, think about losing your keys because you are multi-tasking in the morning and trying to get your household in order before the day begins.  We have the illusion that we are conscious of hundreds of things at one time: colors, things moving around us, awareness of what we are striving to achieve are all examples.

However, in actuality we are only aware of a tiny bit of info at a time and as you’ll probably agree, it’s almost impossible to remember any sentence that has seven or more words.

There’s always an upside to everything and in this situation it is that we do have a benefit to our abbreviated memory.  We just can’t focus on a positive and negative experience simultaneously. The sensation of pain, whether emotional or physical will always diminish when we think of something pleasurable. Try it if you don’t believe me. And, teach your children to do this simple technique.

According to author and neuro-scientist, Mark Waldman, in his e-book, Neuro-Wisdom, “The brain has preferences to embed negative emotions because the organism needs to respond to future threats faster than our conscious mind can respond.”  He explains, “When a real emergency takes place like someone driving their car into your lane, the consciousness in your frontal lobe is turned down so that your instinctual reactions can take evasive action.”

The more you think about the possibility that something awful may happen, the more your brain releases the stress chemicals to prepare the body for the “fight or flight” response.

Building optimism and a way to deal with negative thoughts and stress involves a ratio according to Dr. Waldman.  It was determined in an independent study done by Fredrickson, Gottman and Losada that when the number of positive and negative ratios is  is 5:1,  that is, 5 positive thoughts/experiences vs. 1 negative one, we have much more peace of mind and self-satisfaction. This ratio will avoid the brain’s propensity to turn negative experiences into memories which then engender beliefs that we act upon.

So, okay there are a multitude of techniques which help you own this ratio and which of course is important to teach to youngsters.  The one I’ll highlight today is called the Flip Switch Technique pioneered by Dr. Robert Anthony whose transitional self-hypnosis books and audios can easily be found on line.  Please refer to my blog in and find Dr. Anthony’s Flip Switch Technique written on August 26th 2014 under the heading Neuro-Science -Creating a Paradigm Shift. You may also look at the following blogs for more techniques/info. June 8, 2015, Right Intention, Sept 1. 2014, The Vibration of Appreciation.

A Transformation System That Works!

How often do you feel that you are being punished more than your child when it comes to giving consequences?  Often, rude and disruptive behavior escalates after consequences are given, and you might ask yourself if it was worth it?  The Total Transformation Program written by the illuminated  Lehmans is an excellent resource for understanding how to handle defiant and unsuccessful children/teens. The authors’ premise underscores the importance of all children needing to learn to be accountable for their actions no  matter what age. They state that it is up to you  (the parents) to create a climate of accountability in the home and in the community with your child. They also suggest that many parents try to justify the inappropriate behavior of their child and tend to blame it on the child’s friends or teachers as being a bad influence.  Based on working with scores of parents through my years as a high school teacher, I am of the opinion that some parents use ineffective strategies and when they don’t work, they may look for someone else to blame for their failures.   I believe a number of parents “look the other way” when a child is behaving disgracefully or is abusive and disrespectful to them or others.  There are times when parents may under-react to a child’s weaknesses by refusing to recognize them.

I’ve worked with parents who think inappropriate behavior is just a passing phase related to age, and the child will eventually settle down.   Some parents are in denial of the behavior because understandably, it is a frightening situation to realize your child just can’t cope.  Sometimes, parents are even afraid of their own children.  They might be afraid of the child’s failures and think, “what if I don’t know how to help him?”  Or they may even be thinking, “what if I pass my failures on to him?”  Often the parent will become the enabler when they take total responsibility for solving the child’s problems.   If you recognize yourself in any of these statements, please know that, first and foremost, you should  never allow abusive or disrespectful  behavior and never make excuses for it.   If you are subjected to abusive behavior on a regular basis, you may have become so accustomed to it, you “let it ride”.  That is not a way to help your child.

If your child is failing in an area, there are steps you can take to help him.  Accurately define the failure, and explain to him exactly what it is.  Perhaps it is his impulsive behavior, like not thinking before acting, maybe it’s his laziness, ungratefulness, or emotional immaturity.  Accept your child fully, and don’t withhold affection because of his inappropriateness and belligerent behavior.  Withholding affection won’t help but at the same time boundaries and consequences need to be established for intolerable behavior, including abuse and disrespect.

According to information in the Transformation audio program, you can state something like this:  “You may not abuse your sister or call me names.  You may not abuse anyone verbally or physically.”  Then, you need to defuse the situation by taking the power out of the abusive behavior so it becomes an ineffective tool for the child.  Give the child the ground rules, and then tell him the consequences for breaking the rules.  Yes, he may balk at first, and get angry.  Always use an unemotional tone.  You can listen compassionately, and continue to invest in your child no matter what your child needs.  Let him know that he is accepted even though he hasn’t met your expectations.  You also need to give your child the tools to help himself so he doesn’t explode.  This can be as simple as suggesting he count to 10 in his head (model this) before he says anything.  Or, when he feels like he’s about to explode, have him give you a signal that he needs to go into his room for 10 minutes to cool off and maybe listen to music before resuming the conversation.




A is For Accountability

Accountability is an issue I often face in my classrooms, and one on which I am relentless in trying to teach my students. I tell them that when you are accountable, you don’t blame the kid sitting next to you for throwing something across the room. You can’t control what others say and do but you certainly can control what you do.

Here’s a typical example that comes up regularly. “I didn’t do my homework because I had to do chores around the house, or I didn’t do my homewwork because the family had to visit my grandmother, and we didn’t get home till late.”

So, how do we teach kids accountability?

  • Teach them to be conscious and informed whenever they make a choice.
  • Try to determine if the choice is more likely to help them or someone else, or on the other side of the coin, hurt them.
  • Talk over the choice with people they trust and make sure to include at least one adult.
  • After making the choice, review what they did and what happened as a result. Have them self-reflect by asking, “Did my choice help someone or help me, and did it make a situation better?”

Kids can learn from their choices by remembering what they did and what the consequences were.

When making a poor choice, teach children to:

Admit it! Not an easy one for most kids, as they may be afraid of the consequences and prefer to take the easy way out. A suggestion might be to have your child write in a journal about the poor choice and describe the consequences. They might answer the question, what did you learn as a result of your choice, and would you do it again? Why or why not?

Teach your child to do what they can to make up for their poor choice. Model a poor choice you made and what you did about it.

Here are two suggestions of books for different age levels that teach kids accountability. “What do You Stand For? A Kid’s Guide to Building Character” by Barbara Lewis, Free Spirit Publishing, non-fiction

“Choosing Sides” by Irene Cooper, Morrow Junior Books for ages 10-13, fiction

“Trouble’s Child”, Mildred Pitts Walter, fiction ages 12 and up