When we adopted my oldest son at the age of six, we were aware that he had some behavioral issues due to past trauma. Any adoptive or foster parent knows that this is exceedingly common with children who have come from neglectful or abusive homes.
In the case of my son, he was diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder a few years after coming into our care. It had been suspected for some time and we had already been working with a child psychologist and his excellent pediatrician to manage the symptoms.
Now that he is in college, most of the associated difficulties have passed and he is a kind, productive person. For parents with a child suffering from ODD, the idea that things get better may seem far from reach. But my son and many others are living proof that ODD is something that can be overcome.
What Is ODD?
ODD is a behavioral condition where aggression, defiance, anger and being uncooperativeis common. With kids, they might lash out, throw tantrums, and even have violent tendencies. Many children with ODD are at times touch-averse and struggle connecting with others on any more than a shallow level due to their acting out.
What causes ODD isn’t clear, though there are theories on both biological/neurological and learned/trauma related sources. Regardless of what creates the problem, dealing with it can be incredibly draining for even the most patient or experienced parents.
Addressing The Problem
ODD requires a diagnosis. If you suspect your child is suffering, be sure to talk to their doctor. In the meantime, there are several ways you can help them:
- Keep calm – This is one of the hardest things, because ODD is a frustrating (sometimes infuriating) condition. Take deep breaths and remember that there is nothing personal in your child’s behavior.
- Keep things consistent – It may be tempting to give up on a punishment when it doesn’t seem to be doing anything. Especially when you are rounding hour two of screaming from their bedroom after you sent them into time out, But keep it up…consistency is crucial.
- Consider the “why” – Sometimes the reason behind your child’s distress can be lost in their rage. Why are they lashing out this time? Did something upset them? Let them calm down and then ask them. Listen to their reasoning and it may help you understand the next time.
Together you and your child can work on managing emotions. Just remember that it gets better…hang in there.