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Helping the ODD child make positive decisions

Helping the ODD child make positive decisions

Children with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) are constantly making decisions throughout the day, which is why it is important to have ODD parenting strategies that teaches an effective way to make positive decisions. The prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for making decisions, is also not fully developed in children and adolescents which limits their ability to think through options and causes them to act more impulsively. Decision making is learned through trial and error and through observing others responses to problems, however the complexity and behaviors of the ODD child make implementing appropriate decision making difficult. For this reason, children who have been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) respond positively to learning how to problem solve because of their tendency to disobey rules and requests, become overly frustrated, intentionally annoy others, and blame others for their actions. All of these behaviors make it difficult for ODD children to maintain relationships, which is essential in all areas of life.

1. Situation

Smarter Parenting’s skill of Decision Making involves a process called the SODAS method of decision making. (IMAGE OF THE STEPS OF SODAS) The SODAS method includes 5 steps that can be applied to any decision to help your ODD child learn how to think thoroughly through a situation before coming to a decision.
The first step is to identify the situation. This may seem like an obvious step, but valid options cannot be discussed until the situation is fully defined and your child understands the specific problem they are trying to solve.

2. Options

After the situation has been identified your child needs to think of at least 3 options of how to respond. It is common for children to see decisions as only black or white: either they call someone a name or they don’t, but listing at least 3 options helps them see that there are many possible ways to respond to a situation.

3. Disadvantages

Next, the child lists all the disadvantages to each option they have selected. This step is enlightening to ODD children because they can visually see how many disadvantages negative behaviors have compared to more appropriate options. It also helps them learn there are consequences to their actions, rather than blaming someone else for their response.

4. Advantages

They also list advantages for each option. This step may give a better idea to you and your child the benefits to make positive decisions. It is helpful at this stage for the child to count the number advantages and disadvantages for each option which gives a good indication of what option is the best.

5. Solution

Once your child has thought of every option and its disadvantages and advantages they are in a much better position to come to an appropriate solution. If your child is still confused about what decision to make, encourage them to think of more options for the situation.

SODAS can be written for long-term decisions or in advance of potential difficult situations. Written SODAS is especially important when first using the skill to ensure full understanding and implementation. (LINK TO SODAS WORKSHEET) However, your child also needs to learn how to use the process in their mind so they can apply positive decision making in immediate situations when they aren’t able to write down all the steps.

Additional tools to aid in decision making

Along with learning the skill of Decision Making, other tools can help your child understand what influences decisions.


Personal values heavily influence the decisions your child makes, and if the way they behave goes against those values it can cause discomfort for your child. Review a list of personal values to discuss with your child and help them determine what they value most and how to make decisions in line with those values.

Setting goals

Goal setting provides step-by-step progress to the ultimate positive decisions your child wants to make. Setting goals is an additional way to think through options and increases motivation in making positive long-term decisions.

Thinking errors

Thinking errors are irrational thoughts we use to justify our actions or to place blame on ourselves or others. Because wrong thinking leads to wrong behavior, it is important to understand our common thinking errors and recognize when we use them to avoid the irrational thoughts. There are many resources online that provide a list of the most common thinking errors.

Reinforce the use of Decision Making

After teaching your child the skill of Decision Making there are many things you can do to reinforce the use of the skill. First, and most importantly, role-play difficult situations so your child can practice using SODAS during a neutral time. Make role-play and practicing enjoyable by using fun activities. Also give assignments such as completing a certain number of SODAS worksheets a day or tallying how often they use SODAS at school, and provide rewards when they complete their assignment. Assignments often give incentive to begin using the skill and then they will start to use the skill independently when they see the benefits of doing so. Follow through with positive and negative consequences based on their skill use, ask questions about their progress, and follow-up on the goals they have made. Over time your ODD child will show progress in their ability to make better choices.

For more information on the skill of Decision Making and for Decision Making activities for kids use with the skill, visit our lesson section on the Smarter Parenting website. We also invite you to visit our ODD page for additional ODD parenting help.