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Oppositional defiant disorder parenting and preventing behavior problems

Oppositional defiant disorder parenting and preventing behavior problems

Oppositional Defiant Disorder parenting is not vastly different than parenting a child without this disorder, however, there are specific differences to be aware of because of the large behavioral problems that ODD children struggle with. Children diagnosed with ODD are regularly angry with large temper tantrums, display argumentative and defiant behavior, and are often spiteful and vindictive. Their purposeful defiance of authority can be especially frustrating, but the good news is that ODD is very treatable with most treatment focused on shaping parenting practices and helping oppositional defiant kids understand positive behavior skills to use instead. All of Smarter Parenting’s skills can improve oppositional defiant disorder, but since it’s most effective to prevent problems, we’ll discuss a few preventative strategies.

Regular One-on-one Time

Although not specifically focused on skills, planning one-on-one time with your child every day has been linked to preventing behavior problems. Designate a specific amount of time alone with your child each day, this could be as short as 10 minutes. Label the time (e.g. special time, child’s play, me time) so your child is aware that it is happening. Then let him/her choose the activity and direct the play. During this time don’t give any feedback or suggestions, following their lead to play how they want to play. Increased positive interactions will give your ODD child the attention they desire in a positive way so they don’t need to seek it in negative ways.

ABC’s of Behavior

Since ODD children often blame others and avoid taking responsibility for their negative behavior, the ABC’s of behavior can be very beneficial in shaping your child’s perspective. Learning, applying, and then teaching your child the ABC’s of behavior will help him/her understand that behaviors don’t just occur, but are preceded by thoughts or actions. Discuss your child’s common antecedents with them. Have them identify some on their own and write them down to refer back to. Then have them explore options for other positive behaviors when those “antecedents” occur. When they are able to see the connection between the antecedents and their behavior, and that they have a choice to behave differently, implement role-playing so they can practice the new positive behaviors they will use.


Effective Praise

As with planned one-on-one time, increasing praise and positive attention will encourage your child to act appropriately to get attention rather than seeking it negatively. Praise also provides tangible examples for your child to know what behavior you want to see again. When giving praise, make sure it is behavior specific. Following the 4 steps of Effective Praise will ensure that your praise is specific and reinforcing.


A good rule of thumb is to praise 4 times for every 1 correction you give your child. When first implementing Effective Praise you may need to implement reminders in your home to maintain a 4:1 ratio. Over time, this increase in praise will become more natural.

  1. Show your approval/Find a positive behavior.
  2. Describe the positive behavior.
  3. Give a meaningful reason.
  4. Give a reward

Preventive Teaching

Preventive Teaching is a tool to teach positive behavior skills to your child, which is one of the most common treatments for disruptive behavior disorder. Most of the time when children behave negatively it’s because they just don’t know how else to behave. You can’t just tell an ODD child “Don’t do that!” It’s not effective. Instead you need to teach them how to replace the negative behavior with something positive. For example, when children are yelling at parents you may tell them not to yell, but this doesn’t teach them the correct way to behave. Instead you should tell them to speak calmly, or take a break alone before talking to you again. Teaching ahead of time when a negative behavior is not occurring will set your child up for success when a difficult situation arises again. Once you have taught the new behavior skill, make sure to role-play using it several times so they are prepared to use it in the moment. Also establish rewards ahead of time so they are motivated to implement the skill. A few skills on Smarter Parenting’s website that you can teach using Preventive Teaching and are beneficial to reduce ODD behavior in child are: Following Instructions, Making Positive Decisions, and Effective Communication. Implement one skill at a time, adding additional skills once they are able to regularly use what you have taught. Every effort you make to prevent behavior problems in your ODD child will reduce the amount of time you spend correcting their negative behaviors.