The Management of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

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Oppositional Defiant Disorder Management

Please see the Oppositional Defiant Disorder page for more information about the presentation and diagnosis associated with the condition.

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General Strategies

Children with ODD are incredibly challenging at times and it is important to remain calm and in control particularly when they are doing their best to 'push our buttons!'

Be firm, fair and flexible
Allow them to 'save face'. Avoid an audience
Focus on the current issue. Avoid bringing up past behaviour
Allow opportunity for their say
Offer choices
Use distraction to deescalate situations before they explode.
Refer to rights and responsibilities. This is best achieved by having a visual resource at home and at school.
Use behaviour contracts at home and school.
Work as a team. Try to be consistent in expectations, rewards and sanctions. At home between parents. At school, ensure all staff use the same approach.
Be aware of body language. Try to avoid confrontational body language.
Praise compliant behaviour
Provide immediate feedback about behavioural choices

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Strategies For Schools

Oppositional Defiant Disorder tends to present more in the home than in school settings. However, these students can still present very challenging behaviour particularly when they experience failure, criticism or conflict. They may respond disproportionately to minor incidents of teacher discipline that can then quickly escalate into major incidents. Positive behaviour management strategies are generally more effective with these students. It also important that these students are supported through holistic approaches; that identify and support any difficulties with learning; help with peer conflict resolution and where possible try to reduce the impact of any social economic disadvantages. These student may also benefit from:

Support with emotional regulation and anger management strategies. For example: use of emotional rating scales; emotional literacy for processing complex emotions and calming techniques
Individual reward systems based on targets and rewards agreed with the student
High frequency praise and reward for effort rather than just achievement - sometimes this needs to be given in discreet manner
Use of an 'Escape Card' giving the student the opportunity to leave situations before 'outbursts' occur
Being seated next to good role models
Being seated away from distractions and high 'footfalls' areas of the classroom
Clear rules and expectation communicated in a visual format that are consistently and fairly applied by all staff to all students
Frequent opportunities for movement breaks
Opportunities to take on areas of responsibility and enhance their sense of worth
Social skills training
Opportunities to lead in learning contexts that are their areas of strength
Use of peer support to help with learning tasks
Behaviour Support Plan with clear SMART targets agreed with student and parents
Students with ODD can benefit from intervention to develop problem solving skills.

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Strategies For Parents

ODD children are by definition incredibly difficult to manage. However, strategies can be effective when used consistentl and patiently over time. It is therefore really important that parents work together to ensure that they are consistent about rules and boundaries that are set. There also must be consistency between parents in the giving of rewards and sanctions in response to behaviours. It is is struggle to remain calm and positive when faced with the sort of provocation that ODD children often give. Everyone loses their patience every now and again but the more you can maintain control and remain calm and apply strategies consistently the more likely you will bring about a positive change in your child's behaviour. The following strategies can be effective when used consistently over time:

Using 'time out' to try and diffuse situations: 'I think we all need some time to ourselves'. This avoids dealing with an incident when emotions are too volatile. This works best when used to prevent an incident escalating.
Using clear visual rules can help as they reinforce rules more emotionally neutrally than spoken communication. There are lots of resources on this site that can be used to support behaviour at home.
Using reward systems. This can help you remain consistent and fair in encouraging your child to achieve a change in their behaviour. Set targets that are very small changes - aim for slightly better not completely better than before.
Avoid issuing specific sanctions straight away - better to state that there will be a consequence and that 'you'll think about it' Giving yourself time to think also prevents you from giving a sanction that you are unable or unwilling to enforce.
Parenting courses can be highly effective in helping to develop consistent approaches in the management of behaviours

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You may also be interested in the following pages:

Classroom Behaviour

Reward Systems Resources

School Rules Resources

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