How to Intervene with ODD in Teens

Dealing with teenage rebellion can be one of the most frustrating parts of parenthood. As your teen starts coming into their own, they want more independence and don’t want to follow the rules. They want the freedom of an adult, but they aren’t ready for it yet. As a parent, it’s your role to teach them how to handle adult responsibility while keeping their behavior in check.

When you assert rules for your child to follow, they will likely push back on them. They’ll test your limits to see what they can get away with and what they can’t. Though they want freedom, they also like to know where their boundaries are. Kids ultimately feel safer when they know their boundaries and know that they will be held accountable if they break their boundaries.

Sometimes though, teens push their defiance too far. Teens with ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) have trouble following rules of any sort. This can get them in trouble at home, at school, and in other areas of life.

Teens with ODD often find themselves in legal trouble when they defy laws and behave disrespectfully toward authority figures. Some teens who can’t stay out of trouble at home see success from attending a therapeutic boarding school to learn how to manage their behavior.

What is ODD?

Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a behavioral disorder characterized by rebellious, defiant behavior. Kids and teens with ODD struggle with rules of all sorts. They don’t like being told what they can and cannot do, and they’re incredibly resilient against typical social consequences.

Common symptoms of ODD include:

  1. Arguing with authority figures

  2. Refusing to follow rules

  3. Blatantly breaking the rules and then lying about it

  4. Refusing to accept responsibility for their actions

  5. Purposefully annoying others

  6. Questioning rules when they already know the answer

  7. Getting easily annoyed

  8. Losing their temper quickly

  9. Holding a grudge or being vindictive

  10. Destroying something that matters to someone else

Teens with ODD are very good at understanding the nuances of rules and looking for loopholes. They want to feel like they control the situation, so they look for ways to undermine anyone else’s authority. If they can’t get out of a situation, they’ll make it as irritating as possible for the people around them.

Parenting a teen with ODD

If your teen has ODD, setting rules and holding your teen accountable to those rules can be extra hard. Teens with ODD need particular help learning to accept their boundaries without fighting back too much. Your teen will likely continue to blaze their path even as they grow into adulthood, but they need to learn to accept some rules without pushing back.

When teens fight authority figures on every rule, they tend to get in trouble. They often have trouble in school because they won’t follow the rules, and they can get in legal trouble because they don’t want to follow laws. So, they need to learn how to accept rules without getting themselves into trouble.

Set clear expectations

Teens with ODD love to find loopholes. Set clear expectations for their behavior and try to make them loophole-free. Write the expectations down and review them with your teen. Check with your teen to make sure that they understand the rules.

Ask your kid to come up with any loopholes that they see in the rules and help make the rules clearer—teens with ODD hate feeling like they aren’t in control. When you give them some power to help set the rules and help to manage their behavior, they’re more likely to follow the rules and accept the consequences if they break them.

Set clear consequences for following or breaking rules

When you set the expectations for your teen’s behavior, assign consequences to follow or break those expectations. It’s helpful for teens with ODD to know their consequences ahead of time. Then they can work toward earning something that they want or try to purposefully avoid something they don’t want.

Again, this gives them more power over deciding what happens to them.

Only set consequences that you can apply

As you’re planning the consequences for your teen’s behavior, only set consequences that you will apply. If you won’t follow through with it, the consequence is useless. Teens with ODD are great at spotting false consequences.

If they know you won’t follow through with it or that following through with it would be worse for you than for them, then they’ll test you on it. If you give in and don’t follow through with the consequence, they’ll see it as a win and continue their behavior.

Get additional help

If your teen’s behavior is getting out of control, you might need additional help. Teen’s with ODD are prone to getting in serious trouble at school or with the law. Your teen needs to learn how to manage their behavior before doing anything that could cause long-term harm to themselves.

Teens with ODD tend to see success from therapeutic intervention. When they start to understand the thoughts and beliefs that spur their actions, teens can adjust their overall mentality toward rules. As their thoughts and attitude toward rules shifts, their behavior follows.

At Sundance Canyon Academy, we have worked with countless teens learning to overcome ODD to live productive lives. Contact us today to find out if our school can help your family.

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