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What Parents Need to Know About ODD in Teens

At Sundance Canyon Academy, we have worked with numerous families struggling with issues common to teens with ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). Teens with ODD present a specific set of problems that can cause chaos in the home. We are writing on this topic to provide parents with the information they need to address ODD in a teen son.

What is ODD?

ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) is a behavioral disorder that can apply to teens and tweens who struggle with authority. Symptoms often begin in early childhood, but the disorder is not typically diagnosed until adolescence.

As the name implies, ODD symptoms focus on bucking authority and rules.

Almost all children will be oppositional and defiant from time to time, especially when they are young. There’s a reason that the toddler years are known as the “Terrible Twos.” Once a little kid learns the word “no,” they start using it a lot!

Like you can expect your toddler to throw the occasional tantrum, you can expect your teen to test your limits. Teens want to exert some independence, and they typically do so by challenging rules and seeing how far they can go.

Kids and adolescents who have ODD have behavior patterns that go beyond the standard level of rebellion.

Common symptoms of ODD:

  1. Having a short temper

  2. Being easily irritated or upset

  3. Purposefully irritating or annoying others

  4. Refusing to follow rules

  5. Questioning rules

  6. Refusing to take responsibility for actions

  7. Blaming others for mistakes

  8. Being more violent than is reasonable for the situation

  9. Holding a grudge or seeking revenge

How can parents help kids with ODD?

Kids who have ODD often have difficulty interacting with other people, especially people in positions of authority. Teens with ODD need to learn to accept responsibility for their actions without turning every interaction into an argument.

As the parent of a teen with ODD, you can do a few things to help them improve their interactions.

Set clear rules

While most kids can handle rules that are a little vague, teens with ODD need a lot of clarity. They tend to fight back against any rules you give them and look for any possible loopholes.

Set clear rules and expectations that limit their ability to argue with you.

Link consequences to following or breaking the rules

When you set the rules for your teen, link a consequence to the rule. Talk with your teen about the rules and consequences and make sure that they understand them.

If your teen is up for it, you could even have them help create the consequences. This will give them more ownership over their actions and help them buy into the rules.

Create and sign a contract

It doesn’t need to be a legal contract, but having an agreement of some sort helps teens with ODD take responsibility for their actions. Review the rules with them. Review the consequences with them. Give them the opportunity to ask any clarifying questions about the rules and consequences.

Once they completely understand the expectations and the consequences, have them sign a contract saying that they accept the rules and the consequences. This will come in handy when they break one of the rules in the future.

Get therapeutic help

Many teens with ODD benefit from professional therapeutic intervention. Having a therapist gives them an impartial third party to talk to and ask for help. Asking for help is hard for most people, but especially for teens with ODD. Having a therapeutic plan in place gives space for them to get the help they need.

What treatment methods are available for teens with ODD?

There are several therapeutic interventions that you could try based on your family’s needs:

  1. Family therapy

  2. Behavioral therapy

  3. Cognitive-behavioral therapy

  4. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

  5. Medication

Talk to your child’s doctor for recommendations on which type of intervention might be best for your family. Keep in mind that these options are not exclusive and can sometimes be used in conjunction.

What’s next?

Start enacting the change. Many parents are hesitant to implement new plans with their ODD teen for fear of the reaction. It’s true that your teen might react negatively at first. However, that’s to be expected if they have ODD, so prepare for it. In all likelihood, your teen wants his home life to be happier too.

Get backup from outside resources. Try to get help from supportive adults outside of your family unit to support the plan. You could try talking to your child’s guidance counselor at school, your child’s coach, or a close family friend who your child respects.

If you have tried intervening at home and it isn’t working, your teen might benefit from attending a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens. While attending the school, they would receive personalized therapeutic intervention while still attending high school classes.

Teens with ODD often see progress when they change scenery combined with therapy and increased life skills training. Contact us today to find out if our school could help your family.

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