Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

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I have tried lots of things with my 10-year-old daughter. I have done a parenting course, but she is still causing disruption and is very violent towards me and her 2 sisters, K____ 15, and L___ 9.

Today my 10-yr-old daughter has smacked me, kicked me, tried to smash the patio door with the fruit bowl, then grabbed the kettle and has started throwing hot water around. This is not just putting us at danger, but herself. I am now wondering what on earth I can do next as I have tried time out sanctions, reward charts, praising, etc. Please give me some advice, as I don’t know where to turn.

Thanks, C.

Hi C.,

At the risk of throwing labels around, you have described behavior in line with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

ODD defined:

A pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at least six months during which four or more of the following are present:

1. often loses temper
2. often argues with adults
3. often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules
4. often deliberately annoys people
5. often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
6. is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
7. is often angry and resentful
8. is often spiteful and vindictive

The disturbance in behavior causes clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.

All of the criteria above include the word "often". Studies have shown that these behaviors occur to a varying degree in all children. Researchers have found that the "often" is best solved by the following criteria.

Has occurred at all during the last three months-
  • is spiteful and vindictive
  • blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
Occurs at least twice a week-
  • is touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • loses temper
  • argues with adults
  • actively defies or refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules
Occurs at least four times per week-
  • is angry and resentful
  • deliberately annoys people

Here is an example of how ODD looks for a 10-year-old:

Kaylee is 10. Her day usually starts out with arguing about (a) getting up on time for school, (b) having to share space with her siblings, (c) what she can and can not bring to school, etc.

Kaylee does not take the bus to school. She has been forbidden to ride the bus due to numerous incidents in which she was verbally and physically disruptive. Since it is impossible to supervise bus rides adequately, the school gave up and now mom has to drive her to school. It is still hard to get her there on time. As the time to leave approaches, she gets slower and slower.

Once at school, she usually gets into some verbal battles with peers in those few minutes between her mother's supervision and the teacher's. When she is not allowed to go to the bathroom, she flips her desk. When she is told to stop tapping her pencil, she swears at the teacher. When she is sent to the office, she tells the vice-principal how badly she is being mistreated by the teacher and how unfair things are in the classroom.

Recess is a hard time as well. Kaylee tells everyone that she has lots of friends, but if you watch what goes on in the lunchroom or on the playground, it is hard to figure out who they are. Some peers avoid her, but most would give her a chance if he wasn't so bossy.

After school is the time that makes her mom seriously consider foster care. Kaylee refuses to do any homework and is making poor grades. Each day she complains that mom doesn't do anything for her. She gets upset with her siblings, slams doors, goes in the other room and usually turns the TV on very loud.

Mom tells her to turn it down. She doesn't and is sent to her room. After supper Kaylee ends up in a screaming match with mom over her unwillingness to help with the dishes. In fact, Kaylee refuses to do any chores and gets very angry when mom asks her to help out around the house.

Kaylee’s siblings are afraid of her – so is mom.


Traditional parenting strategies such as time-outs, reward charts, etc., do not work with ODD kids – in fact, they tend to make a bad problem worse. We’ll look at what does work in “My Out-of-Control Teen eBook.” It will take some time and a specific combination of strategies to get the problems turned around. There are no short cuts, and the longer the parent waits to implement these strategies, the more things deteriorate. 

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