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Does your child have ODD?



6 signs that might point to oppositional defiant disorder

oppositional defiant disorder help


I knew my son was different when his tantrums lasted hours at a time. I would dread waking up in the morning because I didn’t want to have to face another day with Dylan’s defiant behavior. Each day was an all-out war between the two of us and it was over anything and everything.

Sometimes he would yell at me because his underwear was too high or too low and it wasn’t “right.” He wouldn’t wear sneakers because they were too big or too small, even though he’d worn them just the day before. Sometimes he’d spit at me because I’d send him to “time out” for telling me hated me. Situations like these would go on every day, all day.

My husband suggested that we try parent-child interaction therapy, a treatment program that re-establishes the relationship between parent and child. Therapy programs like PCIT are imperative to changing the dynamics in a household where a child has a disruptive behavioral disorder such as ODD — oppositional defiant disorder.

READ MORE: Does your child need to be evaluated?

Kim Ellison, a counselor who specializes in PCIT at Hudson Valley Family Therapy in Highland, says, “Many parents living with children who have disruptive, aggressive and defiant behaviors lose the opportunity to enjoy their children. Parent-child interaction therapy helps repair the family bond and allows parents to truly enjoy spending time with their child. Research has proven that this is a very effective form of treatment for oppositional and defiant children between 2 and 7 years old.”

Ellison has dedicated the last decade to providing social services to clients in the Hudson Valley, focusing on PCIT for the last five. She implements the PCIT approach, focusing on positive parenting skills, active ignoring and calm, consistent limit setting. She suggests these three things to consider when dealing with oppositional and defiant behavior: 

1) Early intervention is imperative

2) Ignore minor misbehaviors

3) In order to change the behavior of the child and parents must first change the way they are managing the behavior

READ MORE: Why do adolescents act the way they do?

“The most successful clients are those that recognize the issue and start treatment early,” says Ellison. “If left untreated, these behaviors can manifest and be precursors to issues of substance abuse, mental illness, legal or educational problems in adolescence.”

Additionally, many families see behavioral gains as quickly as the first phase, child-directed interaction. “Children don’t come with manuals, and PCIT teaches parents the skills to eliminate disruptive behaviors.”

If you think that your child could have ODD, seek help. Early intervention can help you and your child get through the tough times and give you the answers you so desperately need. Hudson Valley Family Therapy offers a free behavioral consultation and free parenting tips on Facebook.

Here are six behavioral traits that stood out to me as problematic:

1. Excessive tantrums

Do your child’s tantrums last hours and hours over something seemingly minor, and include throwing, hitting, spitting, crying, screaming and yelling with no end in sight?

2. Defiant behavior

Is your child doing the exact opposite of what is asked of him, whether it is something small like brushing their teeth or something big like not hitting?

3. Mood swings

One minute your child is happy and laughing and the next he’s grumpy and mad. This could be over something as minute as a toy not working the way he wanted it to.

READ MORE: Dr. Paul Schwartz discusses emotions and intelligence

4. Lack of affection

Children with ODD do not always show affection. Try not to make a big deal about it and just move on. Relish the moments when he does give you a hug.

5. Lack of sleep

Interrupted sleep can add to an already explosive child.

6. Aversion to praise

Children with ODD don’t always like praise. If this is the case in your situation, find something that she does like, such as imitating play.

Most importantly, hang in there. Don’t be too hard on yourself as the parent and give yourself a break when you need it.

Having a child with ODD is extremely difficult and can feel very isolating.


Meagan Ruffing is a freelance writer living with a 4-year-old who has ODD and a 1-year-old who tries to keep up with the circus.