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ODD Disorder in Teens and Strategies For Parents

By Chris J Thompson

ODD Disorder, or Oppositional Defiant Disorder, can be a tremendous difficulty for a parent to handle; what might seem like a simple request to you just rubs your teen exactly the wrong way, and leads to a fight or argument that can last hours... when simply doing as you've asked would have taken only a few minutes.

While the actual diagnosis of ODD disorder is of course best left to a qualified professional, there are many warning signs that could signify its presence. The primary behaviors that could identify the presence of ODD disorder are an ongoing pattern of disobedient and hostile actions toward authority figures - whether violent, e.g. throwing things or shouting, or merely passive-aggressive... simple refusal to act, or to alter one's actions.

It's important to understand that ODD disorder is fundamentally a way that teenagers seek control over their surroundings. Teenagers lack a great deal of control that adults take for granted; looking at the world through your teens eyes, it can become apparent that even when you find your requests reasonable and small, they still represent a loss of control for the child.

One of the most effective techniques to deal with these scenarios is to simply reframe the request as the child having control over the outcome. The presence of some consequence is a powerful motivator, if it is properly framed as something the child can choose - rather than responding to undesired behavior with an immediate consequence, identify the desired behavior and the consequence of continued refusal.

There are, of course, productive and unproductive types of consequences... and it can be difficult to determine which type of consequence will work best. Behavioral therapist James Lehman clarifies and explains this in his Total Transformation Program, including the difference between task-based and time-based consequences.

A time-based consequence is the usual variety many of us remember from our own childhood; we may have been grounded for a week, or lost television for a month, or had to sit in the corner for an hour. But the best consequences teach a lesson, and these consequences do not - they only teach patience, how to "do time."

A task-based consequence, however, relates directly to the undesirable behavior and teaches a lesson about that behavior. Staying out past curfew may require coming in an hour earlier the next time, to show your teen can observe a curfew; rudeness to a sibling may require a letter of apology. The consequence is not arbitrary, but relates specifically to the infraction at hand.

The process of dealing with a teen who has ODD disorder, or simply displays its tendencies, can be improved dramatically with the right guidance. With effort and patience, the undesirable behaviors of children and even young adults can be modified into productive and appropriate behaviors.
 

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