Parents play a necessary and critical role in treatment for oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Most successful treatment plans involve family-based interventions such as parent training programs along with training for the child. Below are some effective programs and examples that my son & I have used over the years, some as recently as this week!
- Parent training – developing consistent and positive parenting skills
ex: I have been taught to ignore comments and behaviors intended to elicit a reaction out of me and instead refocus my son’s attention on a positive experience between us.
- Individual therapy – teaching parents & children how to manage maladaptive emotions (ex: anger, frustration) and express them in a constructive and healthy way
ex: I have been going to therapy for years. This is the place where I openly express my frustrations and anger so that I don’t do so to my son.
- Family therapy – coaching all family members, including the child, to communicate effectively and work together
ex: In a recent family therapy session, my son stated that he felt I was nagging him often and that at times, I came across as condescending and disrespectful. From that, I am more aware of how I speak to him and make a concerted effort to change my tone when I ask him to do something.
- Cognitive problem solving training / therapy – helping children to identify & change thought patterns that lead to behavioral problems
ex: My son is a great debater. He knows how to wear you down. So in therapy sessions, they listen while he speaks his thoughts then they ask him questions to help him think of other perspectives, not just his.
- Social skills training – helping children to learn to be more flexible, to interact more effectively & positively with others
ex: Just yesterday in the car on the way to family therapy, my son was expressing his distrust of school systems as a justification for his tardiness and his apathy towards school. While I disagreed with most of what he said (which I did not state openly because you have to pick battles wisely), I let him speak freely and supported him by telling him that so long as he does the right thing and expresses himself appropriately, it did not matter to me if he did not get As in school or show up on time every day. What matters is his happiness.
These are all strategies that I have learned through individual and family therapy and have applied over the last several years. Two years ago (or more), coercion, yelling, arguing, verbal aggression, destruction of belongings, hospitalizations were all part of our daily lives – none of which were ever helpful. Living that way made me emotionally and mentally tired. I cannot even imagine what it did to my son. One day, I decided I didn’t want to live that way anymore and that we needed to make a change. So here we are – in a better place.
These programs and strategies have required a lot of hard work, time, money and commitment on both my and my son’s part. But it’s the only way to manage ODD and to live peaceful lives. We have moments when we fall back to old ways but those moments are subsiding because we are learning new, better and productive ways of managing ourselves and our interactions.
This is tremendously hard, I won’t lie. But I love my son harder and he is worth the commitment required and more. If you are struggling with your child and his/her ODD, I encourage you to try the strategies above. I hope that you make the strides with your child the way I have with mine.