Parenting Strategies for Oppositional Defiant Children

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While children all show defiance at times, children with oppositional defiant disorder show aggression and opposition consistently, regardless of the context. Fortunately, psychologists and other experts in childhood behavior have developed techniques, often offered through parent management classes and training programs, to address the tantrums, anger, arguing, sensitivity, hateful talk and other misbehavior associated with the disorder.


Positive Reinforcement

One of the key ways parents can address oppositional defiance involves re-framing the situation. Rather than always reacting, parents can be proactive, setting up opportunities for children to experience success. Set up short-term, developmentally appropriate goals, such as picking up 10 items off the bedroom floor and putting the away. Immediately recognize the helpful behavior and give specific praise relevant to the context, such as “I appreciate how you helped clean up your room. Now we have space to play a game.” Look for moments throughout the day in which your child cooperates or compromises so that you can positively reinforce the behavior.

Parent-Child Interactive Therapy

While many people find support in individual, family and child therapy sessions, parent-child interactive therapy specifically helps parents find effective strategies when interacting with their children. A typical session may entail speaking, role-playing or playing with your child. The therapist watches the interaction, either in the room or from behind a one-way mirror, coaching parents as they speak with their children. The sessions may help reduce stress, identify triggers, improve communication and, ultimately, improve the child’s behavior.

Behavior Modification Techniques

Behavior modification techniques consist of a variety of strategies to help defuse chronically aggressive behavior. Try reserving 15 minutes per day of unstructured time with your child. Allow your child to lead these play sessions and keep the tone upbeat. Use “I” messages to relay requests assertively, such as “I need you to wash your face so we can go to the park.” Use eye contact and insist that your child does as well. Set behavioral goals that have consistent consequences, both positive and negative, and stick to those consequences. Consider a behavior chart or token system for showing concrete proof of progress toward behavioral goals.

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