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17 Ways on How to Deal with Oppositional Behavior

Oppositional Behavior
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Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

The journey of child-rearing is seldom a linear one. While many anticipate a trajectory filled with harmonious interactions, the reality can often diverge, especially for parents of children who exhibit oppositional and noncompliant behaviors. Such challenges, although daunting, are not insurmountable. In navigating this unique landscape, it becomes imperative to arm oneself with knowledge, effective strategies, and a resilient mindset. 

This blog aims to serve as a resource, providing evidence-based approaches and insights for those who find themselves grappling with these behaviors. The path with oppositional children may be intricate, but with the right tools and perspective, it can be navigated with confidence and grace.

What is ODD?

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a behavioral condition that primarily affects children and adolescents. It is characterized by a consistent pattern of defiant, disobedient, and hostile behaviors towards authority figures. It isn't just the occasional bout of stubbornness or a fleeting phase of rebellion. ODD presents as a prolonged and pervasive pattern of behavior that significantly disrupts daily functioning.

Key features of ODD include:


      • Frequent temper tantrums

      • Excessive arguing with adults, especially  authority figures

      • Actively refusing to comply with rules and requests

      • Deliberately trying to annoy or upset others

      • Blaming others for their mistakes or misbehaviors

      • Easily annoyed or irritated

      • Frequently exhibiting angry or resentful feelings

      • Spiteful or vindictive behaviors

      • Easily annoyed

    The exact cause of ODD is not definitively known, but a combination of biological, genetic, and environmental factors is believed to contribute to its onset. It often co-occurs with other clinical issues such as mood disorders, limbic ADHD, and more complex mental health issues. 

    ODD vs. ADHD: How are They Different?

    Both Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are commonly diagnosed in children and can sometimes co-exist in the same individual, but they are distinct conditions with different primary symptoms.

    ADHD is characterized by:


        • Persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity.

        • Difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play.

        • Frequently losing items necessary for tasks or activities.

        • Forgetfulness in daily activities.

        • Frequent fidgeting or tapping hands or feet.

        • Difficulty waiting one's turn.

        • Interrupting or intruding on others' conversations or games.

      In contrast, as noted in the section above, ODD is more about a persistent pattern of defiance, hostility, and disruptive behaviors towards authority figures.

      Some key differences between ODD and ADHD:


          • Nature of Symptoms: ADHD is about attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. In contrast, ODD revolves around defiance and resistance to authority.

          • Response to Treatment: Those with ODD don’t respond as well to treatment. 

          • Origins and Causes: While both disorders may have genetic and environmental factors at play, ADHD has a more pronounced neurological basis, whereas ODD is believed to be more influenced by environmental factors, such as parenting practices or exposure to traumatic events.

        Key Differences between ODD and ADHD

        Understanding the distinction between these two disorders is crucial for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. It's also important to remember that a child can have both conditions simultaneously. In such cases, a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to treatment and therapy is recommended.

        Ways How to Deal with Oppositional Behavior


            1. Build a Positive Relationship: Cultivate a strong, trusting relationship to set a foundation for influencing behavior. That means finding ways to connect through shared interests and experiences.

            1. Set Clear Boundaries and Expectations: Consistently state and enforce acceptable behaviors.

            1. Choose Your Battles: Prioritize addressing significant behaviors over minor ones to avoid constant conflict. And when you are in constant conflict, oppositional kids can’t “hear” anything you are teaching them.

          when you are in constant conflict, oppositional kids can't "hear" anything you are teaching them


              1. Offer Choices: Providing limited options gives a sense of control. Offering two choices without offering a yes or no response is best.

              1. Stay Calm and Collected: Oppositional behavior often seeks a reaction. Remember, your child co-regulates off of you. Responding with patience and calmness breaks the cycle of defiance. Your calm demeanor can help soothe and de-escalate tense situations.

              1. Remember Most Behavior Isn’t on Purpose: When a child is dysregulated, they aren’t in control of their behavior. Focus on shaping behaviors, not blaming or personalizing their behavior.

              1. Calm the Brain: Activities such as deep breathing, listening to soothing music, engaging in mindfulness exercises, or using magnesium can help regulate emotions. Proactively encourage these techniques throughout the day.

              1. Reinforce Positive Behavior: Focus on praising and rewarding desired behaviors and behavioral attempts.

              1. Use Time-Outs or Breaks: Offer a chance for reflection and calming down.

              1. Avoid Power Struggles: Walking away to address the issue later can sometimes be the best approach.

              1. Practice Active Listening: Validating feelings can address some root causes of oppositional behavior.

              1. Implement Consequences: Use natural and logical consequences for actions but think about reinforcement of desired behaviors and coping skills. 

              1. Educate Yourself: Understanding underlying causes, such as ODD and what happens with a reactive, overemotional brain, so that it can guide your responses.

              1. Establish Routines: A predictable environment can decrease oppositional behaviors and reduce anticipatory anxiety. 

              1. Collaborate on Problem-Solving: Involve the individual in crafting solutions to their behavior challenges. Focus on building coping skills, so they can build stress tolerance. 

              1. Model Appropriate Behavior: Demonstrate the behavior you expect to see. That means sharing your calm, not your anger or irritation. 

              1. Seek Professional Help: Consider therapy or counseling for persistent and intense oppositional behavior.

            Therapeutic Interventions for ODD

            Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for ODD:

            Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a well-regarded intervention for a variety of mental health conditions, including Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Once children regulate their brains, through CBT, children with ODD can learn to identify and challenge negative thought patterns, ultimately influencing their defiant behavior. This form of therapy assists in developing better problem-solving skills, coping mechanisms, and decision-making capabilities.

            Behavior Therapy and Parent Management Training:

            Behavior therapy focuses on positive reinforcement techniques to encourage desired behaviors and diminish defiant behaviors. On the other hand, parent management training is specifically tailored for parents of a child with oppositional defiant behavior. It educates parents on effective strategies to respond to challenging behaviors, improve their child's behavior, and strengthen the parent-child relationship.

            Social Skills Training:

            Children with ODD often struggle in social situations, displaying behaviors that can alienate peers. Social skills training can assist these children in developing better interpersonal skills, empathy, and effective communication techniques.

            The Importance of Timely Diagnosis and Intervention for ODD

            Being diagnosed with ODD isn't just about labeling a child with oppositional defiant behavior. It’s about understanding the root causes of their behaviors and seeking timely interventions. Early diagnosis by a mental health professional can lead to more effective treatment strategies, potentially reducing the risk of the condition progressing to more severe behavioral disorders, such as conduct disorders. It also can help distinguish between ODD and other clinical issues such as PANS/PANDAS.

            Understanding ODD in Relation to Other Disorders

            ODD and ADHD:

            It's not uncommon for a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) to also have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). While it is possible to have both at the same time, these behaviors can also be the result of other issues such as mood disorders, anxiety, OCD or PANS/PANDAS.

            Conduct Disorders:

            While ODD is a challenging behavioral disorder in its own right, it can, in some cases, be a precursor to more severe conduct disorders. Recognizing and treating ODD early can potentially prevent the escalation to these more severe behavioral conditions.

            Getting Professional ODD Help

            If you suspect your child may have ODD or another behavioral disorder, it's imperative to consult a mental health professional. They can provide a comprehensive evaluation of your child's behavior and a QEEG Brain Map, offering insights and recommending targeted interventions like treating ODD with tailored therapeutic approaches.

            Supplements that support focus, mindfulness-based techniques, exercise and other natural treatments can be helpful in supporting behavior. 

            Managing and treating a child with ODD can indeed be challenging, but with the right support, strategies, and understanding, positive changes can be realized. Empower yourself with knowledge, seek professional guidance, and remember that every child, including those with ODD, has the potential for growth and improvement.


            Burke, J. D., Waldman, I., & Lahey, B. B. (2010). Predictive validity of childhood oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder: implications for the DSM-V. Journal of abnormal psychology, 119(4), 739–751.

            Loeber, R., Burke, J. D., & Pardini, D. A. (2009). Development and etiology of disruptive and delinquent behavior. Annual review of clinical psychology, 5, 291–310.

            Nock, M. K., Kazdin, A. E., Hiripi, E., & Kessler, R. C. (2006). Prevalence, subtypes, and correlates of DSM-IV conduct disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Psychological medicine, 36(5), 699–710.

            Zajac, K., Andrews, A. R. III, & Sheidow, A. J. (2017). Conduct disorders and substance use problems in rural school settings. In K. D. Michael & J. P. Jameson (Eds.), Handbook of rural school mental health (pp. 183–197). Springer International Publishing/Springer Nature.

            Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”

            Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.

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            Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of  media outlets including, CBS, NBC, FOX News, PIX11 NYC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Business Insider, USA Today, CNET, Marth Stewart, and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.”

            Dr. Roseann - Brain Behavior Reset Parent Toolkit

            She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Mental Health Professional (CIMHP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach.  She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).

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