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From Defiant to Compliant

Rifka Schonfeld

Kids with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) can be obstinate, rude, and explosive. They can also be helped

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

angry boyAny parent of a child with ODD has experienced more than his or her fair share of stares and comments in supermarkets, shuls, or schools. “Helpful” friends, neighbors, and relatives advocate tough-love techniques and establishing zero-tolerance for tantrums. But anyone with an ODD child knows that cracking down when a child is having a meltdown will only exacerbate the tantrum.

Blaming parents is easy. What’s more difficult — but crucial for the welfare of child, parent, and the whole family — is understanding ODD and implementing techniques that will help the child.

Dr. Ross W. Greene, author of the widely acclaimed The Explosive Child, has done extensive research on children with the behavior disorder called oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Dr. Greene prefers to label them explosive children.

Children are “explosive,” he explains, because of a variety of reasons, which include brain chemistry, low frustration tolerance, a rigid personality, and an inability to react in a normal manner. Sometimes, the disorder comes hand-in-hand with ADHD, mood disorders, or learning disabilities.

All children are argumentative and cranky at times, especially when tired, hungry, or stressed. Normal behavior ranges from arguing, talking back, and disobeying or defying authority figures. This conduct is even part of all toddlers’ (and early adolescents’) development. However, when a child stands out from other children of his age group because of his consistent and frequent acting out, there might be more going on than regular temper tantrums.

So, how do we define “explosive children”? For starters, these kids are easily frustrated, demanding, and inflexible. When things don’t go their way, they react with violence or rage. Their siblings are afraid of them. Their parents constantly walk on eggshells, terrified of the next outburst. They have few friends. And they can erupt in temper tantrums, kicking, screaming, and being verbally or physically aggressive, usually in response to relatively benign situations.

Dr. Greene says that “explosiveness” is an equal-opportunity condition. It occurs equally in boys and girls, and presents in children of all ages. “Some kids blow up dozens of times a day, others just a few times a week. Some lose it only at home, others only in school, and still others in any conceivable location. Some scream when they become frustrated, others become physically or verbally aggressive.”

 

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