Let’s Build Something
Please keep in mind that working with a child that has ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) is like building a pyramid. While you are laying a foundation, you must keep working on the original cornerstone pieces as you continue to move forward – continuing to work on the next piece. If you neglect one of the cornerstones you’ve laid out before, your entire structure will tumble-down. So remember as you read through these articles that each week we added 1 new item to work on as we continued to work on the previous things.
Three weeks into this new ODD journey, We had addressed open dialog and bringing annoying behaviors to Knight’s attention in a constructive way so we didn’t sound like we were all against him. On our third week we encountered an old friend, “Someone Else”.
Someone Else Did It!
No one in our house likes “Someone Else”. “Someone Else” was the most annoying member of the entire family unit. “Someone Else” kept adjusting the thermostat on the heating/air unit. He was always causing drama, defying the rules, and challenging authority. “Someone Else” was a huge nuisance! He was always making messes that everyone else was blamed for. 😦
Taking ownership of our actions and telling the truth are basic fundamentals that we teach our children soon after they begin toddling around and speaking. As parents we emphasis this more so once our children begin to intermingle with other children (Daycare, Pre-School or Kindergarten). It’s a continual thing that we all work on and hope we succeed at once our children have become adults. I would be a hypocrite if I claimed that my boys were perfect at this when Knight came to live with us. They have and always will be (like everyone else’s children) a work in progress.
Children/teenagers with ODD have an exceptional case of “Someone Else” though. They deny ownership of issues and actions so much that their reality becomes their lies and denial. After a time, they don’t realize their own lies. It becomes second nature and they incorporate it into who they are (their identity).
I spoke to Knight about the lies I noticed him telling. He denied them. He denied everything he did, everything he said, and everything he was caught in the act of doing. His responses were, “I didn’t do it. Someone else did.” 😦 He lied because he said he thought it was funny. He said he lied to be cool, to be accepted, to make himself feel better, and to annoy people. He said he lied so much even he was unsure how to stop. I offered to bring his lies to his attention as he was in the act of doing so, if it would help. He agreed. Once again, I found myself in a position where I was going to have to call out a negative trait to bring his denial into reality for Knight.
I wanted positivity to focus on though, so I had to search pretty hard. I prayed about it and the Lord planted the answer in my heart. I knew I had to pick my battles and not overwhelm him, but I had forgotten how awesome celebrating small feats with verbal rewards could be! Picking my battles meant that I could not expect him to follow the house rules just yet and I had to look the other way in many situations. My only exception to this was in the event of harmful or abusive threats or behaviors. Those I had to stop immediately. As for the putting the lid back on the toothpaste – that would wait. We celebrated an avoided argument, a door being shut instead of slammed, laughter & smiles, admitting faults, or owning up to truths, talking to his mother on the phone without yelling, speaking to his father without running away or raising his hands to hit. (I’m not saying these things didn’t happen. I am just saying that when a day went by without them happening – we celebrated ) 🙂
Make Every Day a Good Day
Every day we had, no matter how bad it began or ended was “A Good Day”. A good day for a child/teen with ODD may look like the worst possible day for any other child, but if you don’t celebrate even the smallest accomplishments, progress could begin to slide backwards. At the end of the day, I would congratulate Knight on a job well done and tell him it was a good day. At first, he looked at me puzzled (because he was becoming more aware of his behavior and lies). I would tell him that everyday is a good day because I won’t give up on you and you are trying 🙂 The first few days he heard this, he blew me off and went to bed thinking I was crazy. After the first week of hearing this, he began to believe it with me. He also began to look forward to hearing it before bedtime.
On the third week, I purposefully neglected to tell him it was a good day. He came to me and asked me if it was a good day. I answered: Yes honey, everyday is a good day… and he finished my sentence “as long as I try?” 🙂
Believe it or not he was getting better – still very very very difficult to live with and be around, but he was healing!
So at this point, I had three major things I was focusing on:
- Maintaining open dialog
- Pointing out annoying behaviors
- Bringing lies to Knight’s attention
To maintain fairness, I shared my plans with my other two boys so they would not feel as though they were being treated unfairly. They know me and their limits and I wanted them to be involved in Knight’s progress plan also. I never shared explicit details, just the basics and kept the conversations Knight and I had only between him, his father and I. My boys were happy to be included because they were feeling they were being treated unfairly.
If you have other children in the home, I would suggest sharing your progress plans with them also (if you feel it appropriate) so your family can grow stronger during this process and not drift apart.