This is the final article (part 12) of a series. If you have not read part 1, part2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9 , part 10 , and part 11– I urge you to do so if you are searching for help on this subject. If you’ve read along with me already, I want to welcome you into the 1 year mark of our journey and Knight’s recovery.
The last article I wrote about Oppositional Defiance Disorder brought us up to the end of week 34 (7 months) after working with Knight on his O.D.D issues. I would like to skip ahead to the 1 year mark and share with you the things that we tried that were successful and the things that failed.
Things Not To Do (Ineffective):
- Reasoning: A child with oppositional traits will not deal well with reasoning. Although this has become a very popular parenting tool for the latest generation, this does not work well with a child with defiance issues. If a child has produced unacceptable behaviors and actions, reasoning with them to stop those actions and behaviors can back-fire. They certainly back-fired on us. Even when you are exhausted and totally worn out, you can’t give in to the idea of reasoning. (Example: “Why are you doing this? Would you please just not argue anymore if you get to go to your friend’s house? I can’t take it anymore!” Bad idea. The child will sense vulnerability and will go in for the win. I’d rather not provide examples of this. Instead, I’d prefer to advise against falling into this common trap. I fell into it once…and only once!)
- Relinquishing decision-making to the child: Again, this is easy to fall into if you are very tired or physically worn down. When a parent or authority figure gives the decision-making over to the child, at first the child is happy and excited. Shortly thereafter, they become bewildered and insecure. A large part of their desire to be oppositional and defiant is due to a personal feeling of abandonment in their minds. Whether this be true (and often times is not), it is how most of these children feel. This feeling accompanies feelings of insecurities, low self-worth or value, and a feeling of being invisible in the world. In their minds, if they are making decisions, who loves them enough to make their decisions for them? (Example: After a particularly difficult event, the child could ask, “Do you want me to just leave for a while so I’m not bothering you?” Giving decision-making to the child, parent may answer, “Would you like to spend the night with a friend or stay home tonight? It’s your decision.”)
- Waffling: Setting your foot down on a negative behavior is one thing, but then going back on the punishing result is another. This is waffling indecisiveness. If you are serious about your goal to change these behaviors, there is no room for waffling – even when you feel like you’re punishing yourself by the decision you made during the moment of heat. (Example: Very upset about some undesirable behavior at school, I “ground” Knight for 1 week. This made travel difficult, cut off the TV for me, I had to monitor him while he mowed the lawn and did other work, and I had to hear him wonder aimlessly through the house making random noises to entertain himself. I was tempted to lift his grounding so I could maintain sanity…but I knew that would be my undoing, so I did not.)
- Never reward a child with money: Where the thought of paying our children to be good came from… I will never know! It doesn’t work and Thank God that thought only lasted about 15 minutes! I think it was out of desperation maybe, but anyway, it did not work.
Things To Do (Effective):
- Maintain consistency at all times: If the result of good behavior is a specific reward, be prepared to give that reward often during the good behavior. The same is true for the negative behavior.
- Stand your ground: If you’ve decided that a particular behavior will not be tolerated, don’t allow minor events of that behavior to slip past you in the presence of others. No one likes to correct their children in front of others. We are afraid we will be judged as a failing parent or people will see that things are not a bed of roses in our homes. Regardless of this, all non-tolerable behavior must be stopped at the moment it occurs. It should be brought to the attention of the child and immediately remind the child what the recourse is for that negative event or behavior. (Example: Cursing was an issue for a bit and Knight thought he could get away with it in front of other people. He tested me. His correction was the same however. I would quickly say, “That is inappropriate.” and remind him what the consequences were. “You just lost your phone for 2 days when we get home.”
- Be firm not only in correction, but in love also: The same as you need to catch the negative behaviors immediately, the same is true for catching the positive behaviors also. It’s very important in the O.D.D. child’s mind to hear when they’ve done something good. This doesn’t mean constant praise and pats on the back though. A verbal acknowledgement like, “I’m so happy today. You haven’t had an outburst. You’re doing so well. I love you.” Or “I’m proud of you this week. You’re doing great!” “I am looking forward to your progress next week! You really impressed me this week!” Hearing things like this go a long way in changing defiant behavior. The otherwise invisible child begins to realize that he is not actually invisible at all.
- Create and maintain an open dialog: If a child feels like everything they tell you will get you all riled up, they will stop telling you things. Maintaining a reliable open dialog will allow the child to feel as though they can safely share things with you without judgment. If you’ve maintained consistency, they will already know what type of correction you may use, but they will be more willing to share with you what is going on in their universe. Children like to share how they feel and what is going on in their daily lives. If they are not sharing with you, they will share with someone else.
- Evaluate your home’s structure: Do you really have routines? Are those routines healthy? Do most of your family habits emphasis togetherness or individuality? A unique balance of both contribute to a successful family life. Sometimes it helps to have someone from the outside of the family to take a peek at your home life in order to get an honest observatory opinion if you need help evaluating.
- Don’t let the small stuff go: By allowing the lesser bad behaviors to be overlooked, the defiance in a child with O.D.D will grow into a large outburst. Handle each issue as it arises (while at the same time, picking your battles wisely).
- Don’t overwhelm: In the beginning, it’s easy to want all negative behaviors corrected at the same time, but this can overwhelm the child and cause further defiance. Pick your battles wisely. As you triumph over each hurdle, celebrate and then move on to the next as you continue to re-enforce the previous.
Knight now bears no resemblance to the child he use to be. I am proud of him. The behavior modification plan we put it in place – worked! 🙂 I wish you all luck if you are tackling this problem with your child too. It’s an ongoing process. May God give us continued strength!