Oppositional Teens Wrecking Your Family?

"Oppositional Teens" refers to teenagers and adolescents diagnosed with "Oppositional Defiant Disorder", often abbreviated to "ODD".

These are the kids who take the normal boundary testing and drawing away from parents processes, which are normal, and desirable, to an extreme that can turn your formerly happy home into a war zone of conflict and upset.

Seemingly out of control much of the time, they consistently refuse to obey commands or requests coming from parents or other adults. They're aggressive and stubborn and rigid, and they go out of their way to irritate and bother others. They're always losing their temper, arguing, and refusing to comply. They can be very manipulative. They're touchy and easily angered, and they tend to blame others for their own misbehavior and mistakes.

Sometimes this is new behavior, and sometimes it's an escalation of a behavior pattern in evidence since the child was a toddler.

It's not entirely clear what causes ODD. One theory suggests that it's simply incomplete development, and that the child never successfully completed the developmental tasks normally mastered as a toddler. The other main theory holds that the disorder is a learned response to the negative and unpleasant interactions the child has had with parents and other authority figures.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder doesn't usually occur alone. It's estimated that 50-65% of ODD teenagers also have ADD or ADHD. Many of them have learning disorders, or mood disorders such as anxiety or depression, or even bipolar disorder.

A child with ODD should certainly be evaluated for co-existing or underlying disorders. It's easy to imagine that the child with a learning disability might be terribly frustrated, and that frustration comes out as anger and defiance. Thus the key to treating the ODD is understanding and treating the underlying or co-existing causes.

It's important to deal with ODD, because a significant percentage of oppositional teens who have escalated their behavior to the point where they are diagnosed with ODD, will escalate even further, and be diagnosed with Conduct Disorder ("CD"). Conduct disorder is essentially a worse case of ODD, but with cruelty towards animals and other persons, heightened aggression, lawlessness, and property damage added to the mix.

There are several approaches to treatment of ODD. The most effective seems to be training parents to "manage" their child more consistently and more effectively. It's usually called "Parent Management Training", or "PMT". One of the core ideas is for the parent to look for opportunities to catch the child doing something right, and praise and reinforce the behavior. On the other hand, the parent is trained to ignore smaller instances of negative behavior that aren't really important. Parents are taught that it isn't necessary to win every battle, and that there are some battles that aren't even worth fighting.

Residential or Therapeutic Boarding Schools are another possibility, if finances permit. Removing the child from the current environment to a residential facility where trained and skilled clinicians and staff can provide round-the-clock care and guidance, can often accomplish wonders. A good boarding school will involve the parents, and will work to discover the underlying issues, and to deal with them effectively.

Fortunately, most teenagers get through all this more or less successfully, and grow up to become responsible members of society, no matter how unlikely that may seem while you're going through it.

Bob Harvey enjoys writing on health and family issues, and also enjoys uncovering existing resources and helping give them wider distribution. For lots more free information on "Angry Teens", visit Defiant Child Answers

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