Discipline for Kids With Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Upset son sitting next to his dad
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Parenting a child with oppositional defiant disorder is a big challenge. Kids with oppositional defiant disorder argue about, refuse to follow directions, and find joy in irritating others on purpose. Thus, parenting these children requires a slightly different approach to discipline. 

Despite their behavioral problems, kids with oppositional defiant disorder can be smart, creative, and caring. And with the help of supportive parenting interventions, their behavior can improve over time.

Provide Positive Attention

Kids with oppositional defiant disorder tend to grate on people's nerves. Consequently, many of their interactions with adults are negative. They receive more instructions, reprimands, and consequences than other kids.

Daily doses of positive attention can be key to preventing behavior problems. Play games together, run around outside, or do an project together. Regardless of how your child has behaved that day, give him your undivided attention for at least 15 minutes. 

Giving your child positive attention will reduce his attempts to capture your attention through bad behavior. So consider your quality time investment in reducing behavior problems over the long-term.

Establish Clear Rules

Kids with oppositional defiant disorder love to argue about rules. They look for loopholes and express concern when things don't seem fair.

Reduce some arguments by establishing clear household rules. Post the rules on the refrigerator or another prominent location in the house.

Then, refer to the list as needed. When your child says, “I don’t want to do my homework right now,” point out, “The rules say homework time begins at 4:00.”

Keep the rules simple and don’t make the list too long. Include basic rules about issues such as homework, chores, bedtime, and respect.

Create a Behavior Plan

Create a behavior plan to address your child’s specific behavior problems such as aggression, talking back, refusing to do homework, or throwing temper tantrums. 

Identify the consequence your child will receive when she breaks the rules. Explain the consequences to her ahead of time.

Additionally, discuss any positive consequences she'll gain when he exhibits good behavior. Reward systems, especially token economy systems, can be very effective tools for kids with oppositional defiant disorder.

Be Consistent With Consequences

Kids with oppositional defiant disorder need consistent negative consequences for misbehavior. If you allow your child to get away with breaking the rules sometimes, he won’t learn.

If he thinks there’s a one in a hundred chance that you’ll break down and give in when he argues, he’ll decide it’s worth a shot. And he'll become more argumentative over time. 

Avoid Power Struggles

Kids with oppositional defiant disorder are good at luring adults into lengthy debates. However, it’s important to take steps to avoid power struggles because they aren’t helpful or productive.

If you tell your child to clean his room and he argues with you, resist arguing back. The longer he keeps you in an argument, the longer he delays cleaning his room. Instead, give him clear instructions and provide a consequence if he chooses not to follow through.

Don’t try to force your child to do something. You can’t make him clean his room. You can’t force him to do his homework. Arguing, nagging, and yelling isn’t effective.

You can, however, make it unpleasant for him if he chooses not to do what you’ve said by giving him consequences. If he doesn’t do what you’ve told him, give him one warning that clearly outlines what will happen if he doesn't do what you say.

Say, “If you don’t get off the computer right now, you’ll lose your electronics privileges for the next 24 hours.” If he doesn’t comply after a few seconds, follow through with the consequence.

Get Support

If your child isn’t receiving professional help on an ongoing basis, you may want to consider it. Parent training is often a big part of treatment and a professional counselor can assist you with behavior modification techniques at home.

Support groups can also be helpful. Raising a child with oppositional defiant disorder can be exhausting and talking to other parents who understand is important.

Educate yourself as much as you can about oppositional defiant disorder. Understanding it can be key to helping a child learn new skills to manage his behavior.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. ODD: A guide for families by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2009.

  2. Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Mount Sinai.

Additional Reading
  • American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Oppositional Defiant Disorder

  • Webster-Stratton C. The Incredible Years: Parents, Teachers, and Children's Training Series: Program Content, Methods, Research and Dissemination 1980-2011. Seattle, WA: Incredible Years; 2011.​