Every parent knows that it’s normal for kids and teens to act out. Tantrums, fights with siblings, arguments with you…they are all a part of growing up as kids start seeking their own independence and autonomy. However, sometimes there could be a lot more going on under the surface.

When my daughter’s tantrums first started, I dismissed it as part of growing up. Unfortunately, her behavior worsened to include:

- Frequent temper tantrums when she didn’t get her way, often followed by a torrent of verbal abuse.
- Continuous arguments with me, her mother and other authority figures.
- Deliberately annoying others.
- Refusal to take direction or correction and she would openly go against the rules and defy authority.
- Refusal to own up to her misdeeds and blaming others for her mistakes or misbehavior.
- She became the ultimate mean girl and was unkind and harsh towards others.
- Unexplained anger and resentment coupled with a short fuse.
- She became malicious, spiteful and vindictive.

When I saw how disruptive, defiant and hostile my daughter had become, I knew something else was going on. I took her to a therapist who then referred us to a mental health care practitioner. After lots of questions and some mental health tests, the verdict was in- my daughter had Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

Treatment Options for ODD

As part of her treatment, my daughter’s therapist recommended that our whole family go for family therapy sessions to improve how we communicate. We also had to take my daughter for cognitive-behavioral therapy and peer group therapy. Thanks to the cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions, she’s learning how to identify and replace her negative feelings, thoughts and behaviors with positive ones.

Navigating Oppositional Defiant Disorder

When one of your kids gets ODD, it affects the whole family and we all had to adjust. Here are a few tips that I’ve found useful in navigating ODD:

- Sticking to the treatment regime. Taking my daughter to the mental health practitioner early on not only helped her get the help she so desperately needed, but also helped avert any future problems.
- Staying calm in the midst of chaos. Raising a child with ODD isn’t easy. However, I’ve found that staying calm and not giving in to the chaos helps me take control of the situation. This way, I’m not drawn into a shouting match and my daughter also calms down much more quickly.
- Having strong boundaries but remaining flexible. One thing that family therapy taught me is how important healthy boundaries are both for my daughter and myself. I sat down, clarified what those boundaries were and communicated them to my daughter together with the consequences for crossing them. For instance, while she was allowed to get angry, hitting others, insulting them or throwing things around was definitely not allowed.
- Paying attention to my other kids. I realized that my wife and I were spending so much time catering to my troubled daughter’s needs that our other kids were feeling neglected. Nowadays I purposely set aside time each week to hang out and bond with each of my children.
- Having my own support system. My daughter’s therapist directed me to a support group for parents of children with ODD to help me cope. Talking and venting to people who understand what I’m going through has been tremendously helpful.

While my daughter isn’t out of the woods yet, she's definitely getting better. I believe that with the right treatment and assistance, she will grow to be a mature, well-adjusted adult.

Author's Bio: 

From the mountains of Utah, Tyler Jacobson writes about his experiences as a father and husband. By sharing the struggles and solutions his family has faced, Tyler hopes to help other parents looking for a way to better their lives. You can connect with Tyler and read his helpful insights on: Twitter | LinkedIn