Living at ODDs with each otherS.E. LIVINGSTON: Within the safety of our homes many of us struggle with unnamed offspring(s) who could be described as having “oppositional defiance disorder.”
Within the safety of our homes many of us struggle with unnamed offspring(s) who could be described as having “oppositional defiance disorder.”
This looks like that sweet boy who will argue with you about whether snowflakes are falling and in the same breath blame his brother because he tripped on his own untied shoelaces while endlessly whacking his sister with a carrot.
These people exist in our homes, our workplaces and in the cars next to us.
According to the American Academy of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry website, Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) in children presents itself in the forms of often arguing with adults, deliberately annoying people, blaming others for his/her mistakes and being angry or resentful.
When Grandpa was alive, the language technicians called this “being ornery.”
Bryan Cichy, Ph.D., an instructor at St. Cloud State in the special education department, was able to give me some helpful advice about living with an ODD child.
He said to post the house rules clearly. Whenever my ODD child begins to defy me I should just point to the rules. Say nothing else. Don’t engage in furthering the argument thereby feeding the response the ODD is seeking. Diffuse it and smother it. He cautioned me that anybody with ODD would then respond with more vigor and more vocal sputters, but it would eventually die out and peace would reign.
The next day when ODD reared his unruly head I made my first rule, “Don’t talk back to your mother” (or father although this has not been an issue). I suppose “Respect others with your speech” is simpler, but then my wall looks like a school cafeteria poster.
At that first crack back I pointed to the rule and walked out of the room. My ODD blustered and gassed, but I’ve had to point to the sign only one other time. Later in the week after spying someone’s ice cream malt remains I wrote up, “Clean up after yourself.”
Whenever things aren’t working right in my house I tend to legislate. I make new rules in an attempt to gain control over dissatisfaction. One evening after dinner I remember my then-5-year-old son weeping because “I can’t even keep track of what the rules are!” He was saying something I needed to hear — Hey, Mom, we get rule fatigue around here! If we keep the rules basic, then we can follow them.
I’ve discovered, though, that with teenagers these two rules go a long way. “Respect others with your speech” and “clean up after yourself” actually covers a lot of territory. A self-help book I read said that if a person is considering divorce, she must try to speak to her spouse with civility and respect for a whole year before she even considers divorce. It sounds like an important habit on which to work.
I am sure my children’s future spouses and employers would be eternally grateful if our children learned now that “clean up after yourself” rule.
As I began writing this column I realized that these ODD people exist even in our own heads. As I began writing this column I realized that even I may present as ODD at times.
My husband, who considers himself savvy in matters psychological, thinks he has discovered the way to get me to do things his way. His approach is to suggest the opposite of what he wants.
For instance, if he wants to go to a movie and dinner he might say, “Hey, let’s eat dinner with the kids and then go to Bob’s retirement party tonight.” His strategy is to present an idea knowing that I will respond with, “That would be nice except … ”, trying to oppose and defy his ideas.
His goal is to get me to fulfill his original desire by presenting the opposite of what he really wants.
Kudos to him, I guess. Posting the marriage rules on the wall (“Spouses must respectfully consider each other’s recreation proposals”) certainly would get a chilly reception from me. But of course, now I know this little trick, I will be doing the double-defying defeat!
When I told my husband that my article this month is going to be about Oppositional Defiance Disorder his response was, “I hate that disorder!”
Sigh. Is ODD catchy?
Monthly Budgeteer columnist S.E. Livingston is a wife of 25 years, mother of five and teacher who writes for family and education newsletters in northern Minnesota. E-mail her at email@example.com.
Bryan Cichy, Ph.D., operates the Cichy Learning Group, based in St. Cloud, Minn. www.cichylearning.com