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How Can You Help Your Oppositional Defiant Teen?

How Can You Help Your Oppositional Defiant Teen?


How Can You Help Your Oppositional Defiant Teen?


Talking back, rebelliousness, willful disobedience, and constant irritability—these are just some behaviors that many teens exhibit. They are often part and parcel of being an adolescent. While it is true that a significant number outgrow the defiant behavior, it can persist or be extreme in some 6 to 10 percent of these teens. The figure may not be that scary, but do you want your own child to be part of this statistic?


ODD: A Second Look

Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ODD “is a childhood disorder that is characterized by negative, defiant, disobedient and often hostile behavior toward adults and authority figures,” says Dr. Steve Bressert of PsychCentral. It is considered a disruptive behavior disorder (DBD), as those affected are disruptive toward their family, friends, teachers, classmates, and virtually anyone near.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), children with ODD show a persistent “pattern of extreme negativity, hostility and defiance that is constant, lasts at least 6 months, excessive compared with what is usual for the child’s age, disruptive to the family and the school, and usually directed toward an authority figure (parents, teachers, principal, coach).”


Is This Your Teenager?

The kind of defiance that is exhibited by teenagers with ODD isn’t just about asserting an opinion or expressing disinclination. A teen with ODD may express defiance using hostile responses, verbal aggression, deliberate annoyance, or willful disobedience. They may also lose their temper when reprimanded, vehemently argue with elders, refuse to cooperate with anyone, or blame others for their mistakes.

AACAP offers this list of behavioral symptoms that you should especially watch out for:

  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Excessive arguments with adults
  • Actively refusing to comply with requests and rules
  • Often questioning rules
  • Deliberately annoying and upsetting others
  • Often touchy or annoyed by others
  • Blaming others for their mistakes
  • Frequent outbursts of anger and resentment
  • Spiteful attitude and revenge seeking


Know that arguing, defying, or being stubborn from time to time is normal, especially when your teen is stressed, hungry, sleepy, or tired. This can make recognizing ODD symptoms tough for you—when is it just a reaction and when does it deserve attention? This is why you need a professional to evaluate your teen’s symptoms.


Risks and Consequences

There are a number of reasons why it is critical to seek professional assistance for your oppositional defiant teen as soon as possible.

  • ODD can make a teen lonely. With behavioral issues, inept social skills, and hostile behavior, who would want to be near your child outside the nearest of kin? An unlikable, defiant teen can suffer from not having many friends, as they are avoided or rejected by their peers. 
  • It can make your teen’s life tougher than usual. Refusing to cooperate and not completing tasks will most likely delay their developmental milestones. When they are continually lagging, they may not be able to exploit their aptitudes well and may develop negative feelings—poor self-image, anger, sadness, etc.—in the process.  
  • It can make them vulnerable to other emotional/behavioral conditions and risky habits. Unhappy, alone, confused, and angry, they may develop other conditions such as depression and anxiety. It can also push them into risky behaviors—smoking, drinking, drugs, etc.


The Outlook for ODD

ODD can be triggered by genetics, biological makeup, and other environmental factors. Without proper treatment, this condition that usually starts in childhood can linger into adolescence and even adulthood. Any parent would want to prevent this for their adolescent child if they can.

To help your child, recognizing the symptoms and seeking proper assessment and care from a capable professional without delay is critical. According to Cleveland Clinic, “Milder forms of ODD often get better as the child ages.” It is widely believed that prompt treatment is effective and can prevent ODD from developing into a severe conduct disorder.


What the Future Holds for Your Defiant Teen

If your defiant child’s symptoms are recognized and addressed early, prompt intervention can prevent the condition from developing and growing with your son or daughter. If your adolescent child has ODD, it isn’t too late to prevent it from getting worse as they journey toward their next developmental milestone—adulthood.

Your teen’s future is in your hands. You can make a difference if you provide the right kind of assistance from a therapist contracted with Carolina Counseling Services — Pittsboro, NC. Intervention can diminish ODD’s impact on your child, as well as on you and your family. If your family also seeks family therapy, you can be empowered as a parent to better support your defiant teen and to provide a good balance of discipline and love.

So, help your defiant teen and be an empowered parent with the help of a therapist contracted with Carolina Counseling Services — Pittsboro, NC.


Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services

Counties: Chatham, Alamance, Durham, Harnett, Lee, Moore, Orange, Randolph, Wake, NC
Areas: Pittsboro NC, Gulf NC, Hickory Mountain NC, Hadley NC, Siler City NC, Wilsonville NC, Fearrington NC, Mandale NC, Bear Creek NC, Albright NC
Zip Codes: 27312, 27344, 27207, 27228, 27256, 27559



Gail Gustafson, MSW, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 9+) Adolescents and Adults, Individuals, Couples and Families. PTSD/Trauma, EMDR, Adoption, Drug/Alcohol/Substance Abuse addiction, Anxiety, Depression, Bi-polar, Life Transitions, Grief and Loss, Parenting, Family, couples and marriage counseling.
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