Oppositional Defiant Disorder

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Oppositional defiant disorder ODD psychology

July 28, 2020 / By thadmin2

What I need to know to help my child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

  1. What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?
  2. What are the dangers of ODD?
  3. What types of therapies do Thrive Psychology Clinic provide for children and youths with ODD?
  4. Parenting a child with ODD
    • Support and resources for parents


What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)?

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) refers to a mental health disorder characterised by persistent and frequent patterns of disobedience, defiance, anger, and irritability. While it is normal for children to act out and be defiant at times, parents should be concerned when their child consistently exhibits such behaviours, that are more extreme, severe, and longer-lasting than that of their peers.

Children with ODD repeatedly argue and show hostility towards adults and authority figures, such as teachers or parents. The first signs of ODD  usually surface in kindergarten to early primary school. For some children, these behaviours may occur only at home, while for others, they may carry over to school settings. Either way, they cause the child a lot of trouble, be it with teachers, friends, or in family relationships.

For a formal diagnosis to be made, these issues need to have lasted for at least six months, and can be grouped according to emotional and behavioural symptoms.


Angry and irritable mood


  • Frequently and easily loses temper
  • Sensitive and easily irritated and annoyed

Argumentative and defiant behavior


  • Argues and talks backs to adults or authority figures
  • Refuses to follow or actively defies rules or instructions given by adults
  • Deliberately annoys or harasses others
  • Blames others for his/her own mistakes



  • Being vindictive or spiteful
  • Has shown spiteful or vindictive behavior at least twice in the past six months

(Adapted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5))

ODD can also vary in severity, ranging from mild to severe.

  • Symptoms occur only in one setting, such as only at home, school, work or with peers.
  • Some symptoms occur in at least two settings.
  • Some symptoms occur in three or more settings.

If you wish to learn more about ODD, do check out the following posts on our Facebook page:


What are the dangers of ODD? 

Given some of these symptoms, children with ODD tend to have conflictual relationships with parents, siblings, teachers, and classmates, and these struggles with relationships may persist through their schooling years. Also, with their resistance to authority and the tendency to blame others, it is unlikely that your child will see his own behaviour as problematic, instead blaming your rules or others’ rules for being unreasonable. Furthermore, with the way schools, institutions, and the larger society in general, view or deal with rule-breaking, it becomes ever more so important to seek help quickly.

If left untreated, these patterns of behaviours may manifest into more challenging conditions, such as conduct disorder, as the child develops and matures. With conduct disorder, a person’s earlier misbehaviours and defiance start to snowball into a more severe version, with the beginnings of criminal activity, substance misuse, and violent tendencies. Early and timely treatment can go a long way to curtailing such developments. This makes it important to seek professional help from a Psychologist who has much expertise in dealing with such challenging behaviours.


Contact us for an appointment to receive a psychological assessment for your child.


What types of therapies does Thrive Psychology Clinic provide for children and youths with ODD?

At Thrive Psychology Clinic, we recognise the uniqueness of each individual. Hence, we are always broadening our therapeutic services to ensure that all our clients’ have their mental well-being cared for in an individualised manner.

Here are some of the therapies that may help a child with ODD:

  • Behavioural Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Neurocognitive Therapy (can be used to complement Behavioural Therapy)
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Art Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Animal-assisted Therapy

In dealing with ODD, a particularly effective mode of treatment is behavioural therapy. Behavioural therapy serves to identify the causes and functions of problematic behaviour, and aims to change it by encouraging more adaptive and socially accepted ways of behaving, through judicious applications of reward, reinforcement, and sometimes punishment.

At Thrive Psychology Clinic, treatment begins with an initial consultation session, in which the Psychologist will speak with both parent and child to get a clear picture of the problem, to understand the full the extent and nature of the issue. As children with ODD may be more likely to show defiance when interacting with adults that they know well, the symptoms may not be immediately exhibited in the clinician’s office. If you wish to learn more about behavioural therapy, you may consider checking out our online workshop on the topic here.

Besides directly addressing these issues in behavioural therapy, Thrive Psychology Clinic also provides social skills workshops for children, to teach more acceptable ways of interacting with others and build their social and emotional intelligence. All together, these treatments not only help to correct socially undesirable behaviours, but also can restore children’s self-esteem and teach them to build better relationships with their teachers and peers.


Enquire about our therapies available.


Parenting a child with ODD

Parenting in itself is not an easy feat, and parenting a child with ODD can be a particularly challenging task, where the parent-child relationship can often be an abrasive or even strained one. Repairing and maintaining this relationship is extremely important, and hence parents also play a big role in treatment.

While therapy may be effective in treating the child, ideally, the parents as well should be involved in their child’s road to improvement. Parents can benefit from training programmes and workshops.

At Thrive Psychology Clinic, dedicated parenting workshops can teach parents how to effectively manage children’s challenging behaviour in positive ways. Through these, parents can learn tried and proven parenting techniques, including practical methods for dealing with tantrums, improving communication, and encouraging good behaviour. Besides making you a more effective parent, these strategies can also have an added benefit of improving your relationship with your child.

Aside from this, we also recognise the need to support parents and caregivers through:

    • Educating caregivers of children and youths with special needs e.g., workshops and webinars at Thrive Psychology Clinic
    • Providing advice on how to manage their stress
    • Developing their skill in identifying the ABC’s (i.e., antecedent, behaviour, and consequence) such as P.O.W.E.R. in Behavioural Therapy (preview video displayed below)
    • Encouraging caregivers to accept their child with special needs and not feel despair
    • Creating self-help online resources for parents who wish to educate themselves more
    • Regularly providing complimentary educational resources by subscribing to our mailing list and social media platforms