Do you have a child who is always disagreeing with you? Perhaps your child refuses to obey even simple family rules. Do you have a child that seems uniquely gifted when it comes to “ambushing” you to get their way? I have a child who lives at home, is 21-years-old and used to display both issues.
What is “conduct disorder?”
Conduct disorder consists of several simple but dangerous acts typically at younger ages than my son’s; usually the child will be between the ages of 4 and 17. The undesirable acts may include not following family rules, fighting with peers (including bullying, assaulting or sexual harassment), premature drug and alcohol abuse, and, destruction of property.1
The first shocking thing I learned was this type of behavior may be inherited. And, sure enough, I was raised in a rough neighborhood and developed some of those same habits as had my father. We had at least a three-generation history of the behavior. Of course that does not let your child off the hook.
What is “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD)?
A child with this condition is always fighting with family as well as lying to them. Additionally they are easily annoyed and only interested in finding ways of getting what they want.2
The best examples of ODD occurred with my son. He might say he would like to have five dollars for a movie when he really wanted to (and did) use the money for cigarettes.
However the real “brilliance” of ODD occurs when the child ambushes the parent.
I recall an incident when we had “grounded” our son for a weekend. This occurred on Friday afternoon. We had absolutely no resistance Friday night whatsoever.
However on Saturday night there was a major party going on and our son was determined to get to it. My wife and I went to the grocery store on Saturday morning. As we were carrying the groceries in with our son, he started an argument about the grounding. We were caught completely off guard.
Young people with ODD have the ability, consciously or unconsciously, to attack when you are not able to give the issue your complete attention which sometimes results in the reversal of a punishment or other type of decision they don’t like.
What can be done about conduct disorder and ODD?
In both situations treatment is much the same.
Parents and their children partner with a “system of care.” A system of care is nothing more than a group of professionals designed to specifically help the child at risk, This may include medical doctors, social workers, teachers and counselors; whoever is needed should be put in place.
Both a conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) should be diagnosed by a medical doctor.
When our son became too much to handle we took him to a psychiatrist. We of course encountered a lot of resistance from our son. Don’t expect your child to go peaceably.
Interestingly, as appointments were kept and our son was exposed to alternative thinking and information to help him deal with life, he actually began to look forward to “treatment.”
Aside from calming things down at home, systems of care along with the involvement of parents and children result in (for children) improved compliance with rules at home, better function at school and decreased aggression.
Parents feel nicer towards their child and have less guilt. They also benefit from better health due to less stress.
Our son still has occasional problems such as deciding what to do with his life, but at least the high stress level is gone.
1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (SAMHSA), Conduct Disorders, Page One, Children’s Mental Health Facts, “Helping Children and Youth with Conduct and Oppositional Defiant Disorder: Systems of Care”
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (SAMHSA), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Page Two, Children’s Mental Health Facts, “Helping Children and Youth with Conduct and Oppositional Defiant Disorder: Systems of Care”