How to Manage Children with Defiance Disorder

Defiance disorder is a very real, non-special educational problem. Most school districts define it as ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) but California doesn’t recognize it as an educational disability and teachers are saddled with the problem while trying to create a classroom that is conducive to learning.

One of the main ideas that you have to keep in mind is that the defiant child’s parents are probably your best allies. Immediately set up a conference with the parent or parents to discuss how long the problem has existed. Find out the times of day that the child has the most problems with his behavior. Is s/he seeing someone (psychologist, psychiatrist, family therapist) for the problem? Has s/he been diagnosed with anything else? What are the rewards or consequences that are working for them? What will their response be if I have their child call them? Have any teachers had success in controlling the behavior. What did they do? It’s time consuming to try and reinvent the wheel. A parent is the best authority in dealing with their child. Plus, it gives you an advantage because the parent is happy that you care enough to contact them before a problem arises.

Another road you can take is to request an SST (Student Support Team). This brings together the school counselor, psychologist and other support staff together to discuss the child. The support staff can give you ideas of how to handle the problem. The SST is designed around a problem-solving model to help develop effective interventions to address and help the student. It develops new strategies to the teacher to use for the teacher to use. The teacher will try the strategies for several weeks and report back to the SST team and let them know how the strategies worked.

One of the first lessons I learned as a new teacher is not to give an ODD child an ultimatum. It is a lose-lose situation. If he absolutely refuses, what can you do? When you have to call the office to intervene, you lose several points with the other children in the classroom.

There are several effective methods that are available for you to use. One is to talk to the child privately and try to come to a compromise. Another is put the child on a contract and give a reward if the child gets a certain amount of stars or happy faces (whatever sticker award you want to give). Another is to explain to the class that the child is having some problems and they need to be understanding and try to support him/her (believe me, most kids all ready know that s/he has a problem so you’re not giving them secret information). This lessens quite a bit of the problems on the playground and in the classroom.

Respect the child at all times. Don’t shake your head or make negative comments. This doesn’t help him or you. You will be challenged with this child but there appears to be more and more ODD children in schools. We need to work with them and make them feel that they are a part of the class.