Raising my Oppositional Defiant Disordered son made me feel like I was parenting inside out. No matter what we had discussed or agreed upon, such as chores or homework, my son would twist the facts and turn it around on me — and would sometimes even claim that I had actually said he didn’t have to do it for blah-blah-blah reason! At the end of our arguments, which usually ended in a yelling match (with me joining in), I would be so confused that I wouldn't be able to remember the facts. I would even let him off the hook sometimes, because he sounded so sure — which frustrated me all the more later on when I realized what had happened.
As a 1-on-1 Coach and the mother of a (now adult) child with ODD, I understand how hard it is not to react out of fear, rage, impatience or hurt when your child draws you into a fight. You often feel out of control and overwhelmed — and like you're failing as a parent. Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner's advice in their ODD Lifeline program has been a great help to me and the parents who call in to the Support Line because it focuses on what we can do as parents — and what we actually have control over. According to Kim and Marney, two therapists who have worked with families of ODD kids for years, much of it comes down to our reactions to our children's explosions. We don't have any control over how they will react, but we do have control over our own response. Kim (the mother of an ODD son herself) and Marney also explain why it's so difficult to parent a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder — why they can’t be controlled, and how acting out often develops into social isolation for the family. (I also appreciate Kim and Marney's guide to implementing fail-proof consequences to defiant kids.)
When my son was younger, local support with a counselor was necessary to help me maintain my equilibrium and untangle the fights that left me feeling completely confused and exhausted. My son and I discussed how we could deal with our frequent arguments. I started writing everything down so there could be no doubt about what was discussed and agreed upon. That way, all I needed to do was point to the paper at chore time. This helped us avoid countless disagreements and his attempts to negotiate his way out of things.
As James Lehman said in his article, Avoiding Power Struggles with Defiant Children, “You don’t have to attend every fight you're invited to. Only you, the parent, can decide which battles to take on.”
About Holly Fields
Holly Fields has worked with children with emotional and physical disabilities for more than 15 years in the home, at school, and in rehabilitation settings, as well as therapeutic riding programs. She was with Legacy Publishing Company as a 1-on-1 Coach for two years. Holly has a Masters Degree in Special Education. She has two adult children, two rescue dogs and one cat.