An Expert Explains How to Manage Students with Oppositional-Defiant Disorder


oppositional-defiant disorder help


An Expert Explains
How to Manage Students with
Oppositional-Defiant Disorder



O.D.D. workshopOppositional Defiant Disorder is a mental health diagnostic term that can be applied by a mental health professional to describe some severely misbehaved youth and children. Although this youngster may be a real handful to manage, this diagnosis is an infinitely more hopeful and workable one than Conduct Disorder, which can appear similar.

I'm Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. and my work in the trenches, and years of training teachers, counselors and juvenile justice staff have helped me to learn a lot about Oppositional Defiant Disorder, also referred to as ODD.

help with O.D.D.In our workshop, even many mental health professionals confuse the differences between oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD). Although there are similarities between these two types of seriously misbehaved youth, some of the ways you work with these kids differ dramatically. In fact, many methods that are essential to work with ODDs are not just ineffective, but dangerous with CDs. The most common example of this is character ed, which tends to make the CD's behavior much worse.

We covered CDs and ODDs in articles in the 2nd and 3rd issues of this Behavior and Classroom Management Blog, but here's a very quick recap. So if you're not a subscriber to our blog of educational articles on behavior and classroom management strategies, here's some of what you've been missing. (Sign up for the blog here.)




Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Conduct Disorder

ODDs probably have a conscience and remorse, but neither of these seem to be much in evidence. CDs are considered much more severely disturbed, and much more likely to engage in extremely dangerous and/or problematic behavior. By definition, CDs lack meaningful relationship capacity.

Here's a pop quiz to test your knowledge. Don't worry, the answers are below.

These questions capture some of the most common misconceptions and questions we constantly hear in our workshops about these two types of hard-to-manage youth. However, the brief answers provided here are absolutely no substitute for mastering how to effectively and safely work with severely acting-out youth and children, so be sure to come to one of our workshops around the country. (We even still have $84 half-price scholarship work study slots open in most of the cities if you're on a budget.)

teacher online coursesOr, you may want to purchase one of our instant download ebooks like All the Best Answers for the Worst Kid Problems: Conduct Disorders if you want more information immediately. If this information is new, you can actually find that your class and group management problems can rapidly improve as a result. You can be reading our ebooks in less than 60 seconds, and they cost just $15. If you do not do well on the quiz, the reality is that you are much more vulnerable to continuing safety and effectiveness concerns.

Here's the Quiz on
Oppositional Defiant Disorder vs
Conduct Disorder

1. Animal abuse is particularly characteristic of… ODDs or CDs?

2. Evoking remorse is a strategy that should only be used with…ODDs or CDs?

3. There has been a big increase in the number of kids diagnosed as…ODD or CD?

4. ODD leads to CD…or does CD lead to ODD?

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Quiz on
Oppositional Defiant Disorder vs
Conduct Disorder

 teacher online courses

1. Animal abuse isn't a litmus test for CD, but some mental health experts believe it almost could be. Animal abuse is tightly correlated with CD.

2. Most mental health experts, though not all, believe that the heart of being a CD is having no heart or conscience. Therefore, evoking remorse in a CD won't work, and could make things much worse. Getting that conscience "in gear" is often central to working with ODDs.

3. There has been a big increase in all manner of severe emotional problems over the last few years, especially in younger children. No study has yet revealed the explanation for this general increase but CDs and ODDs are part of this trend. CDs are especially increasing in number, so it is more important than ever to understand this problem and to learn basic mental health terms and concepts even if you are a teacher, after-school program worker, principal, court worker or other professional or para-professional who didn't really sign up to work with the most seriously disturbed youth and children.

4. ODD does not morph into CD, nor does CD change into ODD. Sometimes a child will be diagnosed as ODD but the therapist may really suspect CD. Because CD is such a serious diagnosis, clinicians are often very deliberate and slow to formally apply that label. This is an appropriate amount of care, but to the non-clinician, it can appear that the child must have changed from ODD to CD, when what really happened is that the clinician was finally able to make a definite determination of CD.

Key Strategies for

Oppositional-Defiant Students

Here's some key strategies to use with ODDs. Remember: Most of these won't work with CDs, and can make the problems worse!

  • Skill Training: Teach the youth to properly manage his or her fist, mouth and actions. This is critical– especially if the child doesn't get this training at home: kids can not use skills they haven't been taught.
  • Relationship-Based Approaches: Developing a bond with this child can yield results.
  • Activate the Conscience: It is critical to evoke remorse and regret for problem behaviors.
  • Consequences Count: They are just one part of the solution but shouldn't be overlooked. Offer consequences as soon as possible. Be careful about second chances or lightening the consequence.
  • Problem Peers: ODDs get into plenty of trouble on their own and need no help from CDs to engage in misbehavior. Keep ODDs tracked to positive peers. Limit their contact with CDs.
  • Observe for CD: If you are not a mental health professional, consult one if you feel that your ODD child is so seriously and extremely misbehaved that he or she should be examined for a possible CD diagnosis.

LEARN MORE: You've just read only a small portion of the information that youth professionals need to safely and successfully work with oppositional-defiant youth. Come to our workshop or visit more of our huge web site to get more of the key information and strategies you must have to work with one the most difficult-of-all youth. It is truly a matter of ensuring safety and enhancing your effectiveness with your most uncontrollable youngsters.

ODD workshop Our Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshop courses (live and online seminars), plus our books and ebooks can stop the confusion, misinformation and uncertainty about how to consistently and successfully manage severely acting- out youngsters.

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About Ruth Herman Wells

Author/Trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. is the director of Youth Change Professional Development Workshops. In 2011, Ruth was rated as a Top 10 U.S. K-12 educational and motivational speaker by Speakerwiki and Speakermix. She is the author of several book series, a columnist, adjunct professor for two universities, and a popular keynote speaker and workshop presenter. Ruth's dozens of books includes Temper and Tantrum Tamers and Turn On the Turned-Off Student.