Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a behavior disorder found in children that affects the way they interact with parents, teachers, siblings, and peers. Beginning at home, children can become overwhelmed with emotions when they are told no. They combat being told no in various ways and lash out abruptly. They also can become violent towards authority figures, leading to a more serious disorder called Conduct, more often seen in violent offenders.
My son is an amazingly smart little boy. He is funny and outgoing. He loves puzzles, play-doh, and watching movies. But he hates change, trying new things, and being away from mom or dad. He struggles with calming down, regardless of what we try to help him do so.
He was a week away from turning 2 when I finally decided it was time to call in the professionals and have him assessed for his behavior.
To other people, when I try to describe the daily struggle, they assume it’s a normal way for a kid his age to behave. But this is different. For him, everything (and I mean everything) is not what he wants to do. He hits, screams, kicks, and cries at everything. He’s been seeing a therapist for a couple months now and has really come a long way.
“ODD is a condition in which a child displays an ongoing pattern of uncooperative, defiant, hostile, and annoying behavior toward people in authority.”
When his behavior initially started to change, we thought we were just hitting normal Terrible Twos territory. But after speaking with his pediatrician to work on getting him more sleep, things started to get worse. He was 15 months old at the time and only sleeping 5-7 hours in a 24 hour period when he should have been getting closer to 12-14 hours. We tried everything: going to bed earlier, melatonin, tart cherry juice, going to bed later, crying it out, nursing, and sleeping in our bed. It slowly got better and between naps and bed time, he now gets around 10 hours.
My son has a little sister whom he loves, but he doesn’t like it when she goes to sleep, so he will do everything he can think of to stop this from happening. She’s only 5 months old and at a very distractable age while nursing. Just today, while trying to nurse her for a nap, my son decided to turn on every light in the house. He then screamed at me to turn them off for the next 20 minutes, resulting in another failed attempt at nap time. During the first few weeks of our daughter’s life, he also really began to struggle with being on his own in a room for more than a few minutes and would scream and throw things.
“I can’t think of a 2 year old who didn’t have temper tantrums.”
Me neither, but 20 or more a day? Before he started therapy, that’s where we were. Luckily, we’ve made progress, and if he is being good and quiet, we now know to thank him and tell him how great he’s behaving. It seems we are headed in the right direction and we are hoping he will be ready to attend preschool next year.
“He seems fine to me.”
I’ve heard this from multiple people, and it’s true. When he is around other people, he is fine. This, unfortunately, is a disorder that starts at home and radiates outward, causing more problems with school and other authority figures as he gets older. It is still early, and we hope that we can turn things around for him. He is only two after all, so he will receive therapy until his birthday. At that point, he will have another assessment, and if he needs a diagnosis, then and only then, will they give him one.
Some days are better than others, some are way worse. But I couldn’t be more thankful for the people that have helped us and supported us in dealing with this. If you think your child may be struggling with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, talk to their pediatrician. You can also read more about it here.