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Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children


  • Oppositional (opo-ZISH-un-al) defiant (de-FEYE-ant) disorder, also called ODD, is a common behavior problem seen in children and teenagers. This occurs when your child's oppositional (acting against) behavior occurs more often than normal and lasts longer than six months. A child with ODD may be very stubborn, aggressive, hostile, or openly troublesome most of the time. He may also regularly throw tantrums or purposely bother or irritate you, his teachers, and other adults. This behavior may affect your child's relationships and daily activities at home and in school. ODD usually affects children between 3 and 18 years of age, and is more common among boys.
  • A guide is used by caregivers to diagnose ODD. At least four symptoms must be present for at least six months for a diagnosis to be made. These symptoms must be bad enough to cause problems with your child's daily activities and relationships. The symptoms should be present in two or more settings, such as in school or at home. Symptoms should not be caused by other health conditions or problems. The signs and symptoms may include anger, not following rules, arguing, and blaming others most of the time. Your child may often be mean, touchy, resentful, and easily annoyed. With treatment, such as medicine and therapy, your child's ODD may be controlled and his quality of life improved.



  • Keep a current list of your child's medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list and the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Give vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed: Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Ask before you change or stop giving your child his medicines.
  • Read the ingredient labels of all medicines that you give to your child: If your child is using medicine for other symptoms such as cough or cold, read the medicine labels carefully. Many of these medicines may also have ibuprofen or acetaminophen in them. Adding these medicines to the ibuprofen or acetaminophen that your child has already taken may cause him to get too much medicine. Taking too much ibuprofen or acetaminophen could harm your child.

Ask for more information about where and when to take your child for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services for your child, ask for information.

Your child may need more rest than he realizes while he heals.

Quiet play will keep your child safely busy so he does not become restless and risk injuring himself. Have your child read or draw quietly. Follow instructions for how much rest your child should get while he heals.

Working with your child:

  • Be patient and keep your hopes up for improvement. Your child, like every child, has a lifetime to learn and grow. Treat your child as you would treat a child without a behavior problem. Always be the first one to encourage your child and boost his self-esteem. Work together as a family and give each other support. This will help during hard times.
  • Be well informed about new treatments that may help. New treatments and therapies to help those with ODD are always being developed. Some may make a big difference in and improve your child's quality of life. Talk to your child's caregiver before trying any new therapy or medicine.
  • Know and praise your child's positive behaviors. Recognizing and rewarding your child's good deeds and conduct may improve his behavior. This may also help him feel that he is important and loved.
  • Learn more about ODD. The more you know about ODD, the better you will be able to help yourself and your child. You may also teach people in your child's life about ODD. Work with your child's teachers to help your child in school.
  • Make more effective rules and regulations. Having more consistent and reasonable rules in the house may change how your child thinks and acts. He should know that there are certain limits while at home, in school, or when dealing with people. As a parent, train your child to follow your example.

For support and more information:

Accepting that your child has ODD may be hard. Talk to your child's caregiver, your family, or friends about your feelings. Talk to your child, or have those who are close to your child, talk to him about how things are at home and at school. Your child's caregiver can help you and your family better understand how to support a child with ODD. You and your family may also want to join a support group. This is a group of people who may also have children with ODD. Contact the following for more information:


  • You and your child cannot make it to your next meeting with his caregiver.
  • You feel you cannot help your child.
  • You feel like hurting your child.
  • Your child has new symptoms since the last time he visited his caregiver.
  • Your child's symptoms are getting worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's ODD, medicine, or care.


  • Your child just had a convulsion.
  • Your child has trouble breathing, chest pains, or a fast heartbeat.
  • Your child's ODD prevents him from doing most of his daily activities.
  • Your child has hurt himself or someone else.
  • Your child has thoughts of seriously harming himself or others.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children (Discharge Care)

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