Sunday, February 20, 2005

On raising a child with disabilites, part 3: Oppositional Defiant Disorder—it’s not just for teenagers

We all expect just about every 16-year-old to be defiant and to think that their parents are stupid.

We don’t expect to see that same attitude and behavior in a child of half that age.

That’s why it was actually a relief to us when our kid hit adolescence. For the first time since he was about 6 or 7 years old, his behavior was actually age-appropriate. Everybody expects your child to be relatively easy to manage during the so-called “latency” years of early elementary school. How can you complain about behavior that noboby else’s kids are manifesting at that age without people thinking that you’re exagerrating or that it’s all in your head, or having your kid thought of as some kind of weirdo? So you just shut up and put up when in public, and deal with the problem through the school and the therapist(s).

“Rule 8: Oppositional Children Believe Themselves to be Equal to their Parents

. . . Although the nonoppositional child will debate with you about your decisions—even argue vigourously—the oppositional child will do as she pleases without explanation because she believes she is your equal.

. . . Oppositional children and teenagers consistently fail to respect how experience helps determine the roles different people are able to play. One fourteen-year-old I presently see tells me he is a better football player than Deion Sanders of the Dallas Cowboys. He sees himself as Sander’s equal without pausing to think that, although he is a talented athlete, he doesn’t have the experience necessary to occupy Sander’s role. Neither does he consider what he must do to gain that experience. His oppositionality allows him to think of himself as Sander’s equal . . . “

“. . . don’t make the mistake of thinking that this sense of equality comes only with teenagers. Although it becomes highly pronounced around age fifteen, it can easily be seen in much younger children. ‘Mother!’ I heard one nine-year-old recently shout at a soccer game, ‘You’re treating me like a child.’

‘That’s what I thought you were,’ her mother replied.”

My father always used to say, “’Ain’t’ ain’t in the dictionary.” He insisted that we speak proper English. We always rolled our eyes, but we always listened. My son, on the other hand, never listened—he always insisted that my English was old-fashioned. The result is that my English is better than his despite the fact that I was raised by a mother with a high school diploma and a father with a GED ([high school] graduate equivalency diploma) while my son was raised by a mother with a bacholor’s and a father with a master’s.

If you think your kid’s too young to have that kind of an attitude, or that your teenager’s defiance is a bit extreme, you might want to check out The Defiant Child: A Parent’s Guide to Oppositional Defiant Disorder, by Dr. Douglas A. Riley (1997: Taylor Publishing, Dallas, TX), from which I quoted above (see pages 15-18). It’s available at both Barnes and and



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