First, Yankel’s mother provided empathy by commiserating with him, letting him know that she agreed that what he was going through was difficult (“Oh, Yankel. It must be very hard for you right now. You want ice cream because it’s so hot outside and you want to cool off.”). Then, she continued Plan B by defining the problem (“You are feeling uncomfortable and hot and you can’t wait to just cool off with some nice cold ice cream. Right, Yankel?”). Lastly, she invited Yankel to come up with some solutions to the problem (“Why don’t we talk about the quickest way to get cool and get ice cream”). Through this process, Yankel’s mother avoided a major meltdown and helped Yankel gain skills for the future.
Of course, providing empathy, defining the problem, and inviting solutions seems like an incredibly simple way to approach a complex behavioral issue, but I’ve seen it work dozens of times. After all, children with ODD simply do not have the skills to work out their frustration. Their only recourse when confronted with an unpleasant situation is to explode. Parents simply have to commit to the approach and with practice the results can feel miraculous.
Living with an explosive child can be frightening, frustrating, and overwhelming. At times, you might feel like you’re at your wits’ end. But stop and think about your child for a moment – he’s pretty miserable too. As his parent, you can reach out and make both of your worlds happier places!