Explosive children or those with ODD are easily frustrated, demanding and inflexible. When things don’t go their way, they react with violence or rage. Their siblings are afraid of them. Their parents constantly walk on eggshells, terrified of the next outburst. They barely have friends. And they can erupt in verbal or physical aggression in response to relatively benign situations.
How can you respond to oppositional behavior? Dr. Ross Greene, a prominent doctor working with defiant children, suggests Plan B. Plan B allows you to respond to the defiant behavior in a systematic way in order to stay calm and help calm your child. Below are the steps that I often teach parents:
|Step 1: Empathy||Step 2: Define Problem||Step 3: Invite Solutions|
|Gather information about the problem so that you can better understand what your child is going through. Try to approach the problem from your child’s perspective.||Verbalize the problem out loud so that your child hears your empathy and understanding. Begin with something such as, “Your concern is…” or “You are frustrated about…”||Now that the problem has been empathized with and verbalized, brainstorm realistic and mutually satisfactory solutions with your child.|
Another approach, proposed by the American Academy of Children and Adolescent Psychiatry, involves cognitive problem solving. This approach is similar to Dr. Greene’s Plan B in that it reduces inappropriate behaviors by teaching the child positive ways of responding to stressful situations. The Academy argues that because children with ODD often only know of negative ways of interpreting and responding to real-life situations, they do not have the skills to respond positively. Therefore, cognitive problem-solving skills training teaches them how to see situations and respond appropriately.
In some situations in which cognitive problem solving skills training is not successful, the AACAP suggests medication to alleviate extreme symptoms of ODD.
If you have been struggling with a child because of frequent temper tantrums and meltdowns, you don’t need to label him as a “defiant” child. In fact, Plan B, cognitive behavioral therapy, and the tips I suggested above help in reducing all children’s meltdowns. With some small changes, you can reduce fits and enjoy family time!