Why Changing Your Parenting is More Important Than Changing Your Child’s Behavior
The underlying factors that contribute to behavioral disorders, such as oppositional defiant disorder, stem heavily from the home environment. But, with the right guidance and tools in place, the solutions to these problems can begin with a new approach to parenting and the family dynamic. Oppositional defiant disorder treatment, includes many contributing factors and solutions, but most often, starts in the home.
What is ODD?
Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a childhood disorder characterized by an ongoing pattern of negative and hostile behavior directed toward parents and authority figures. Children suffering from ODD are angry, defiant and stubborn, but may not see themselves as so. Rather, they view their behavior as a reaction to unreasonable demands or circumstances. There are eight main symptoms of ODD, of which a person must exhibit at least four, over an extended period of at least six months.
These symptoms are:
- Frequent loss of temper
- Argues with authority figures
- Actively defies or refuses to comply with rules and requests
- Deliberately performs actions to aggravate or annoy people
- Angry and resentful
- Spiteful and vindictive
- Sensitive or “touchy” to what others have to say
- Blames others for mistakes or misbehavior
ODD is a multifaceted problem involving a combination of influences, circumstances and biological components. There is no sole factor that causes ODD, but the single most contributing influence is family and home life. Thus, any treatment for ODD must focus on both the individual and the family.
Family factors and ODD
Symptoms of ODD are typically more apparent within the home environment and in interactions with parents or persons whom the individual knows well. Generally, the behavior may not initially be exhibited in school, clinical, or other social settings, but over time it extends to these areas as well.
Contributing risk factors within the home include (but are not limited to):
- Lack of supervision
- Abuse or neglect
- Harsh or inconsistent discipline
- Lack of positive involvement
- Family history of ODD or conduct problems
- Financial difficulties
- Troubled marriage between parents
- Frequent change or instability
Changing the home environment is crucial to ensuring lasting results.
Because many parents may feel that they are at the end of their rope, and simply do not have the tools or knowledge to overcome the situation, children who exhibit the behaviors of ODD are often met back with the same hostility and anger. Wilderness therapy works with the parents, while providing much needed space, to make the changes needed to allow for the successes made in the program to continue forward when the participant returns home. Parents will have the opportunity to communicate weekly with a therapist about the progress of their child and to discuss ways in which they can make positive contributions and provide the appropriate encouragement and support.
When dealing with a defiant or oppositional child, all parents must:
- Model positive behavior. Children and teens mimic the behavior of their parents, so setting a good example to model is crucial. Learning appropriate ways to communicate and deal with personal stresses are tools that can be worked on between both parent and child. An aftercare plan may include family counselling.
- Be consistent. Set up a scheduled routine, including chores and responsibilities that a child has the opportunity to succeed at. Establish clearly communicated consequences for negative choices, and stick to them.
- Establish boundaries. All children and teens test the limits of authority, but setting ground rules and reinforcing them with reasonable consequences establishes respect.
- Communicate effectively. Recognize and praise positive behaviors and discipline the negative. Being able to discuss things in a rational, productive and specific way is important. Avoid power struggles and negative speech.
- Work as a team. A family is a team, and everyone needs to be on the same page. Build in time together to develop a relationship.
The role of the parent in the continued success of the child’s aftercare is one of persistent involvement and support. Participants who return home from wilderness therapy are eager to continue on their newfound path. However, this success depends heavily on parenting. Parents must take an active role in making changes to the home environment if negative behaviors are not to return. There is no overnight solution. Old habits die hard, and parents and caregivers need to expect setbacks and relapses. The key is to have the skills and tools in place to manage these situations when they arise.
Wilderness therapy focuses on equipping parents with the abilities and strategies needed to continue managing a teen or young adult when they return home, resulting in a re-established healthy relationship between child and parent, and an effective form of oppositional defiant disorder treatment.