Oppositional Defiant Disorder Overview

Oppositional Defiant Disorder in the Classroom

Teachers dealing with ODD children must learn when to negotiate and when to walk away.
Teachers dealing with ODD children must learn when to negotiate and when to walk away.

Children of all ages are prone to misbehave at school on occasion, but for children with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), bad behavior is taken to the extreme. ODD can cause kids to be extremely annoying, combative, uncooperative and often hostile. The good news is that there are ways to prevent ODD from causing complete chaos in the classroom.

First, teachers should communicate with the child's parents as much as possible. Because a child may behave differently at home and at school, parents may not be aware of their child's school-specific symptoms. It is also important to discipline the child in a manner that is consistent with the child's home setting, so teachers and parents should be sure to come to an agreement on this.

For teachers, it's helpful to keep in mind that ODD kids are unlikely to respond to the threat of punishment. This is because their interest in winning the battle is stronger than their fear of its consequences. For this reason, keeping an ODD child from a beloved item or activity may have little or no effect. More often, the promise of a reward is more motivating for an ODD kid. But in either case, be sure to negotiate your terms when the child is calm. Once the conflict starts, a child with ODD becomes virtually uncontrollable.

For some teachers who have experience with ODD kids, the name of the game is avoiding conflict in the first place. For example, many teachers know that giving praise whenever possible may be enough to keep the ODD symptoms at bay. Many also know that there will be times when nothing will prevent an ODD episode from occurring. When confronted with an ODD child that has gone off the deep end, there may be no way to ease him or her back into the classroom rhythm. For this reason, it's helpful to have a space in the classroom or just outside in the hallway dedicated for cooling off.