Oppositional Defiance in Teens

How do you deal with defiance in teenagers? All teens can be defiant some of the time. It can be a sign of healthy development as teens work to assert their own identity, but what happens when it is the daily pattern?

For oppositional behavior to be a true mental health diagnosis, a child must show a pattern of symptoms of angry/irritable, argumentative/defiant behavior, or vindictiveness for at least six months. Children and adolescents with ODD may have trouble controlling their temper and are disobedient and defy authority figures. Teenagers who present with these symptoms often have a history of depression or anxiety that coincides with this disorder. Treatment and medication that addresses these issues can reduce disruptive behavior as well.

As you can imagine, individuals with oppositional defiance also have problems making or keeping friends, performing in school, and can’t hold on to a job. Big problems with their own emotional regulation create chaos in relationships inside and outside the home.

Oppositional Defiance Disorder

Parents can learn new skills to manage their child’s disruptive moods and behaviors. Modeling how to collaboratively solve problems and using natural consequences decreases arguments and fights.

Using harsh discipline or aggressive behavior toward teenagers causes the situation to be worse. Authoritarian styles of parenting make get some control of teen behavior in the short term but create more problems over the long term and may ruin relationships with teens as they grow into adulthood. It may push teens into social conduct problems that result in them having trouble with law enforcement and being removed by social services.

Professionals use a “Child Behavior Checklist” to screen for criteria that meet the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders definition of Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Other comorbid disorders may include ADHD, Conduct Disorder, Depressive or Bipolar Disorder, Intellectual Disability, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Language and Expressive Disorders, Social Phobia, and Anxiety.

Individual and group therapy for teenagers can be helpful. Parents can also learn new skills for managing oppositional behaviors. Learning about attachment styles and generational patterns of trauma can also be beneficial. Reading books on normal teen development is also recommended.

If you need more help with your teen or want to learn how to better parent, contact Ron Huxley today and schedule a session.

Fight Now or Fix Later? A Parenting Tool to Manage Defiant Behavior

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

Parents can diffuse defiance by delaying actions or a response. Conflict is inevitable in a family. Parents and children will not always see things eye-to-eye and arguments may pop up. If this becomes a regular hassle, this may mean that children are starting to consider it a game for how to guarantee mom or dad’s attention. Of course, it is negative attention, but that can make it all the more challenging to eliminate. 

Who says that mom or dad have to fight with the child? Why do you HAVE to reply to talking back or rude comments or annoying demands right now? A favorite Love and Logic tool of mine is Delaying Replies. Instead of fighting now, say: “I love you too much to argue with you…” or “I will have to do something about this behavior or attitude but not right now.” Delaying allows parents to cool off and consider a consequence or reply in a clear headed way and gather the support of the other parent. 

Try this Parenting Tool next time your child is defiant with you: 

Parenting With Love And Logic (Updated and Expanded Edition)

(affiliate link)

What else is Ron reading? Click here to see…

Is It Talking Back or Assertiveness: How to teach appropriate behavior

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

Parents will tell me that they want a child who can speak their mind and express themselves in an articulate and assertive manner but no one enjoys a child who argues, talks back or refuses to do anything they are asked to do. Typically, we call this latter description: Oppositional or Defiant behavior. 

Clinically, it is describe as any person who shows a pattern of…

A.  negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at least 6 months, during which four (or more) of the following are present:
(1) often loses temper
(2) often argues with adults
(3) often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults’ requests or rules
(4) often deliberately annoys people
(5) often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
(6) is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
(7) is often angry and resentful
(8) is often spiteful or vindictive

It is hard to differentiate between talking back and being assertive. When this is the case, I suggest that parents have children “Redo” a defiant comment or action. Ask the child to repeat what they want in a different tone of voice, manner of approach or without the tantrum or door slamming. It is important that parents stay as calm as possible. Take a few deep breaths and ask the child to do the same and then have them “Redo” the behavior one to five times. The reason for the longer repetition is that not only does it reinforce the behavior in a positive manner and teach a more appropriate social skill but it also “satiates” (read “bores the child”) the inappropriate behavior. Children hate boring tasks but will feel rewarded when they get what they want through appropriate words and actions. 

Hey, try this on your husband too 🙂

Learn more power parenting tools with Ron Huxley’s parenting book: 

Love and Limits: Achieving a Balance in Parenting