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What are the Strengths of the ODD Child?

Flip your Mindset, There are Positive Qualities!

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Adults dealing with a child presenting oppositional defiant behaviour, ODD, can very quickly find themselves overwhelmed, and triggered in reacting from a point of power and intimidation. Often the focus becomes exclusively negative. The adult equates the child’s reactive behaviour with their essence or being. We need to separate the two and remember that this child has strengths and endearing qualities too. Here is a link to a description of ODD behaviour.

Parents who are dealing with children presenting ODD behaviour are exhausted. As such, it is very easy to lose perspective and lose patience. The parent and child become enmeshed in a repetitive communication dance that pivots around manipulation to intimidation. The cycle is negative, doing nothing to support self-esteem for either party. Here’s a great blog with professional suggestions from a parent who has gone through the intensity of dealing with ODD behaviour.

Teachers dread hearing that a child in their room has the infamous ODD label. The ramifications are that they will have a student with extreme behaviour issues. I’ve been there and experienced the extreme behaviour of chair-throwing, tantrums with foul language, defiance to simple tasks and the list goes on. It is exhausting especially given that often these children are not given the extra educational assistant support, consequently the classroom teacher is juggling classroom management while defusing an individual’s explosive behaviour.

Bottom line whether at home or in the classroom, it’s imperative that we remember that these children have strengths. Dr. Liz Angoff states:

Here are some common strengths, or highways, I’ve found in kids with explosive and oppositional behaviours:

  • A passion for fairness and justice
  • Feeling things very strongly, including feelings of love and empathy for others
  • Being perceptive and knowledgeable
  • Taking in a lot of information at once
  • Strong self-advocates
  • Defending friends who are marginalized or bullied
  • Leadership and determination

These strengths are not in spite of oppositional and explosive tendencies, they are the benefits of having this particular type of brain.

Take a look at her entire article: https://drlizangoff.com/2021/11/17/reframing-behavior/

As a classroom teacher, I found that often children presenting ODD behaviour wore the label, ‘I’m a bad guy” with pride. Over time, their interactions with others (kids and adults) were negative, consequently, they themselves didn’t see the positive side of their personality or their strengths. It became a power struggle; their desire for control over mine. They were determined to win and often celebrate their strength in negativity. Ultimately it becomes a cycle of bullying.

Although there were times that my frustrations clouded my perspective, I tried hard to take a step back, breathe and remind myself of the strengths of this child. It was up to me as the adult, facilitator of learning, coach and one with maturity to change the dance. The way to initiate change is through non-confrontational positive communication. We need to build trust by affirming what they do right. It’s helping others see their strengths and how they can use these characteristics for good.

It’s helping these children see that satisfying their need for power or influence can be done positively. Years ago when I took my Choice Theory Level One the instructor asked, “What do Gandhi, Mother Teresa have in common with Hitler or any other infamous negative character?” The answer was, “They all had a great desire for influence, control, and power.” It is up to us, the adults in the world, to help our ODD kids see their strengths. In flipping our mindset, we can help them make effective choices and develop into the positive leaders of tomorrow.

Flying Fairy with a Wand