How Teachers Can Understand and Help Students With Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Aiden, a third-grader, is throwing a fit in front of his classmates, and his teacher Ms. Garcia is at a loss on what to do. This is Aiden’s third temper tantrum of the day, and I just asked him to put his Chromebook away and line up for P.E. With Aiden, this is how every day goes, and Ms. Garcia is on the verge of losing it. She has repeatedly spoken with Aiden’s parents, who have only ever stated that he acts defiantly at all times at home. Aiden finally has a meeting with the guidance counselor, who speculates that he might be one of many students who suffer from the oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

What is oppositional defiant disorder?

Oppositional defiant disorder, sometimes known as ODD, is a behavioral disease in which kids act defiantly to the point where it affects their day-to-day activities. It is described as a cycle of furious, vengeful, contentious, and rebellious conduct lasting at least six months in the DSM-5, a publication of the American Psychiatric Association.

The mission of a kid with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is to win and keep power by pushing the boundaries of authority, disobeying the law, and starting and escalating arguments, according to Dr. Nicola Davies in an article on Headteacher Update. This might distract both the instructor and other students in the classroom.

We don’t fully understand the causes of ODD, which may affect 2 to 16 percent of the population. According to scientists, it may be genetic, social, physiological, or a combination of the three. Though they seem to be afflicted equally by the time they reach adolescence, it is diagnosed more frequently in boys than females. According to some research, up to 50% of students with ADHD also have ODD; hence it co-occurs in many children with ADHD.

How does ODD appear?

We are all aware that children, particularly toddlers and teenagers, constantly argue and challenge authority figures. Those actions might be acceptable for children of that age as they experiment with and learn about their environment.

But ODD is so much more than that; in fact, students with ODD frequently disrupt their own lives and those around them. Children with ODD go far beyond what is reasonable in terms of defiance. Compared to their peers, their issue behavior is far more intense and occurs much more frequently.

Arguments and resistance.

“No” is usually a child’s favorite word for some time, but for pupils with ODD, that period never passes. They persistently refuse to follow instructions and rules and constantly question everything. They may purposefully irritate others to stir up conflict due to their need for a fight. However, they frequently fail to accept accountability for their errors or actions, blaming everyone else.

Irritability and anger.

These are the young people who constantly seem irritated and snap on the least occasion. They could regularly throw temper tantrums as a result of their overreactions. As a result, every interaction you have with them seems difficult.


Children with ODD may become spiteful and feel the desire for vengeance due to their persistent rage. They are vengeful, harboring resentments and wanting retribution from others.

It should be no surprise that these actions make ODD kids fall short at home and school. They struggle to make friends, and their academic performance frequently suffers. They could experience anxiety, depression, conduct problems, or addiction as they age. To aid these children, early detection and treatment are essential.

How can educators assist students who have ODD?

To assist adolescents with ODD, parents and teachers must collaborate effectively. Try these techniques at school and home and advise the seasoned educators in the WeAreTeachers Helpline group on Facebook. Pathway 2 Success has further suggestions.

Be dependable.

Instead of arguing, Brandy T. advises, “repeat your statements and consequences.” I frequently use trigger words to let the learner know I’m serious. When a pupil tries to argue, I respond, “Not now, later, or address the problem!” The pupil is then aware that they can visit their relaxation area if they need to calm down.

Give them some room to breathe.

Children with ODD can learn to identify their overload and the signs they are about to question or defy. It can be helpful to give them a secure setting where they can gather their thoughts and reconsider their choices. For precisely this reason, Calm-Down Corners have gained popularity in classrooms. Tobey G advises placing books, coloring pages, LEGO bricks, and other activities in a location where children can go alone when they feel the need for a break. These kids frequently require a tranquil place to unwind after engaging in highly stimulating activities. Let them determine if and when they require an excuse.

It is beneficial to maintain consistency in your classroom rules and discipline, as it is in other situations. According to Kristel R., “I always repeat classroom rules and procedures after providing choices and then follow up with an appropriate consequence.” “You must not err; follow your principles and do as you say.”

Offer appropriate prizes and constructive reinforcement.

Positive behavior reinforcement is frequently effective for children with ODD. Instead of removing those benefits as punishment, it is beneficial to provide kids with the chance to earn them. For instance, instead of threatening to take away screens when they disobey, allow kids to earn screen time when they swiftly comply.

Ensure the reward system is suitable and doesn’t come across as manipulation when using one. Students can turn in their work to Leslie L. for a reward using a method for tracking their conduct (iPad time, lunch with a teacher, etc.). Leslie continues, “I also incorporate breaks directly into their agenda. And I try to be as understanding and patient as I can.

A checklist with options A and B for the point system is also used by teacher Erica M. If they complete each one, students receive “points” toward a reward, which is frequently 15 minutes of iPad time during the final 15 minutes of class. “Find a passion and make the most of it!” says Erica.

Abstain from power struggles.

The majority of educators concurred: Avoid those pointless power conflicts. Pick your battles, as Kris W. said. Whether or not I’m wrong, a student constantly corrects me. I respond, “OK, let’s examine that again.” If I made a mistake, I fix it, and we continue; if he is incorrect, I don’t say anything and let him figure it out.

Elicit close relationships.

Kids with ODD frequently seek relationships with teachers who support them in solving their difficulties rather than making them stand out badly. Developing a relationship with them will help you identify the cause of the behavior.

Most of my pupils and I get along really well, and almost all of my students have ODD,” claims Kendra J. “Discover their interests and engage them in conversation on their terms during breaks.” Give them the freedom to define objectives and determine what will happen if they fail to achieve them.

Find something that appeals to the student’s interests, advises Carol H. I once had a middle school student who was out of control and despised all of her teachers. She would scream, bite and swear at adults and her peers while refusing to do her task. She played travel team soccer, I discovered. My son also did. She had a game next to my son’s a few weeks into the school year, and I watched her play. Everything was altered. We stay in touch even though she is now a freshman in college.

Locate sources for ODD.

This is merely a summary of the difficulties ODD students face. Learn more about the condition to better understand and assist these students in your classroom.


  • Mayo Clinic: Oppositional Defiant Order
  • Childmind Institute: What is Oppositional Defiant Order?
  • Parenting for Brain: Oppositional Defiant Order Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Strategies


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