Parental Effect on Defiance

“There’s no such thing as ODD. It’s just bad parenting.”

We are still unaware of what may cause ODD so how do we know it isn’t just bad parenting? Or maybe it is? It can be difficult and frustrating at times when you have a very defiant teen in your house that makes poor decisions. Although this may seem like a full grown adult, the teenage brain is still developing (source).

A longitudinal study of 160 children (infancy through adolescents) suggests that the more sensitive parenting style produced less inhibited or anxious individuals (Effects of Maternal Sensitivity and Child Inhibition). If a child is raised with very understanding, sensitive parents and has less anxiety, inhibition and is less shy, what does that say of those children who are raised with very angry, abusive, neglectful or insensitive parents? Will these children become more defiant as adolescents?

Parents have a very great effect on their child’s development past the inherited genes. In early infancy (0-1 years) infants learn to either trust or mistrust the world around them, simply by having their needs met by their caregiver. If parents don’t help their child achieve certain milestones in life it can affect their mental development.

Defiance is a normal part of adolescent development. Children test their boundaries and limits. They want to know what they can and can’t get away with. There is a difference between regular developmental defiance and ODD. If there are very lax rules in the child’s home it may lead to an increased cause of defiance. If the child is use to getting what he/she wants by throwing a tantrum, the child will try and do that with other adults, including teachers.

It is easy to play the blame game but parents are responsible for a majority of their child’s behavior and actions. If a child has not been appropriately tested for ADD, ADHD, or ODD it may be possible that this child is simply defiant because it is a method that has worked in the past to receive attention.

As a teacher how can we deal with students who are defiant simply because they can get what they want?  In a classroom setting this can cause a scene and be distracting. This is where classroom management skills would come in handy. If there are clear, concise rules, procedures, consequence and punishments, the students (all students) will know what to expect. Once the student makes the association that they wont get what they want by screaming and throwing a fit they will have less tantrums.

But what about those students that this method doesn’t work for them? Perhaps these individuals have a more serious issue that needs to be addressed. A very difficult question to answer would be, how do you give parenting advice to the parents of these children without offending them?

Developmental milestones (physical and mental) are very important to the outcome and the future of the child. As parents, we are the ones that must be there to help the child as best we can. If that means special help because of a certain behavioral problem, learning disability, or mental disability, we need to be able to provide what the child needs. As teachers we need to be aware of various disabilities and their symptoms and get the student the help they need to be successful in school and in life.

Further readings

Quality of Parenting

Rebellion and Delinquency


What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)?

What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder? Many of us have probably never even heard of it.

As defined by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or ODD, is an ongoing pattern of uncooperative, defiant, and hostile behavior toward authority figures that seriously interferes with the youngster’s day to day functioning. Most children will occasionally display some sort of defiance towards parents, teachers, or other adults. This may occur when the child is tired, hungry, stressed, or upset. Oppositional behavior is a common part of development for children at age 2 and 3 and again at early adolescence but it can become a serious concern if it hinders the child’s social, family, and academic life.

The disorder is more common in boys than in girls and is thought to begin around age 8 but can start as early as the preschool years. This disorder is thought to be caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors (source).


  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Argues with adults
  • Often questions rules
  • Deliberate attempts to upset or annoy people
  • Blames others for his or her mistakes or behavior
  • Frequent anger or resentment
  • Spiteful attitude and seeks revenge
  • Often touchy, or easily annoyed by others
  • Is in constant trouble at school
  • Has few or no friends, or has lost friends

Although the cause of ODD is not yet known it is thought that biological, psychological and social factors may have a role. Children with these symptoms which must persist for over 6 months and must be markedly different from other children of the same age, can be evaluated by a psychiatrist or psychologist. ODD is often linked with other conditions such as Anxiety disorder, ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, learning disorders, or substance abuse disorders.

Treatment for a child with ODD can be child therapy, family therapy, parent management training to help the parents manage the anger, anger management for the child to help control the anger, and at times medication. Some children respond well to treatment while others do not. For those that therapy does not work, it can lead to conduct disorder as a teenager or adult and/or antisocial personality disorder.

Some studies show that ODD affects up to 20% of children but it is thought to affect closer to 16% of children. This means, that as teachers, we will most likely have a student with ODD at some point in our teaching career. As it was mentioned above, ODD is usually accompanied by some sort of other conditions such as ADHD or bipolar disorder. This means that the child may be diagnosed with one, but not the other. We can have a student with ADHD in our class but who has not been diagnosed with ODD. Although the diagnosis of ODD may not be crucial it is important for a teacher to recognize these symptoms and address them.

To address the issues a teacher should contact the parents as well as other administrators and teachers. First it should be identified if this behavior is isolated to one class or if it is consistent throughout all other classes. If a child is believed to have ODD there are steps parents, and teachers can take to lessen the behavior. It is important for a teacher to focus on the positive. Most children with ODD respond well to positive parenting techniques.

Teachers should show positive reinforcement and praise the child for cooperation or a demonstration of flexibility. Teachers should avoid power struggles and have clearly defined rules, procedures, and consequences. This is where classroom management can become very important. It is important for teachers to cooperate and communicate with parents about the students progress and behavior.

To address positive parenting techniques through age, please click here.

Looking back, I think that one of my students may have been developing ODD. He was previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was very defiant at home. I had seen the parent interaction between the mother and student and the mother was very harsh. At times the student would have to stand in a corner while the family ate dinner without him, which they would then go eat ice cream and he was forced to watch and would not get ice cream. It was a punishment but I think that would be very frustrating for the child and would not help the situation.

How could this child be more successfully dealt with? The mother did not seem to demonstrate positive parenting techniques and was very strict. How would be the best way to educate parents about their students delicate development? How can the issue of ODD or other behavioral problems be addressed in a more delicate manner?


Further readings