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Child With Possible Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Question:

My youngest child is adopted. My husband’s sister is her birth mother. She is 10 yrs old and we have had her since she is 11 months. Her birth mom did drugs and drank while pregnant. She has all the symptoms for ODD. She has a very nasty attitude and no punishment works with her. She throws tantrums when she doesn’t get her way. We never raised her to get her way based on that kind of behavior. Rewarding her does not work and makes her behavior worse.

I don’t want to put her on medication. She is causing issues with my husband and myself. He thinks its all me and she is not the problem. He thinks I cause the problems with her. I don’t know if mediations are the way to go or not. We have tried taking her to therapy but she tells them what they want to hear and seems to get worse when she is in therapy.

Any suggestions you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

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Answer:

My impression is that you seem to be quite angry about the situation. On one level that is understandable but, at the same time, it worsens what is already a difficult set of circumstances.

Part of the reason I am sensing anger has to do with he way you describe your daughter’s behavior. You seem quick to suggest that she has oppositinal defiant disorder especially in light of her birth mother’s history of alcohol and drug abuse during pregnancy. While this is a matter of great concern, I suspect you would have seen very serious behavior and learning problems from the beginning rather than more currently at age ten. My point is that children can be angry, argumentative and diffiult without having any disorder.

The fact that she was able to control herself with the psychotherapist  points to the fact that she most probably does not have ODD. In my opinion, if she did, she would have been just as oppositinal there as anywhere. In fact, she would be oppositional at school. Perhaps she is but you do not mention it. However, you could have her evaluated by a psycholgoist to rule out whether or not she has ODD.

Children function best when they feel secure. When they are feeling extremely anxious, depressed and insecure they “act out” by using non verbal methods of expressing their sadness and fears. In this case, your daughter’s “nastiness” may be an expression of problems she experiences between you and your husband as well as with her and her siblings. What I am suggesting is that it could be that you and your husband are having relationship problems which she senses and affect her behavior and temperament rather than the other way around. In any case, I am sure she is not feeling good about you and your husband quarelling about her.

I want to suggest family therapy for all of you but with a psychologist who is skilled in this area. It seems to me that her problems probably lie in the family dynamics. All of you need to get together and learn, with the help of the therapist, just how problems could be solved. Very often problems, especially with children, lie within family relationships more than anything else.

One more thing: It’s always a good idea to find out what is happening at school. I am referring to more than classroom and learning performance but to whether or not she may be experiencing any bullying behavior that she does not discuss with you.

Best of Luck

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