Anger Management Depression  Anxiety Bi-Polar Disorder Parenting Oppositional Defiant Disorder



What is oppositional defiant disorder?

Oppositional defiant disorder is a behavioral disorder that affects children and adolescents. Children and adolescents who have ODD tend to distress others more than they feel distressed themselves. These individuals are often times uncooperative, defiant, irritable, negativistic and oppositional with authority figures (i.e. parents, teachers, etc.).

What are the causes of oppositional defiant disorder?

Although the actual causes of ODD are unknown the most common theories include the developmental and learning theories. Developmental theory suggests that the symptoms of ODD are related to unresolved (normal) developmental issues that occur during the toddler years. Learning theory suggests that the symptoms of ODD are learned behaviors and a product of the child’s environment (i.e. this behavior may be learned from parents or other significant role models in the child’s life).             

What are the main symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder?

(From the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV))

  • Often loses temper Often argues with adults
  • Often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults’ requests or rules
  • Often deliberately annoys people
  • Often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
  • Is often touchy or easily annoyed by others Is often angry and resentful Is often spiteful and vindictive  
How do I find out if my child has oppositional defiant disorder?

A competent medical doctor or mental health professional must diagnose ODD. It is important to note that transient ODD is common in preschool children and adolescents. Therefore a diagnosis of ODD in these age groups should be made with caution. ODD is more common in males that females before puberty, yet after puberty the rates become almost equal. According to the DSM IV ODD affects between 2% and 16% of all children.

 What kind of treatment is most appropriate?

A medical doctor or competent mental health professional must determine specific treatment for your child or adolescent. It is always important to obtain a thorough physical examination by your doctor to rule out any physical causes. Considerations that should be made include your child’s age and developmental history, family history, the extent of the symptoms, tolerance for certain medications and therapies and your particular preferences.

Treatment choices include:

  • Individual psychotherapy
  • Family psychotherapy
  • Group psychotherapy
  • Medication

Prepare for the Holidays

The holidays are upon us. It is the time of year filled with much activity, activities that we want to keep in balance so we avoid the overwhelmed and overpowered feelings that often accompany this time of year.

Here are some tips:
1. Take time to rest well and eat well;
2. Finish shopping as soon as possible;
3. Set realistic goals that balance work, family and leisure;
4. Decide for yourself what parties and gatherings you will attend.
5. Stay focused on the real purpose of the season according to your customs.

Now and then, no matter how we try, we do get tired, overwhelmed and angry with the whole season. Here as a few tips to help you return to balance.

1. Remember to breathe, deep relaxing breaths;
2. Count to ten or take a five minute time out;
3. Go for a walk, even a short walk will help restore peace;
4. Exercise your
sense of humor (hang out with kids for awhile!);
5. Take a quiet moment to decide what you want to do, not what you think you should do.

Enjoy the present moment, remembering the most important people in your life and spend time being grateful for what they have brought to your life. Being grateful helps bring perspective to stressful moments. 

Marge Hicke

Humor will help you finish—
no matter what race you enter.
(Dr. Siegel)

I have a friend who has run 100 marathons. I suspect it is my friend’s sense of humor that has enabled him to do that.

Humor heals! Humor is a great stress buster! Without it, life can be oppressive
Humor is a wonderful parenting tool!

Use humor to bring fun into your family.

It can lighten up homework and ease boredom.

Of course, you may have to listen to

101 Pickle Jokes!!!!!!!!

Do something out of character; surprise your children!

Here is my suggestion for a winter project. Create a list, or a fill a jar, with activities that will produce laughter or be fun. Let the all the family contribute.

Some ideas:

  • Hold a bubble blowing contest
  • Make a fort out of spare blankets; eat lunch or take a nap in it
  • Eat saltine crackers and hold a whistling contest
  • New name day; everyone choose a silly or unusual name for the day.

Now it’s up to you; run with it and have fun!

Transitioning from the heightened activity of the holidays often stresses our children. Their systems are out of balance; food and sleep have been disrupted. Suddenly they are back to school. They have homework again. As the activity level changes, our children can often use some help acclimating to “ordinary time.” Sleep and nutrition are excellent remedies for restoring balance.

Marge Hicke

In these unsettled times and with many of our loved ones deployed, the continued challenge for parents and caregivers is to provide our children with stability and a sense of security. How we meet this challenge will depend on the developmental stage of our children and our ability to manage our own sense of distress and, perhaps, despair.To shield our children in times of emergency or in daily life, we can maintain everyday routines, be attentive, avoid unnecessary separations, participate with them in activities, be patient and make decisions with forethought and when we are calm. Information abounds in this day and age. Our children need to be shielded from too much information; they do not need to know all the details. This is especially true with our younger children. On the other hand, with our adolescents, we will spend much more time listening to their views and opinions of the current events, in order to allow them to traverse the landscape of their minds. We will share with them our own views, without judging their ideas. In listening with our hearts, we will better ascertain what our children are searching for and, then, be able to avoid flooding them with too much information and with our own adult agenda and distress. And, we will shield them the explicit details and content of constant television and radio newscasts.

As parents, or caregivers, it is imperative that we take care of ourselves. If we do not know how to nurture ourselves, the challenge is to learn to do so, to find outlets with other adults to deal with our fears and concerns. It is our job as adults to grapple with the stresses of the world; it is our job to maintain faith in the future for our children. In doing this we allow our children to experience the limits, structure, expressions of love and attention that will facilitate their appropriate progress through developmental stages.


In these unsettled times we pray; we search for meaning and understanding. We ponder what we want our children to know about this history that is unfolding before our eyes. Then we instill in them a hope for the world we envision–even in unsettling times. 

Marge Hicke

  • Always say “I love you”–no matter how much your children are in your face or acting out.
  • All adults have an awesome responsibility to the children we encounter.
  • They learn by modeling how we act.
  • Goal of parenting is to give roots and wings.
  • Build relationships, live by your values, create rituals, make memories.
  • Each child is unique. You are the expert on your child, but be open to accept feedback from others who interact with your child.
  • Parenting is not a popularity contest.
  • The parents job is to be a role model, provide structure,be the anchor.
  • Learn about and understand the development stage your child is going through.
  • Provide consequences and responsibility.
  • For learning to occur there must be consequences, positive or negative.
  • Allow your children to experience the consequences of their actions.
  • Give validation for what you like and appreciate.
  • Communication
  • Learn to LISTEN.
  • “Check It Out” Often the message received is not the message that was sent–use active and reflective listening
  • Knowledge is power.
  • Know where your children are, who they are with. Learn about drugs and the internet. The more you know, the harder it is for them to fool you.
  • Build a relationship with your children.
  • connected and make special time to enjoy them.
  • Take care of yourself, and of your marriage and relationships.
  • Have fun times; create memories.
  • Say “I Love You” often; no one can hear those word too often.
  1. Be positive with child.
  2. Give unconditional love.
  3. Use praise and encouragement–focus on positive.
  4. Avoid labeling, name-calling.
  5. Give responsibility; age appropriate chores (not tied to making money).
  6. Provide positive experiences outside of the home.
  7. Keep expectations realistic and age appropriate.
  8. Be clear that the child is who he/she is, not us.
  9. Surround child with positive people.
  10. Acknowledge child’s feelings (all feelings).
  11. Listen to children–show interest.
  12. Use self-talk and self-instruction. (”It’s okay if I make a mistake; I can try again.”)
  13. Give children QUALITY/SPECIAL TIME.
  14. 10 to 15 minutes a day; one-on-one (or as often as you can):
  • Child is in charge
  • Child chooses the activity
  • Give only positive feedback (not a time for talking about poor grades or behavior)
  • Use parallel talk
  • This time is never taken away as punishment.

Anger in children and adolescents is often a symptom of depression. Following are other signs that may indicate depression.


Does your child or teen express sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, guilt and worthlessness; inability to enjoy everyday pleasures? Does your child or teen cry frequently? Is there artwork that expresses inner turmoil?


Does your child or teen have difficulty concentrating, making decisions, completing school work, maintaining grades?


Does your child or teen complain of frequent headaches, stomach aches, lack of energy? Is there a change in sleep habits–going to bed later; sleeping later; waking earlier; sleeping for long periods during the day? Is there a change in eating habits–eating significantly more or less than usual?


Is your child or teen irritable, having a difficult time getting along with others? Does your child or teen want to be alone most of the time–withdrawing from their friends, not visiting or talking with friends? Is your teen or child cutting classes or skipping school or expressing a desire to no longer attend school? Is your teen or child giving away possessions?


Does your adolescent or child talk or think or in any way express ideas of suicide, death or morbid subjects?

If your child or adolescent is exhibiting one or more of these symptoms over a period of time, or if there is a radical change in behavior, here are some suggestions:

  • Talk with them about what you observe. Ask if they are okay. There is no danger in raising their awareness of your concerns.
  • If you continue to be concerned, call a professional therapist for help. This could be a Marriage and Family Therapist, a Social Worker or a Psychologist.
  • You could also talk with a family doctor, a good friend or relative, teachers, clergy, those who your child or teen may know and trust

If you feel that your child or teen is in immediate danger, call 911 or your local crisis line

(in San Diego, California, the number is 1-800-479-3339).

Pete McClintock M.A., MFT

Anger and other negative emotions may be evoked when individuals try to share their experiences with others and those experiences are not listened to or validated. The word “experience” is itself a very broad term and difficult to define. To complicate things more we all experience things differently. Take for example the experience of a sunset. While some individuals revel in its inexplicable beauty others reflect on the wavelengths, refractions of light and other characteristics which define and explain what they are experiencing.

When individuals try to share their unique experiences with others the grounds for a battle between who is right and who is wrong are often laid. When Pontius Pilate was sitting in judgment of Jesus and casually asked “What is truth?” he asked one of the most profound philosophical questions of all time (John 18:38).

Simply put, being “right” and knowing “the truth” helps many people cope with life. Psychologically there is a tendency to simplify and explain things because the unexplained raises our anxiety. This is a primary reason why individuals hold on to their truths and are willing to go through “knock down drag out” fights to defend them!

Imagine a time in the future when a scientist invents a machine that allows us to be someone else for a day. The potential for understanding each other would increase dramatically! Meanwhile we will have to rely on communication to understand one another. The beauty of effective communication is that it enables us to relate our individual “experiences” and “truths” to each other. The main vehicle for achieving this is active listening.

If you practice active listening with your children or spouse positive results are guaranteed. Active listening involves good eye contact, attentive body language and periodical feedback to the person, which acknowledges you heard what was being said. Active listening also involves putting your own “truths” and “experiences” aside for a while; this is the most challenging part for many people.

If you decide to improve your communication skills and practice active listening be aware that you may experience anger and other negative emotions when your own “truths” and “experiences” are challenged and you choose not to defend them. Realizing this and actively paying attention to it will help you let go and expand you own realms of “truth” and “experience” (remember it was not long ago when people believed the world was flat and those who challenged this belief were thought to be “off their rocker”!).

Personal growth involves mindful attention to our own inner fears that limit our openness to alternative experiences of reality. Being conscious of this allows us to open new doors and expand our worlds. In addition our relationships can only improve as we move closer to understanding each other through active listening.

Sometimes the answer to this question is obvious and sometimes it isn’t. There is a gray area between normal and abnormal behavior with children. We expect to see an increase in anger management problems during certain developmental stages. Two year olds have a reputation for oppositional behavior, as do teenagers. Other variables that need to be taken into consideration are the uniqueness of each child, different values and behavioral expectations in families and cultural differences.

At risk children direct their anger outwardly or inwardly. The “acting out” child often exhibits problems that raise the concerns of others outside of the family. If professionals from your child’s school express concerns this is certainly a red flag. Behaviors to watch out for at home include violent behavior towards self or others and destruction of property.

The “acting in” children tend to direct their anger inwardly. These children often show signs of depression. They may be withdrawn from friends and family, lose interest in normal activities, and exhibit changes in sleeping or eating patterns. These children are also the most likely to “slip through the cracks”; unless the symptoms are profound they often go unnoticed by parents and other adults.

If you are unsure if your child’s anger is being expressed appropriately and within normal limits, seek outside help. Talk to other parents who have a child the same age and compare notes. Discuss your child’s situation with the school counselor, clergy or other professionals. If the feedback you get confirms your concerns seek professional help.

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