ADHD With Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) a Treatment That Works

Life is a daily battle when you have a child, like I have, that has a diagnosis of ADHD and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD). These kids can spend a major portion of their waking moments being disrespectful, rude, bad mannered, disobedient, argumentative and generally negative in their outlook on life.

It drives me crazy to read about studies in the psychiatric literature that point to parenting as a major ’cause’ of oppositional behavior. The climate is changing and Psychiatrist and researchers are realizing that this irritability, contrariness, argumentativeness, etc is hard wired in people with ODD and though parenting can help, it is not the cause. The stimulant medication used to treat ADHD can help with ODD but it rarely addresses the oppositional behavior completely and often it reduces the negativity seen in individuals with ODD by only a fraction.

ADHD and ODD often coexist. It estimated that up to 40% of children with ADHD might also be diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Dr. Charles Parker has reported on research that has found that the Glutamate levels of people with ADHD and ODD can be unusually elevated, supporting the notion that the causes of ODD are biological and not the result of ‘bad’ parenting. There is not a simple correlation between the neurotransmitter Glutamate at ODD but the new ADHD drug Intuniv lowers Glutamate levels and may sometimes be especially useful in treating ADHD with coexisting ODD.

I have found the book The Explosive Child by Ross W. Greene, to be extremely useful and I have found that eliminating any stress that I can from my son’s life is useful as well. My son is much less oppositional when he is relaxed but recently I have discovered a method to improve his ODD that has changed my life. Unless you live with a child with ADHD and ODD you cannot imagine how hellish it can be to get through a day. It wears you down completely to live with someone who continuously complains, argues and loses his or her temper.

The new method that has helped us is extremely simple. I have started ‘bribing’ my son to be cheerful and cooperative. I felt guilty about the thought of using this method for about one day but soon started enjoying myself because immediately this method proved to be tremendously helpful. We had tried positive reinforcement many times in the past but I think what made this reinforcement more powerful was the immediacy and the amount of the reward.

My son is nine and he gets seven dollars (a day) (described to him as a whopping $50.00 a week) if he gets through the week without:

Being disrespectful

Talking back

Saying Negative things

Complaining

Losing his temper

Becoming Immediately Frustrated

Being Uncooperative

Hitting, screaming, disobeying  I know he is capable of being more positive as he is better behaved at school than at home. I have tried many methods to get him to stop being oppositional at home but this ‘bribing with lots of money’ method has worked the best so far.

The way our system works is that every infraction costs him a dollar. If he extremely contrary or repeatedly complains after he is told he has lost $1.00, it costs him $3.00 and if he has a full blown fit, it costs him his entire $7.00 for the day.

Once he has lost the money, it is gone but he has a chance to earn a fraction of it (up to $2.00 a day) back. If he genuinely says something positive, is genuinely cheerful or if he is genuinely cooperative and helpful.

I have spoken to him at length about our new system and have made it clear to him that the money is for stopping the negative behavior. Once he has behaved disrespectfully or negatively, the damage is done and that, in life, it is difficult to make up for negative actions.

I have told him that people who think positively are more successful in life, get sick less often, live longer and are better able to cope with stress. I have told him that negative thinking is as bad as smoking cigarettes for your heath. We read a pamphlet together which reported the findings of Martin Seligman, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, who found that optimistic people are happier, healthier, live longer and are more successful than people with a negative and angry outlook on life.

We have posted the Martin Seligman poster on the refrigerator and have talked about the research that has proven that all of us have the power to turn negative thinking into positive thinking and have explained to him that getting better at positive thinking, like getting better at baseball or football takes practice and time. I have made it clear to him that this system is so extreme in its rewards because learning to think positively is that important to his life and health.

Last week my son earned 31 dollars and I had the most relaxing week that I have had in about 4 years. I would pay much more than that to not have to live with a person who is as difficult as my son is capable of being. I have routinely paid five times that amount a week to get him and I therapy and it has never been this effective. I know that not everyone can afford this method but if you can afford any large bribe (a camping trip, a movie, a coveted toy) try it. It may change your life.