Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Friday, January 12, 2007

I didn't know my child was ODD - I just thought he was ornery

The other day my wife and I were in Barnes & Noble bookstore and while browsing around we saw this book http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780878339631&itm=1

The Defiant Child: A Parent's Guide to Oppositional Defiant Disorder
by Douglas Riley

*From the Publisher: The American Psychiatric Association estimates that sixteen percent of children in the United States may have oppositional defiant disorder. These kids relentlessly push the boundaries set for them by authority figures. By exploring the mindset of O.D.D. children and explaining the way they operate, Dr. Douglas Riley teaches parents how to recognize the signs and modify the behavior of their O.D.D. child.

Well, I really don't want to pull a Fonda and review a book I haven't read. So I'll review the title and blurb.

What a triumph for modern psychiatry, they've managed to medicalize childhood!

Children who "relentlessly push the bounds set for them by authority figures"? Oh whatever will this poor old world be FORCED to endure next? Oh my, I simply must learn to "recognize the signs". (Of what? Being a kid?)

My five-year-old son pretty relentlessly pushes the bounds set for him by the authority figures in his life, i.e. Mommy and Daddy. These days it mostly involves how much TV he's going to watch and when it gets turned off. We're told by more experienced parents that we've got bedtime battles in store.

He's also argumentative at times, pays highly selective attention to what his Authority Figures tell him and has learned to quibble. ("I told you not to run away in the store!" "I didn't run Daddy, I walked.")

Why would he do that? Are we bad parents? Is there some kind of Oedipal conflict involved? Or could it be (and I'm just speculating here) that it's because he's intelligent, spirited and in robust good health? (Knock wood.) Could it be that it is in the nature of kids to "push the bounds set by authority figures" and that it's the job of parents to first set those bounds, enforce them, and then loose them at the appropriate times?

Q and A time:

Q: Do you blame yourselves?

A: Hell yes. Heredity has got to count for something after all.

Q: How do you deal with a defiant child?

A: Lots of different ways. My wife studies the subject of child rearing seriously and in fact there is a fair amount of good advice available. Mostly it amounts to saying "No!" and meaning it.

Q: What's your position on spanking?

A: No special position, just a swat on the butt while standing. Doesn't much work though, grounding without TV is what seems to sober him up quickest.

OK, so maybe the book is about behavior extreme enough to warrant serious concern, and who knows? Maybe it does have some good tips for dealing with defiance in children. But SIXTEEN PERCENT? You're telling me that sixteen percent of American kids have a "disorder" that warrants medical intervention?

Now here's a speculation of mine. We have reason to believe that some people are born, what for want of a better term we might call "natural leaders". People who have reason to know, such as Henry Morton "Doctor Livingston I presume?" Stanley, say that about one in five men are such. That's close enough for government work to 16%.

Could this be what they're trying to define as a "disorder"?


  • At 12:28 PM, Blogger ShrinkWrapped said…

    When you read about 16% of our children having ODD, plus whatever number have ADHD, ADD, etc, keep in mind that these books typically treat the child as if he exists in an undefined matrix. While I can't supply any statistics, my admittedly anecdotal professional experience suggests that children who have the kinds of difficulties that once upon a time were considered "neurotic" (a word no longer welcome in Psychiatry) or characterological, usually have only a single parent or come from homes with serious problems. It can be professionally suicidal to suggest that children do best being raised by two parents who are committed to their well being, but I figure I can make the statement here because I'm among friends. Healthy children always test the limits; it is part of thier job description. That does not make the child diagnosable! Parents who need to resort to drugs or professionals to control their children's behavior should first consider their own difficulty setting limits appropriately. Obviously, at the extremes, professional help can be warranted and/or necessary, but I think you are spot on in your take on this matter.

  • At 7:35 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    It's funny/sad that it can be professional suicide to state what was once considered common sense. We used to praise single parents because (and if) they were doing a decent job in a crummy situation. Now it's a "lifestyle choice".

    I've been told that it's the same if you conclude that someone is unhappy rather than clinically depressed, or that being consumed with feelings of guilt sometimes means that deep down inside you are aware that you've done something wrong.

  • At 12:41 PM, Blogger Karoly said…

    I'm a bit worried about the other 84%.

  • At 11:26 AM, Blogger Gilmoure said…

    Don't know anything about acting up being a disease or some such. When my daughter gets out of line, easiest thing to do is to make her laugh and snap her out of her behavior loop.

    "You're heading the right way for a smack-bottom!", uttered in the Mike Meyer's Shrek voice usually does it. Once she's shocked out of her actions, she quickly realizes what's going on.

    Have seen the same thing in dogs, computers, and even Chevys (with carburetors). Feedback loops can get you stuck.

    I guess a sign of grownupness is being able to monitor ourselves for such loops and not allowing them to cycle through too often or amplify.

  • At 11:43 PM, Blogger Sue Glasco said…

    Steve--You are so blessed that your child is just ornery. He is not ODD or you would not be ranting that someone wrote a book about ODD. If you were to spend 24 hours with a truly ODD child, you would find out why there is a need for books to help such parents. There is no way for you as the parent of a non-ODD child to understand. How wonderful that you son will react well to normal teaching, humor, rewards, punishment. Again you are so blessed. Sue Glasco

  • At 6:17 AM, Blogger bertie said…

    it makes me laugh how people like yourself can judge others..
    the books are there to help families like myself as we have a son with odd. no before you say im not a single parent and do not come from a disfuntional family, we have always supported our son and loved him unconditionally but dispite this he kicks and punches me, deliberatly disobays rules, head butts walls, harms him self, runs away ect ect and he's only 11 yrs old.. my son has a mental health issue and until you have lived it dont mock odd.. i find this very disturbing that they are people out there like yourself who thinks that a swift kick up the bum will do the trick, your wrong, been there and done that..
    it hurts me so much to see him when he has an outburst but we are certainly not talking usual childrens tantrums.. as a parent it is really hard to understand 'why' he does this, sometime I feel like im cracking up..
    so sometimes the books can be usful as we too as parents need help in understanding.

  • At 5:36 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 7:51 PM, Blogger Steve said…


    This comment comes three years too late, and you'll probably never see it.

    I'm posting this during one of my reviews of my past posts, so...

    I don't doubt you've got a serious problem with your kid, and I'm NOT mocking you, or necessarily the book.

    But, do you believe that SIXTEEN PERCENT of all kids have the same problem as yours?

    If anyone is trivializing the problems you're facing, it's whoever came up with that ludicrous figure.


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