Frequently Asked Questions

What is ODD?

ODD refers a specific set of behaviors that the child learns to engage in in order to get negativity from their parents. This may sound irrational but it turns out that parent-negativity (generally angry responses) are what the child is rewarded with and what the child is working for. The ODD child wants to upset the balance. He or she wants to annoy, irritate and generally disrupt the mood and the activities in the household. Negativity is a bigger payoff for these children. If this starts to sound plausible, read on.

These children are not born with ODD. They are, however, born with a difficult temperament. Every single child who is labeled ODD frustrates easily. They are born with a brain chemistry that makes them uncomfortable children. That brain chemistry, 60 percent of the time, is ADHD. ADHD kids are NOT comfortable. The other 40% of the kids who are labeled ODD might be kids on the spectrum of Autism (Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Autism). Kids on the spectrum are certainly not comfortable. Some of the 40% of ODD children have a mood problem and they might be either anxious or depressed. Kids, who are moody and irritable, ARE NOT COMFORTABLE.

So the child is born with a difficult temperament and then ODD arrives. It comes after the child enters the world being uncomfortable.

ODD behavior (described as difficult, obnoxious, disrespectful, disruptive and disobedient) constitutes what psychologists call symptoms of the disorder. Children who are labeled ODD exhibit these symptoms with a much higher frequency and intensity than other children their own age. In fact, the ODD child develops these symptoms because they are “addicted” to parent negativity. It is their heroin and they are “stuck” in their desire to obtain it. In order to understand how this addiction occurs, it is advised that you view Session I of the FAST treatment program video library. You will enter virtual reality and be able to experience how this ODD learning takes place. In order to learn how to break the child’s addiction to parent-negativity, it is advised that you view Session II of the FAST treatment program video library.

What is the treatment for ODD?

Dropping your child off at a mental health clinic to talk to or play with a therapist will NOT eradicate ODD. In order for the child to change, the parent has to change their behavior first. ODD is not the parent’s fault. Parents unknowingly reward this disruptive behavior.

If you watched Session I of the FAST treatment program, you now understand how most parents don’t realize that these kids get parented ‘differently’. In the same family, you can have one child who is ODD and another child who is not difficult and who will respond to your commands. Parents of ODD children need to learn a new parenting skill set. For example, one thing you may have tried is time-out. Time Out, as you have probably already figured out, does not work for these children. If Time Out worked, the child wouldn’t repeatedly be defiant and disruptive. Viewing Session III of the FAST treatment program, explains why most of the consequences that you have been using don’t work.

Parent Management Training is the treatment for ODD. The FAST treatment program teaches parents new skill sets in just seven 45-minute sessions. The FAST treatment program also heals the child’s ego and convinces the child to transform. Almost 80 percent of the children, who go through the program with their parents, are no longer ODD (as rated by their parents on the ODDRS) at the end of a seven week training period. Session IV of the FAST treatment program teaches parents how to stop arguing with their children. Sessions I through V teaches consequences that truly work. Session VI offers a cure for sibling wars. This training is essential in order to end the cycle of negativity in your household.

What happens if ODD remains untreated?

If you do nothing, the prognosis for ODD is terrible. Sixty percent of these kids will likely go on to develop CD (Conduct Disorder). You don’t want Conduct Disorder. For boys that means assault, vandalism, truancy, drug and alcohol abuse. Conduct Disorder is a one-way ticket to the youth detention center and later prison. There is a direct route from ODD to criminal behavior for well over half of these kids. For girls, who are untreated, it means shoplifting, truancy, promiscuity, teen pregnancy, depression/anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, youth detention and later prison. Research has shown that if these children remain untreated and do not learn how to be kind and compliant; helpful and cooperative their lives are headed for a very dark trajectory.

What are the symptoms of ODD?

There are a constellation of 8 behaviors that occur often or very often when observing children with this disruptive behavioral disorder. The 8 behaviors are listed in the ODDRS rating form that you can complete and have scored right here online. Qualification for the “Disorder” means that a minimum of 4 of the 8 behaviors are observed to occur often or very often. Any four or more of these behaviors, when a child is exhibiting them often or very often means that the child’s behavioral set is quite different from his or her age-mates. That’s what leads psychologists to call the Oppositional-Defiant behavioral set a “Disorder.”

The interesting thing is that not all adults will rate any particular child the same way. Typically, fathers will rate the child as having a lower score than mothers. Or, this pattern might be reversed. The higher the rating, the more intense is the negativity between the child and the rater.

ODD is situation specific. It does not always occur in school. This drives parents crazy because the teacher may tell Mom or Dad that the child is an “angel” in school; meanwhile, the child is impossible at home. When ODD does spill over into school, we are usually looking at a very serious level of ODD. The child is very entrenched in being angry and disruptive and he or she usually has an adversarial relationship with the teacher. Not all teachers view the child as ODD. Some teachers might have the child "eating out of their hand" so to speak. These teachers recognize the child’s strengths and have a nurturing, positive relationship with the child.

Please complete the ODDRS rating form provided here to see whether or not you regard your child’s behavior as ODD.

What does ADHD look like?

Does your child seem to be lazy, disorganized and messy, defiant? The real culprit just might be ADHD.

Big Question: Are certain offensive behaviors ADHD? If offenses are happening over and over again, it is likely ADHD’s fault...(for the most part).

Classic Repeat ADHD Offenses are:

  1. Lying
  2. Stealing
  3. Avoiding tasks by lying or making excuses.
  4. Losing things.
  5. Forgetting directions.
  6. Starting tasks and not finishing them.
  7. Arguing, whining and fighting over homework.
  8. Making a Mess…Especially in their own bedroom.
  9. Being overly emotional.
  10. Never home on time.
  11. Not able to switch gears when it is time to go or time to stop playing.

ADHD contributes to these offenses but it should not be used as an excuse for doing them. Understanding that brain chemistry likely contributes to the offenses, hopefully gives the parent empathy. It is best for a parent to be DISAPPOINTED NOT ANGRY. Do not feed the need for negativity and grow the ODD monster.

What is the difference between ADHD and ODD?

ADHD and ODD may look the same in youngsters, but they are two entirely different diagnoses. For the most part, children are born with ADHD. It is a neurological brain difference that is inherited. ADHD can also be brought about by some event that occurs at or soon after birth(Oxygen deprivation, lead ingestion etc.) That event changes the way the brain’s frontal lobe processes information. Though the intellectual community has labeled ADHD a disorder, I like to tell parents that it is more a “difference” than a disorder. ADHD results in a “different” response to the environment that does not necessarily have to incur the limitations that the word “disorder” suggests.

ADHD’s “different” way of processing results in the person’s mind moving quickly from one thing to another. The ADHD mind doesn’t settle in on any one thing unless it is very interesting and or very rewarding. Really fun and rewarding activities cause the ADHD mind to over-focus on that one thing. For example, go try to pry a child with ADHD away from a video game. There are a multitude of neuro-biological differences that children and adults with ADHD experience. However, ADHD carries with it an emotional piece. It is that emotional piece that sets a kid up to develop ODD.

Russell Barkley has claimed that ADHD causes ODD. That is not entirely true. This is what happens:

  1. First comes ADHD and with it a temperament that is excitable, impulsive and easily frustrated. The ADHD child is uncomfortable and lets the surrounding people (parents) know it. He or she wants what they want NOW!! It’s hard to compromise; there’s no time or focus to plan or problem solve. I’ll be aggressive. I’ll argue. I’ll cheat, lie and steal to get what I want NOW because I don’t know how to wait and think it through.

  2. Next comes the parent who responds with frustration, anger and excitable, loud efforts to contain the ADHD child. The parent who does more talking when the kid messes up…the parent who gets angry, combative and pays attention, when the child is being a brat….the parent who brings up the past, complains, corrects and criticizes sets the child up to learn to behave that way... Because...

  3. Now Get This: The kid figures out that the parent will attend to them, get emotional, get louder, use more gestures, more facial expressions, move around more, use more words,… more ENERGY, when they are being bad. I get more out of my parent when I am bad. So now, I know how to stir things up and get my parents’ attention. I learn a disruptive pattern of behavior and in a short amount of time I become ODD. Watch this video clip to fully understand how this works.
What ways are there to help ADHD kids?
  1. Messy Bedroom

  2. Kids with ADHD almost always have a messy bedroom. That’s because they hold something in their hand (like a candy wrapper), get distracted and it drops to the floor. The Messy Bedroom is a major source of negativity in the household with these kids.

    Ways to Help: Break the task down. Coach your child through various steps of putting things away and cleaning surfaces. They will appreciate the guidance and it will stop negativity. When the ODD monster is unwilling to accept this guidance a practice session will help. BUT ONLY AFTER THE FIRST FOUR PARENTING SKILLS ARE LEARNED. Watch Sessions 1 through 4 of the FAST treatment program.

  3. Homework Wars

  4. Kids with ADHD really suffer with homework. Their brain chemistry difference doesn’t mean they are lazy. It’s just mentally painful to have to try to focus on homework and finish it successfully.

    Ways to Help: ADHD children and adults need to have things really interesting and rewarding in order to maintain focus. Without that (and homework is pretty boring and repetitive), ADHD people need some other source of motivation to complete a task. That’s where reward systems come into play. AND NOT A STICKER CHART OR EARNED PRIZES THAT THEY DON’T GET UNTIL FRIDAY!! The ADHD child needs to trade in token rewards for prizes or privileges they really want RIGHT AWAY. Watch Session 7 of the FAST treatment program to see how to do this properly.

  5. Lying

  6. Kids with ADHD tend to lie not because they are morally lost but because they do stupid, impulsive things, get caught and then learn to lie right away to protect their ego.

    Ways to Help: These kids benefit from Telling the Truth Practice. This consequence is a very powerful learning experience BUT IT CAN ONLY BE ISSUED AFTER THE FIRST FOUR PARENTING SKILLS ARE LEARNED. Watch Sessions 1 through 4 of the FAST treatment program.

  7. Taking Other’s Belongings

  8. Kids with ADHD reach for the candy in the store and take it because their brain will not permit them to stop and think about the consequences. They are impulsive. Being mindful of consequences can be learned.

    Ways to Help: Practice Looking and NOT touching or a Reading, Writing and Repairing Consequence. Watch Session 3 of the FAST treatment program.

When you tell kids they have ADHD/ODD...

When you tell kids that they have ADHD, you should also be telling them that they do not have a severe case of stupid, lazy or bad. ADHD is a brain-chemistry difference that results MOSTLY in the person having a DYSREGULATION OF MOTIVATION. The 3 Major Treatments for ADHD are:

  1. Structure - Using the same obvious bedtime...predictable consequences...predictable timing during the day.

  2. Motivation - ADHD people are not able to get themselves motivated for tasks that do not interest them. They do not have an internal dialogue to be a cheerleader for themselves, especially for boring tasks (like homework). Parents/Teachers are advised to provide the motivation to complete these tasks. Learning is faster with direct reward rather than avoidance of loss of privilege.

  3. Novelty - Motivation means reward. Rewards need to be changed and incentives tweaked. Without novelty, interest cannot be sustained.

Why Time Out Doesn’t Work for Most ODD Kids?

Nanny 911 sends every misbehaved kid to Time-Out. It looks so easy. Just walk the child to the Time-Out area and tell them they have to stay there until you say they are ready to return to the real world. TV and many parenting books sell the idea that 1 to 2 minutes of Time-Out per year of age will stop the rage and defiance. No big deal. The kid will learn to “behave” because he/she hates being in the boring Time Out area.

The theory holds that Time-Out is really Time-Out from reinforcement. That means that the child is removed from the environment where all of the goodies are, including Mom and Dad’s attention. The theory holds that difficult children who are defiant and tantrum want to be hanging around Mom and Dad to get all of the “lovie-dovie” stuff, including praise, hugs and positive recognition. That’s where the theory breaks down.

Difficult children, children who are likely ODD, rarely get praise hugs and positive recognition because they are always acting out, tearing up the place, arguing and disturbing the peace. What they do get (out there in the living room and kitchen) is….yelled at. And Guess What….That’s what they want! They want the parent’s negative energy. Negative parental energy is a bigger pay-off for the child and he/she learns to be more difficult in order to get this kind of extended, physical, verbal and emotional attention from parents. Watch session 1 videos to see how and why this works that way.

So if the difficult child wants negative energy, what easier way to get it then to be put in Time Out. How many ODD kids do you know who walk willingly and peaceably to the Time Out corner? Probably ZERO!! That’s because they get more positive reinforcement (parent’s negative energy) when they have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the Time-Out chair. Or, they get to the Time-Out Chair and purposely make noise and get out of the chair just to stir things up. Time-Out for ODD kids is a great opportunity to be more Oppositional Defiant!


Instead, learn to use consequences that fulfill the promise of what a consequence is supposed to do. A useful consequence, one that works, is always a way for the child to LEARN the desired behavior. If your child keeps doing the same bad stuff over and over again, I would call him or her a “repeat offender.” Repeat Offenders haven’t learned anything!! Repeat offenses prove that your consequences don’t work at all. Watch FAST sessions 1-3, in the FAST video library, to learn how to issue consequences that truly work.

What to do About Morning Wars?

Parents versus kids in the morning. It’s a recipe for war, especially ADHD/ODD kids and tired stressed out parents. Battles can last all morning and usually involve Mom or Dad nagging to the point of yelling and screaming, to get the child to complete the getting-ready-steps to ‘get out the door’. The yelling and crying destroys the lining of the stomach and the rest of the day. ADHD kids do not wake up easily in the morning. It’s as if their brain is hung over from all of the activity of the prior day.

Also, if they take meds for the ADHD, the meds have not yet kicked in. They crawl out of bed after what seems a million attempts to wake them up and stumble into the bathroom. Once there, they stare into the mirror, play with the water, swipe the toilet paper roll until it unravels and squeeze toothpaste onto the counter. Meanwhile, mom rounds the corner and starts screaming again. All of this is a recipe for disaster. Besides which, Morning Wars feed the ODD monster.

What is a poor overwhelmed parent to do?

Simple. A ‘Getting Ready for School’ Practice Session. BUT!!! This consequence works big time but it will only feed more negativity into the family system unless the parent and the child are ready to do it. PLEASE...PLEASE...PLEASE... Watch Sessions I through 5 in the FAST Treatment Program Library. DO NOT DO PRACTICE SESSIONS UNTIL YOU HAVE COMPLETED SESSIONS 1 THROUGH 5. Apply the skills learned there and then...Go for it.

How To End Bedtime Tantrums

Reason: Causes of bedtime tantrums range from children who have a low sensory threshold, to immaturity for separation to unintentional reinforcement of tantrum behavior by the parents. Closing the bedroom door and ignoring the crying and raging has been found to be effective, but many parents find this technique to be unacceptable. The following protocol has been demonstrated (in research) to work very effectively with ages 18 months to 4 years. However, there is no reason why it should not also work for children as old as eight or nine.

Positive Routines

  • Step 1: Determine at what time your child actually falls asleep (after all of the requests, times out-of-bed; tantrums).

  • Step 2: Determine the amount of time that lapses between when you want the child to fall asleep and when they actually fall asleep. For example, if you want the child to go to bed and fall asleep by 8 pm., and the child carries on until 9 pm, then one hour’s time has lapsed.

  • Step 3: Divide that time lapse by 10 minutes. In the example, the answer is 6. There are 6, 10 minute intervals in an hour. Add one to that number. This is the number of weeks it will take to get the bedtime tantrums to stop. SEVEN. THIS PROCESS WILL TAKE SEVEN WEEKS. You will likely have to continue this ritual for quite some time, until your child can separate and settle down to sleep on their own.

  • Step 4: Construct 4 to 7 bedtime activities that will occur with parent and child. These activities should be linked together. They should always be in the same order. And, after each activity praise and hugs are given to the child. The activities, when linked together, should last no longer than 20 to 25 minutes.

    Example: First, the child is escorted to the bathroom for clean-up and toileting. Praise and Hugs; Second, the child is read to, while they put on their pajamas, Praise and Hugs: Third, the child gets their back scratched or rubbed, Praise and Hugs, Fourth, the child is given headphones with a relaxation CD to listen to‡ Praise and Hugs and told good night.

  • Step 5: Example

    • Week One: Start the “Positive Routine” 20 minutes prior to the sleep time that the child has actually been falling asleep. So if that’s 9PM, start the routine at 8:40.
    • Week Two: Start the routine at 8:30.
    • Week Three: Start the routine at 8:20.
    • Week Four: Start the routine at 8:10.
    • Week Five: Start the routine at 8:00.
    • Week Six: Start the routine at 7:50.
    • Week Seven: Start at 7:40.

By week eight, the child is going to bed, after the routine, at 8 PM.

**If at any time, the child leaves the bed, the parent should put the child back into bed and say firmly, "The routine is over; it is time for bed." Disconnect. In the beginning, you may have to repeat this exercise, multiple times. Do not threaten to remove the routine in the future.

**Adapted from: Adams, L.A., Vaughn, I.R., Reducing bedtime tantrums: comparison between positive routines and graduated extinction. Pediatrics; 1989, 84, 756-761.

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