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A guide to realizing if

your child is at-risk, displaying 

self-destructive behaviors, and

needs your help and intervention.




 ODD Child

Learn more how Total Transformation, an at-home program for parents, can help your troubled and struggling teen and heal your family



How can I help my ADDICTED TEEN?


Will being ADOPTED make adolescence harder for my child?


How can I deal with the ANGER

 in our family?


What do parents and teachers need to know about BULLYING?




Help!  My teen is a RUNAWAY


My teen is cutting.  What do I need to know about  SELF-INJURY?


What is 'normal' teen SEXUAL BEHAVIOR and what is cause for concern?


What makes a STRONG FAMILY?









Behavior Problems & Behavioral Disorders


More Information on Teen Behavior Problems  -  Helpful Parenting Strategies

Anger in Our Teens & in Ourselves  -  Conduct Disorder  -  Teen Violence

Bullying - What Parents & Teachers Should Know  -  A Father's Critical Role


How can you tell if your teen's behavior is a problem?

Could it be just 'normal teenage rebellion'?


Is it a behavioral disorder such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), a pattern of negative, defiant and disobedient behavior, or Conduct Disorder, where your child repeatedly and persistently violates rules and the rights of others without concern or empathy?


Perhaps the most important questions for parents to consider are,


How much distress, disruption, and heartache

are your child's problems causing?


How are your child's problems affecting the family, your marriage, you, the child himself/herself?




The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision of the American Psychiatric Association defines oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) as a recurrent pattern of negativistic, defiant, disobedient, and hostile behavior toward authority figures that persists for at least 6 months.


Behaviors included in the definition are the following:

  • losing one’s temper

  • arguing with adults

  • actively defying requests

  • refusing to follow rules

  • deliberately annoying other people

  • blaming others for one's own mistakes or misbehavior

  • being touchy, easily annoyed or angered, resentful, spiteful, or vindictive.

ODD is usually diagnosed when a child has a persistent or consistent pattern of disobedience and hostility toward parents, teachers, or other adults.  The primary behavioral difficulty is the consistent pattern of refusing to follow commands or requests by adults.


Children with ODD often are

  • stubborn

  • test limits and push boundaries

  • easily annoyed

  • lose their temper

  • argue with adults

  • refuse to comply with rules and directions

  • blame others for their mistakes

The criteria for ODD are met only when the problem behaviors occur more frequently in the child than in other children of the same age and developmental level.  These behaviors cause significant difficulties with family and friends, and the oppositional behaviors are the same both at home and in school.  Sometimes, ODD may be a precursor of a conduct disorder.


Risk factors for teen behavior problems include:

Family instability, including economic stress, parental mental illness, harshly punitive behaviors, inconsistent parenting practices, multiple moves, and divorce may also contribute to the development of oppositional and defiant behaviors.


ODD is not diagnosed if the problematic behaviors occur exclusively with a mood or psychotic disorder.


The following interventions have been used to help replace defiant, oppositional behavior with responsible behavior:

  • Family and individual counseling to determine underlying issues and learn strategies for behavior change.

  • Coaching for support and guidance in finding solutions and getting  results you want.

  • Parenting groups for support, guidance, and empowerment.

  • Parenting programs to help learn ways of providing consistency, structure, and a positive, less stressful home environment.

  • A strong and positive working relationship between parents and teachers.

In addition, the following parenting strategies are helpful:

  • Listening to your teen.  Listening and valuing adolescent ideas is what promotes the ability of parents to effectively communicate with them. Most parents do not listen well because they are too busy -- with work, community, church, and home responsibilities.  Listening to a teen does not mean giving advice and attempting to correct the situation.

  • Talking about morals and ethical behavior.  Passing along a strong sense of values is one of the fundamental tasks of being a parent.  Parents need to talk to their children about what is right and wrong and about appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

  • Dealing with what is important.  Don't make a fuss about issues that are reversible or don't directly threaten your child's or another person's safety. These issues include unwashed hair, a messy room, torn jeans, etc.  Save your thunder for more important concerns.  Safety is a non-negotiable issue. Safety rules need to be stated clearly and enforced consistently. 

  • Being consistent and holding your ground.  There will be times when adolescents won't like what you say or will act as though they don't like you.  Being your teen's friend is not your role as a parent.  It's important to resist the urge to win their favor or try too hard to please them.

  • Avoiding arguments.  Arguing only fuels hostility and it doesn't get you heard.  Don't feel obliged to judge everything your teen says.  Retain the mutual right to disagree.  Never try to reason with someone who is upset -- it is futile.  Wait until tempers have cooled off before trying to sort out a disagreement.  Don't try to talk teens out of their feelings.  You can acknowledge someone's reaction without condoning it.  This type of response often defuses anger.


Practical Help, Real Answers

for Adoptive & Foster Parents

The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide: Help Your Child Heal From Trauma & Loss

Learn more >>



Read All The Books



Boundaries with Teens:  When To Say Yes, How To Say No

by John Townsend

Click here for KINDLE EDITION


Boundaries with Kids: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Children

by Henry Cloud, & John Townsend

Click here for KINDLE EDITION



More Information on Behavior Problems


Adolescent Risk-Taking ~ Adolescent risk-taking only becomes negative when the risks are dangerous and damaging to self and others.  Healthy risks -- often understood as 'challenges' -- can turn unhealthy risks in a more positive direction, or prevent them from ever taking place.


The Broad Continuum of Conduct and Behavioral Problems (pdf) ~ Information from the American Academy of Pediatrics.


Children and Lying ~ Information from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.


The Highly Prized Child ~ Pampered, privileged, and petulant, who are these children in charge and what are the best methods for parents and therapists to work with them?


Learning to Lie ~ Kids lie early, often, and for all sorts of reasons -- to avoid punishment, to bond with friends, to gain a sense of control.  How does this habit of lying develop?  They are just copying their parents.


Living and Teaching Right From Wrong ~ Young people growing up in today's culture have lost their sense of right and wrong as they grow up in the world without a clear sense of moral direction.  They seek to find their way on their own, only to be molded and shaped by a postmodern media culture and circle of peers, equally lost and confused.


Mis-Diagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children ~ Many gifted and talented children (and adults) are being misdiagnosed by mental health professionals. The most common misdiagnoses are: ADHD, ODD, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and mood disorders (such as depression and bipolar disorder).


Oppositional Defiant Disorder ~ The following three classes of behavior constitute hallmarks of both oppositional and conduct problems: (1) noncompliance with commands, (2) emotional overreaction to life events, no matter how small, and (3) failure to take responsibility for one's own actions.


Parent Abuse: The Abuse of Parents by Their Teenage Children (pdf) ~ Parent abuse is any harmful act by a teenage child intended to gain power and control over a parent.  The abuse can be physical, psychological, or financial.


Solutions to Oppositional Defiant Disorder ~ It is important to use the authority vested in us as parents to establish consistent limits and consequences, and to distinguish boundaries within the family.


Stereotypes can fuel teen misbehavior ~ By thinking risk-taking or rebelliousness is normal for teenagers and conveying that to their children, parents might add to other messages from society that make teenagers feel abnormal if they are not willing to take risks or break laws.  This can mean, for example, that when parents expect teens to drink before they turn 21 or to engage in other risky behaviors, kids are less likely to resist societal pressures to do so.


When Inappropriate Behavior is Just Plain Wrong ~ It's absolutely critical that we are willing to use a moral language with kids when discussing the consequences of their behavior.  There are such things as good and bad behaviors — not just choices that lead to instrumental consequences, such as being popular and getting along.  Some actions are wrong no matter what.  Even if everyone in school thought that stealing was the coolest thing in the world, it would still be wrong.


Why Kids and Teens Steal ~ Whatever the underlying cause (e.g., peer pressure, need, desire, anger, drug use), if stealing is becoming a habit, parents should speak with a doctor or therapist to get to the underlying issue.


The Importance of Family Dinners (pdf) ~ The more often children have dinners with their parents, the less likely they are to drink alcohol, use drugs, or have behavior problems.




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