The day-to-day struggles of having a child with the oppositional defiant disorder can wear down on a person over time. Even the strongest parents have their breaking points, and it’s real easy to lash out at a child who doesn’t seem to understand or respect your authority. Having an outburst as a parent only makes the child’s ODD behaviors worse, and it does nothing to solve the problem at hand. Let’s take a look at some anger management tips for parents of ODD children that you can use to calm your nerves during an argument.
Identify Your Own Escalation
In a previous parenting guide, we discussed the importance of de-escalating ODD behaviors. As important as it is for you to know when your child’s anger is starting to escalate, it’s also important for you to notice when you personally are starting to escalate. Does your heart start beating quickly? Do you feel your ears getting hot? Do you ball up your fists? The physical signs alone may be enough for you to realize that your emotions are getting out of your hand.
Find Calming Strategies That Work For You
Once you recognize your own escalation, you can work on ways to calm yourself down. What works for you may not work for other parents in Michigan. Here are some different techniques you can try:
- Count backward before you say what you’re thinking. This refocuses your mind and also gives you a chance to collect your thoughts. Some parents only need to count from 10 to 1, and others need to count back from 50, 100, or more. Use whatever time you need to gather your thoughts before speaking to your child.
- Practice deep breathing – in through your nose and out through your mouth. Deep breathing will slow your heart rate down and relax your body as a whole. Inhale slowly for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 2 seconds, and then exhale for 4 seconds. Repeat several times over until you feel yourself getting calmer.
- Close your eyes. Give your brain a moment to take a break from the situation at hand. Focus on absolutely nothing – just the blackness around you. Your child may soon recognize this as a sign that you are getting upset, which could help to de-escalate the argument as a whole.
- Use long-term relaxation strategies, like meditation, yoga, walking, individual counseling, etc. Talk to a therapist about your experience to find out other ways to keep calm in the moment and as a whole.
Minimize Stress In Other Areas Of Your Life
Stress can quickly shorten your fuse. If you’re worn out from work, bills, family conflicts, and the like, you are more at risk of lashing out in an argument with your child. Remove yourself from stressful situations, even if that means cutting ties with someone in your life. You need to focus on doing what’s best for you so you can be better prepared to handle your child’s emotional fluctuations.
Take Care Of Your Personal Health
Parenting a child with ODD takes a lot of energy. Eating a well-balanced diet and sleeping at least 6 hours a night will help you maintain your energy levels and personal health. When you feel better, you’re better prepared to take on stressful situations, like an outburst from your child. Your hygiene also has an impact on the way you feel, so make sure you take the time to shower, brush your teeth, wash your hair, etc.
Choose Your Battles Wisely
As with most relationships, not every battle is worth having. As difficult as it may be to let some things go, you have to figure out if the outcome of the argument is worth the strain it puts on you and your child. Do a quick cost/benefit analysis, where you assess the pros and cons of the fight you’re going to have with your child. If it’s something small like your child rolling his eyes or being in a bad mood, you may let it slide from time to time to save your energy for bigger fights that may come later on.
Get A Good Support System
You don’t have to go through this struggle alone. Having a strong support system will give you even more strength to deal with the difficulties that come with ODD children. Family members and friends are the foundation of most support systems, but you could also seek support from people at church, your family counselor, or other parents who have children with ODD. If you feel overwhelmed or stressed in the moment, call on someone from your support system and talk about what you’re going through.
In addition to surrounding yourself with good people for support, you need to be selective about who you share your parenting experiences with. Not everyone understands oppositional defiant disorder, which means that some people may judge your parenting techniques or your child’s behavior because they don’t realize what’s actually going on at home. If you have a few family members who constantly tell you that you are a bad parent or that you have a bad child, they don’t need to be a part of your go-to support system.
Apologize When You’re In The Wrong
Some parents are afraid to apologize to their children even if they’re in the wrong. The idea here is that apologizing gives the child control of the situation, which will make them more disrespectful. In all actuality, the opposite happens. Apologizing when you say or do something wrong shows your child the value of a good apology, and it indicates that you respect your child just as much as you expect him or her to respect you. Be willing to admit your faults when they come up, and your child will be much better off for it.
Use the tips above and others that you get from your child counselor to manage your anger during an ODD outburst.