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Tips to managing and fostering good behaviour in ALL children including Oppositional Defiant Disorder kids

  1. Set up expectations ahead of time and allow your child to earn privileges for following those expectations. Let your child have a say in what they want to work for. Allowing children to earn privileges puts the ball in their court. They know what is expected and they know what they have to do to earn the things they enjoy. They also feel a sense of pride when they earn what they worked for. Child may need reminders.

  2. Use transition warnings to let your child know what is coming next. Here is an example, “In ten minutes it is time to turn off your video games and come eat dinner” or “After this show it is time for homework.”

  3. Use empathetic statements to show your child you understand how he/she feels. Try to imagine how they are feeling. “I know you are really enjoying your computer time and you don’t want to turn it off, but you need to get rest for school tomorrow. You can have some time on the computer again tomorrow.”

  4. Phrase directives in the positive and remove the word “can.” For example, instead of “stop jumping on the furniture” or “can you stop jumping on the furniture?” try something like “sit down” or “come down off the couch” in a calm, but confident tone. Children respond much better when you tell them “what to do” rather than “what not to do.” Redirect and/or explain.

  5. Use specific praise when your child follows your expectations or listens to your directions. 

  6. Pick your battles. Ensure safety for everyone.

  7. Give your child choices whenever possible. “Do you want to wear the green or red shirt?” “Do you want to do your math or reading homework first?” “Do you want to set the table or take out the garbage?”

  8. Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you tell your child that he needs to pick up his toys before he can play outside, make sure you follow through on your rule and honour your end of the bargain. 
    No empty threats; teach your child to value your words. 

  9. If possible, utilize a schedule with your child that builds in chores, homework (if applicable), self-help tasks (shower, brush teeth, etc.,), and fun activities. Have your child participate in creating the schedule. 

  10. Avoid arguing, long lectures, or sarcastic remarks about your child’s behaviour. Stick to your rules and don’t negotiate, go back and forth, or argue with your child. If your child starts to argue or tantrum after you have stated the rule and shown empathy, let him/her know that you are not going to discuss it anymore. Do not give attention to a tantrum; it feeds it. Praise the child for calming down at the end of the tantrum; empathize, listen and redirect.


Examples of privileges to offer your child:

  • Watch a favourite show

  • Get/wear a sticker

  • Pick a family game

  • Pick an activity

  • Help cook dinner

  • Computer/tablet time

  • Arts and crafts

  • Use sidewalk chalk

  • Blow bubbles

  • Allow an outside activity

  • Child picks a family meal for a night

  • Perform for the family

  • Spend time with a friend / sleep over

  • Take a scenic car ride

  • Play video games

  • Arrange a trip to a fun/educational place (aquarium, zoo, Science World)

  • Nail painting

  • Bedroom music

  • Build a toy model or Lego together

  • Go to the store for a treat or snack

  • Go to the park

  • Remove a chore from duties

  • Take pictures

  • Phone privilege 

  • Stay up past usual bedtime at weekend 

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