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How best to tackle oppositional behaviour?

Our daughter is 13 and in her second year at high school.  She takes medication every morning (Concerta XL) and comes home about 3.30pm.  At 4pm we attempt to focus her on her homework assignments, but she find it hard to settle, rushes the task and regularly refuses to engage in any discussion about how well she’s done or what still needs work.  It looks like there’s some Oppositional Defiant Disorder in the mix.  Has anyone else encountered this?  What can we try (as it clearly isn’t working at the moment)?  One online resource says the medication for ADHD may actually make ODD worse.  We’ve run dry of ideas.

Replies

My ADHD son hated doing homework and it was always a huge source of conflict for us. When I started looking at his completed work, I noticed it wasn’t where the other grade 8’s were at - so we had him reassessed and sure enough, he has a learning disability too (common with ADHD types).  No wonder he hated homework! 

Maybe your daughter also has a learning disability. You might want to consider doing a Psycho-Educational assessment if you have never done one.

Posted by staypositive on Nov 19, 2013 at 11:35pm

Could it be that she is losing focus by 4pm and it is really difficult for her?

ODD is different, although by a sliver, than reaction to frustration.  If she is frustrated and having difficulty with homework she could be pushing back against you because it feels like MORE pressure on top of the pressure she feels inside already - so saying and doing whatever it takes to relieve some pressure!  So since she cannot relieve the pressure inside herself very easily then the best most expedient thing she can do is push back against you.

If on the other hand it is ODD she will push back even when she is having an easy time of it, just because you put pressure on her.  Slight difference.  But to the extent you can be sensitive to how much pressure she is feeling about homework when she comes to it, without any input from you at all, then you can sort which it is most likely to be and approach differently.

But in either case, the more calm you maintain the better.  And with ODD you must hold your ground and follow through.  So if you threaten something if she does not comply then you have to follow through, even if you think better of it ten seconds after you have said it! (Which I have done plenty of times! not easy).  But whatever you do you have to be careful to stay away from phrases like “What’s wrong with you?” or even, I find just as much push back from “What’s going on with you?”  because people with ADD take this as a personal affront.  I find it best to just stick to empathy.  “I see you are not having fun, is something giving you difficulty? Can I help in any way?”  But can also get push back from any phrase no matter how evenly metted, no matter how calm my voice!  Because there is pressure and anxiety going on inside their head and that is not fun.

You might also make sure you are setting out a calm space for homework.  I unfortunately do not have this for my ADD daughter because my ADD husband also uses the table!  Oi!  So chaos all around.  But the times she can use her brother’s desk which is clean and neat she can push through easier.  Don’t underestimate the environmental chaos adding to the chaos inside their heads! 

You have to work with the way her brain operates - and if you are requiring rather than available you are going to get push back, guaranteed.  So make yourself available for her to tell you how well she is doing rather than insist. And the best way to do that is to talk to her about things she is interested in and ask her questions, lots of questions about her favorite things - even if there is nothing more you want to know about Justin Beiber!

Posted by YellaRyan on Nov 20, 2013 at 12:11am

second year of HS at 13 seems young? We too struggle with hw at times, wishing you luck

Posted by AJGO on Nov 20, 2013 at 12:24am

Hi,
I have two thoughts:
1) Talk to prescribing doctor about potential wearing off of Concerta in afternoon and consider a booster ritalin dose (new problems like difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite).

2) See a psychologist who can assess and give you a behavioral plan specific to your daughter’s personality and specific to your dynamic with her.  Behavioral therapy is key and a professional, as an outsider, can provide insights.

Posted by elark on Nov 20, 2013 at 1:07am

My 8 year old has ADHD and ODD.  Some things that help after school are to make sure he has a protein snack when he comes home.  His psychiatrist recommended Builder Bars.  I let him pick out the flavors so that I know he likes them and will eat them. 

He is also on Intuniv, in addition to his Daytrana patch.  I have noticed a huge difference with his moods since he started the Intuniv.  He is much more even throughout the day and night.  He doesn’t have the crash that he used to have.

When my son was on Focalin XR, we tried the booster.  It was a total disaster because it caused severe anger issues.  Boosters can work wonders, they just didn’t for us.

Posted by cmullen17 on Nov 20, 2013 at 2:34am

My son’s psychiatrist specializes in ADHD in adults and children . He recommends a book by Dr. Ross Greene Ph.D. Called Lost at School. It is about collaborative problem solving. Seeing something as “our” problem and sitting down together and strategizing a plan. I have not finished it, not sure if well then put these plans in writing or how some of them can be implemented but I think the plan is…that if it you’re working together and some of the ideas come from your child they are more likely to buy into it. Also I feel I’m wasting so much energy and getting no where , I have to use something concrete and consistent.

Posted by JulieBmotherof3 on Nov 20, 2013 at 5:54pm

Another great book by Ross Greene is “The Explosive Child”.

Posted by staypositive on Nov 20, 2013 at 6:34pm

I think it’s also important to keep in mind that this is quite typical behavior for any 13 year old.  You mention that she is in her 2nd year of high school so do you mean she’s 13 and in 8th grade (jr. high being located in the high school) or is she a sophomore (and accelerated), or 15 and a sophmore, or is this simply a typo? Regardless 13-15 developmentally, there’s a lot going on & ADHD would heighten or amplify such internal/external developmental challenges.  I think Yella’s response is chock full of wisdom.  I would only add, keep calm and carry on. And foremost, be aware of the timing and tempo in your interactions between you and your child and adjust accordingly.

Posted by Interupt on Nov 20, 2013 at 7:00pm

Too much emphasis is placed on homework. Ask her why she feels she is struggling with homework—is she tired of work after a full day at school, does she not like you looking over her shoulder, does she not like being corrected, does she feel depleted of energy, does she want to do it on her own, etc.?

Homework battles improved 90% with my son when I stopped micro-managing him and stopped asking him to make corrections on homework. He works so hard to keep it together at school all day that he has no interest in more worksheets at home. We agree he does the work assigned and I will not drag it out by nit-picking or asking for corrections. Of course, in 5th grade, homework isn’t counted toward report card grades yet.

Penny
ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Nov 20, 2013 at 7:13pm

My son is 10 and is ADHD combined type and I was told by a psychologist that defiance sort of goes along with ADHD to a point.  My son definitely likes to push boundaries and will dig his heels in over what seems to be a small issue, I often call him my little lawyer.  We go in cycles of cooperation and argumentativeness but what works best is what everyone has always told me stand your ground, consequences and consistency and it takes time.  My son used to get angry with me if I checked his schoolwork or doubled-checked what his homework was supposed to be.  He would argue if he did his spelling homework and spelled a word wrong taking it as a personal insult.  He had a lot of trouble reading and wanted to read to himself but I had to stand my ground and insist he read aloud and if he didn’t he had a consequence and he got angry.  It was hard but now I am in the consistency phase and the arguments are somewhat rare (knock on wood).  I found that keeping calm helped enormously and discussing an issue with him only when he was completely calm helped.  I present my solution to the issue and I get his opinion and feedback that way he is part of the solution not just being told what to do.  I don’t know if this helps you or not but good luck.

Barbara

Posted by steelerfan500 on Nov 20, 2013 at 7:31pm

Thank you everyone for your replies and new ideas!

Posted by TomT on Nov 22, 2013 at 12:32pm

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