Managing the Oppositional-Defiant Child in the Classroom

About Teresa

Teresa Cooper is a 30-something wife, mom and teacher from Havelock, North Carolina. She has a Masters of Science in Education for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment from Walden University and a BA in Psychology with a minor in Creative from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Having struggled with anxiety and depression most of her life and later having birthed a child with autism, she is passionate about spreading awareness and acceptance of mental illness and autism and has been writing for Embracing the Spectrum since 2011. She also writes for The Mighty, The Huffington Post, and The Educator’s Room.

Some of the most challenging students I’ve had to teach have been those with Oppositional-Defiant Disorder. These are the students who challenge the behavioral norms in the classroom, often show low academic achievement, and lack motivation. Thankfully, there is plenty of research behind teaching these tough nuts to crack and lots of resources out there to help you figure out interventions to support them in the classroom.

  • Stay Positive. These students need a lot of positive adult interactions. Even greeting the student at the door and asking about his or her day can set up a positive start to the day.
  • Stay Proactive. Monitor the classroom frequently and intervene on behaviors before they become difficult to manage. Have plans in place beforehand as often as possible on how you will deal with behaviors x, y, and z.
  • Respectful Communication. Oftentimes, we don’t realize, as adults, how much our behaviors set off our students. Look for and try to manage your own behaviors and keep all communication respectful, calm, and clear. Stay away from sarcasm and keep you volume down.
  • Make Expectations Clear. Make sure the student knows what behaviors you will and will not tolerate. When you have to intervene on a behavior, make sure the student knows that this does not change how much you value him or her.
  • Be Fair and Consistent. Your students should know how you run your classroom. They should also know that they will all be given appropriate consequences and fair treatment. Check to make sure you do not have any unknown biases. If you favor (or disfavor) one student in class, they all know and will act accordingly.
  • Have the Student Reflect. It may be a good idea to have your student reflect on his or her behavior before having a discussion. Try a behavior reflection sheet like this one to have them process the situation.
  • NEVER argue. Remember: You are the adult. Do not get hooked into an elaborate discussion or argument about a situation. Intervention Central suggests that “if you find yourself being drawn into an exchange with the student (e.g., raising your voice, reprimanding the student), immediately use strategies to disengage yourself.”
    • Disengage by moving away from the student, repeating your request in a business-like tone of voice, or imposing a pre-determined consequence for noncompliance.
  • Use the 3:1 Rule for Positive Interactions. In other words, make sure you pay close attention to how often you praise the student. The rule of thumb? For every negative comment you make, you should make three positive comments. And be sure to be real with the praise. If you don’t mean it, the student will know and you will get the opposite of the results you’re looking for.
  • Just Breathe. Use whatever relaxation techniques you need to use to calm down before responding to the student. Mentally count to 10, pray, or take a really deep breath. This not only calms you down but gives you time to think about how you will respond.
Before you explode, try these strategies for teaching the Oppositional-Defiant Student! Click To Tweet

Here are a few resources online to help you further with managing the Oppositional-Defiant Child:

What strategies have worked best for you when working with oppositional-defiant students?

Oppositional-Defiant Child

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By | 2016-11-01T13:48:06+00:00 July 6th, 2016|Featured, Management|3 Comments

About the Author:

Teresa Cooper is a 30-something wife, mom and teacher from Havelock, North Carolina. She has a Masters of Science in Education for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment from Walden University and a BA in Psychology with a minor in Creative from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Having struggled with anxiety and depression most of her life and later having birthed a child with autism, she is passionate about spreading awareness and acceptance of mental illness and autism and has been writing for Embracing the Spectrum since 2011. She also writes for The Mighty, The Huffington Post, and The Educator’s Room.

3 Comments

  1. Anne Tenaglia July 6, 2016 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    I have found in my 4 decades of teaching, that the ODD kids in my classroom were almost all of above average intelligence. If I didn’t argue, gave them genuine choces/accommodations, and treated them with respect, they generally met you more than halfway. Subs can be a problem, though.

    • Teresa Cooper July 8, 2016 at 2:48 pm - Reply

      Good point! Student motivation is directly tied to having a positive teacher-student relationship!

  2. Lauren December 22, 2016 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    I am currently working with an ODD blind student. Any suggestions for me would be greatly appreciated?

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