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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.
Here are a few resources online to help you further with managing the Oppositional-Defiant Child:
- The first one is Intervention Central, and this particular page is specifically about Oppositional-Defiant children.
- Classroom Management: A California Resource Guide is a whole manual full of strategies for all types of children!
- ADDitude magazine has a slideshow explaining what ODD is and how to handle it from a parent perspective. It might be a good resource as teachers too.
What strategies have worked best for you when working with oppositional-defiant students?