More Than The Terrible Twos: Could Your Toddler Have Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

If you're the parent of a toddler, you may be witnessing the onset of temper tantrums that typically begin during the second year of a child's life. You may wonder what happened to your easy-going toddler. At times you may wonder if your child's behavior is normal.

A certain level of defiance and throwing temper tantrums can be expected as toddlers begin to assert their desire to become more independent. The term "terrible twos" is often used to describe this period of time. It's not uncommon for parents to find this stage of development challenging.

If you find that your child's behavior seems to be extreme or much worse than other toddlers you've been around, you should discuss the issue with your pediatrician. It's possible your child may have oppositional defiant disorder, also referred to as ODD.

What's normal?

Tantrums consisting of screaming, crying, kicking, pleading, or pouting are not unusual in toddlers. Tantrums that last a few minutes, although they may occur frequently, are usually not a cause for concern.

These tantrums occur when a child does not get his own way or wants attention. For instance, if your child wants a toy at the mall and you him he can't have it, your response will likely be met by the child falling to the floor and crying. When the child realizes his crying is not effective in getting want he wants, the tantrum usually subsides.

What's not?

Tantrums that are prolonged and occur consistently are typical in ODD. The intensity of the tantrums can be quite hostile. The child may demonstrate aggressive or mean behavior. It may appear that the child is deliberately trying to annoy others.

These outbursts can be disruptive to the entire family and interfere with daily living. You may be afraid to take the child out in public. The child may be easily angered over minor issues. Children with ODD often blame others for their outbursts.

Other signs to look for include problems with sleeping, eating, or toileting. The child may behave well for others but have the outbursts when with the parents or primary caregiver.

What to do?

If you're concerned that your child may have ODD, your pediatrician may refer you and your child for counseling (at centers such as Living Hope Clinic). A trained children's counselor can provide parent training to help you cope with your child's behavior. They will provide suggestions and techniques for managing the defiant behavior.

What are the risks?

Oppositional defiant disorder can lead to destructive behavior patterns if not treated early. It can lead to the development of antisocial personality disorders and conduct disorders. Getting a diagnosis and treatment early is vital.

Don't be alarmed if your child's behavior seems excessive or worse than other children. Discuss all your concerns with your pediatrician. You may want to keep a record of your child's tantrums to determine how frequently they occur and how long they last.

Your pediatrician can confirm a diagnosis and provide a referral for a child counselor. ODD is treatable. Early intervention will prevent problems in the future and help to get you and your child's relationship back on the right track.