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Developmental Pathways in Oppositional Defiant Disorder
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In the last section, we discussed three key ways that a parent can become a confidence builder for their teen with oppositional defiant disorder. These three steps were valuing the unique teen; building self-respect; and recognizing effort and improvement.
In this section, we will present the five-step Redefining Parents’ Rules to help parents regain control over their teens with oppositional defiant disorder. These five steps include uncovering the facts; hearing the teen’s input; listening to reason; dialoguing; and compromising.
Case Study: Joan and Carly
Joan, age 35, and daughter Carly, age 16, were arguing over one of the rules that Joan had set into place. Joan told me, "She’s such an angry child. Whenever I try to do what’s best for her, she lashes out at me." Carly stated, "I feel like I’m a prisoner. I get so angry when I think about the way she tries to control me." Many times, the rules that parents make for their teens are ones that have been in place since the teen was a child and these rules, as a result, have become obsolete. To aid communication, I suggest reevaluating these rules and getting the teen involved.
Technique: 5-Step Redefining Parents' Rules
♦ Step #1: Uncovering the Facts
The placement of the rule had created a palpable rift between the single mother and her only daughter. As you can already guess, my first object was to uncover the facts of the dispute. Apparently, Joan makes Carly sign contracts once a year that she will not "do drugs, have sex, or kiss a boy."
If Joan’s daughter, Carly signs this contract she receives a reward. If not, Joan withdraws Carly's allowance, and she is only allowed out of the house for school. Even after Carly signs the pledge, Joan still does not allow her teenage daughter out with other friends if there are boys in the group. Obviously, this sense of repression has caused Carly to distance herself from her mother. I decided to find out why.
♦ Step #2: Hearing the Teen’s Input.
Next, I asked Carly for her input on what she thought of her mother’s rule. Carly stated, "It’s awful. I have no real social life, and the only interactions I do have with people are with girls. My friend's parents let them go out! Their parents trust them! Why doesn't my mom trust me?! It’s not just that I have to stay in all the time. It’s that I feel like my mom thinks I’m an airhead and that I’m bound to make a mistake sometime. I’m not stupid, I’m actually really responsible and mature for my age, but she refuses to treat me like I am."
As you can see, there is more to Carly’s side than just being denied a social life. The distrust her mother implies, forces Carly to assume that Joan does not understand her daughter. Also, it undermines the maturity that Carly believes herself to have developed. By negating this growth, Joan in effect negates Carly as a full-grown person and rather views Carly as a young child unable to make her own decisions. Think of your Carly. Does this teen suffer from a feeling of maturity negation?
♦ Step #3: Listening to Reason
In addition to uncovering the facts and hearing input, I then switched gears to Joan, and, in a separate session, asked her to define her reasoning behind this no-male-contact rule for Carly. I did not want Joan to try and convince me of the soundness of the rule, but rather to create a sense of balance in the discussion.
Joan stated, "When I was nineteen, I made the huge mistake of getting drunk at a party, having sex, and then becoming pregnant with Carly. I never knew who her father was, and that always hurt me to think that I had deprived my baby girl of that essential male figure in her life because no one told me to be smart about my decisions. I never had any rules when I was young, so I ultimately attributed that to my mistake. I have never regretted having Carly, and I never will. I just regret not being able to provide a stable home for her. I never want her to feel the same regret."
As you can clearly see, Joan had been projecting her lack of structure onto Carly in such a way as to compensate for her own adolescence.
♦ Step #4: Dialoguing.
Obviously, much of the animosity that builds in a parent/teen relationship does so without any kind of conversation. To compensate for this, I let Carly and Joan dialogue to try and understand each other a little better.
In this dialogue, I asked the two to express in terms of feelings just how the decisions of the other make them feel. Carly started, "When you give me such strict rules, I feel like a kid and not the person I want to grow up into. I know you just want the best for me, but you kind of need to let me figure what’s best for myself too." Then Joan stated, "I see you growing up, and I feel scared and I deal with that fear through rules. I know you are a very bright girl and it hurts me to think that I treat you so disrespectfully."
As you can see, this extra step, although seemingly arbitrary, can release a build-up of emotions. Think of your Joan and Carly. Could they benefit from dialoguing? Would playing this section in a future session be beneficial?
♦ Step #5: Compromising
In addition to listening to reason and dialoguing, the fifth step in Redefining Parents’ Rules is compromising. In this situation, I suggested a curfew be in place that will allow Joan to feel slightly in control of the situation, but will give Carly the freedom she desires. Joan stated, "I would like you to be home by eleven. I know it might seem early to you, and we can discuss the terms when you get a little older, but as it stands, I feel that eleven will keep me from worrying about you all night."
In response, Carly stated, "Yeah ok. Eleven’s a little early, but I’ll stick to it as long as I can choose who I hang out with. Also, I want you to keep in mind that just because I hang out with guys does not mean I’m gonna sleep with them." To add additional clarification, so to speak, I asked that both of them write out their demands and compromises in a contract and sign it. By exercising this progress themselves, Joan and Carly are more likely to work together in the future instead of holding grudges. Do you agree?
In this section, we presented the five-step Redefining Parents’ Rules to help parents regain control over their teens with oppositional defiant disorder. These five steps include uncovering the facts; hearing the teen’s input; listening to reason; dialoguing; and compromising.
In the next section, we will discuss the technique Identifying the Inner Critic. There are four steps in Identifying the Critic. These four steps are: hearing the internal voice; recognizing its presence; monitoring the voice; and determining emotional feedback.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Forcino, S. S., Nadler, C. B., & Roberts, M. W. (2019). Parent training for middle childhood conduct problems: Child opposition to timeout and token fines. Practice Innovations, 4(1), 1–12.
Li, I., Clark, D. A., Klump, K. L., & Burt, S. A. (2017). Parental involvement as an etiological moderator of middle childhood oppositional defiant disorder. Journal of Family Psychology, 31(6), 659–667.
Prout, T. A., Bernstein, M., Gaines, E., Aizin, S., Sessler, D., Racine, E., Spigelman, A., Rice, T. R., & Hoffman, L. (2020). Regulation focused psychotherapy for children in clinical practice: Case vignettes from psychotherapy outcome studies. International Journal of Play Therapy, 29(1), 43–53.
Rowe, R., Costello, E. J., Angold, A., Copeland, W. E., & Maughan, B. (2010). Developmental pathways in oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 119(4), 726–738.
Thomson, R. A., Overall, N. C., Cameron, L. D., & Low, R. S. T. (2018). Perceived regard, expressive suppression during conflict, and conflict resolution. Journal of Family Psychology, 32(6), 722–732.
What is the therapy outline in the exercise Redefining Parents’ Rules?
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