Parenting Tips for ODD

By Greg Baer M.D.

June 19, 2023

ODD, Parenting

Welcome—finally—to relief from the confusion and pain surrounding the childhood problem known as oppositional defiant disorder, or ODD.

This is a very common disorder. Current studies estimate that ODD exists in as many as 12% of children.

And the most often searched website run by health care professionals states—twice in one article—that “Experts don't know what causes ODD.” 

What a horrible combination, a disorder:

  • So common that it is found in one in eight children.
  • With no known cause.

After 30 years of extensive experience with these children around the world, I can state definitively that:

  • ODD is even more common than estimated.
  • The cause of ODD IS known.
  • With courageous parents, treatment is possible—as well as prevention.

Symptoms of ODD

Children with ODD are known for:

  • Frequent outbursts of anger
  • Arguing often with parents and other adults
  • Refusing the instructions of adults.
  • Questioning and defying rules
  • Intentionally behaving in ways that torment others, including adults
  • Taking no responsibility for their behaviors or mistakes
  • Constant irritability, worsened by the actions of others

Many people, upon reading the above symptoms, say, “Sounds like your average middle school or high school student." Indeed, supporting my certainty that the incidence of ODD is under-appreciated.

What IS the Cause of ODD?

THIS is THE question. Until you can answer it, you will be confused and helpless with your child. And almost no experts can answer it.

We cannot understand our children until we first realize that what we all need more than anything is to feel LOVED. As proven by many studies, love is THE ingredient necessary for happiness, and without it we WILL be in pain. We feel small and helpless, and we HATE that. So do our children.

Listen closely: Our children are in pain because they don’t feel sufficiently loved BY US. Yes, I know you love your children as well as you can, but YOU were not given the KIND of love YOU needed as a child either, so you don’t have that kind of love to give. LOVE is both the reason for our children’s pain and also the answer. But we must understand that NOT just any kind of love will do.

What we all need is UNCONDITIONAL love—or Real Love®—which means to care about another person without any thought for something in return. In Real Love, there is no disappointment or irritation. You didn’t get that kind of love—with no disappointment or anger—so you don’t have it to give your children. How do I know that you didn’t get unconditional love?

Remember in your childhood how many times:

  • your parents and others rolled their eyes at your mistakes.
  • they criticized your performance, especially with a “tone.”
  • they told you they were disappointed in you—with their words, their facial expression.
  • you just needed to talk to someone, but there was no one there.

On each of these occasions, you were not being unconditionally loved—whether aggressively or by simple neglect—and you FELT the message, “I don’t love you.” Really, whether you consciously remember each event or not. It was like being poked with a sharp stick. Our children have the same pain.

All of us—including our children—MUST be unconditionally loved and taught:

  • how to maintain our feelings of worth
  • how to develop our creativity, and
  • how to identify and be responsible for our feelings.

When children don’t feel unconditionally loved, they try ANY behavior that will earn our approval or protect them from feeling worthless. Initially, they try to please us, to earn praise. When that wears off, they try whining, complaining, disappearing into screens, and . . . the anger, fighting, resisting, and more that identify ODD.

To be plain: the reason your child is angry and defiant is that you simply were not loved unconditionally yourself, and now you don’t know how to give that life-giving ingredient to them. And yes, you’re doing your best, but your disappointment, irritation, or simple lack of nurturing with your child—all of which happen much more often than you might think—are crushing and painful to them. Do not feel guilty. It all began with the love you did not get yourself.

Take the first step right now. Say out loud these words: “My child has ODD because of MY disappointment, irritation, or lack of emotional connection, which proves that I simply don’t know HOW to love my child unconditionally.” Yes, ouch, but now we can talk about truly effective solutions.

How to Help a Child with ODD

You can learn how to find the Real Love your child needs more than anything. You can learn how to give it to your child in a consistent and reliable way. You can learn what happens when your child is happy and free from pain.

Watch your child’s anger and defiance disappear naturally—along with improvements in school performance, chores, and relationships—without pushing, nagging, and controlling.

Watch your child turn to you more for affection. Allow the tears to fall as you see your child feel loved and even become more loving to his siblings.

When children are not in pain, they become who they were meant to be. They become their true selves: curious, creative, cooperative, involved, and connected.

They become more responsible in ways you can’t imagine until you see it happen. How could you want more for your children than that?

You don’t have to figure out all this on your own. It’s already been figured out, thoroughly tested, and written. Go to and begin with the free chapter of The Ridiculously Effective Parenting Training

The entire training teaches you how to help your child with his defiance and anger, BUT it begins with teaching you how it all began and what YOU need to learn before you can help your child. The Training specifically teaches you about responding to ODD in Chapters Zero, One, Four, Five, and Eight.

We all want a quick fix—who doesn't?—that involves a short list of things to do, but that never, ever works with significant problems. What I’m offering in the Training works consistently—not kidding—IF you are committed to doing it.

But it involves learning on your part, and right there is where most parents quit.

I hope you keep going and find the relief—even the joy—that you are looking for.

Help is Here

Eliminate confusion and conflict with your children.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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