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Defiant stance
"I don't WANT to!!"

Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Behaviors: Tips to manage problematic behavior in your child PART 2

This is the second post in a series dedicated to dealing with oppositional defiant behaviors.  See last week’s post here.

Rule #2

Use a tried and true token method with your child’s allowance:

Joey is an 8 year old boy with ADHD and anxiety.  His treatment was targeted around reducing anxiety,  and his mother was against using ADHD medication.   Therefore, much of oppositional defiant behavior that is part and parcel of ADHD was in full force.    After several sessions his anxiety resolved considerably, so we began discussing his defiant attitude regarding getting his chores done.

I asked what chores he was responsible for, and mom told me they were making his bed and picking up the mail daily, and taking out the trash weekly.   Typically she’d have to ask multiple times and cajole him to get him to do any of these.  The trash was the worst, and produced the most arguing.

Like a lot of parents, she felt his allowance shouldn’t be tied to chores since chores were part of being a family and living in the same house.  This is a communal point of view, and in theory I agree with her, but in reality it doesn’t get the job done! Her attempts at weekly meetings backfired, due to her son either refusing or using the meeting to manipulate bedtime.

In addition, Joey was giving his mom a hard time about taking his allergy medicine and vitamins.   His allergies were severe enough that he had constant runny nose and dark undereye circles.   (fyi, chronic allergies can make kids have “brain fog” and worsen sleep- both of which affect behavior)  We decided to incorporate this into the behavior modification plan.

How we solved this problem:

Joey announced proudly that he got $8/week “because I”m eight years old, ” then added: “IF she remembers to give it to me!”  I told him helping her remember would be part of the plan.

Here’s how we broke the money down:

  • Each day, Joey could earn $.50 just for taking his allergy medicine and vitamins.  His allergies impacted his sleep and mood, and his diet was atrocious, so we placed a relatively high value on rewarding taking his medication and vitamin.
  • In addition, he could earn another $.50 for doing his chores each day.  In fact we could have broken it down even more, to a quarter each for making his bed and sorting the mail.  Hint: If your plan is not working, try making the rewards more frequent. The reward remains the same, but break it down into smaller intervals.
  • The last potential dollar was earned by taking out the trash.  Trash day was to be the same day as the meeting day, to keep it fresh in his mind.
  • Although they’d be tracking the money every day, Meeting Day was the day he’d actually get paid.  $1/day x 7 days plus $1 extra for the trash = $8/week, potentially.
  • I recommended he use a piggy bank or money jar to put the money in each day, and then he’d “get paid” on Meeting Day, at which time he could “cash in” all or some of the change for bills.
  • They started the first meeting on the day of their appointment with me, so it was fresh for both of them.  They already owned a dry erase magnetic calendar to track it.  (Staples has one for about $15)
  • Mom was to go out and get $20-40 of single dollar bills, and several rolls of quarters. (Don’t skip this step! This is a huge part of what makes it effective- touching, feeling, seeing the money be earned on a daily basis, and having the satisfaction of having it grow.)

Caveats and tips to make this work:

1. Have your spouse, partner, relative, or other caretaker who knows the child well be on board.  Two adults vs one will  increase accountability and improve compliance on your part.    This also reduces manipulative behaviors on the child’s part.

2. If you find yourself forgetting, make an agreement with your child that if you forget you owe them a dollar!  The child will delight in this option!

3.As the habit becomes more routine, help them try to save a portion each week.  This is a key aspect of money management that can be learned very early.  The whole process also helps with learning cause and effect and the value of hard work

4. Have the Meeting Day at the same time and place each week, as well as the daily time when you ascertain what chores got done.  Routine and predictability improve compliance and help your child feel in control.

5. In this case, if we look specifically at the trash issue: If your meeting is at, say 7pm, remind the child ONCE, at 6:30pm, that the chore must be done to earn that extra dollar.  That’s it.  In this way, you are not telling him what to do, which is a subtle but important distinction when it comes to oppositional defiant behaviors.    You are simply presenting him with a win/win situation.

6. Praise, praise, praise…for all work that does get done, for earning more than the week before, for having 100% compliance, etc etc.  Reinforce the good stuff, and don’t say, “well you did great except for Tuesday, when you didn’t do anything.”  Kids with problems following directions feel like they’re getting yelled at all the time, every day, and sometimes

Defiant stance
"I don't WANT to!!"

(“nothing I do is enough”.)

All this might seem like a big chore.  Remember that when you expect your child to do his:-) But seriously, it will pay off if you do it every day.

Do you have a reward strategy that worked with your child’s behaviors?  Share your story or add tips.

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