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Boston Children’s Hospital explains that “the term ‘oppositional’ literally means actions that are in opposition to rules and norms for socially acceptable behavior.” The growth and transformation that occur during adolescence are immense. As is true with maturing through any stage of development, there are inevitable growing pains. The hormonal shifts, physical changes, social and emotional complexities, and newfound need for autonomy can leave any young person feeling overwhelmed. Teenagers are notorious for being combative, contrarian, and secretive. Still, every teenager is different and will navigate his or her adolescence in a nuanced and distinct fashion. The range of behaviors teenagers may exhibit during adolescence will vary drastically, as they will be unique to the individual young person. As teen’s work through finding their place in life, individuating and all else that accompanies adolescence, it is not uncommon for them to become oppositional. WebMD provides the following suggestions that can help you address, interrupt, and shift patterns of opposition in young people:

  • Praise specific positive behaviors.
  • Offer rewards for good behavior, especially for younger children.
  • Use natural consequences.
  • Model the behavior you want to see in your child.
  • Avoid power struggles.
  • Reduce coercion when directing.
  • Pick your battles.
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Set clear limits and boundaries.
  • Follow a consistent schedule and routine.
  • Spend time together doing things you both enjoy.
  • Set your child up for success in household chores or other tasks.
  • Be patient and do not worry if you don’t see immediate improvements, as change takes time.

In situations where oppositional behavior (e.g., frequent loss of temper, irritability, difficulty following the rules, defiance of authority figures, spitefulness, etc.) becomes pervasive and occurs in a variety of settings (e.g., at home, in school, etc.) it may be indicative of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Oppositional defiant disorder is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) under disruptive, impulse-control, and conduct disorders, which are a group of disorders that are linked by “varying difficulties in controlling aggressive behaviors, self-control, and impulses.” While challenging behaviors are the hallmark of all these disorders, ODD is specifically characterized by frequent episodes of anger, deliberately irritating or hostile behavior and a pronounced intolerance for authority, and professional treatment is required. 

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Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


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