How to Deal With an Adult's Oppositional Defiance?

Oppositional defiance results in adults acting like children.

Although oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) is generally associated with children, some adults exhibit the same signs and characteristics of hostile behavior. According to Marilyn Adams of Guidance Facilitators, people with this disorder have antagonistic reactions to authority figures. In an attempt to control, they engage in negative behavior, which is defiant, disrespectful and designed to make the authority figure loose his temper. Dealing with an adult with oppositional defiance requires a well-thought out action plan and careful monitoring. The key element is not to get caught up in playing the person’s game, because with their rules you will lose every time. You must take control of the situation and make the adult accountable.

Make a list of specific instances where the adult exhibited oppositional defiance. An adult with oppositional defiance needs concrete examples of inappropriate behavior rather than a general observation that she can dismiss.

Schedule a meeting with the adult. Set aside a time to discuss the issue as adults. Be prepared for a negative reaction, but don’t allow him to get you off the topic or to provoke you to lose your temper. Work through the list you prepared and address the issues.

Specify the consequences. If it is a workplace setting, put the adult on probation, in a domestic situation it may lead to divorce. Without specific behavioral expectations, the adult can claim not to have understood what was expected.

Document the action – date of the meeting, specific examples, expected behavior change and time frame – and set up a review process. Have both of you sign the agreement and give the adult with the defiance disorder a copy. Once it is in writing, you have a record you can refer back to.

Take charge and let the adult know that you are in control of the situation and will not tolerate her behavior. Use phrases that begin with “nevertheless” or “regardless” to let the person know that you aren’t going to be manipulated into changing your mind.

Refer back to the agreement when the adult displays oppositional defiance. Stress that you expect the adult to act like one because he agreed to the terms and conditions. Record the instances for your follow up review meeting.

Present a united front. People with oppositional defiance disorder often try to divide and conquer. If the adult can get someone in the workplace or at home to support her oppositional defiance she can create a wedge and play people against each other.

Jody Hanson began writing professionally in 1992 to help finance her second around-the-world trip. In addition to her academic books, she has written for "International Living," the "Sydney Courier" and the "Australian Woman's Forum." Hanson holds a Ph.D. in adult education from Greenwich University.