Is your child unable to conform – or learn?

Do you have or know a “defiant child or adolescent”; are they being naughty, or is there something else?

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a diagnosis described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) – (Latest revision proposed for DSM 5) – as an ongoing pattern of anger guided disobedience, hostilely defiant behaviour toward authority figures which goes beyond the bounds of normal childhood behaviour. 

Having been recently exposed to this ‘phenomena’, I felt so intrigued, I wanted to share and understand with others who may have experience of ODD, a defiant child… and the potential for lack of a true diagnosis!

We are very quick to assign a label to an individual and their behaviour. It helps ‘us’ identify something intangible at times – and that makes ‘us’ feel better. Do you know a young person who appears defiant ‘all the time’, unable to transition between play and study, home and school, or accommodate change?

However, what if we’re wrong?

Do all the reward schemes and separate disciplinary codes set for our struggling children provide value? Many might.


What about medication regimes? Are they working for you and your ‘explosive’ child?


It appears there is a horrible potential for a model of behavioural therapy professionals sometimes failing to explore! What if, the child actually cannot understand that which is being presented to them? What if, we are failing them? We can be very quick to ‘assume’ that our child or adolescent is ‘bright’, but ‘lazy’, poorly motivated and shamefully failing to reach their potential that you know they have in them.

To be fair, without exposure to, and subsequent knowledge gained, why would you think anything else? If you are unable to challenge this belief in a struggling child or adolescent whose behaviour and educational standards appear unacceptable, maybe it’s because you are too close. So who else might be entrusted, maybe expected to notice and test for some other possibility than ‘lazy’ and ‘disruptive’? An educational setting, GP, family, friends?

I strongly believe the educational setting has a huge responsibility for ‘asking the question’, “Why is this individual failing to conform and meet standards of behaviour and education?” I’m sure some do!

Does anyone ask this question? Is this young persons disruptive or unhelpful behaviour ‘predictable’?

…and where they fail in this, the child is failed. The education system, and those within who are charged with facilitating this persons education and growth the environment and methods required to enable each and every student to reach their potential, has failed… and marginalised, even discriminated against them:

  • This child consistently fails to achieve the objectives.
  • This students behaviour is unacceptable on a regular basis.
  • This individual is being excluded from lesson, and the school. That will teach them!

Will it? What if… this child has a learning development challenge? What if this individual has no comprehension of why they are being punished? How will that ‘teach them’?


If a child can do well, they will.


What if… this student is ‘explosive’ because they are frustrated, because they are unable to grasp the communications available for the others? Have they a diagnosis of dyslexia or some other neurological deficit? Are you sure? Have you documented the assessment?

I am writing this impassioned plea because I am becoming regularly exposed to children, and adults, who have yet to be assessed or becoming diagnosed from age 15 and up! If I had excluded a child from school only to subsequently learn that child had a learning or behavioural disability, I’d be concerned. Why then, does this occur so often? Funding and resource limits are commonly cited. Lack of awareness, knowledge or consideration to the potential.

The Good News

Once recognised, there are measures to assist accommodate and manage the behaviours and educational requirements which in turn is helping the educational environment de-marginalise these valuable people and provide for their future, and ours

For more information, or you want to share your experiences as a parent, a sufferer or an educator – just drop me a line. Also visit The British Dyslexia Association & this resource.


About the author
Managing Director / Counsellor at Anglia Counselling Ltd | 07747042899 | [email protected] | Business Website

Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.

Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).