Kids naturally respect adults as authority figures. When adults misuse their authority, they weaken and can even kill a child’s self-respect. If two or more adults repeatedly do the same thing to a child, the likelihood of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) increases dramatically. Adults have only themselves to blame. Children don’t shape the world we live in.
It happens this way. Parents make leadership mistakes, a child’s behavior becomes intolerable, teachers complain, ODD is diagnosed, professional help is obtained, and authority figures escape blame.
A child naturally rebels when repeatedly mistreated. Parents display lack of respect and often show disrespect by misusing their authority in many ways. Among them:
- A parent tries to discipline with love. It doesn’t work. Children know when they deserve to be disciplined. Love isn’t discipline, and they lose respect for the parent. As the threat of future discipline evaporates, personal responsibility weakens.
- A parent tries to mediate a child’s behavior, be loved themselves, or both. The parent gives things and goes out of their way to please the child. Indulgent love weakens a child’s self-respect. Boys especially know they don’t deserve such unearned treatment.
- A parent tries to build and use friendship bonding to mediate a child’s behavior, be loved themselves, or both. It doesn’t work with boys. It can work between a girl and mother through the tween years. But puberty changes the game and the friendship strategy fails after that.
- Parents seek to earn their child’s respect, cover guilt and defend parental mistakes, or both. They defend their misbehaving kids against all other authority figures. Their child can do no wrong. It especially damages a child’s sense of personal responsibility. He learns that someone else should defend him when trouble comes. Also, he needn’t fear full retribution for whatever he does wrong.
- Parents ignore or fail to teach moral values such as good and evil differences, take personal responsibility for your behavior, respect others for no reason than they are humans. Their child has no or few principles to live up to. Consequently, the boy child gains too little self-respect, self-image, and self-admiration that normally comes from building integrity into his developing character.
- A child misbehaves. Parent intends to prevent a recurrence, punish for egregious behavior, make the child mind better, or all three. So, the parent punishes out of proportion to what the child thinks is fair. (If the parent doesn’t know what the child would call fair, then the parent doesn’t know the child very well. If that’s the case, the child already senses a lack of parental respect.)
- The more a parent seeks to change the child, the stronger the lack of respect or disrespect inflicted. The child may need to change, but it’s not about to happen when lack of respect or disrespect are involved. (When’s the last time you heeded the guidance of someone you didn’t respect?)
- Repeated many times over, any or many of the above generate within a child the very symptoms of ODD, “negativity, defiance, disobedience, and hostility directed toward authority figures.”
- Parents easily get mixed up here. Children don’t need to be told, taught, or enforced how NOT to be children. Consequently, repeated punishment for being childish or immature can lead to ODD. They need to be taught how to be an adult. Punishment for not acting more like an adult, however, has the same negative effect.
Parents start the process toward stigmatizing children. The process expands when teachers and schools become involved. That’s for tomorrow.