As every parent knows, dealing with a headstrong 4-year-old who occasionally says “no” can be trying. But late last year, Kimberly Jones realized that her own 4-year-old, Riley, had problems beyond what she and her husband were able to deal with and solve.
“I never experienced anything like this in my first go around [with an older daughter who is 7], so I didn’t really know what to do about it. The stuff that was coming out of her mouth was like something you’d see in a horror movie, and we don’t watch horror movies or anything like that,” said Jones. “She would say, ‘I’m going to cut your face off’ or ‘I’m going to cut your head off.’ She would tell us that she was going to get a knife. I hid my knives. I was locking my bedroom door at night. I pulled her sister into another room and had her lock her door at night. It got really bad. Finally, I thought, I’m not going to continue locking my door from a 4-year-old.”
“Riley turns 5 just six days after the deadline for pre-K. We’re all trying to get her ready to go to school. That’s an issue, too,” said Jones. “She doesn’t like to be around a bunch of people she doesn’t know. She would not go to daycare. I was fired from a job after just a week because daycare kept calling for me to pick her up. They finally said they couldn’t handle her anymore. She was constantly crying and slamming her head down on the floor. I had to take her out.”
Jones took Riley to see her pediatrician at Westcare Pediatrics and Family Care, a Carrollton pediatric practice. As soon as she described what had been going on, the doctor referred them to Willowbrooke at Tanner for an assessment.
Following the assessment, Jones’ daughter started receiving outpatient counseling through the Tanner Center for Behavioral Health, and in-home support with a Community Support Individual (CSI) which is a benefit of the outpatient program for those who qualify. CSI involves a therapist working with the family in the home to assist the child and family in resolving the current crisis and reducing the likelihood of recurrence.
“Miss Kay”, a therapist with Willowbrooke at Tanner, comes to Jones’ home every Thursday to work with Riley with occasional phone calls between in-home sessions. “When Miss Kay first started coming out, Riley didn’t want to talk with her or have anything to do with her,” said Jones, who feared that her daughter’s aversion to strangers would be a roadblock to the process. “She refuses to leave me to do anything—except for a few people she’s been around her whole life. If I leave, then my husband or sister has to be there—someone she knows. I can’t even leave her with a babysitter.”
Jones said that after Miss Kay had been to the house a couple of times, Riley started responding. They would play games, do artwork, make things with Play-Doh and other activities, in addition to talking about Riley’s behavior.
“It just seems to make her day go by better when Miss Kay calls and she really looks forward to Miss Kay’s weekly visits on Thursdays,” said Jones. “Miss Kay has her on a schedule. She works with her one-on-one, but when my 7-year-old is there, she includes her in whatever they are doing.”
Jones says that although Riley still occasionally tells her “no,” when asked to do something, the “I hate you” and “I’m going to cut your head off” remarks have completely stopped—and so has Riley’s tendency to bang her head against the wall or floor during fits of anger.
“Her attitudes and behavior have improved at least 85 percent. I don’t expect her to be 100 percent yet, but it’s a lot better than where we started. She’s getting there, slowly but surely,” said Jones. “Miss Kay is really wonderful. She has turned Riley around. She has learned how to reach her and get to her, and as a result, Riley is doing great.”
Jones thinks that Riley’s problems have been greatly helped by the in-home counseling that she has received and she hopes Riley can continue to work with Miss Kay and her outpatient therapist at Willowbrooke. “Riley trusts them,” said Jones. “If someone else were to step in, it would take a long time to get back to this point. I don’t want her to go back to the way things were.”
She also wants Riley to be able to go to school—perhaps sooner rather than later.
Thanks to Willowbrooke at Tanner, Jones believes that her daughter will be able to go to school—if not this coming year, then the next.
“I really appreciate everything that’s happened for Riley since we started with Willowbrooke at Tanner. She’s doing great. I see such a change in her from when the doctors first began seeing her to now—from her attitude to the way she sits and listens. It’s like everything that has been going on with her is being cleared away,” said Jones. “Sure, we sometimes have to threaten to call Miss Kay when she acts out or doesn’t do what she has been asked to do—and I don’t want it to stay that way—but that helps her understand that there are consequences that go along with that kind of misbehavior. We’re going to try the allowance thing soon to see how that works for her. I need for her to react to me in the same way that she does with her therapist. We’re getting there.”
The names, Kimberly and Riley Jones, are fictitious to protect the privacy of our patients; however, their stories are very real.
In-home counseling is offered by Willowbrooke at Tanner through our Tanner Intensive Family Intervention program (TIFIP) or as a component of the Center for Behavioral Health outpatient program for those who qualify. If you know someone who could benefit from the kind of help offered by Willowbrooke at Tanner or from a confidential mental health or substance abuse screening, call our 24-hour help line at 770.836.9551.