Oakland Family Services tames 11-year-old's temper, gives mom tools to help him thrive

dreamstime_l_70164492.jpg

When Brady came home from middle school, he was like a bottle of pop that had been shaken all day long, class after class, hour after hour. After a grueling day, he couldn’t take it anymore.

“He couldn’t mentally process his frustration and anger and dumped it wherever he could, which happened to be on me and his sister,” said his mother, Shannon.

Hitting. Smacking. Pushing. Shoving. Yelling.

Day after day, Shannon struggled to deal with her 11-year-old son’s emotions and control issues. Simple requests to clean his room or take out the garbage would spark an inner rage, with him screaming in response, “CALM DOWN! WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?”

Brady’s temper flared whether he was at school, at home or in public. One time while shopping at a grocery store, Brady kept stabbing his sister in the arm with a mechanical pencil every time his mom wasn’t looking. When Shannon caught him, she grabbed his arm and he shoved her.

At school, Brady would get into fights when things didn’t go his way, or he was picked on by his classmates. He would come home and take it out on his 9-year-old sister, smacking her and telling her that he hated her.

I felt helpless and like I needed to do something to save my kid and my other children who had to deal with him,” she said.

A community service organization referred Shannon to Oakland Family Services’ Specialized Services for Youth program, which provides counseling for youth ages 6-21 with severe emotional disturbances and their families. Clinician Helen Paulsen began weekly visits to their home in October 2017.

“Helen was able to come in and talk to him and make him realize while she was there that he needed to rethink things,” Shannon explained. “She gave him suggestions and different opinions on how to handle himself instead of freaking out on his sister, or being violent, or feeling like he couldn’t contain himself.”

At first Brady gave his mom a hard time about Helen’s visits, but eventually the two found some common interests -- "Star Wars" and "Doctor Who" -- which helped them connect. Now when he watches "Dr. Who," he thinks about the conversations he had with Helen and the advice she gave.

“Oakland Family Services couldn’t have matched Brady up with a better fit,” Shannon said. “He was eventually able to lower his guard. He finally was really comfortable with her, and she was able to connect with him on personal level.”

“If he hadn’t gotten the valuable tools from Helen, I think he would be excessively in trouble, kicked out of school multiple times, absolutely would have been in multiple fights, and absolutely, purposely, would have failed school.”

The mother of eight said she has never experienced the types of emotional problems Brady has with her other children. Her oldest is 32 years old, and Brady and his sister are the only two still living at home. Shannon and Brady's dad are divorced.

Brady was always more of an introvert than Shannon’s other children and began to struggle after they moved from Northern Michigan to Oakland County. Shannon said he went to school with children who picked on him because he didn’t have the latest version of an iPhone or name-brand tennis shoes. She tried homeschooling Brady, but it didn’t go well because he would pick fights with his sister.

“She could be in her room minding her own business with the door closed and he would walk out of his room, beat on her door, step in her room, hit her, and take some of her stuff,” Shannon said. “It’s not like I don’t know how to be a parent. I have eight children. I just didn’t know how to deal with him.”

The key for Brady was learning that he was in control over his reactions and responses instead of letting his emotions take over his situation, Helen said.

“By putting Brady in the driver’s seat of his own thoughts and responses, with accountability, it enabled him to have appropriate control over his emotions,” she said. “Brady is a bright, funny youth with a lot of promise, and now that isn’t being overshadowed by his temper. My wish for Brady and everyone in Specialized Services for Youth is that they can use their experiences in therapy to continue to reach their goals even after services end. Controlling emotions effectively is a life skill.”

Thanks to Oakland Family Services’ Specialized Services for Youth program, things continue to improve for Shannon and her family. Brady learned different strategies to help him manage his emotions, and he is doing better at a new school in Sanilac County. He still has some challenges, but Shannon said he is headed in the right direction.

“If he hadn’t gotten the valuable tools from Helen, I think he would be excessively in trouble, kicked out of school multiple times, absolutely would have been in multiple fights, and absolutely, purposely, would have failed school,” she said. “If we had not had those services in place, we would not be where we are today.”