RIP helps families deal with negative child behaviors
by By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG Banner Staff Writer
Aug 04, 2013 | 1032 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Regional Intervention
AMBER LAWSON, program coordinator of the Regional Intervention Program, gestures to a list of rules in one of the program’s classroom areas for children between the ages of 2 and 5. Students with behavioral issues learn how to do things like “use listening ears,” “use walking feet” and “use gentle hands,” which she said would help students as they go through school.  Banner photo, CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
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The Regional Intervention Program helped 31 young children and their families sort through problems like frequent temper tantrums during its year ending in June, the local program coordinator said.

The RIP, located adjacent to First Presbyterian Church on Ocoee Street in 2001, is part of a network of centers bearing the same name and originating in Nashville.

The mission is to help families weather behavioral problems of children between the ages of 2 and 5.

Cleveland program coordinator Amber Lawson said it’s not impossible.

After parents complete the program, which is funded by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and sponsored by the parent company that runs Hiwassee Mental Health, Lawson said many see positive changes in their family dynamics.

Parents work individually with the program’s staff to talk about what issues their child or children might be facing.

Lawson said they have run the gambit from toilet training issues to physical aggression against other children to problems following directions in school.

“For every situation, we figure out how to adapt the program,” Lawson said.

Adults in the program go through training that includes a series of videos in addition to individual meetings with staff.

Lawson said parents learn how to best handle behavioral issues by using a model that focuses on establishing appropriate consequences for both positive and negative behavior.

“We use a lot of positive reinforcement,” Lawson said. “It’s figuring out what motivates that child.” 

Then, they are able to practice what they learn by working with children in a classroom setting.

Families attend twice-weekly meetings that include time for their children to interact with each other in brightly painted classrooms.

“It looks like a preschool classroom to them,” Lawson said.

She said that allows parents to see how their children interact with others and deal with any negative behaviors in a safe environment.

Children with a variety of issues have the chance to interact with each other just as they would in a school or day-care setting. All children are carefully monitored for the safety of the group, Lawson said.

It takes a family about six months to complete the program. Then, they are asked to help new families navigate the process of working through their children’s behavioral issues.

One of the program’s four local staff members began helping families in the program after she and her own family found success as program participants, Lawson said.

Some “success stories” of the program have been drastic. One child was so physically violent to other children that the staff had to work with the family in a private room away from the rest of the participants. By the time the family had completed the program, the child was able to play peacefully with others.

However, Lawson said the program is for any parent who has a concern that they want to address in their child’s behavior to set a precedent for how they act in the years to come.

“If they want to improve their parenting skills, they are welcome,” she said.

The program is free to all participants. However, Lawson said there is often a waiting list for those who want to enroll in it. From 10 to 12 families take part in the program at any given time.

For more information about RIP, call 339-6781 or visit the organization online at