When The Misbehavior Is A Cry For Help

It was a Monday afternoon, I was on my desk, when I suddenly heard our daughter shrieking and slamming her toys while playing with our helper.

(This was 3 days after I wrote To Spank Or Not To Spank and it could have been a perfect example for the post had I not published it yet.)

I don’t normally come to the rescue and I just wait for things to calm down when this happens. But Mia was unbelievably angry and my nerves told me to intervene. 

I went to them and asked,

JING: What’s wrong? Come here. I don’t like it when you scream and destroy your toys like that. What happened?

MIA: Ate F is bad. I don’t like her. She destroyed my camp!

JING: Did she? I think she was just trying to fix it before it collapsed.

MIA: I don’t like her!

JING: Mia… When you are playing and something falls, you just ask her to help you put it back. You don’t need to shout and slam.

MIA: But she’s bad.

JING: No, she’s not. Look, she is fixing the tent for you now.

MIA: I don’t like her!

If we were outdoors and you saw my child acting this way, you would surely judge her as a bratty kid who is in need of some serious spanking. My mom wouldn’t be happy to witness this too and she’d probably insist her pamalo on me again or box it and put an “open in case of emergency” note.

JING: Mia, look at me. That’s a mean thing to say. What is really making you upset? It’s nobody’s fault the blocks fell and destroyed your camp.

MIA: Ate F destroyed it…

JING: She said she didn’t. Is she lying?

MIA: Iyah is not here. She didn’t come…

Wo-hoe… I didn’t expect that to come out. But I’m so so so glad it did.

She was hoping her friend, Iyah, would come over that morning but it had been raining and Iyah didn’t make it.

JING: Oh… So that’s what this is all about. I’m sorry honey. Maybe her Mama didn’t let her out because it was raining.

MIA: I don’t forgive you.

JING: You don’t have to forgive me. It wasn’t my fault either. I’m just saying sorry for how you feel. Sometimes, things don’t go as planned and we get disappointed.

You know, when you feel disappointed, you come and tell me about it. Don’t be mean to Ate F if you’re upset with something else. Let’s practice. You say, Mommy, I want – –

MIA: I want milk. Huuuwaaa… Huuuwaaa…

She broke down in tears.

She sobbed on my shoulder for about 2 minutes. Probably longer.

I hugged and stroked her back and waited until she was done.

She didn’t need discipline. She needed some loving arms.

She needed guidance on how to handle the intense feelings that were new to her.

MIA: I’m disappointed. (sobs)

JING: Yes, anak, that’s the word. You were excited to play and you were waiting for her.

MIA: But she was not here… Huuuuuu.

She cried again.

That day I learned how important it is to acknowledge how our kids feel. To bend down on their level and find out where they’re coming from.

To find the root and the real issues of the heart.

Had I not asked and delved deeper, I could have raised my voice and scolded her. And I could have caused damage unknowingly.

They are little people who get overwhelmed with emotions they don’t completely understand.

They need us to tell them it is totally normal to feel what they feel. To guide them and tell them what to do when feelings of frustration, disappointment, embarrassment, or anger sets in.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, I hope you’ll also think twice before disciplining your kid. There may be times when emotion coaching is what they need, not spanking.

God bless us all.

If you want to know more about coaching your kids, here’s a good read from Parenting Counts: 5 Steps of Emotion Coaching