Ask the ACMB Team

We at Alamo City Moms Blog know that motherhood comes with a multitude of tough issues and questions. That’s why we are introducing a new interactive advice column series, “Ask the ACMB Team.” Each month we will feature three questions from ACMB readers looking for advice and responses to those questions from several members of our team. We hope that our team members’ varied responses will demonstrate that there is no “right” way to mother, only different approaches and styles, each of which should be valued and considered. If you have a question you’d love to ask the ACMB team, please leave it in the comments below or email it to [email protected].

Ask ACMB

I have a three-year-old son and don’t really know how to discipline him. I know I need to, but traditional methods aren’t working very well for us so far. Plus, I feel intense mom guilt for punishing him, as he’s still so little. Do you have any suggestions for disciplinary methods for younger children? And how do you overcome guilt where discipline is concerned? Thanks!

Amy says…

I’m going to assume “traditional methods” are probably timeouts and spankings. I went through the same situation with both of my sons, where typical consequences did not seem effective. In fact, they seemed to escalate the situation. I think that, especially when kids are young, it’s important to model the behavior you want to see and praise your child when he/she is behaving appropriately. I also really made an effort to stay calm, speak in love, and stop yelling—that has made a huge impact. When dealing with young children, most schools and daycares prefer a “redirection” type of method. I sometimes try to imagine how I would want a teacher or daycare provider to react to my child and approach it that way.

I learned a phrase a while ago that I really love: “Behavior is communication.” Think about why the behavior is happening. Is your child tired, frustrated, bored, or hungry? Those things explained a lot of the meltdowns in my young children. Plus, I had to be more realistic with my expectations and consequences. A lot of times I made empty threats that were impossible to follow through with (like throwing out toys), or I expected my son to sit quietly in a corner for a specific amount of time, which just wasn’t possible for him. Using a sand hourglass timer really improved the effectiveness of timeouts for us because it allowed our children to actually see how much time they had left.

Something else that has worked well with both my sons is for me to be proactive with their behavior and have a plan before they misbehave. If I know they get upset playing with a certain toy, I address the behavior before it even happens. I inform them that if they do ______, then _____ will get taken away. I give them the condition upfront, one warning/reminder if it happens, and on the second occurrence, I follow through.

I would also consider reading social stories to your child. They explain in a simple way how children should behave in certain situations. They even make apps and video social stories.

As for your mom guilt, I would listen to that. If spanking or letting your child cry doesn’t feel right, there is nothing wrong with questioning it. Sometimes my kids act out and seem so mad, but as soon as I give them a hug they just melt into my arms.

And while all this advice sounds really great, like I really know what I’m talking about, in reality nothing is so black and white.  Some days I still yell, make ridiculous threats, and let the misbehaving go on longer than I should. I think the important part is that you address the behavior, and you don’t let it continue.

Elizabeth says…

As a mom to a very lively four-and-a-half-year-old daughter and two-and-a-half-year-old son, I can appreciate your need to home in on a discipline tactic that is effective for your son without being overly harsh. The method that has worked best for us is timeout. I particularly love the timeout approach because it not only gives the child some time alone to decompress, but it also affords the parent the same opportunity. Traditional guidelines advise that you only leave a child in timeout for a number of minutes equal to his age. So, since your son is three, you would leave him in for a maximum of three minutes. They also recommend that you should not utilize the bed or crib as your location for the timeout. I disagree with both guidelines. I have rarely found less than three minutes to be adequate time for my emotional children to not only “reset” from the behavior that landed them in timeout in the first place but also to apologize for their behavior—which, for us, is the only surefire ticket out of timeout. I have also never succeeded in trying to convince my children to stay seated in one place if they had the opportunity to maneuver out of it, so I have always used either the crib or the bedroom as the timeout location, and it’s worked great for us. The very mention of timeout is now often enough motivation for the kids to stop bad behavior in its tracks, so we find we have to use it less and less. That said, we do give a warning for most minor, non-physical offenses. But if anything physical (hitting, throwing, etc) is involved, it’s an automatic timeout.

As far as the mom guilt is concerned, I would encourage you to try to view discipline as one of your fundamental roles as a parent. Just as you must feed and protect your child, you must also prepare him for the world that awaits him outside of your home. And the world that awaits him will treat him much worse than you ever could if he’s unprepared for choosing acceptable behaviors and knowing the consequences when he’s made a questionable choice. As long as you’re disciplining him out of love, you are fostering a fundamental shift in his behavior that will benefit him greatly in the long term. I sometimes suffer from mom guilt when I have disciplined my child out of anger or misdirected frustration with a situation that had little to do with him/her. In that case, I just have to take a step back, realize what has happened, talk to my child about the situation—and apologize, if warranted—and then offer myself a little grace and move on. We are all just trying to do the best we can, and unfortunately these little darlings didn’t come with owner’s manuals. Hang in there, mama, and keep fighting the good fight!

Jill says…

I have a 23-year-old and two five-year-olds.

First, you can’t feel guilt for disciplining your child, unless you’re doing something that physically or emotionally harms him. Parents have all sorts of views on discipline and what’s appropriate for what age and situation, but overall, discipline is part of your job as a mom. Unless you run a completely free-range house where there are no rules, you probably believe in some sort of structure, right? You have to teach your kid to function in society, and that involves learning how to follow rules and observe boundaries, whether those are your house rules, school rules, or whatever.

Second, you have to ask yourself: What’s discipline-worthy, and what’s just typical three-year-old boy behavior? You have to decide what to let slide and what to enforce. My kids are hyper as hell after they get home at the end of the day, and if I can’t let them run outside right away, they act like crazy little monsters. They scream, bounce, grab stuff they’re not supposed to have, and run around my kitchen island in a circle pretending to be pirates as I try to make dinner. While this behavior drives me crazy, and I’m not going to lie: I probably raise my voice more than I’d like to admit, I really try hard not to mix up typical “kid behavior” with behavior that needs to be corrected. I try hard to pick my battles. I’m not always perfect at it, but I try.

At five, my discipline of choice is to take something away from them, and at five, they are capable of understanding that if they throw a fit in HEB, they will get their tablet taken away and there will be no playing of their beloved Star Wars game (this hits them where they live). They know the rules, and I work very hard to walk my talk.

In a nutshell, discipline in my house is learning to not sweat the small stuff and to make sure my kids understand the consequences of crossing my line…but where that line is drawn is something that was taught from when they were small. Good luck—and seriously, mama: ditch that guilt like an ugly sweater.

I am a stay-at-home mom of a two-year-old and a six-month-old. Ever since we became parents, my husband and I have been immersed in our roles as “Mom” and “Dad.” I feel like our marriage has totally changed. I love our family, but I also miss who we used to be. How have you all coped with the changes in your marriages since you became parents? How do you find/maintain the balance of being “Mom” and “Dad” without losing sight of who you were, pre-parenthood?

Taylor says…

It’s hard, isn’t it? Kids encompass so much of your time, energy, thoughts, and feelings that it can be difficult to find anything left over for your spouse. I think the important thing to remember is that despite your changing role(s), you and your husband ARE the same people that you used to be—at least somewhat. You didn’t lose yourselves just because you became parents. Parenthood changes all of us, but it doesn’t change our core personalities. If you laughed at Will Ferrell movies then, you probably still do. If you loved to take on each other during an intense game of bowling, you probably still will.

A marriage requires routine maintenance just like anything else. I’m a huge fan of the date night—and not one that simply involves the same boring routine every time. Instead of doing dinner and a movie, change it up a little. Go somewhere or do something you used to do when it was just the two of you. (For my husband and me, that means occasionally visiting a dive bar to sip a few cocktails, people watch, and throw darts in between games of PhotoHunt.) If at all possible, take a weekend (or even just a night) to reconnect. (You can read about why I’m such a strong advocate of the “weekend getaway” here.)

And don’t just date your spouse, but flirt with him. Have fun with each other. Steal a kiss in the laundry room while your kids are demanding breakfast. Use “code words” to discuss subjects you don’t want little ears to hear. Send your hubby a somewhat suggestive text message when he’s at work. (Who cares?! You’re married!) Also? Make physical intimacy a priority. When I start to feel like my marriage is getting too much into the “friend/parent” zone, these are usually the times when I notice we’ve been binge-watching the latest fad show on Netflix instead of making time for each other in the bedroom. Don’t underestimate the ability of physical intimacy to keep you feeling connected and close as a couple.

That said, at the end of the day, you are “Mom” and “Dad” now—but that’s only another layer of your relationship, another way that you are united. Embrace that while taking steps to keep your “former selves” alive.

Kristin says…

First of all, remember that this too shall pass, and one day the kids won’t be so needy and you’ll have more time than you have now. But, don’t wait until then to prioritize your marriage. You don’t want to have to reconnect after years of putting each other on the back burner. Remember: one day the kids will grow up and move out (fingers crossed), and it will be just the two of you again. Your relationship has to come first, so you may have to change some things to protect it—like kicking the kids out of your bed, for example.Decide what is reasonable to do right now. Can you afford a date night every week? Every month? Do you have a friend or family member you can trade off childcare with? Or can you just agree to watch a movie together at home (or a show, if you can’t stay awake that long) once a week? Try to have a meal together every day—alone, if you can swing it. This might mean breakfast before the kids get up or dinner after they go to bed. Anything you can do without the kids will help cement your roles as husband and wife instead of Mommy and Daddy.

Brooke says…

First, it’s important to say that this is normal. This adjustment is one most couples struggle with. Not only have your roles in your marriage shifted, but things have changed individually, physically, mentally, and emotionally as well. You and your partner might be trying to figure out who YOU are on your own, not just who you are as a couple.

As a couple, don’t fight to regain who you once were but allow yourselves to grow into who you now are. I’ve come to appreciate my husband for who he is in his role of “Dad.” Nothing fills my heart like seeing him love on our kids and knowing his actions are building their value. I try not to step in when I might not totally agree with how he’s handling a situation. It’s also important that you give your partner time to parent on their own, so grab lunch with a girlfriend, go get a pedicure, or go for a walk and let him have one-on-one time with the kids.

Make time for just the two of you. This might mean a weekend away without the kids. It might be getting out of the house for a date night once a week or once a month. Or it simply might be feeding the kids and putting them down early and then enjoying dinner and a movie at home as just a couple. And I know you are tired and you don’t want to do anything but sleep when your head hits the pillow, but make intimacy a priority. This is an important part of relationship and one that you might not have had to make effort for before but probably do now.

Celebrate these new roles and appreciate the piece that you both play in raising your kids together. You are a team, just a little different than the team you were before.

I’m new to San Antonio and have no idea where to go to entertain my toddler. I feel like we stay home much more often than we should, and I’m eager to get out and enjoy this beautiful new city, but I don’t know where is appropriate to explore with my young child. Where have you taken your toddlers that was manageable for you and fun for them? I’m looking for restaurants, activities, parks, etc. that are cater to the younger age group. TIA!

Inga says…

Morgan’s Wonderland is known as a park for people with special needs, but it’s also a great playground for active young children of all abilities. My kids love the playground equipment, the sandbox, and the hands-on music making. Moms’ Coffee and Conversation meets on Friday mornings. Morgan’s Wonderland reopens on February 26 for the 2016 season. Save money by buying a 10-visit ticket or a season pass.

Playground at Morgan's Wonderland

Playground at Morgan’s Wonderland

There is so much for young children to do at the San Antonio Zoo, but a really special place for toddlers to do sensory play is along the Riverbank at Kronkosky’s Tiny Tot Nature Spot. Kids can take off their shoes and wade around in the water and sand (really, small gravel). Swim diapers are required, and it’s a good idea to bring a change of clothes. There is a mini-shower for washing sand off little feet afterwards. The Riverbank is open year round, so you can make the most of those surprisingly warm early-spring days, before your neighborhood pool opens.

Yanaguana Garden is a new children’s playground at Hemisfair Park. It has great equipment for playing and climbing, and there are more vendors and activities coming every month. Magik Theatre is nearby.

Splash pad at Ya

Splash pad at Yanaguana Garden

I admit, we didn’t do restaurants much when my kids were toddlers, but we did occasionally do picnics. The San Antonio Botanical Garden has some gorgeous picnic spots, including the courtyard of the conservatories, the overlook, and the birdwatch.

Central Library has an amazing children’s book selection and a team of helpful librarians. Visually, the library is stunning: modern architecture, a giant Chihuly glass sculpture, a mosaic cow. Check the library’s calendar for events; also, there will be children’s activities at the San Antonio Book Festival on April 2.

Dawn says…

San Antonio is such a family-friendly town, which is why so many families flock here for vacation. Toddlers can be a tough audience, though: they’re ready to get into everything, and you need places that are safe yet fun for them to roam. For instance, we love walking the River Walk now that I know our son won’t take a header into the river, but at the toddler stage, his curiosity would have had him leaping right in.

A few of our favorite places:

  • Pearl Farmers Market, Saturday and Sunday mornings, is a spot we always enjoy, and it’s been a favorite since my little was still in a stroller. Great food to enjoy while you roam, terrific veggies (and so much more) to take home, and a wonderful environment to explore. I can’t tell you how many samples my picky eater wolfed down without a care, or how many little veggies he was handed to play with by friendly vendors. There’s often music to enjoy, as well as demonstrations and samples, and safe areas for kids to check out, even along the river.
  • McKenna Children’s Museum is perfect for toddlers. It’s in New Braunfels, but it’s just a short drive up IH-35 (20 minutes), and the exhibits completely engage little ones. There’s water fun outdoors, space exploration, an art area, and more. The museum also offers different craft activities daily. The nicest thing about it: you can see most of the museum from one location, making it easy to let toddlers roam without you hovering.
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Playtime at the McKenna Children’s Museum

  • Story times! We enjoy story time at the library, as well as Barnes and Noble and The Twig (a great Pearl spot to check out). The San Antonio Public Library offers a number of story times, as do many of the area libraries, like Schertz. Barnes and Noble offers Saturday story times, while The Twig offers the amazing Miss Anastasia on Friday mornings.
  • The Quadrangle at Fort Sam Houston ranks as one of our all-time favorites. Open to the public, you can visit (and feed) deer, peacocks, ducks, and geese that roam the area. It is part of an active military post, and the Quad itself serves as home to a military command, but the public is welcome. We’ve enjoyed picnics there and have made friends with each and every deer (really). For details on how to visit the Quad—and some photos to give you an idea of what you can enjoy—check out this ACMB post. Happy exploring!
Visiting the deer at Ft. Sam

Visiting the deer at the Quad at Fort Sam Houston

Have a question for the ACMB team? Comment below or email your question to [email protected], and your question could be featured on a future edition of Ask the ACMB Team! Rest assured that all identifying information will be excluded to protect our readers’ privacy. Thanks for reading!

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