Children don’t come with a rule book, however, if we look closely enough and pay attention more clearly, we’ll see that the rules are embedded in the child. It certainly doesn’t take a parenting expert to tell us that our busy lives are busy or that sometimes our own needs overshadow the needs of our children. And most of us don’t require an expert to remind us that we may occasionally miss these emotional cues because they happen at inopportune and wholly inconvenient times. You’ve been there, right? I know I have. The test of course is what we do in the moment despite how lofty our expectations regarding the outcome of what an ill-timed parent-child exchange “should” look like.

For example, last month, one March Break day began like any other day. Except my 7-year-old decided that she didn’t want to take a bath before spring Adventure Camp and felt that the most effective way to communicate that to me was via a hysterical meltdown. Only, her mother — that would be me — wasn’t having it, so I gently insisted she take one. For the following reason: The day before she and her sister had spent the entire day with their camp friends at the zoo. If I had my druthers they would have taken baths the previous night before bed but they were both very animated and stimulated from the day’s events so we scrapped that idea. But this morning, I wasn’t wavering. “It’s bath time,” I repeated. My daughter, confident and bold, emphatically stated that she was not going to take a bath. My response was to calmly reply that oh yes, she was.

We went back and forth for about one minute; both of our tempers rising and both of our voices rising as well. And then I took a step back and laid out a few options for her to consider. I told her that she had the option of staying at home and not going to camp, or she could take a bath and we could all get going. She refused the bath, again, insisting however that she would still like to go to camp. Our disagreement escalated, and I restated my position for the 15th time — which in my books is five times too many. Meaning that I’m totally cool with repeating myself 10 times. I then left her alone to catch her bearings, reflect on her behaviors and either get herself bathed and organized so we could go to camp, or to stay at home and pout. Her choice. Her decision. She eventually conceded and drew herself a bath, but, Oh.The.Drama!