The Bath

Our W bounds out of bed in the morning. Literally. I can hear his energy before the sun comes up since his room is right above ours. He needs no help getting dressed, brushing his teeth, and occasionally making his bed. He is ready. to. go. many times before anyone else in the house is even functioning.

Bath time is a different story. Probably because he’s exhausted from the above, but that’s a different post. Bath time is brutal actually. He becomes a helpless little being full of fusses and lots of tears. However, he’s 5, and we felt like he should be bathing himself even if he was tired, even if it was hard.

So we would patiently (or not) sit through all of it. The crying, and the whining, and sometimes even the yelling. We would sit through it firmly and kindly, sometimes more firmly than kindly encouraging him to do his own bath. We were committed and we dug in. Except it didn’t work. And we were all miserable and exhausted.

His preschool teacher had mentioned to me that he needed to experience his own success in order to generate more moments of success and confidence, so I reflected on what that could mean in relation to bath time. Maybe it was too much. Maybe we were pushing too hard.

What do you need in order to have a great bath tonight?” I asked him. “I don’t know,” he responded. “Which part should I help with: hair or body?” I asked. His eyes darted up at me seemingly surprised at my offer to help. “Hair,” he said cautiously. “Great! I’ll help you with your hair. Who should go first: me or you?” “ME!” He exclaimed, fully bought in. And so we did. I scaled it back, I supported, and I helped even though I was fairly convinced this was something he could do independently.

It changed everything. He couldn’t stop talking about how shiny his skin was, how he had washed every part of his body, and how many bubbles he could make with the soap. He was proud. He was confident. He had been successful, and he believed he could be successful again. And he was.

Sometimes, the right thing to do is to push. Sometimes the right thing to do is to build supports around a task, even if it’s something a child can do themselves. Offering a little bit more support and stepping back from our original goal actually propelled us forward and resulted in a happier and more capable child.

Such great advice. I’m glad I listened.

Find the joy,


Jessica McCauley, M.Ed. is a parenting coach/consultant. She draws on her background as a Montessori educator and Child Life Specialist to help families navigate the challenges of the early childhood years. Contact Jessica at for more information or to schedule a consultation.