It is 40 minutes past her bedtime. I fight my initial reaction to run up the stairs and give my two-year-old daughter a firm scolding. No playing around, no sweet talk…just her sleeping is the objective. Do they make sleeping pills for children? Right now Adam Mansbach, author of Go the…to Sleep, and I understand each other.

It’s been a long day. I’m exhausted, my eldest daughter is over-tired, her dad’s out, and my youngest daughter is minutes away from needing to breastfeed.

My two-year-old has already exhausted her arsenal of stalling methods: she has asked for water, had me tuck her in (a few times), asked for milk, taken off her PJs to have them replaced by different ones…and just as I sit down to nurse, I can hear her frustrated cry. I take a deep breath.

I go upstairs, slowly.

The moment I hit the landing I watch as she gauges my reaction, searching my face through her tears, unsure of what is about to take place.

Breathe. “What’s going on, hun?” I ask.

She points to her blankie, it is bundled up and she is clearly upset that it won’t straighten over her body. I can’t help but crack a smile. In her little world, an uncooperative blankie is about as awful as it gets. It hardly seems rational to me, but she’s two years old, that’s about as rational as it gets. I’d hardly wish for her problems to be bigger than that.

So I fix her blanket and the tears finally cease; she immediately relaxes into her pillow.

This is one of those defining moments you have as a parent, where you stop the world because you have found a moment with your child that you will never get back again.

I lean over, kiss her and say, “Do you want to know three things that I love about you?”

She glances up at me and a smile spreads across her face.

“I love the way you give Daddy hugs when he comes home from work, I love the way you are practicing sharing with your friend, and “I love the way you play with your sister and try to make her smile.”

With each statement I watch her little mind process what I am telling her.

“M’kay” she says to me in the cutest heart-melting voice.

One more kiss good night, double tuck and I head back downstairs. Not a sound was made thereafter. Do you ever have those days where you feel like you have been riding the “no” (or “bad” or “what are you doing”) train all day? They say it takes 1,000 “Atta girls” to erase one “Bad girl.” So I have two rules. Discipline (or “guide” if you prefer the word) the behaviour—never the child. And take every opportunity you can to build up your child’s character in a positive way so that they know what behaviour you expect and appreciate.

I came up with a way to ensure that I am focusing on the positive. It starts with three things—three things that I love about my daughter, things that she has done that reflect those character traits that I so cherish in her. I try to keep it to what’s going on that day, and try not to duplicate (too often).

Sometimes I tell her when it’s right before bed or nap time, sometimes when she is frustrated and needing comfort, sometimes for no reason at all. I even have days that I double up.

I am sure that she was expecting to get an earful, and, in truth, I wanted to give her one. Instead, she went to bed with the knowledge that I love her and I walked away with no regrets.

As parents, we see our children at their best and worst, but with 18 (sometimes less) short years, we have to steal those moments and remember that late nights stalling and needing our attention will one day make way for nights where the house is empty except for my husband and me—and all we’ll have left are the memories of these nights, and the satisfaction of raising our little girls. I choose “Three Ways I Love You” and we both go to bed happier.

Krista Minar, mother of two, is in constant search of balance.