Why is my Strong-Willed Child SO Angry?!

When your child's anger scares you, you often don't know where to turn next.
Where are they learning this MEAN behavior?  Do they need a therapist?  Do they have ADHD?  WHY are they SO angry?!

You've explained "we don't hit" 1,000X, so when aggressive behavior continues past age 4... you have no patience for it (understandably).  You end up walking on eggshells, trying to stay ahead of it, never knowing what might set them off next.


  • Why anger is so BIG in strong-willed kids
  • 3 "red flags" to consider regarding your child's anger
  • What's ACTUALLY proven to stabilize and diffuse the anger in the strong-willed kids of my clients (typically from 3 outbursts/day to only 2/week!)


  • My thoughts on whether or not empathy comes "pre-wired"

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Danielle Bettmann 0:05
Ever feel like you suck at this job? Motherhood I mean? Have too much anxiety... not enough patience. Too much yelling, not enough play. There's no manual, no village, no guarantees. The stakes are high. We want so badly to get it right. This is survival mode. We're just trying to make it to bedtime. So if you're full of mom guilt, your temper scares you. You feel like you're screwing everything up, and you're afraid to admit any of those things out loud. This podcast is for you. This is Failing Motherhood. I'm Danielle Bettmann. And each week, we'll chat with a mom ready to be real. Showing her insecurities, her fears, your failures and her wins. We do not have it all figured out. That's not the goal. The goal is to remind you, you are the mom your kids need. They need what you have. You are good enough. And you're not alone. I hope you pop in earbuds, somehow sneak away and get ready to hear some hope from the trenches. You belong here, friend, we're so glad you're here.

Hey, it's Danielle, you're going to have to forgive me for my voice. It's got like some junk going on. You know how that goes. It runs through the whole family. But I'm fine. And that's what the show goes on with podcasting. And also, I'm not good at time management. So I put things off into the last minute. And then I have to go out of town. And I don't have any choice but to record with this voice. So here we are. And today's episode is inspired by a conversation that I had with a friend yesterday. Her name is Sara Olsher. And I had her on the podcast before we have collaborated on a bunch of products for kids mental health, and her shop mighty and bright.com. So if you have not checked it out yet, that is one of my hugest, hugest recommendations for clients. We are so aligned, and I point everybody to her stuff. So we were talking. And she mentioned a conversation that she had with a friend that was really concerned for her daughter's anger. I believe she was four or five, and has been just like spewing poison like venom, like darts at her mom lately. And you know, just saying really mean things that really got under her and making her like genuinely hurting her mom's feelings. And just feeling like wow, like, where's this anger coming from? I need to teach her more empathy. I thought empathy came pre wired in kids, but apparently it doesn't or not in my kid. And so we talked back and forth. And I realized, I'm sure that this is a common concern. If you are a parent that listens to parenting podcast, and you have any amount of care for your kid, and how they grow up, you're gonna be worried about how they treat other people. And you're gonna want them to be a healthy contributing citizen and also treat people well and you know, have a thread of empathy in them. So it's going to be very alarming if their anger explodes. And they have these really vicious things that they say and if they are continuing to hit or kick at older ages, and you're just like, where's this behavior coming from?

I didn't teach them any of this. Why are they so angry? And strong-willed Kids are perceived as very angry at times, because yes, they have really, really big emotions. And they perceive things to be pretty unfair, and pretty feel pretty justified in their anger quite a lot of time. And it feels so big that it comes out aggressively or it comes out through verbal attacks. And so if that is something that you experienced at your home, number one, you are not alone at all. All kids have the full spectrum of emotion, especially if you are not completely trying to shut it down out of fear based obedience, then you're going to get this pushback you're going to be told things that hurt your feelings, okay? Because we are not trying to shut down all emotions of disappointment and frustration and all of these things. We are trying to teach our kids how to cope with them right and process their emotions and that is foreign foreign concept for a lot of us parents and this generation. So it's understandable that we feel very worried about and overwhelmed by our kids big emotions. One of the top four things that families coming to me for. So what do we do, and I wanted this episode to be just a little bit of a balm to some of your fears and point you in the right direction. So if you are afraid of your child's anger, if you feel like they explode, and you have daily outbursts and meltdowns, and, you know, they are saying mean things or doing mean things, let's talk about that.

Okay. So if your child really struggles in more than one environment, then that can be a more of a concern to take seriously. And if they have more of a majority of negative emotions and positive ones, you know, where it really is, like you don't really see happiness, or joy, or peace or excitement from them very often, that may be concerning. And the biggest concern is how they treat animals, or how they maybe even treat random, you know, strangers or neighbors or people at the park, because that is much more of an indicator of some psychosocial problems or red flags. Because that is much more of a, how they're seeing the world thing than it is struggling to cope with their own emotions thing.

So if your child is one of those kids were at school, the teachers are like, Oh, they're so sweet, they wouldn't hurt a fly. And they, you know, you don't get a lot of reports home about them bullying other children, then that's a good sign. If most of those big emotions are kind of backlash at home with you, as soon as they get in the car. That is also a good sign. And if they overall treat animals relatively well, there will still be the occasional curiosity and things with, you know, your pets, or they may be wrong time wrong place, kind of, you know, incident, but overall, for the most part, you're not seeing very concerning behaviors about how they treat animals. That is also a good sign.

So that doesn't always mean like you're completely in the clear, right? But we're just trying to say like, what are the indicators? What am I looking for here. So if your child has the aggression and the things, but that's primarily at home, it's primarily you know, when they feel safe with you, and it is either the last straw because of the regulation, or it is, as a result on the back end of something that they are feel very justly angry about, then they are within a developmentally appropriate realm of expressing and working through and beat learning how to process emotions. The problem is strong-willed, kids feel emotions so deeply, so viscerally things register on a much higher Richter scale. But you also see the highs. So I want to make sure I made that point, too. It's also a really good sign, if you're seeing high highs, right, they can be very happy, very excited, very loving and helpful in their best moments, that if that's your child, then it's much more likely the case that they feel emotions so big, it almost feels very scary for them. They don't know when that feelings going to end, they don't even necessarily know depending on their age, what that feeling is and why they're feeling that way. They are just seeing red, and are not able to reason through a lot of perspective, and logic and reasoning to explain things away or to change their mind or get over things. And so they still feel very stuck. And these emotions, completely drive the car and tend to dominate your household. And that is what is the problem with raising strong-willed Kids is if you don't have a rock solid toolbox of not only emotion coping techniques for yourself, but you also are super confident in how to manage and diffuse and prevent these moments in your child and how to help them find ways to process and have positive outlets for this anger rather than just try to shut it down completely because it makes you feel so insecure and uncomfortable. And you don't know what to do and you don't you know with them or yourself when you get to a similar place, then that is only going to feed this cycle of their anger spiking and your panics, spiking and then that feed them because they're looking to you as a flight attendant. And if the flight attendant is calm, cool, collected, okay, I can calm down. If the flight attendants are freaking out, then I better too, because nothing is okay.

And that's where it doesn't necessarily make sense all of the time for kids to find, you know, a child therapist at a very young age. And I've talked about this in a prior episode was a mini-series in December, where therapy is fantastic, but it sometimes is the wrong solution to the wrong problem. Because it's not that they are an angry child, it's that they are faced with so many experiences on a daily basis, that they are hypersensitive to and aware of, and have really, really visceral deep feels about. And they have a very, very deep internal drive and desire and sense of justice and fairness and equality. And they are faced with situations on a daily basis where they feel out of control in their of their own life. And they feel like they have no choice but to escalate messages to communicate to the people that they love, because they feel so misunderstood that these behaviors continue to compound and compound especially exacerbated by stress and change and transitions. So, of course, you have this ball of fury that doesn't have the sk- skills to regulate because of a lot of different factors. Not just you know, I don't know how to take deep breaths. It's my it's fueled by my environment. It's fueled by my schedule. It's fueled by my parents, and their patience and their toolkit. It's fueled by my perception of justice and fairness, and how understood I feel.

And so frankly, the way we're communicating to these kids, pisses them off. It really makes them mad, especially if they're just told no without explanation, or if they feel like no, like, nobody gets them, like they're just not heard at all. They're going- they're not going to sit by the wayside. And just let that go and be like, well, I guess what I thought wasn't very important. No, they are driven, persistent. They are go getter, passionate kids that insist on getting their message across, and they will do what it takes to get that to make sure that they feel satisfied with that. So if you see this anger consistently, and at later ages, and it's not getting better, that's why.

So what needs to happen is a multitude of things, right? We need to change the way we communicate with them, so that it meets their perceptive and or perception and it meets their energy, and it gets through to them. And it is truly as intentional as being a hostage negotiator. So that you're actually able to get to talking about the the real thing that they're mad about, and find new solutions and be show them that you're on your their team and on the same page, we need to teach them ways to process their emotions in healthy ways. By modeling it ourselves. First, it has a trickle down effect, we have to be able to lead. Because if you see your strong willed child, treating other siblings poorly unfairly or saying mean things to them, or not having patience for them, not being able to meet them at their level. That is because they are just truly regurgitating what they have seen and how they feel like they've been treated by you. So the way that you speak to them, is how they're going to speak to a younger sibling. And when you change the way you speak to them, you see them change on a dime, turn on a dime. And they immediately start using those scripts with that younger sibling. And it is so validating that all of your effort is paying off. And it feels so good to hear it from their their little voice. But we need to change the way we communicate with them. We need to teach them ways to cope with their emotions in ways that we are learning to cope with our own ourselves. And we need to help them feel more in control of their own life. feel like they have positive outlets for their attention, or for getting attention from adults and feeling like they are heard and they belong in ways where it doesn't make them come to their own conclusions or make them figure it out themselves to get their needs met. because they Well, they're just not mutually beneficial. And it causes a lot of problems for everybody involved. That's what creates that feeling of tension and walking on eggshells and feeling like you're held hostage, and that everything is on their terms. And when they don't get their way everyone suffers. You have to find ways to work through that and empower them. And when you do, the behaviors that are using to work to get those needs met, are eliminated completely. And then you can deal with what's left by getting ahead of it, and diffusing it and preventing it in the first place.

And it's just simple routine shifts. And it is just other ways of looking at things that helped put your mind at ease and your fears that you so they're not driving the ship as well for you and your parenting decisions. But that's what actually needs to happen. If you have a strong willed child with quote unquote, anger issues. And your war-wondered, wondering and worried about, why are they so angry, you truly don't need to teach them empathy, other than being mutually respectful in the way that you treat them. Because empathy truly does come hardwired, in kids, it's actually a pillar of positive discipline, that you can tap into this natural desire to be helpful to a community, kids want to be a part of something bigger than them, they want to feel like they are capable and competent, and you know, can do something for someone else, we just tend to not give them a whole lot of outlets for that, that ends up shutting that intrinsic desire down. Or it just ends up being lost in translation, because we don't know that that's what's actually driving their behavior in the first place.

So I hope that puts your mind at ease a little bit, so that you are not jumping to 1000 conclusions about how your child is going to be the one in juvie 20 years from now, after they dropped out of high school and you know, running a gang, I promise you, that is not their life plan. And instead, you are able to find the tools now to truly work WITH the way they're wired and set them up for so much success in the future. Because they will do well for others, they will know how to follow the rules and they will keep it together. But the more and more they're out of your home, the more and more concentrated those big emotions and reactions become with you. And that is no fun for anybody. I want you to be able to enjoy your your evenings and be able to do more things together as a family and have that freedom back and that joy and that peace you desire so much. So if that feels like there's really the right next step and you want to find out more and you are ready to make better days inevitable and transform relationship with your strong-willed child, then go ahead and schedule your initial consultation using the link in the show notes. It is wholeheartedly as.me/call Or start with my free training. Authentic and unapologetic. It is all about parenting strong-willed kids without bribes and threats so that you can break free of power struggles, guilt and self doubt. Have a great week, I believe in you and I'm cheering youon.

Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of Failing Motherhood. Your kids are so lucky to have you. If you loved this episode, take a screenshot right now and share it in your Instagram stories and tag me. If you're loving the podcast, be sure that you've subscribed and leave a review so we can help more moms note they are not alone if they feel like they're failing motherhood on a daily basis. And if you're ready to transform your relationship with your strong willed child, and invest in the support you need to make it happen. Schedule your free consultation using the link in the show notes. I can't wait to meet you. Thanks for coming on this journey with me. I believe in you, and I'm cheering you on.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai



Tuesday, Sept 27th at 1:00 PM CENTRAL

Confidently parent your strong-willed child without caving in or dimming their spark so you can finally break free of power struggles, guilt + self-doubt!