Best Books for Strong-Willed Kids





Books can be used to meet your strong-willed child's need for control through a power reversal role, as well as teach them important social-emotional life skills!

I've compiled 29 of my very favorite books I highly recommend to my clients, and have categorized them by  - Offers Control, BIG Emotions, Best for Toddlers and Skill Building.

While they are linked to an Amazon wishlist, feel free to reserve and rent them from your local library!




The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! by Mo Willems

Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! by Mo Willems

The Pigeon Needs a Bath! by Mo Willems

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak

Are you Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam Rex


Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst 

The Boy with Big, Big Feelings by Britney Winn Lee

The Girl with Big, Big Questions by Britney Winn Lee

Ravi's Roar by Tom Percival (Big Bright Feelings collection)

Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival

I Love You When You're Angry by Erin Winters

It's Okay to Not Be Okay: Adults get Big Feelings too by Danielle Sherman-Lazar

The Bear is Not There: A Book About the Nervous System + Coping Strategies by Sara Olsher

No Feeling Lasts Forever: Recognizing Emotions in Ourselves and Others by Sara Olsher


Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney

Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

No, David! by David Shannon

The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone 

Press Here by Herve Tullet

Little Monkey Calms Down by Michael Dahl


Nothing Stays the Same, but That's Okay: A Book to Read When Everything (or Anything) Changes by Sara Olsher

Waiting is Not Easy! by Mo Willems

Big Problems, Little Problems by Ben Feller

I Can Handle It (Mindful Mantras series) by Ms Laurie Wright

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst (separation anxiety)

When I Feel Scared (The Way I Feel series) by Cornelia Spelman

Share and Take Turns (Learning to Get Along series) by Cheri Meiners

The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizzi (growth mindset)




Happy Reading!


*FREE* MASTERCLASS: Learn how to CONFIDENTLY parent your strong-willed child WITHOUT threats, bribes or giving in altogether so you can BREAK FREE of power struggles + guilt



Danielle Bettmann 0:04
Ever feel like you suck at this job? Motherhood I mean? Have too much anxiety and 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. But 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. Sharing 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.

Danielle Bettmann 1:14
Hey, it's Danielle. Again, super, super happy that you're joining me today. I cannot wait to dive in. I have kind of a two part series for you for this November, as we approach the holiday season that we're so excited for and also holding on to our sanity by a thread. This episode is going to be talking about the best books for a strong-willed child. And next in two weeks, it's going to be the best gift ideas for a strong-willed child and books can be gifts. Or you can just get them from the library. And so we'll kind of break that down into parts.

Danielle Bettmann 1:50
But if you are already bracing yourself in designation for the holidays, go scroll all the way back I know you haven't listened to every episode, there is episode 53 From November of 2021, November 23, 2021. It's called parenting around family. That one is going to give you some core principles and mantras about how to brace yourself and have a game face and have some boundaries. So I'm going to do a follow up to that one kind of adding on in December. But if you need it sooner than later, go ahead and check that out.

Danielle Bettmann 2:27
And as for today, before we dive in, I have another clip for you that is from clients that are in my program. Because I just feel like it gives you a behind the scenes glimpse into someone else's brain and someone else's house at an honest, vulnerable level you do not get in real life. So this is Oh my and Andrew. They graduated in August. And I'm actually they're actually going to be joining me for an episode up in the next month or so. Because they have just had phenomenal results and completely transformed their home and they can't wait to shout it from the rooftops. So super, super grateful that they are jumping on to share more. But I'm gonna play that clip from one of our live calls so that you can kind of take some some words of wisdom and some pearls of advice from them. And then we're going to dive into the best books and I cannot wait. We have forgotten stories. It's so good. So So hang on with me, and I'm excited to dive in.

Omaya 3:40
Before we found you, we didn't have direction, I would say right, so we'd have good days. And we'd be like, okay, okay, it's better. And then we'd have those really terrible days. And I found you on Instagram on a business trip. And I was like, Oh, look, here's something that looks kind of interesting. And the interesting part about yours was the focus on the strong-willed child, which Osiris hit every single thing. And we were like, Okay, but how then do you differentiate one program from any of the others out there? And then when I came home that weekend, we had an awful, like, awful weekend, and I can't remember the specifics. It was just really bad. And Andrew and I looked at each other and we were like, Okay, this is it. Something needs to change. We're going to take the plunge, we're gonna do something different instead of, I mean, we read a lot to get information from everywhere. We tried all the things. And so we're like, Okay, we're gonna do this concentrated effort. And I think that has changed everything. And the focus on the type of child that are strong willed child is has changed everything as well. And now that we really learned about kind of what makes him tick, and how he becomes discouraged. I have the capability to understand. Yeah, that makes sense. And I've never had that before.

Omaya 4:56
I also appreciated how the focus on this course was about us. In our approach, not so much on fixing our child, we, in our moment, a couple of weeks ago, we've been getting a lot of external stimuli to be like, hey, something's wrong with your child. And we have since learned that our mindset as parents is the most powerful thing that we have in fixing our situation. So I repeat that often. And I love knowing now that our kid is probably not as broken as we had thought he was. Because when we when we're hitting on all cylinders, like things are, things go fantastically, and it's not by chance, right? It's no one nothing is by chance anymore. And we recognize that. So it's in this moment, right now, it's not like things are perfect, because we can't be perfect all the time. And similarly, our child is not perfect all the time. And then also, we cause his imperfection sometimes, too. So we're able to step back and be like, Yeah, we didn't handle this correctly. And that's what happened. And then we move on. So yeah, our our mindset is powerful is something that I had not heard about before, when I was looking about how to approach my child. And I think that's my biggest thing.

Andrew 6:14
Okay, so I gained a lot over the last, I guess, three months, right? I would say actually, for me, you know, the tactics and the strategies are really valuable. For myself, I think the biggest gains is understanding, like my own emotional deregulation, and like, understanding how the the way that you parent and the state of mind that you're in and your own, you know, emotional regulation, have such an effect on the kid, right, based on what they learn to model from you, and also how you interact with them. Right? So like, and that's like, the very first week, right? Like, I keep coming back to that very first week. And just understanding how important that is, because it affects every aspect of how you deal with a kid, right? And then just really learning to understand the way that he views the world and how he's feeling and thinking about things and how maybe he feels wronged by certain things, or, you know, why things seem unfair to him, really trying to get an understand, like his perspective, and not letting him do whatever he wants, but just understanding you know, where those feelings come from. I think the important thing about this program is the community aspects, right? Because it's like, you can read all the books in the world, but like, you still feel very alone going through this. I think we've all felt that at one point. And so like, hearing other people's problems coming to the group with your own problems, and like, you know, doing a little bit of group therapy or problem solving, or just talking through it is like, just knowing that you're not alone is so so helpful when you're going through with the kid. Yeah, I think that's that's probably the other like, really valuable thing I took away from this.

Omaya 8:09
Yeah, sometimes it's just helpful to know that our kid is not the only kid like himself, there are others like him.

Danielle Bettmann 8:21
Okay, children's books. I am gonna geek out on this one, you guys, my favorite course, in my child development, elementary ed, early childhood Ed was Children's Literature, loved the course, I have a huge stack of books next to my desk in my office of books that I have read and reread with my kids and recommend to clients all the time, so it's so hard to narrow it down. And this isn't going to be comprehensive in any form of the word. But it is going to get you started and give you a lot to go off of just in of itself, I have a much more extensive list available to my clients for every social-emotional situation under the sun. But I can't wait to dive in.

Danielle Bettmann 9:03
There's four different categories, I'm going to get to them in a second. But my favorite way to teach a new concept explain something hard, or address a pattern of behavior is with a book. Think of literally anything, and there is a book on it. And I promise that it will explain something in a way that you couldn't have. And it will provide an opportunity for a deeper conversation or nor more a new vocabulary that you needed to be able to create a moment of connection and understanding between you and your kids. And I just highly encourage you, you're gonna feel like a top tier parent, when you have a book that really fills in the gap for what you're trying to do as a parent.

Danielle Bettmann 9:47
So even though I'm going to share all the links in to these books, in a blog post that's gonna be linked in the show notes so that you can go ahead and find them. No need to take notes throughout the episode. In even though the holidays are coming up, I really don't think you need to buy most of these books. If you just get them from your library first, that will give you an opportunity to figure out what they truly relate to what they truly fall in love with and asked to read over and over at bedtime, and the rest, you'll let them serve their purpose, hold their attention and interest for a couple of weeks, and then return them that way, you're not out that investment. And if you are not going to your local library, go for me this week. It provides such an experience around books that really creates a love of learning and reading. And it's truly priceless compared to just ordering them from Amazon and dropping them in a box. So go to your local library, find when these books, figure out how to put them on hold online, and you're gonna feel like an amazing parent that has her life together.

Danielle Bettmann 10:58
So the four different categories, I'm going to introduce these books in is control, big emotions, toddler and skill building. And I'll get into what each one of those are. And again, just find the link in the show notes to find them on Amazon, I am not famous enough to be getting any compensation for sharing the links to these books. It is not sponsored in any way, I genuinely just love these books. And I want you to to. So I want to make those as accessible as possible after this episode. So go ahead and keep driving or doing the dishes, whatever you're doing.

Danielle Bettmann 11:33
So the first category is my absolute favorite category of books for strong-willed kids. And that is control. There is a huge need and craving in all humans but really deeply in strong-willed kids for power and control. And when we can meet that in a way that feels mutually beneficial and proactive. And during a moment of connection, it is like a power boost, it gives them a sense of empowerment when they feel in control. So these are types of books that are really unique. They offer a way for the reader of the book, or the listener of the book, to feel in control of the character of the book or feeling control of the caregiver or grown up that's reading the book. And they get to have this sense of power reversal where they no longer are being told what to do, they get to tell something else what to do, or they get to be in charge and in control. And this is huge for strong-willed kids, because if you don't give these positive proactive outlets, they are left to their own devices to figure out ways to feel in control and they will and they won't be mutually beneficial.

Danielle Bettmann 12:47
So here are a few of my favorite control books. Number one, my favorite, favorite favorite author of children's books of all time is Mo Willems, I love him so much. So you have to read with your strong-willed child, the Pigeon Has to go to School, Don't let the Pigeon Stay up Late, the Pigeon Needs a Bath. And of course, Don't let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. Because each of these books are written in a way that the pigeon is just lamenting about things and you are the reader, the kid is the one that tells the pigeon, he can't drive the bus or he has to go to school or he has to take a bath or he can't stay up late. And it just feels like a cathartic experience for a strong-willed child to read these books because it's like a role reversal. But they also feel seen by all of the dramatic antics of this pigeon, because that's how they really feel in these moments. And it's a really big deal. So love, love, love these books.

Danielle Bettmann 13:52
Then another absolute favorite we've had in our house is The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak. This book is brilliant. It is written in the way where it sets up the prompt at the beginning. Okay, so the way that books work is that whatever words are on this page, the person reading this book has to read right? And then it plays off of the fact that it's going to read aloud, the parent is going to be the one reading these words. And then the kid gets to catch on very quickly that the words of this book are silly, goofy and hilarious and says it like the kid that's listening to this book is the best kid in the whole world. And I have to say all these silly words now and there's like sound effect words and it just there's no way you don't crack up laughing reading this book with your kid I highly recommend.

Danielle Bettmann 14:46
And the last one that we kind of stumbled upon it has been really cool. There's a lot of books like this, but it's called Are you Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam Rex. And the concept of this book is that Darth Vader is not afraid of anything. Out of all these scary things, but then at the end of the book, he realizes that all those scary things, were just kids in a costume. And he's actually terrified of kids. And then he realizes that the reader is a kid and the reader gets to trap him in the book. So you can see how it's really, really fun for a strong-willed kid to feel super empowered while reading this book, because he gets to trap Darth Vader who's not scared of anything. And now he's afraid of him or her. And if you love Star Wars, then you know, that's, that's obviously a double win. So those are just a handful of my favorite control books, but they are so good for that power reversal dynamic, and for empowering them. So that's the control.

Danielle Bettmann 15:43
The next section is BIG emotions. We know that is a trademark classic trait of strong-willed kids, they feel high highs and low lows and no in between. And so you're gonna want to gravitate right to the books about anger, but some of them, they're not going to relate to and I'm going to be honest with you, I have bought a lot of them. And not all of them are great, because if I can't understand the coping mechanism it's trying to teach, I'm not going to be able to get my kid to do that either. So here's just a couple of my favorites. Okay.

Danielle Bettmann 16:19
So we're going to intro to this, I posted on my Instagram stories not too long ago, like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. That book is also cathartic for strong-willed kids, because they really feel that way. And they can feel seen in that book. But it's also just introducing the concept of a bad day, and also that it is normal, and that it doesn't last forever. So that's, that's just a fun one that you can relate to.

Danielle Bettmann 16:50
There's a series by Britney Winn Lee, that two of them, one of them is called The Boy with Big, Big Feelings. And there's another one called The Girl with Big, Big Questions. And these are beautifully illustrated, brilliantly written books that just speak to the way that they're wired and their personality and help them feel seen and represented in this book, and let them know that they're not alone. And it's okay for them for their brain to think that way or for them to feel those feelings highly recommend.

Danielle Bettmann 17:25
There's a book called Ravi's Roar. That's a part of another series called The big bright feelings collection, which is fantastic by Tom Percival. Ravi's Roar is I think, a very well illustrated and explained situation where a kid can relate to that feeling of being taken over by this roaring anger. And I just feel like it's more of a realistic depiction. So I really liked that one, there's another one about a worry in that series that's fantastic.

Danielle Bettmann 17:57
There's a book called, I Love You When You're Angry by Erin Winters. And that's a necessary one, if your strong-willed kiddo is picking up on things and just feeling like they are bad, or that they're, they can sense that and you feel like it's like their behavior is affecting their perception of themselves. And you want to make sure that they know that there is space and detachment from their actions and behaviors and who they are as a person. So connecting over that and letting them know I love you when you're angry is a great read.

Danielle Bettmann 18:34
And then there's another one that I highly recommend to some of my clients if you have a hard time with your patience and you want to have a conversation about that and acknowledge that there's a book called It's Okay to Not be Okay: Adults get Big Feelings Too by Danielle Sherman Lazar. Fantastic book that gives a lot of language and explanation around the fact that you know, moms and dads get sick, moms and dads get tired, moms and dads get angry. And that's okay. And we can talk about that and acknowledge that in a way that feels really healthy and connecting rather than kids jumping to conclusions and assumptions on their own that isolate them and you feel much more disconnected.

Danielle Bettmann 19:15
So love those and then of course I have to recommend my girl Sara Olsher. I have collaborated with her after I found her initial books, and I cannot recommend her stuff enough. I have helped her then write the last few that we've developed for the program on kids mental health. And these are exactly how I would explain emotions and coping strategies and things to my kids and highly recommend them the first one about big emotions is called The Bear is Not There. And it is these super super cute illustrations about the nervous system and how they communicate with each other and how they kind of freak out because they you know they kind of get triggered into fight or flight and how you help calm down your nervous system, super cute.

Danielle Bettmann 20:05
And then another one that's great for younger kids is No Feeling Lasts Forever, Recognizing Emotions in Ourselves and Others, and just gives kind of that 101 context for, what emotions are and why they are temporary and how to kind of explain them and give a lot more vocabulary around them so that you have that you know, common knowledge in your home. So anything was there also, I'm always gonna recommend she is one of my favorite people. So that is the big emotions section.

Danielle Bettmann 20:37
Then, I will give a couple more highlights for toddlers and I'll go into skill building. So toddlers, I'm just setting these apart because as I was compiling them in the big emotion section or the control section, or the sibling section, these are young skewed younger, so they may only come in a board book or they may just be really good for kind of the two to three, one to three set. So if you have a particularly younger kiddo and a toddler strong-willed Child, they're gonna love these.

Danielle Bettmann 21:07
Number one, Llama llama Mad at Mama, Llama, llama Red Pajama, Llama llama, Misses Mama, all of that series by Anna Dewdney. Love we read that over and over and over again at my house. It I love the the tantrum in the middle of the grocery store and throwing the food and being angry about waiting. They're just so relatable and engaging. And your kids going to be loving it and repeating the words, we still call back some of those books now 10 years, not a full 10 years. But when my kids are 10, we they still remember those books and love them. So find that series.

Danielle Bettmann 21:47
No, David is a really empowering control book for toddlers very simple one sentence per page, but they get to boss David around and remind him what he's doing wrong. And there's several different books in that series about David. And it's really cool. It's an author illustrator that wrote the books about himself when he was little. And they just they get to yell no. And what's better than that, when they get yelled know at all the time.

Danielle Bettmann 22:12
There's a book called The Monster at the End of This Book, that's another control book for toddlers. And the whole time, he's like afraid that there's a monster at the end of the book. But then the reader keeps during the pages and he gets so mad at the reader because they keep treating the patient and they keep being so strong to turn the next page and it makes them feel awesome. And it's a really, really cute read. A Sesame Street one.

Danielle Bettmann 22:36
There's another last control book for toddlers is Press Here by Herve Tulle. He writes books that are very interactive. So throughout the book, they press on the illustrations, and then it changes what happens as they turn the page. And it feels like they are in control of the book and get to manipulate it in real time. And it's just a really, really cool read. So find his books as well.

Danielle Bettmann 23:01
And then the last one I'll recommend for toddlers is Little Monkey Calms Down. That's a nice basic, introducing, you know, breathing as a technique. And you know, very short and sweet. So that's by Michael Dahl. And again, before you start writing all these down, just go to the show notes, find the blog post, click to Amazon from there, and you'll know exactly what the cover looks like and all that to recommend them.

Danielle Bettmann 23:24
The last one, last section is skill building. So we go to books to help explain things we go to books to provide a lot more context around things and meet their needs. But they're also a fantastic way to teach. Right? I mean, the rest of the light the rest of life. They use books to teach and learn. So that I picked out a couple highlights of some books that are super great at teaching a particular concept that you can then build upon, and especially ones that are maybe particularly hard for strong-willed kids.

Danielle Bettmann 24:03
For example, my my boy, Mo Willems, he and his elephant and piggie series, there's a book called Waiting is Not Easy. And the whole time elephant is will menting about how hard it is to wait and how long it's taking and how it's so hard and awful. And then by the end of the book, it was worth it. And it's just one hilarious relatable example that really helps teach the concept that you can pull back from and then have that as a mantra. I know waiting is not easy. What can we do to make this fun when we're you know, waiting at the grocery store to checkout. So that one's just a patience one, Waiting Is Not Easy.

Danielle Bettmann 24:45
There's a book that I actually was skeptical of ordered and then did love. It's called Big Problems Little Problems by Ben Feller. It helps teach some perspective and some problem solving. That gives a little bit more explanation around To the differentiation between something that is easily solvable, and something that's a little harder to solve, but for strong-willed kids, they think and feel that everything is a really big deal. So you want to be careful at jumping to a conclusion to dismiss their irrational reactions by saying that's a little problem, that's a little problem. Because if you don't empathize their own, their only choice is to escalate. So that that one is written in a way that I do sign off on and really liked.

Danielle Bettmann 25:31
There's a series called the Mindful Mantra series by Ms. Laurie Wright. One of them is called I Can Handle It. There's several that introduce these like power thought concepts that I teach my clients, but it's really just introducing the idea for kids, that they can think through something hard, and then find a mantra to think that helps empower them in the moment through several different examples throughout the book. And that's definitely a skill that we want to teach early on. So that one is called I Can Handle It. There's a book called The Invisible String by Patrice Karst and that one is fantastic for separation anxiety, there's several that are classics that are really, really great for that. But if your child is really struggling with goodbyes, or a transition to a new school, setting class, whatever The Invisible String is going to be a great one to then give vocabulary and context that you can call back on when you're in those moments, and maybe give you some ideas of some tangible things you can do about it.

Danielle Bettmann 26:33
There's another series called The Way I Feel by Cornelius Spellman. And they're all about different emotions, like When I Feel Angry, When I Feel Scared. And they are fantastic, because they are just straight to the point, very clear cut explanations around the emotion, what it feels like when you feel it and what to do about it. And very practical, very tangible, read those a lot. When my girls were little.

Danielle Bettmann 27:01
There was one more series called Learning to Get Along series by Cheri Meiners. I love this one as a preschool teacher. I think they're in a lot of classrooms. But even better to have these conversations at home. There's one called Share and Take Turns. There's one called Talk and Work it Out. There's one called Cooldown Your Anger. And they just talk the characters through these scenarios of when they have to apply that skill. And they can learn a lot by having it be a third party character that they are recommending what to do rather than feeling like it's, you know, you're telling them what to do. And they pick it all up and kind of absorb it through those examples. So those are fantastic things. There's like 20 or something in that series, but they are great ones to get from the library. The library like paperbacks section, the oversized paperbacks, if you don't check out that section of the library. Go do that. There's really good gems in there.

Danielle Bettmann 27:53
And then the last one I wanted to highlight is The Magical Yet by AngelaDTerlizzi, I'm not sure how to say her name. That one teaches growth mindset. And one of the my favorite ways which is introducing this word yet and it's a magic word. The magic word isn't please, the magic word is yet. And if you have a perfectionist tendency strong-willed child or they really struggle with wanting everything to be perfect and you know, not trying it. If they're not amazing at it yet, then that one's a great skill building one for growth mindset.

Danielle Bettmann 28:28
So that's everything I wanted to share with you today. I hope that you have stumbled upon a few in my explanation that you have kind of scribbled down to go back to and find as your new favorites. I hope that you have so many more fun moments when you get to just snuggle up and read a good book together. And that spurs off some amazing new conversations. I would love to know if I mentioned one of your family's favorite books, find me on Instagram DM me, let me know which one you fall in love with next as well. I am just cheering you on over here. I keep up the hard work. What you're doing is so important not just for today but for like 10, 20, 30 years from now. Always remember the worth of your work. It matters even through this like sanity saving holiday season. I am here for you. I'm really glad that you are tuning in. I'm so glad you're here.

Danielle Bettmann 29:26
When you are ready to be able to transform your relationship with your strong-willed child and really take on an investment in the support you deserve, then go ahead and download my free training, as always, Authentic and Unapologetic, the link to that as in the show notes and apply to work together and I would love to have that conversation. See you next week.

Danielle Bettmann 29:50
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.



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!