Challenging Common Fears when Raising a Strong-Willed Child





What if it's not what you think it is?

Two weeks ago I listed the 11 most common fears/challenges experienced by parents of strong-willed kids.  In this episode I address each one.

The work is in NOT letting these fears take hold of the way you parent, but rather gain awareness and understanding while you get to the bottom of what's really going on.

Listen to that episode first, then circle back here for the freedom to zoom out and let some fears go entirely.


  • Why conflict should be embraced, not feared
  • A reason to relax if you're the *least* preferred parent currently
  • Insight that will help let new perspective in


  • An illustration to help you imagine how your child might feel at the end of everyday

Part 1 - Ep. 138 - The 11 Most Common Challenges of Parenting a Strong-Willed Child
Ep. 108 - Break the Cycle

IG: @parent_wholeheartedly

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*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 1:15
Hey, it's Danielle. I always forget to introduce myself here because I assume that you have been listening to Failing Motherhood since episode one. But in the likely case that you have not.... Hi, I'm Danielle Bettmann, Positive Discipline-certified parenting coach for strong-willed kids aged two to 10. I help defeated parents find validation, support and proven techniques to parent their strong-willed kids with composure, connection, confidence and cooperation through my three month group coaching program based on the Wholehearted framework I have developed over the years of working with families one on one. And if you just found the podcast, go to failing t find the playlist of our most listened to episodes, as well as where to start if you have a strong-willed child.

Danielle Bettmann 2:00
So two weeks ago, last solo episode, I shared the 11 most common challenges and fears of raising a strong-willed child. And if you haven't heard it yet, I highly recommend going back and listening to that first, then circling back to this episode. Because today, I'm going to address them head on. Let's talk about it. Let's face those fears. Let's feel that guilt. And let's actually figure out what's going on here. And what it is not. What it that's all I'm going to ask is that you would suspend judgment, bring an open mind and be curious to the thought that possibly, maybe there's a chance, it's not what I think it is. And all of the fears that I have are valid, and normal and understandable and human. And I am not alone. And they're not the worst thing that's happening. They are not the most damaging dynamic. There's actually likely more to the story. And there might even be a root cause that I can put my finger on.

Danielle Bettmann 3:24
So what if the worst thing about my fears about raising my strong-willed child is not that they are actually a spoiled brat. I know we talked about how it can feel like strong-willed kids are super selfish and seem entitled. But you know, likely just like they have low lows, they have high highs. They can love really big. They can be helpful when they're in the mood and when they want to be when it's their idea. They can be really hyper empathetic. They can be really sensitive to other people's moods. And when they're in a good place. They can recognize the emotions of others and they can be sympathetic even to ours. So I don't think the worst thing is that they're actually a spoiled brat.

Danielle Bettmann 4:22
What if the worst thing is not that you are missing something and they are needing a diagnosis or they are needing a label? They are needing their own therapist or they are needing early intervention. Because for the most part, for the families that find me, their child's behavior is quite likely, developmentally appropriate. The struggles with emotional regulation that their child is experiencing is due to them genuinely feeling rage, and having a really hard time with their parent-child dynamic. Rather than it being something that needs to To be medicated, or has other extenuating circumstances, especially if it is environmentally isolated, which means it's not happening at school. So if their development is actually appropriate, if things are coming down to temperament and relationship, and that's not the worst thing that's happening.

Danielle Bettmann 5:23
What if it's not that they actually prefer one parent over the other? It's super common, when you read the strong-willed child that they experienced these phases of being really preferring one parent over the other. And the parent that is not preferred has a very hard time with that, understandably, they want to jump to 1000 conclusions. The problem is with that, usually, the parent that gets the worst of the behavior is actually the one they feel most secure with the most, that they know, there's nothing they could do to make that parent love them less. So your fears that your relationship is not where you want it to be, is not really happening to the extent that you fear.

Danielle Bettmann 6:11
Okay, so it must not be that what if it's not the worst thing that you don't have, you feel like you don't have influence on them, and that they're not learning the lessons you're trying to teach. And when you have a strong-willed child, it feels like things go in one ear and out the other. They just dig their heels in and they're defiant anyways, and whatever you try to explain with logic and reasoning, it doesn't get through to them. And some of that is true, because there's a very specific way of communicating that does unlock their ears. However, they do know, right from wrong, better than most kids. They have a strong fixation on justice, and fairness, that won't let them ignore it. So yes, they do know better in some circumstances, but they're not able to act on it, when they're dysregulated. Which leads you to jump to those conclusions. However, do you quote unquote, know better with your patience yet, still lose it and yell? Kinda is the same thing, right? We can know better, but yet not be able to do better in some situations. That's what's going on, when you see them acting in a way that you feel like they know better. And you've tried to teach these lessons, they do know, that's just not the problem. So if they do know, that must not be the worst thing.

Danielle Bettmann 7:46
But if it's not the worst thing, that their sibling is learning behaviors from them are getting the short end of the stick. It's obviously not ideal, if it feels like you're not able to have the patience that that sibling deserves with them. And it is worth addressing this dynamic, as all of these things are. But that conflict that a sibling is either a part of, or witnessing is the work. It's the opportunity to provide and model skills, skill building. We shouldn't fear conflict. Conflict is like the sport, and we're the coach, and our kids are playing the sport. We don't want to fear the sport, we want to be able to teach them how to do it well. So if you're just afraid of the fluctuating emotions, or that there is conflict at all, that's not the worst thing.

Danielle Bettmann 8:47
What if it's not the worst thing that you feel like you can't leave their house and travel and do things as a family without a bomb going off? Or that you fear that you created this behavior? It's all your fault. Or you've been so impatient, or lost your temper, or brought a new baby home, or had to move or got a divorce or work a demanding job or started your own business? Any of those things? What if it's not any of those things? The only importance is how you wield and leverage the decisions that you do have control over to benefit your capacity and your mental health. Right. So yeah, there are a million situations that aren't ideal, that do that by our capacity that weren't our choice that are situations that we find ourselves in, or dynamics that have happened in the season of life.

Danielle Bettmann 9:53
However, let's not make them worse with a really, really unhealthy outlook and mindset and teetering, deteriorating mental health, filled with guilt and shame and hold on to it and let it weigh us down. But saying that doesn't solve the problem, right? Rarely can you actually zoom out, get perspective, get out of your own head, and analyze your contributions to life objectively, without the help of an unbiased third party, which is why we benefit so much from working with a therapist, and talking with a friend. And you know, what referencing if we have a good relationship with our mom or parents or in laws, we need to be able to reckon our reality with others inside a safe community, or be able to feel that validation to have proof, we're actually not alone, our kids are not the only ones with this behavior, or this isn't something that we created, or there's a monster in our house or any of the fears. they fester and grow in that isolation, that we need to shine a light on them.

Danielle Bettmann 11:12
And that is such a huge reason why I no longer work with families one on one, because you need to be in the room, doing this work alongside others, that creates such an accelerated way that you can move forward when you are able to actually shed all of that weight.

Danielle Bettmann 11:30
So we're talking about so what if the worst thing that your biggest fear all of those fears about raising a strong-willed child is not it? What if they're not as true as your brain would make you believe? What if the worst thing is none of those things? I believe when you're struggling with raising a strong-willed child, what you're seeing behavior wise, can be a combination of their temperament, some neurodivergence, and them feeling misunderstood or discouraged. How are you supposed to figure out what comes from what and what to do differently?

Danielle Bettmann 12:17
It could be that the way that you're currently communicating and disciplining them, makes them feel really misunderstood and angry. It's truly wild how much the true message received from our interactions with each other, comes down to tone, nonverbals and the words chosen. A client of mine yesterday, when we were talking about this said, it's like when her and her husband disagreed recently. And she said, "I know what you meant. But the way you said it filled me with rage". Are we surprised that our kids would feel the same way? It might take just a tweak in language and approach and understanding with our perspective, to help take down their wall of defenses and actually get through to them.

Danielle Bettmann 13:04
But especially if a behavior has escalated, or they have just regressed over all dramatically recently, it could be simply your child believing deep down, something's wrong with them, that they really are a bad kid, that they have to be louder to get attention. Or they might feel like life feels so out of control, they have to command control of every situation. It feels necessary, it feels justified, they have no other choice. And this is not consciously this subconsciously. Maybe they wonder that they have made too many bad decisions. They realize that they can't control themselves when they want to. And they can't control their behavior and do differently when they know better. Do you remember the guilt that sits with you, when you have had all the best intentions, and set out at the beginning of the day, to have all the patience in the world? And then you yelled, and you continue to yell and you are not the parent that you know yourself to be or could be, and you let yourself down? And not only do you let yourself down but you disappoint your partner and you disappoint your kids. How does that sit with you at the end of every day? You beat yourself up for that?

Danielle Bettmann 14:34
What if that's how your child feels at the end of every day? What if that pain is too much because their emotions are so big. It's too painful to let your words resonate without putting up a wall of defensiveness. They can't even hear or take in the logic or the explanation because it's too vulnerable, it cuts too deep.

Danielle Bettmann 15:04
What if that's truly it? What would you do differently if that were the case? How would your approach to them change? Remember, we're not saying it is, we're saying what if? We're withholding judgment, bringing an open mind and just allowing curiosity. Now, your logical next step might be to jump to the conclusion that you need to be praising them more, and maybe ignoring all that negative behavior, because if you could just ignore it, then it wouldn't perpetuate that cycle that wouldn't make them continue to feel bad and worse. And call your attention to that. And you know that your attention is the thing that reinforces most behavior. And so if you just ignore it, that's the right next step. And I will say, I don't recommend that. So two weeks from today, the next episode I'm going to share with you is why I don't recommend ignoring as a discipline tool. I know a lot of programs or practitioners do. They use it as a tool called planned ignoring. And I really don't think it's effective. And I don't recommend that my clients do it, and they are able to find dramatic shifts in behavior without it.

Danielle Bettmann 16:46
So the bottom line here is that more than anything, as a human, especially as a child, in these really, really influential impressionable years, where we're they're downloading the software, they're gonna run on autopilot the rest of their lives, they're finding these dynamics of what's familiar that they'll repeat later on in their life is when they have a family down the road....They want to feel enjoyed. And it's really hard, and sometimes borderline impossible to feel like you can actually enjoy them more often than you care to admit. So you need and deserve the support, to rehabilitate those dynamics within your family to make that possible, if that's truly the healing, and the antibiotic that your child needs. Because, of course, we want to be liked, of course, our kids want to feel like we want to be in the room with them. And most of the families that I sit down and talked to will say, I can't give that right now. It's too hard, it's too much we have too much conflict, we have too much behavior, too much disrespect, too much guilt and shame. You just need to be supported enough that you can feel validated, and find a way out of the hole that you found yourself in, that you did not create that you did not choose. And what I share with my clients as ways to actually go about that is to really not ignore, but ease up on discipline, especially moving more away from the threats and the punishments that are going to repeat that cycle. There's an episode of Failing Motherhood from a few months back that's called Break the Cycle and listen to that one, if you want more on how to do that, and what that looks like.

Danielle Bettmann 19:06
To allow space between addressing the behavior in the moment and the circle back intervention that might be needed if it's needed at all. Focusing much less on what lesson to teach in the moment, but much more on the overall big picture of how do I become much more proactive rather than reactive? How do I prevent the same situation from happening next time? How can I set them up for much more success? And taking that responsibility and accountability on yourself? But becoming equipped with the strategies and the tools to do that? Asking yourself questions like how can I take care of myself enough that I'm actually able to tap into and find true compassion for what's going on with them?

Danielle Bettmann 20:04
And when you're ready and in a better place with your parent child relationship, offering more genuine positive reinforcement, because there's a big difference between empty praise and true authentic reinforcement, where encouragement is or I should say, positive encouragement. Really focusing your energy on how can I fill their cup before it's on empty? Those cups of both attention and control? How can I help them feel like life makes more sense, even if they feel like they're too young to have some of these details or conversations? And what do I actually need to change about our day to day life, so I have more of a chance to actually enjoy them and enjoy spending time with them. Because if you can just focus on that, and have the tools to do that. It's my experience, that all of the other challenges and fears that we named in this episode, and the one from two weeks ago, really dramatically improve. So that might sound like a lot of lofty thinking or ambiguous concepts. But that is why it takes three months, I spend three months with the families I work with, so that we can walk through a process of elimination, and address all of the whirlwind of factors that are contributing to your family's unique circumstances and your child's unique lens and perception of things. And kind of the language that works well for them. And the mental mind games and gymnastics that your brain tricks you into because of the way you were parented or all of the other things that make you unique as a parent, and give you that support you deserve to be able to make what I know means the most to you, which is making sure that your child knows just how loved they are, possible.

Danielle Bettmann 22:21
So when you're ready, watch the free training that I offer on my website Then complete an application, schedule your interview call so we can talk through all the logistics and questions. And we will get you into your next right step as a family. I can't wait to meet you. So glad you're here. I believe in you. And I'm cheering you on.

Danielle Bettmann 22:54
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 know they're 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



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!