The Most Common Challenges of Raising a Strong-Willed Child (that have nothing to do with hitting)





Hard, frustrating, exhausting - is an understatement. Your lived experience as a parent of a strong-willed child is one many can't understand, including yourself sometimes!

There are very real dynamics, fears, and perceptions that make showing up moment to moment extremely difficult, and it's impossible to solve for them without being able to name them first.   

This episode is going to give words for what you haven't yet had words to describe.


  • Proof you're not the only one late night Googling and stressing about these things...
  • The valid + understandable reasons why you feel the way you do
  • What you have control over and what you don't


  • Why you might feel defeated as a "Can do" Parent with a "Do it For Me" Kid

IG: @parent_wholeheartedly

FREE MASTERCLASS: Master the KIND + FIRM Approach your Strong-Willed Child Needs WITHOUT Crushing their Spirit or Walking on Eggshells
LIVE: Wednesday, January 17th at 12:00 Central

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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. We are here to talk about the 11 most common triggers, or fears or panic feelings, or whatever you want to call those situations that just zap all of your patience make you so dysregulated and completely sabotage your ability to parent in the way that you would love to. And that are specific to parenting a strong willed child and I am coming from the Arctic tundra of the Midwest right now straight to you. So glad you're here. It means that you are on a mission to be a better parent today than you were yesterday. And I commend you for that your kids are really lucky to have you. And I'm so glad that Failing Motherhood is part of your journey that you're inviting me into your ears in your home today. So thank you so much for that.

Danielle Bettmann 2:12
So all parents get triggered by their child's when they are yelled back at when they are running late. When they're really confused by their behavior. When they're exhausted, being up all night when they're losing their identity running on fumes getting burnt out. That is parenting, it is exhausting. Nobody gets out of it feeling hard and difficult, right. But I'm going to highlight the particular dynamics, behaviors, feelings and fears that make parenting a strong-willed child, particularly challenging, especially for moms. And I'm going to list these off one through 11. Because I can't just do 10 I'm gonna speak directly to my worrying more your parents of strong-willed kids in this episode, you will know if that is you by the end of this episode. So without further ado, let's dive in.

Danielle Bettmann 3:11
Number one, these are not in any particular order. But I think they will resonate with you more and more as we go on. Number one, is the fear that comes up when it feels like you are raising an entitled, self centered, selfish kid. When you know they have it easy, yet you have to pull teeth to get them to apologize. They constantly fall apart when things don't go their way. They are not disciplined or externally motivated to do their part, or clean up, or just follow the routines that you've been doing for years now. They're always saying things are not fair. They complain and whine about a lot. And they overall have that glass half empty, negative outlook. And say things like this is the worst day of my life, leading to you to feel like I am raising a spoiled brat.

Danielle Bettmann 4:12
And you I know about you you know how important growth mindset is. You want them to be a contributing member of society. And you just want them to have the skills to succeed at what they want to do. One of my clients said I would want them to run on the field, not run their mouth on the sidelines of life. And I likely know that you are a can do person that feels like you have a do it for me, kid. And that is so frustrating. Because if you've been to therapy yourself, or even if you take in your child, they're likely not giving you super tangible things to do. And you have so much anxiety that you desperately want to Be able to funnel it into knocking out a to do list. Because if you knew what to do, you would have done it by now you've done all the other things that have come up as options. But you don't know what to do at this point. And instead, that helplessness funnels into more desperate reactionary measures in the moment, which feels very reactive rather than proactive. You just feel like you need a playbook. This is a wildcard puzzle you can't crack.

Danielle Bettmann 5:29
You're a can do person. So how are you raising a do it for me, kid who can't seem to put on their pants, as a five year old what is happening. So that's that fear that I am raising a spoiled brat. I can't let that happen. Right.

Danielle Bettmann 5:48
Number two, the child that they see at school is not the child you see at home. You go to conferences, and they say they're such an angel for is so helpful, such a good friend, which is great. We love that for them. And yeah, that leads you to feel isolated, and alone and a little bit crazy. No one else sees that you see, no one else experiences what you experience. And when you try to talk to family or friends about it, they'll be more dismissive or say it's a phase, they just need a spanking. It's just the terrible threes. It's not, you know, it's not. But nobody else sees that. And it's really hard to explain. You're just feeling alone. Which leads you to number three, the pressure to figure this kid out. It didn't take you very long to figure out that your kid is different than other kids. They may be wildly different than their sibling or siblings. Or your friends, kids or their cousins don't react this way, or have these huge outbursts. Or are not this uncooperative with regular basic routines at this older age. So deep down, you know something is missing. Something is wrong, you just don't know what it is. And you feel like time is running out.

Danielle Bettmann 7:21
So you're on high alert, trying to put all the clues together? Is this autism? Is this ADHD? Do they need medication? Is this odd? Is it SPD sensory processing disorder? Do they need ot I'll take them there? Do they need chiropractic, I'll take them there, the pressure is on to figure it out before it's too late. Because if they could have used early intervention and you missed the window, or made things harder for them, you will never forgive yourself. You may have even gotten your child evaluated by now. And none of their symptoms were in a diagnosable or treatable range. So is it all in your head then? Or is this all just a game they're playing? And it's a choice or manipulation at this point? How are you supposed to know which then leads directly into the next two on the list?

Danielle Bettmann 8:17
Number four, the propensity or tendency to take their behavior personally. All parents do it. But there are several dynamics that add to and exacerbate this when you're parenting a strong willed child.

Danielle Bettmann 8:34
Subset number one, parental preference that they respond differently to one parent versus the other. Or they highly prefer one parent over the other for particular care routines, which is super common in the early years with strong-willed kids, even though you both switch off bedtime, and you both follow the world's most rigid bedtime routine on the planet. They still give one parent a much harder time or beg for the other one, which feels like a personal attack. How is it not supposed to? If it's a fact that they are better behaved when you're not around? And the other partner says they only act like this with you. How are you not supposed to take that personally, right?

Danielle Bettmann 9:25
Subset number two dynamic that adds to this taking behavior personally, is when they are dysregulated in public, you get embarrassed or even mortified. Right. There's the situations that I've found myself in trying to finish a transaction at CVS after telling them know that you're not buying a stuffed animal or candy and you're trying to keep calm over the screaming and not have people staring at you. I'm trying to sing Happy Birthday to an overstimulated child out there. On birthday party and all eyes are on you and them, or you get all wet, trying to pull them from swimming lessons because they're so uncooperative. And you just feel the eyes. And you can hear the judgment of you in real time. And it's mortifying, that's subset number two.

Danielle Bettmann 10:19
And number three, is it feels like, or even they straight up tell you that their love cup is never full. But of course, you try spending quality time, you're not ignoring them. Yet, the more you give them, the more you try, the more it backfires. And the more it comes up empty. And then they have the audacity to say things like I didn't get any time with you today, Mommy, can we do something special tomorrow? Or even worse? No one understands me. I'm a bad kid. You don't love me. So you feel not good enough for your own kid? How can you not take that personally, and spiral. If you are a parent that cares about your relationship with your kid, and you're worried about things that matter?

Danielle Bettmann 11:16
Number five, the fear that comes up, when it feels like you have very little to no influence on them. When they resist you so much, it feels like you have no grip. And you're giving them no guide. No lessons were learned. They're not listening to you, then that fear grips you even harder, and gives you even more reason to escalate or react louder or faster or quicker next time. And yet, you know, they're smart. You know, they know the rules, you know, they know better. They are so articulate and expressive, yet, they're using irrational inflammatory language and even aggression against you and their siblings. So you're understandably worried for their future because you know, bigger kid equals bigger problems, they are going to be much harder to control. This is not getting easier anytime soon. And plus strong-willed Kids are always on their own time, you could threaten to take away their most beloved treasure, or bribed them with a trip to Disney World. And if that is not their idea, they won't do it. So when it feels like there's nothing you can do, eventually, you start to think why even try and disengage and shut down and give up and become permissive. Or just give in, give them whatever they want. Because what does it even matter. But yet, that eats away at you day after day as that momentum dies.

Danielle Bettmann 12:58
Number six, feeling alone, even inside your partnership. Because even when you are trying to prioritize that relationship, and value their emotions and validate them, unlike your parents did, but then your partner says it's not working. They're obviously walking all over you. And you guys don't see eye to eye about what's wrong or what's missing, or how to handle things. Despite good intentions on both sides, that dynamic can quickly lead to short fuses yelling and a huge strain on your relationship. Because the one person that is supposed to have your back is pointing out your flaws. And they feel the same. They feel like when you're trying to critique them or tell them to stop yelling, or that they're making things worse. They feel like you're constantly telling them what they're doing wrong as well without telling them what to do instead. So you both end up disengaging and everyone suffers. feel so alone. Number seven is the mama bear protection instinct that comes out for one of their siblings. Because when you see this older child that is taking it upon themselves, to cut the tension or to make things better or to give in so that this strong-willed child gets what they want so that everything can be okay and everybody can be happy. It makes you sick. You feel like they are getting the short end of the stick here. They are obviously getting less attention from you. They're getting less of your patience. Because it runs dry. Understandably, there's only so much you have to give. And when one child sucks it all up. There's not much left for the others. And you know, it's not fair that they're living in a volatile home. But if it's a younger sibling, they could be taking notes from or learning behaviors from this strong-willed child. They may really they look up to this child. And then they are treated super unfairly, when the strong-willed child takes all their anger out on that sibling, completely unfairly sometimes. So understandably, your mom your instinct comes out to protect one child from another, which is a very conflicting place to be only exacerbating other perspectives and dynamics from that strong willed child that makes them feel justified and necessary in their way to act out.

Danielle Bettmann 15:30
Number eight, the feeling of being trapped. It feels like you can't leave the house. Because there's meltdowns in the car, or their sensory needs, or preferences make everything about getting out of the house 10 times harder than it needs to be. Or their behavior can be so unpredictable. If your plans have to change. They can't be flexible, they can't go without a nap. Or you can't eat out and find food that they are going to like. So traveling, or having fun as a family feels impossible. You can't even go to the pumpkin patch, or like do all these things you thought you'd be doing as a family at this point. And that doesn't feel like it's getting any better tomorrow, even though they're getting older.

Danielle Bettmann 16:21
Number nine, the fear of messing them up. You have such a contentious parent child relationship with this child. It feels like whiplash, it genuinely feels like emotional abuse. At some points, they are so physically affectionate, they are so clingy. Yet then, though yell go away. But then still want you there. It feels touching go. It feels like they are doing this on purpose, that they are playing games with you. It feels manipulative. And you fear that the push and pull of your relationship over years is going to cause trauma, you're going to be full of regrets, they're going to be sitting in therapy 20 years from now just lamenting about how bad of a parent you were. And you just don't want to mess them up. If you can help it. I mean, we know that there's going to be therapy for something. But this just feels yucky, it feels abusive, it feels unsustainable, it feels like we are not on a trajectory to where we want to be at this point in your parent child relationship. And you want to stop that from happening.

Danielle Bettmann 17:40
Number 10 The guilt that you did something to create this or make this worse, because you went back to work, or you brought a new baby home that just shattered the life that they knew, or you stopped co sleeping or nursing, you moved. Or you have an only child and can only have an only child when you wanted more kids. So now you feel like they are too alone or spoiled. You got a divorce, that was not your choice. Or even if it was the guilt eats away at you because it again shattered the life that they knew. Or maybe you're a single parent without a lot of time to give them a net without a lot of capacity to give them. And so you feel like well, of course, they're going to push back and give me a hard time because I'm not giving them what they need. Or maybe you started a demanding business and you're following your dream. And they are getting the fumes of what you have left at the end of every day. So this is warranted, I guess like I caused this, I asked for this. This regression I'm seeing and their behavior is warranted. And I am just riddled with the guilt and I don't know what to do with it because I can't change the circumstances now like we are in it. That feels hopeless.

Danielle Bettmann 19:17
And that leads us to number 11, the ICK. The ick you feel from all of these 10 other feelings, fears, triggers. And when you sit with the fact that you are not the parent you thought you'd be. Things are not how you thought they would be. And you know that you have yelled you have acted in a way you're not proud of you have used shame to try to change their behavior desperately. And at the end of the day, you do not like being around them at this point. You'd rather be at work work. So you feel like you're a horrible person. That's the ick. You feel like you're a horrible person. And all of that is so hard to admit out loud.

Danielle Bettmann 20:16
If you feel like I just read you like a book, here's what I need you to hear. You are not alone. You are not a horrible person. And you are not a victim of your circumstances. When you decide enough is enough, and you ask for help, and you admit these things out loud, better days are inevitable. But nobody can decide that for you. As much as your child is struggling, you are too. And in order to help them, you need community. You need to be able to shed that shame and guilt. You need more insight and tools specific for the child that is in front of you that you are raising. You need more individualized feedback and support. You need your questions answered. You need to know you're not crazy and you need to know what to do about it. And check off that to do list and feel accomplished and feel better about yourself and feel more confident and clear minded that you have the peace of mind that you are doing the right thing for them is 2020 for your year of turning this around for your family and investing in your family. When you are ready to learn a new way of communicating, become much stronger and more resilient in your mindset and composure. become proud of your own behavior. And learn how to work with the way your child is wired and set them up for success for years to come. Watch my free training, or the live one coming up tomorrow. And then apply to work together. Because the life with 90% Less meltdowns is possible. It might sound too good to be true. But are you content with not knowing if that's possible for your family? I can't wait to meet you. I hope to see you tomorrow.

Danielle Bettmann 22:26
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!