From Good Cop / Bad Cop to Kind + Firm Cops





This episode goes out to every family that is trying to break the cycle and feels like it might break their marriage.

There's a vicious cycle that plays itself out over and over like a broken record in these dynamics in ways that account for the inevitable stress on your relationship that is parenting a strong-willed child. 

Not only does this episode shed light on the unseen contributors and look at it in new ways, but it points out two proven ways to put an end to this dynamic between you for good.


  • The step-by-step Groundhog Day happening daily in homes everywhere
  • The unspoken, unaddressed factors holding your partner back from going ALL IN on your new parenting approaches
  • Why it's worth addressing NOW


  • How to stop "throwing spaghetti" at your partner

IG: @parent_wholeheartedly

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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.

Hey, it's Danielle. I'm so glad you're here. Today's episode is going to paint the picture of something that I am seeing so often that clients are describing to me, and it is a vicious cycle they find themselves in and I wonder if you find yourself in a similar place. So you're going to know pretty quickly if this hits home for you. And hopefully it enlightens you with some next steps that are going to make a lot of sense.

Now before I get to that, I know that this podcast is growing a ton. There are new listeners every single week. And I fail to introduce myself quite often. So for a very quick intro, if you are new to me, I am a parenting coach for parents of strong-willed kids, typically between the ages of one to 10. Although families are having siblings that are much older than that range that they're having a lot of success with. But I do not guarantee that because I don't want to speak to it. I haven't experienced myself as a parent and my oldest child is 10. My degree is from birth through third grade, technically age eight. And I have worked in classrooms in that entire gamut from infant toddler classrooms, preschool classrooms, kindergarten, first, second, third, and student teaching. And so technically, I have a teaching certification. But then I moved into home visiting through Save the Children and working with families one on one, helping them understand their kids development, equipping them with more insight, perspective and resources. And that has just continued to grow. As I got to know my second daughter, who taught me everything I needed to know about this temperament. And so here we are. Today we are four and a half years into Wholeheartedly three years into Failing Motherhood. And I have a program that's a group coaching program called Wholeheartedly CALM, specifically working on the three pillars of a parent's composure. They're meeting their child's core needs to eliminate the need for negative behavior, and communication. Being able to learn how to be kind and firm and feel like you have equipped with the tools of a hostage negotiator so that you are an effective leader in your home with your strong willed child. And I love what I do, I cannot believe that I am so lucky to get to do this day in and day out. I literally squeal on the daily and my husband now works from home most of the time. And so he he gets a little bit jealous. So I live in Nebraska and the middle the Midwestern United States. I have two daughters. I've been married to my husband now for I think 14 years don't quote me, and we were highschool sweethearts. So our marriage has seen all sides of the spectrum. We are so happy to be at where we're at today. And I am just so lucky to get to connect with you. And your kids are lucky to have you seeking out more resources and support and insight so that you can truly be the calm confident parent that your strong-willed child needs. So let's dive in to this whole vicious cycle that you may or may not be find yourself in today.

Okay, so the first step in this vicious cycle is a typically a mom will say I am working to use the gentle parenting tools, tips tactics that I have picked up through books, through talking to other parents through taking a course. I have, you know, accumulated some scripts or some resources. And so I'm trying my friggin darndest to use these gentle parenting things that I've learned. And meanwhile, this is already very, very hard, because you are typically trying to do something that was never modeled for you. You're trying to unlearn, relearn, and teach all at the same time, and you're making it up as you go. Because you weren't given a manual for the kid that you have in front of you, you have to individualize to the situations you find yourself in, and the books don't talk back annoyingly enough. So you're kind of left to your own devices. So typically, one parent is doing a lot of this research, they are exhausting themselves to find answers, they are taking what they're learning, and they are trying to apply it day in and day out. And they are really working to do something different with discipline than maybe what was used with them. And so they're, they're doing this in real time with their strong-willed child. The second part is the child does not gentle child back as in, they are not responding well to it, they are not listening, they're not cooperating, and you're not seeing the outcome or the cooperation that you're looking for. So then, what happens is, the partner then sees this play out after a long day or hours into a Saturday, or day in and day out. And they get frustrated, they get upset because they see that mom is exhausted. And what she's trying to do is not working. They feel sad, and frustrated for them. They also have underlying unspoken unaddressed fears. Like, I'm worried that this gentle discipline is creating a monster that my child is not learning the lessons they need, or, you know, getting the skills that they need to be successful in life. I feel like I am my family, my wife, my partner, my other kid is under attack from this child that need to protect them. And I feel like maybe we're being too permissive, but I don't know what to do instead. So all of these emotions, and these unspoken unaddressed fears, then cause that partner to step in as more of an authoritarian parent, more of a strict parent, possibly with a dad voice, or something that is louder. And then that child, especially a strong willed child, reacts to that stepping in and intervening. By escalating, it makes the child more upset. And then we have yelling, or we have really frustrating moments of very tense culture in the home. Then the original parents that was working to gentle discipline, becomes upset with their partner. They feel like they just dropped a bomb and blew up what they were trying to do rather than having their back, they feel like they made it worse, instead of better. So then, they try to tell that partner, here's what you need to be doing. This is what I'm reading, you need to be doing it this way, stop doing what you're doing, and correcting or trying to reinforce the original outcomes and goals that they're trying to work on the techniques they're trying to use. Second partner, feels very criticized, feels helpless, still feels worried about the future, then they kind of feel like they're put in a position where they're darned if they do damned if they don't intervene. I don't know at the end of the day, what you want me to do, I don't know how to help and I don't see this getting any better. And then what ends up happening when this vicious cycle continues to play out over and over and over is one parent begins to disengage completely. Where they feel like what I'm doing is maybe not only not helping but making it worse. What we are both doing is not working. And I'm exhausted, I'm burnt out, I'm defeated. I'm confused. This is challenging. This is the hardest thing I've ever done. This is so difficult. It's unpredictable, it's volatile, I am going to disengage, I give up. Frankly, I don't know what else to do. And if one partner hits that wall before the other, it leaves the other partner to feel very alone, isolated, resentful, like the burden is on their shoulders to figure this out. How discouraging for everyone in the family. Now, this might not apply if you are a single parent, or you are parenting with a team of extended family or you know, caregivers. But you might see how you almost go through this pendulum shift yourself as the main caregiver, where you end up starting off really kind and gentle. And then your unaddressed fears swing you to the other side. And you know more of your instinct, your default comes out, the voice that was used with you comes out of you. And you hear yourself saying some of the things that you were parented with. And it's all out of this frustration, my backs against the wall, and I feel helpless as a parent, because I'm either not doing the right thing, or I'm not getting the results that I'm looking for from my child. Clearly, I'm missing something, or I don't know just what we're doing isn't working, I don't know what else to do. And so I'm going to fly to the ends of these pendulum swings. From one side that's more permissive and gentle to the other side, that's much more authoritarian and firm and strict, not being able to really find a happy medium, because it doesn't feel like either side works. And child's not responding at all. So this obviously greatly affects your parenting relationship, your marriage, your relationship with, you know, your co caregiver, but also your relationships with the other kids in your home because they can sense that tension they hear you arguing. And these are solid marriages that come to parenting and most of your frustration with each other comes down to parenting, right? Because you feel misunderstood, you feel unheard, you feel alone. And most times both partners feel that but you're communicating about it, and dealing with that stress in different ways. And at the end of the day, you both want the same outcome. You're working towards the same goals. You want your child to be a healthy, happy contributing member of society, you want them to be independent. You want them to be emotionally regulated, you want them to be kind. And that's not the question, right? It's just, we're both not seeing how to get there in the same way at all. And it ends up that you start to try to balance out what the others doing. If you sense that your partner is getting more and more on the firm and strict side, then it makes you feel like you have to be more and more on the gentle unkind side. And then your partner's reading that same situation and feeling like Oh no, my partner is getting more and more on this like to gentle and permissive side. I need to clamp down it's on me to make sure that they know to listen and respect. And so I'm going to have to get more and more strict and you just end up inching and inching farther and farther away from each other on this teeter totter.

And instead of becoming together as this shared front and balancing each other out and using the Yang and Yin the yang of your relationship, for good, it ends up creating the very polarizing relationship and situation to parent from and again, it is not come down to who you are as people, that you're truly doing anything wrong. There's no ill intent, right? Nothing is even personal to the other parent. It's just the ways that you're seeing things, the solution you feel like is necessary. And the way that you cope with the stress and the fears that are underlying the behavior on the surface. And I see this with almost every family that comes in with two parents parenting, where one parent is more kind, one parent is more strict, where, or I should say one parent is more kind, one parent is more firm in their tones or approaches. One parent typically comes in with more security and confidence and kind of, you know, persona, however you want to say it charisma, just vibe. And the other parent, it feels like they're lacking, they don't feel very confident, they feel very insecure in their decisions, they are constantly second guessing their, what their reactions and techniques are in the moment. And they become very overwhelmed and overthink a lot. And there's these two sides to the coin. I really feel like most relationships that come into parenting in a very solid place. Have, ying and yang have elements of their personalities that are diametrically opposed to each other. That can be huge strengths, huge benefits where one parent is naturally more playful, and the other isn't. And so they kind of can fill in that gap where one parent is really good at planning ahead, and the other one is really good at being more impulsive and spontaneous. And you're able to balance those things out where one parent is more, overstimulated, overwhelmed and the other parent can be more present and that bounces each other out. There are, I think, if we're speaking in generalities, a lot of ways that your relationship can really, really positively benefit the other person. But what ends up happening when you're really, really stressed and put to the brink, at your wit's end, with a stressful situation of parenting, a very volatile, high, high, low, low, big emotions, nothing traditionally seems to work with this child's situation is then you find yourself with your back against the wall and you lash out to the other person you see them as the instigator, the one that's making it worse, the one that is undermining you and sabotaging what you're trying to do, rather than feeling like they have your back. And you're facing the situation together as united front. But that's possible. And that's the shift that I see with a lot of the families that come into my program is three months later, they are in a completely different place in the relationship not only with their strong willed child, but with each other. And there's a few key things that make that possible. The first thing is being able to address those unspoken unaddressed fears. Because if at the end of the day, you are learning, the parenting tools, the scripts, the ways of communicating that do work with your child, and are quote unquote, the right thing to be doing. But one partner is still skeptical. One partner still has unaddressed fears or concerns that aren't asked and answered that aren't discussed on a deeper level. When push comes to shove, they are going to abandon those new techniques at the first drop of a hat when they feel like they don't see them working. Because of those fears. It just confirms that deepest fear that's in them. And you keep finding yourself back at square one. You have to be able to do that deeper work of both on earthing maybe kind of you know the roots of some of your triggers and come to terms with a shared vision for not only what are we trying to do, what are our roles here? What do we hope for what's the long term strategy here? And what's the short term strategy of how are we both here to support our child and what do we feel like they need most in this season? And to get there. And the only way that you can do that, and really both feel good about it is to bring up well, what about this, I'm afraid that if we react in this way, this is who they'll become, or this is what it will look like in 10 years. And sometimes you can't even bring that up with each other without the right kind of prompting, and environment. But you also don't have the answers that your partner is looking for. They need to be able to hear it from someone else. We hate that it's true. But for alcoholics, they typically will not change their life based on a non alcoholics opinion of what they need to do. They have to hear it from someone who they know has been there. And that conversation makes all the difference. So you do need to find people to talk to, that your partner feels is a very credible expert or resource that is truly able to get to and speak to and calm and heal those unaddressed fears, so that you can both be all in on these new techniques, and tips and strategies and scripts. So that's one really, really important piece of it. The other huge piece, and I urge you, I urge you to listen to this, because I'm assuming nine out of 10 listeners of this podcast are women, right? Moms, understandably, so it's called failing motherhood. However, when you try to learn how to parent in ways that you were never taught, that haven't been modeled for you, and you're trying to unlearn all the conditioning of how your brain was wired, and how you have learned to cope with your emotions, and all the ways that you have learned to survive, and learn all of these new ways of being and coping, and talking and communicating and being and try to teach them to your child in real time, while also trying to teach it to another grown up. It's impossible. Okay, I'm just going to blow that idea up in your mind right now, it's not feasible to do with a strong-willed child in your home. Unless the you have found a time machine, you can stop time and you can do all this work and then hit play again, or you have big opportunities in your schedule to hit pause and zoom out together and, and do some of this work without having to build the car while it's halfway down the interstate already. Okay, you are inevitably going to feel like you're throwing spaghetti at the wall and you're throwing spaghetti at your partner. And it's not a successful way to learn something that means this much to you that is that important to you that is truly so influential. We're not talking about learning, leveling up your baking skills, we're not talking about getting better at a video game and things that you can slip into your day to day in the cracks of your free time. This is molding and shaping your child's subconscious programming, that they'll run on the rest of their life that determines what they have, what their brain feels is familiar and what they will look to recreate with their future family. That's the level of importance we're talking about here and you're trying to slip it into the cracks and slivers of your overlap time. When you barely have time to communicate about the business of life and who's picking up the kids tomorrow.

It's never going to do this justice. And I know that it is the reality for a lot of seasons. But consider at least one season, a quarter of one year of the 18 years that you invest in this child and take an approach that is worthy of the importance in being able to sit down and truly give it the time and energy it needs to get there to get there because you cannot take like a college level course. That's in three months that has weekly content and classes. and turn around and teach that to someone else in real time, to the extent that you could both pass the final exam. That is a tremendous amount of pressure to put on someone who is already on fumes with their capacity, and day to day. Please stop, sign yourself up for this, please realize that that's what you're doing. And truly, honestly, bring this to your partner and say, I can't do this anymore. I need us to be able to hear the same thing at the same time from someone else that is not me. So that you can get the answers you're looking for, you can be able to learn from other dads or other parents that have your same personality that kind of see these things in your same way that are wired, in the same way that we butt heads with our kid. And finally, break this vicious cycle, we're in every single day. It's okay to wave your white flag and say I have done the most so far. And I don't see that we're on a sustainable path, I don't see that what we're doing is working in, it's going to get better without some type of intensive commitment or investment to changing it. And that's just the reality. It's something that a book is not going to fix. Because unless you have a high investment in these new techniques, and they're able to answer your partner's questions, and you're able to individualize it for your child and get feedback in real time, it's not going to be the outcome you're looking for, it's not going to get you to the place you want to be, especially for your partner, they're not going to read that book, you keep putting on their nightstand, they're just not. And it's because not because they don't want to be a good parent, they absolutely want to be a good parent. They want to be exactly who your kid needs them to be. They are just forced like you are to respond to the most urgent pressing matters on a day to day basis. And learning new parenting tools is never going to feel like it's at the top of that list. Unless you force it to be unless you carve it out. And together, you decide that it's it's time. So I hope to paint that whole picture. So that number one you can know you were absent frickin lately not alone, if that is your Groundhog Day. And number two, there is a really, really, really proven environment and framework and methodology that addresses this issue at its root and nipped it in the bud for good. And I hope that you listen to last week's episode with Vanessa and James, another one of my clients, Jacqueline and Ryan earlier this summer, shared their testimony of kind of what it was like to work on that together. And just know that that's possible. And it's probably something that your partner is much more open to than you realize. So give each other the benefit of the doubt by having a conversation about it. If that's something that you really feel like is, is pressing, if it's not a pressing issue, if it's not a problem in your house, don't fix it. Don't worry about it. I'm so glad, right. But if it is, you know you're in the right place, and you found your people you have found the plan you're looking for you have found a person that gets it and I'm so glad you're here. So when you're ready to take action to transform your relationship, not only with your strong willed child but with your parenting partner, then download my free training, unapologetic and authentic how to parent a strong willed child without threats and bribes so you can finally break free of power struggles, guilt and self doubt. It's at parenting And if it speaks to you if it hits home and resonates and if you feel like I am stalking you, and I'm sitting writing down everything you say, then go ahead and apply and we'll chat one on one and we'll create some next steps and a plan free for your family to make better days inevitable. I'm so glad you're here. And truly if you are enjoying this podcast, I urge you to rate the podcasts with five stars and leave a review. That is what puts it up in the search results for more parents to know they are not alone if they feel like they are failing on a daily basis. See you next week.

Thank you so much for tuning in to 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!