Is it all True? How to Live in the Gray in the Black+White World of Parenting Advice with Ryan Allen, LPCC-S, LPC (@preschooltherapy)




Ryan Allen, LPCC-S, LPC, is a licensed therapist with a decade of expertise working with young children and their families.  A parent of two young kids, Ryan creates free resources for nearly 1 million parents and child caregivers on both TikTok and IG, providing guidance and support to shift away from traditional punitive approaches towards fostering environments of mutual respect.

I intentionally bring up several controversial topics to get his thoughts.

Is it true....

  • That therapists are perfect parents?
  • That your pediatrician’s advice is the golden rule?
  • That kids grow out of behaviors?
  • That you shouldn’t say “good job”?
  • That you have to read to your kids every night?
  • That all it takes to extinguish a behavior is playing your cards right?
  • Is there such a thing as a naughty or bad kid?
  • If your child knows better and does it anyway, isn’t that manipulation? Shouldn’t you take it personally?
  • Do we need to fix a behavior right away or else it will get worse?


  • Two questions to ask yourself to actually stop a negative behavior
  • The insight that completely shifted Ryan’s professional approach
  • An alternative approach to the red/green/yellow clip charts


  • What to do when behavior feels disrespectful

Beyond Behavior by Mona Delahooke

Dan Siegel books
Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn
No Bad Kids by Janet Lansbury

Tiktok: @preschooltherapy

Instagram: @preschooltherapist


Ryan Allen  0:00  
Your pediatrician is going to give you all of the best advice that they can. But if you don't agree with it, or it doesn't feel right, you're always allowed to get a second opinion. You're always allowed to go and talk with a therapist. A therapist is not going to be like, Oh, no, your doctor said this. No, we're always going to be willing to come up with our own perspective on it and I think one of the biggest things to tell parents is if you feel something's wrong, and it's not working for you, then you're right.

Danielle Bettmann  0:32  
Ever feel like you suck at this job? Motherhood, I mean. Have too much anxiety, not enough patience? Too much yelling, not enough play? There's no manual, no village, no guarantees. The stakes are high. We want so badly to get it right, 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, her 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 your buds, 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  1:46  
Hey, it's Danielle. You guys, I should be charging for this episode. It is that good. Welcome to our Failing Fatherhood series. Today's episode is with Ryan Allen. He is a Licensed Counselor and Therapist in Ohio and Georgia, currently residing in Atlanta with his wife and two sons. They are three years and three months. He has a decade of expertise working with young children and their families. He combines a ton of professional knowledge with insights from his own journey as a father to guide families to shift away from traditional punitive approaches, toward environments of mutual respect and learning and healthy relationships. He creates free resources for nearly 1 million parents and child caregivers on Tiktok and Instagram. I think super highly of him - he is so legit, and I really respect him as a peer. Right off the bat, in this episode, he shares how parenting has humbled him even as a professional, how the parenting dynamic between his wife and him has been challenging - as their expertise and perspective differs from each other. He as a therapist, and she as a pediatrician. He shares how he's made the move from being trained in behaviorism, to moving to a more attachment and connection, relationship based approach.  I completely geek out on this episode no lie, I intentionally bring up several controversial topics to get his thoughts, and I'm going to guess that we are going to challenge some of your deeply held beliefs on this one. So brace yourself, we essentially play a game of Is it true? Is it true that therapists are perfect parents? Is it true that pediatricians' advice is gold? Is it true that kids grow out of behaviors? Is it true that you shouldn't say good job? Is it true that you have to read to your kids every night? Is it true that all it takes to make a behavior go away is playing your cards right? Is there such a thing as a naughty or bad kid if your child knows better, and does it anyway? Isn't that manipulation? Shouldn't you take it personally? Do you need to fix the behavior right away or else it will get worse? All of these are questions that we dive into at length. I'm telling you -  SO much insight you're gonna take from this episode and you have to stay to the end, because we just keep rolling that ball of momentum and we get to the best topic, I think of all, which is his thoughts on the behavior that we interpret and feel is disrespectful. If that is a trigger for you. If you often feel disrespected in your house, his advice is going to change everything. So I can't wait. Here is my conversation with Ryan.

Danielle Bettmann  4:49  
Welcome to Failing Motherhood. My name is Danielle Bettmann and on today's episode, I am joined by Ryan Allen. Thanks for being here, Ryan. I have followed you for years and I'm thrilled to kind of get to meet you as in person as it gets these days. So thanks for taking the time. 

Ryan Allen  5:05  
Yeah, absolutely. I'm really excited to be here.

Danielle Bettmann  5:08  
This is great. I know that I already align with your work in so many ways, because every piece of content of yours that comes across my feeds, I'm always like, yes, repost, share, like, because it's just legit advice. I'm excited to be able to kind of bring you in front of my audience and get to kind of peek behind the scenes a little bit. So just go ahead and give a quick intro for those that aren't familiar with you. Who are you and who's in your family?

Ryan Allen  5:34  
Sure. So I am Ryan, I am a licensed counselor in Ohio and Georgia, where I mostly work with young kids, like two to five year olds are my specialty.  Then at home, I am a dad to two sons. I have a three year old and an almost three month old at this point, and then my wife.

Danielle Bettmann  5:57  
Perfect. Okay, and you are really big, as you know, big with quotations as it gets on Tiktok and Instagram. How long have you been on those platforms? 

Ryan Allen  6:08  
I started with, I think everybody who started on Tik Tok, was when the pandemic hit. So I started then and now I have been on it 4 years now.

Danielle Bettmann  6:20  
Yeah. We just had the four year anniversary.

Ryan Allen  6:22  
Oh, my goodness.

Danielle Bettmann  6:23  
Do we celebrate? I don't know.

Ryan Allen  6:27  
Yeah, tentative. Right?

Danielle Bettmann  6:29  
Right. No, it's been a blur. No, that's great, and so you said that you came into parenthood with a bit of a cheat code. Tell me more about that. What does that mean?

Ryan Allen  6:41  
Yeah, so before I became a parent, I had already been a therapist for I think, 10 years at that point, which just like being a therapist, you're required to do a lot of work, having to look at why your beliefs are the way they are, and you kind of have to do therapy in order to be a therapist effectively. So, I have had to do a lot of self work and I've just learned a lot of stuff. So, I just read all of the parenting books, and the research and all of that. I just came into it as a late parent, because I didn't become a parent until I was what 30 or 35. So I just like, had a lot of information coming into it.

Danielle Bettmann  7:24  
Mm hmm. So would you say every therapist is a perfect parent?

Ryan Allen  7:28  
Oh, absolutely no. No, far from it. I think the flavor of being a child therapist probably helped me a little bit. But nobody is exempt from messing up your kids in some way, therapists included, I also lose my temper sometimes. I also get frustrated. We just moved this weekend, and oh, boy, I can't say that with a three month old and a three year old that I was at my 100% best that entire weekend. So no.

Danielle Bettmann  8:02  
Okay, and I'm not saying that to call you out, but on Failing Motherhood we make an effort to really humanize our guests, because it can be so easy to put people on a pedestal and assume that they have it all together. You know, especially as a therapist, I'm sure that the impression of your followers is that you have a hack and an answer for every parenting situation under the sun. So, you know, 'Ryan is the perfect dad' is what the assumption would be, and what we like to know is that, yeah, perfection and parenting is not even attainable, let alone we all have struggles. So tell us a little bit more about kind of what your parenting journey has looked like, if there were any kind of, you know, things you had to overcome.

Ryan Allen  8:47  
One, I think I love that you're focusing on that, because social media has so many benefits to parenting, because of the fact you just have access to more information than we ever have, which is great. At the same time, social media is all about the best picture. So I'm really glad that you're focusing on the whole picture rather than just the best stuff. As far as my own kind of like hangups and struggles that I've had, I think I was raised more in like an authoritarian kind of style with also kind of like some of the heavy punishment - kind of like threatening kind of stuff, as well as my some of the guilt kind of strategies. So me going into college, I probably carried a lot of those beliefs with me. It took me getting into therapy school before I really started doing the work and then started to work with kids and families, and then I was able to really start kind of breaking these things down and that really just changed my entire perspective. Becoming a parent, again, I kind of came into it already knowing a lot of the stuff that I was already planning on doing. I knew that I was going to focus on attachment and connection and relationship. That was just my focus. So, I didn't put our three year old down for probably a year, I sat on a couch and I held him and I probably gained 20 pounds, although the pandemic was there too. 

Danielle Bettmann  10:14  
Minor detail. Yeah.E

Ryan Allen  10:15  
Exactly, right? That worked really well, I think now is probably when I'm having more of the struggles, and that's because we've now introduced a three month old. It's just changes to the game, having to be pulled in multiple directions, and having to kind of be even more aware of yourself and your frustration tolerance levels, and we're tired. So it's definitely more of a struggle.

Danielle Bettmann  10:41  
Yeah, parenting will humble you in ways that you did not anticipate, even if you're a professional, and I think, especially if you're a professional, in some ways, because I end up working with a lot of clients that are in medical professions, maybe they are counselors, and some other facet, or they're teachers in the education field, and, you know, somehow came naturally to work with other people's kids, and then all of a sudden, you have your own. It's like an entirely different dynamic and flavor. So have you experienced that dynamic now being on both sides?

Ryan Allen  11:21  
I have, I've worked with parents from all different backgrounds. My current practice is more like private practice mental health, no insurance. But I started in like community mental health. So I've kind of worked with the whole range of everybody. And that includes therapists and doctors, and everybody in between. So yes, and then also, my wife is a pediatrician, and then I'm a therapist. So we also get to look at our own different kind of viewpoints and perspectives and parenting in that has been its own kind of challenge.

Danielle Bettmann  11:54  
Oh, tell us more about that, because I feel like every parenting partnership and couple has ying and yang, and, you know, differing opinions and perspectives because of how they were raised, or just what that behavior means to them, how they're interpreting things. So everybody has to kind of reckon with that, as they begin parenting in real time. What does that look like for you guys?

Ryan Allen  12:17  
It has been messy, at many points, we'll say. So, we know pediatricians and doctors, they tend to have a very behavioral kind of teachings, they are very much focused on kind of rewards and punishments, and that's kind of a lot of the suggestions you'll get whenever you talk with them, which I mean has its own place, but also, I'm much more focused and kind of tend towards that attachment and relationship kind of style. So for example, when I said that I would hold our three year old now, you know, all the time, she would often try and be like, "No, we're gonna teach him how to sleep on his own, we got to start to focusing on that, like, we need to sleep train now." And I'm like, "you can't spoil a kid who's not six months old.You can hold them as much as you want." It became like, we would have many heated conversations, where I'm like, I'm holding the baby, I'm not putting him down. And it ended up, after many conversations, I think she ended up kind of looking into it and seeing okay, well, one, he's not going to change on this one. But two, I think she was able to see some of the other people talking about how, yes, you cannot spoil a six month old.

Danielle Bettmann  13:31  
Yeah, which it sounds like coming in with differing expertise, there's definitely pros and cons to the strength of what you're both contributing. I think in a lot of parents, there might be a default that takes over of like one parent becoming a little bit more of like the intake researcher, you know, expert-ish, where they're relaying the information. The other parent kind of takes in some of it, and is like, alright, if you say so, we'll do it your way. You know, where there's a little bit of more, give and take there and that had to be a challenge for you both coming in like, no, I know what I'm talking about.

Ryan Allen  14:11  
Yeah, I was trying to like, when it comes to medical stuff, you are the queen, I cannot argue with you whatsoever. I can have my little viewpoints, but you're always going to be able to be like, which one of us has the MD and then for me, it's like, well, this side is kind of my expertise. So we're still figuring it out. We've kind of like, gotten through the first kid. The second kid we're doing much better with, which has been great.

Danielle Bettmann  14:40  
It's like Guinea Pig Syndrome of the first kid. You don't know what you don't know yet until they're there, going through it and you're throwing spaghetti at a wall in real time. And then in hindsight, some things make more sense.

Ryan Allen  14:54  
Yeah. We we had all the big conversations before we had the kids. We talked about religion, and we talked about spanking, and we talked about all that stuff. But there's just so many of the little things, like how long you're going to hold the baby, that you just don't know until you're in it. Then you have to have those conversations you know, you're tired and an only partially functioning brain.

Danielle Bettmann  15:19  
Yeah, and we're all the world's best parents in our intentions before we are ever tested on it. So are there any misconceptions for parents that, you know, haven't done any type of therapy themselves or, you know, worked with a child therapist, psychiatrist, anything like that, and they only have a relationship with their pediatrician? How much education background does a pediatrician have about children's mental health, children's emotional needs, you know, attachment theory, that kind of stuff.

Ryan Allen  15:54  
They have a lot, I think that the practice is moving forward in a lot of ways.  More and more, pediatricians I think are starting to recognize the attachment and relationship stuff. I think it's understanding that there's a balance, and both can exist to a degree. I think that's really good, as far as what parents can do, and what they need to understand. One, is that your pediatrician is going to give you all of the best advice that they can. But if you don't agree with it, or it doesn't feel right, you're always allowed to get a second opinion, you're always allowed to go and talk with a therapist. A therapist is not going to be like, oh, no, your doctor said this, so you don't need to come in now. We're always going to be willing to come with our own perspective on it and I think one of the biggest things to tell parents is if you feel something's wrong, and it's not working for you, then you're right.

Danielle Bettmann  16:49  
Yes, that parent gut, if it feels wrong, it probably is. And a lot of parents, they have insecurity overall, right? So of course that then affects your parenting, it affects your ability to advocate for your child, that affects your permission that you feel or don't feel about going against what a certain expert in your world is recommending. And so a lot of what I've heard from parents, is that they'll go asking for advice, bringing a certain behavior to their pediatrician, and then they are either told to ignore it, you know, planned ignoring, or, you know, they're really just not, it's kind of brushed off like, oh, it's developmentally appropriate. It's a phase, you know, but then they're really struggling at home, and there's just a huge gap there. 

Ryan Allen  17:38  
Absolutely. The one I hear often is, they'll grow out of it, which can be true, but a lot of the research and what we're, as a profession have to really work on is if a parent feels that something isn't right, or is off, even if they're a first time parent, generally, they're right.

Danielle Bettmann  17:57  
Yeah and I don't know if you've seen this world, but I was a teacher, you know, preschool teacher, home visitor in elementary classes as well. I really feel like before I was a parent, there is a lot of dismissal of parents in the profession, you know, being on that side of things where it's very much like rolled eyes - parents don't know what they're talking about. Parents are rolling in late,  parents, you know, are not doing their job. Have you seen any of that? I don't know if that's in your world?

Ryan Allen  18:31  
Absolutely. I used to work in a preschool. That's kind of where I got my start in the careers I was working in. Like it was a mixed Headstart, preschool and it was probably my absolute favorite portion of my career, but I saw a lot of that. I ended up going through trainings on how to be a mental health consultant, because that entire profession is all about trying to bridge that gap and getting parents and teachers on the same page and working together. Because yeah, it's really easy to get into that adversarial kind of viewpoint, like, well, it's all their fault, and that's on both sides, the parent says, Well, the teacher is doing this, and they're doing it wrong, and then the teacher is like, no, they're doing this and the person who's caught in the middle of that is the kid who's just struggling and everybody's blaming. Right?

Danielle Bettmann  19:14  
Right. So to wrap up that topic, which I don't even know what I'm asking about exactly, but what do you feel like parents need to hear or be reminded of?

Ryan Allen  19:23  
I think, again, it's knowing that you generally you know, your kid best, and you are doing your absolute best. And the most important thing we can do is focus on what our kid is needing right now, and what we can do to help them and generally, that's going to mean that we have to have a conversation with the teachers or a pediatrician and we have to be that advocate for them. It's hard, especially when we have more than one kid or we're working 123 jobs. I understand that at the same time it it's just it's part of that gig.

Danielle Bettmann  19:59  
And we give you permission. Yes, I feel like there is just so many other misconceptions that parents might come in with just completely not knowing what recent research has said, or how things are different than when they were parented or just haven't really done a lot of work to reflect on how they were raised. And so kind of just whatever is the default coming out of their mouth is what was said to them. Then you get into this world of parenting on social media, and you can easily be extremely overwhelmed with the amount of advice and conflicting information and really feel like number one, you're doing it all wrong. Whatever you're doing, you're doing wrong, for sure. Number two, you don't know what side is up ,as in,  what is the most important, what's just a bonus? What's not even necessary? How can you kind of write that ship for parents? Is there any type of like, grounding we can offer? 

Ryan Allen  21:04  
Yeah, it's such a big thing. Yes, I think one, I'll give some suggestions, and then we'll kind of go from there. So I think one is finding just maybe one or two accounts that you really trust and that you like, and just focus on that. When we start getting into too many accounts, and we're hearing all this conflicting information, it has the effect of, one: that perfect parent effect, where we're like, well, everybody's doing it, right, except for me. Also, it just creates more tendency towards that conflicting information. You'll hear a lot of things in the parenting social media circle, like, you're not allowed to say, good job or stuff like that, right? I think you truly need to try and find somebody who is going to be able to kind of live in the gray world of all of that stuff, right? There's absolutely some, like hardline things that I think we need to kind of stand by, like not hitting our children is one that I will go to the grave on. But like the good job thing?  Yeah, there was a study that kind of looked at that,  and it said that overly using good job tends to get kids just to kind of stay where they are rather than growing, but that doesn't mean you're never allowed to say good job ever again in your life, right? So it's kind of taking that into perspective, and being able to understand that sometimes, many times, it's a news article or news station that has taken a research article, and then they have kind of blown it up. Then everybody has gotten into that and they're like, well, now you're not allowed to do this. Reading books to your kids, really important, but we've also kind of oversaid how important that really is, right? It's great to read books to your kids, and you should talk to your kid and we can do it. But like saying that I didn't read my book to my kid today, so now I'm a failure as a parent, like, we just put too much pressure on us. I think that's probably the key thing is knowing that things can be exaggerated, and that's why it's really important to be focusing on following people who are kind of like looking at the behind the scenes rather than just jumping onto the bandwagon. Then I would say that, as far as yourself and your own growth as a parent, it's focusing on the thing that you need to focus on right now. I'm gonna give an example that's not really parenting related, I'm like, obligated to say it, because I'm in it. So I do CrossFit now and a big part of CrossFit is being able to adapt the program to work for you, right? So if you go into it, and you're like, I'm going to keep up with everybody, then you are going to get hurt. That's why a lot of people end up getting hurt in that. The same thing is true for parenting. If I'm like I have to be the parent that is doing all this stuff that somebody on social media is doing, then I'm going to feel overwhelmed, and I'm going to feel like a failure. Then I'm just going to give up and I'm going to fall back into this other stuff. Instead, focus on where you're at right now and then just pick a couple things and just focus on that for a while and see how it goes, and build from there.

Danielle Bettmann  24:14  
Hmm, I love that analogy. Because yeah, we might not get injured trying to like pull the rope or flip the tire, but there is damage done. There's damage done to your mental health, your sanity, your confidence as a parent and that trickles down in your into your relationship with your child and 100% they feel that change in you. That can almost be worse than just doing what you know, and you know running with that because you're putting so much weight and so much pressure on yourself to do all the things and be better and not even truly having a vision or a marker for what that is. I love how you said that someone can live in the gray with you because I feel like that is 100% what I do with my small group of clients is we just live in the gray and we like reckon with it. We genuinely ask, well, what about this? And what about when, you know, what if this happens, and we'll, I don't know how to do this and do I have to do and you know, just all of the questions that come up, and that's nice, but don't they need to learn eventually? Just all those questions that come up, because it's not black and white. If it was we wouldn't have jobs. Frankly, it should be pretty clear cut and it's not. It's nuanced. Humans are complicated. I think that's the beauty of the world of like, going beyond punishments and rewards is like, it's so simplistic, that if we truly just had to play the right card at the right moment, it really wouldn't be that hard. That's just not what we're doing, that's not what's necessary.

Ryan Allen  26:03  
Right? Punishments or rewards are like the catch all. They're the prescription, you just do this, and then the thing is gone. But it never works that way. 

Danielle Bettmann  26:12  
No, it never works that way. I wish, you know, that'd be great. What types of comments do you see all the time from parents, or maybe questions, or just kind of overall patterns or themes you see?

Ryan Allen  26:28  
I think, generally when I do lives, or even comments on videos, it's always people asking about a very specific thing. I'll say like, every parent has their own specific thing that they're focusing on, and it's very valid, but I try to say that the way you address it is always the same. It's going to look different for each kid. You have to look at it the same way, which is, why is my kid doing this? Like, what are the underlying things that are happening? And what do I need to teach them in order to help them be able to not do that thing anymore? And that kind of logic there applies to whether the issue is hitting or biting, or they're not sleeping in their room, or they're having separation anxiety, I get the very specific, like, 'my five year old is having separation anxiety, because they I can't get them to get off of my leg when I go to school.' And everybody that asks a question is something very specific like that. It's not that specific situation, but very specific. But again, it's okay, well, why is your five year old having trouble? Is this new? Is it something that they've been doing for, you know, since they were three, or did they just start? Right? Are there things that we can do to support them now, as they're getting used to this, it's trying to figure out your specific kids needs and then meeting that.

Danielle Bettmann  27:45  
Mm hmm. That summarizes so much. But yet, that is not the default. That is not like, the first thought that every parent is going to have is, I wonder why this is working for them? You know, what are they getting out of this? Why is this not going away based on my how I react. And that is like the last thought I think, and that's the beauty of of working with someone that can be that step away to kind of be an unbiased party that just prompts these types of questions to get your mind down another route, other than the one that you were on, which is, only my child does this. This is personal to me, because they didn't do this for his dad, this must mean something about me as a parent, and I'm failing in some way, they must not like school, I mean, all of the other conclusions and assumptions you can jump to, that aren't gonna get you anywhere, frankly, probably just more on a tailspin. Yeah,

Ryan Allen  28:43  
Yea, what they're gonna do is they're going to give you that quick fix, like, I'm gonna have to just start punishing them like, Oh, if you don't go to school, if you don't go in that classroom, then you're not going to have your tablet for the rest of the day. Or I'm going to do the exact opposite of that and I'm gonna say, Okay, if you go in there, then I'll let you have the tablet when you get done.  Sure, that might get you kind of compliance, they might do it in the moment, but the problem is that it's short lived, it just ends up creating more problems, and it just doesn't solve the issue. When we focus on that punishment kind of mindset, it just doesn't solve the core issue.  It just kind of sits there and festers and then it turns into something else.  A lot of that comes from what we went through, I grew up in the age of behaviorism. Like I think the 80s and the 90s were like the golden age of behaviorism. You have all those people coming out and saying this, everything is just punishment and rewards, it doesn't matter what's going on underneath, and we kind of bought into it because it's really easy and it would be nice if that were true. It has just kind of carried with us to now and now we have more information and more people coming out and being like, no, look, relationships matter. There's all these underlying things that matter and if you address these, then you don't need to worry about punishments and rewards, which actually aren't as effective as what they were promoted as. 

Danielle Bettmann  30:11  
No, that's definitely what I learned in college. I remember coming up with like, an almost like an ABA type intervention for these hypothetical situations, almost like doling things out like it was some sort of little formula, then bing, bang, boom, the behavior is gone, and everybody's happy. And we all go home. 

Ryan Allen  30:31  
Yeah, absolutely, I did that with many parents. You know, I can think of six, seven years ago, even where I'm teaching parents to ignore tantrums or ignore the bad behavior, and then we'll reward it, and we're setting up behavior charts, and all that kind of stuff. Then you start to learn about, well, that's not working, or there's other ways that can get the same things to happen, that actually don't damage the relationship. They teach kids skills that are going to translate into other areas of their life.

Danielle Bettmann  31:10  
Here's the deal. If your child is sensitive and smart, yet loses it, is clingy or aggressive with you at home, they can go zero to 60, over the smallest things like when they just don't get their way, nothing changes their mind, and they can't seem to get over it. You know what you're doing isn't working, and siblings are starting to suffer. You could go to therapy yourself, and take your child to therapy and follow all the experts and ask your family and friends for advice. You can  take a course and set up a calm down corner and read all the parenting books and still feel defeated. It's time to learn the missing pieces of invaluable insight about their temperament that unlocks compassion in you and understanding of how to work with the way they're wired. It's time to communicate in new ways, like a hostage negotiator to get through to them, and cultivate cooperation with confidence. And it's time to eliminate the behaviors that are working to gain control and attention at the root. Rather than playing Whack a Mole. Calm and Confident the Masterclass is for you. There you will master the kind and firm approach your strong willed child needs without crushing their spirit or walking on eggshells. In this free training, I share the four critical Kind and Firm scripts that unlock cooperation in every situation, how to eliminate behaviors at the root and the path to solidifying the open and honest relationship that you want to have with your child down the road. So go to to access this exclusive On Demand training immediately. That's parenting That link will be in the show notes.

Danielle Bettmann  33:10  
I would love to get your thoughts on a couple things. One is the idea of a kid being bad or naughty? What are your thoughts?

Ryan Allen  33:18  
I don't think that any kid is really bad. I truly believe that all kids, they want to succeed, and they want to do well. They want to really please their parents. Some kids struggle with that more, and it's not because they are bad. It is because something is going on that makes it harder for them. You know, for example, if a kid has ADHD, their impulse control skills are just nil. They don't exist, and they're going to make a lot of decisions. And after the fact, they're going to be able to tell you like you say, why did you hit your brother? And they'll be like, I don't know. Are you supposed to hit your brother? No, they know they're not supposed to, but they did it anyway. So then we think, well, they're doing it on purpose, or they're a bad kid, but this is not the case. It's because they're lacking a skill that they need in order to not do that thing. It's our job to figure out what systems  we can put in place to help them make the better decision in order to meet their real goal which is pleasing and, and doing well and being happy. A lot of these say these kids end up saying things like I'm a bad kid later on in life because they get punished so much because they're making these decisions and they know they shouldn't make these decisions. Then they get punished for making the decision. Like, well, I know I shouldn't do it. So why am I doing it and I must be a bad kid, and that just really kind of destroys their self esteem.

Speaker 1  33:26  
Oh my gosh, yes. I could have a whole podcast episode on that. Just that vicious cycle alone. And I have like, there's an episode called Break the Cycle, and it's not like breaking the cycle generationally. It's like breaking that cycle of almost being a self fulfilling prophecy of reaffirming to your kid, who's afraid that they're a bad kid =that they are a bad kid based on our reactions. Then they're already really hard on themselves. They already beat themselves up and feel really bad because they know the rules, that's just not the intention. It's not malicious. It's not manipulation. It's not this like, orchestrated plan to get revenge, you know, from a three year old, right?

Ryan Allen  34:40  
Oh, it seems like two year olds, like some people think that 18 month or two year olds are doing this stuff intentionally. So for example, you'll see this video show up on Tik Tok every now and then. And it's a parent saying, Well, if your kid bites, you should bite them back. And it's like, it follows that same belief, well, they're biting, they know they shouldn't bite. So you bite them back to show them how it feels that way. They don't want to do it anymore. But it doesn't. It follows that same logic.

Danielle Bettmann  35:46  
So was there anything that shifted? Because you said, you know, even six, seven years ago, that was something you were recommending? Is there anything that kind of shifted for you? Or was compelling enough to really open your eyes? Or what was that like for you?

Ryan Allen  35:59  
Great question. So I think learning is kind of like this thing where you always kind of hold on to your old stuff, it's like jumping onto a boat, you kind of keep your foot on the dock. Then you've got to wait it out like one foot on the boat and one foot on the dock for a little bit. Then finally, you just kind of like take your foot off. And it was kind of like that, for parenting for me, and for even my practice and mental health. My initial training was in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, I worked in criminal justice programs, like people with halfway houses and whatnot, and it was all about behaviorism. And it was all about your thoughts cause your feelings, cause your actions. If we focus on the thoughts, and we focus on like rewarding when you make good choices, it changes everything you do. And you kind of buy into that Kool Aid because it makes sense, and it sounds really simplistic. And they have all these statistics that say, Hey, look, this stuff works. And you're like, okay, great. That's what we're gonna do. And then you start kind of doing the same thing with parenting ,like parent management, training, and ABA and rewards and punishments and all that kind of stuff. And again, it's not that those things don't have their place ever. It's that it's taught as this is the only true golden way. And because of that, you're just like, Okay, well, then we got to buy into that. For me, it was really starting to look and read people like Daniel Siegel, who every parent should read all of his and Tina Paine Bryson books, they are just fantastic. And it lets you see that there is another way and that there are other kinds of thought processes that go into this stuff. And then you can kind of see, like read books like Punished by Rewards, which talks about the double edged swordness of rewards and how it can become its own punishment, and how these things aren't as effective. So it's kind of like the snowball effect, or eventually, it just all kind of hit. And I was like, this isn't the way to do it. And then I started shifting and changing. And I started seeing good results with the parents I was working with too.

Danielle Bettmann  38:02  
Ya know, kind of a similar approach from my side of things, because I didn't really have a parenting philosophy going into parenting myself. I just knew brain science. I knew classroom management, you know, I knew some overarching principles. And I had about a two and a three year old when I started doing very simple kind of workshops, and one on one, you know, consultations with families and seeing what their questions were, what patterns arose of challenging behaviors and very much developing things like one off tools. But then eventually, I found the Instagram world of parenting experts and things because I was on Instagram as a personal attendee. And then that's when I realized, like, oh, this is so much bigger than even what I'm doing and got kind of immersed in it, I ended up reading Janet Lansbury's, No Bad Kids, is one of my first parenting books, which was a fantastic nod in the right direction. Because that was truly what I was seeing is I felt like in my own kids, I could give them the benefit of the doubt and see a lot more of like, the lack of manipulation and intention in their behavior, and really just being so clear that it was either they're hangry or overtired, or, you know, there is an explanation for their behavior that really wouldn't be changed at all with a punishment or reward in place. And that's what really kind of sent me in the right direction. I end up getting certified in Positive Discipline, which I love because its whole principle is like a misbehaving child is a discouraged child. You know, they feel not enough they feel like they don't belong. They feel like there's like a core thing missing especially in that parent child connection relationship. And that to me was like a lightning bolt when I found everything because it just kind of like connected it all with like a better label than I could even explain it. But it was very progressive. It was very slow. It was very just like taking one example one family, one kid at a time and taking notes and seeing what worked. And how to kind of explain things, which was completely different than from my teaching background. And which leads me to the next thing I wanted to pick your brain on the clip charts, the red, yellow, green. That's like a staple in every preschool.  I have to throw in some controversial things your way.

Ryan Allen  40:31  
Clip charts in the way that they're done in schools, generally, I don't agree with them. Because they are usually put up in front of the classroom. And every kid can see who's on red and who's on green, and who's on yellow. And then we get to see, so it's public shaming, whenever the kid has to put theirs down on whatever other color. The problem is that the kids who are going to do very well, they're going to always be on green, and you're not going to have any issues with them. So the chart does nothing for them. The kids who are always going to struggle are always going to be on yellow and red, because that's what learning looks like. And all it does is that self fulfilling prophecy that you talked about earlier, it creates that I'm the bad kid, I'm always on red. And the other kids are like, yeah, he's always on red. And they talk about it. And kids come into my therapy office, they're like, yeah, this kid is on red. They say this stuff and they know. And so it doesn't do anything to teach, it focuses, again on that, hoping that the shaming of it will make them change their behavior, which, as we've kind of talked about, doesn't address the core underlying problem, right? Kids with ADHD struggle with those, because they're put on red, and they can't necessarily control it. But also, they struggle with any kind of like negative feedback. It really hits them more intensely than what would be a normal neurotypical kid, right. So it ends up hitting them even harder. It really kind of even just further solidifies that I'm a bad kid belief. And then it creates the emotions, which then the teachers like, it was just a red clip, and it just causes more problems than it ever should have. If you're a teacher, and you're listening to this, if you're going to use charts, it needs to be between you and the child. Nobody else should know anything about it. And it needs to be on a very finite thing that you're going to be focusing on. That is how you make them work. But again, the main focus should be on why is the kid struggling? And what can we do to help them get better? 

Danielle Bettmann  42:31  
Yes. I so agree. I wasn't gonna be surprised by your answer. I knew that. But I mean, they are still so universal. There really just isn't a question against it.

Ryan Allen  42:43  
Yeah. And I mean, again, theoretically, I get where teachers are coming from and so many teachers. It's not like, we're using this stuff, because we just want to punish kids as they're grasping at straws.

Danielle Bettmann  42:56  
No, no, ill intent, right?

Ryan Allen  42:58  
Especially like many teachers, they're not taught a lot of this stuff. And they're like, this kid is acting out, and I gotta do something. So then they just, that's all well intentioned. And the same thing, when we were talking about pediatricians, it's all well intentioned, we're just trying to help parents who are struggling, and help a child who is struggling. And this is one tool that we can do that with, we just kind of rely on it. But again, it's just there's other things out there.

Danielle Bettmann  43:23  
Mmhmm. So that's, that's a great segue into alternatives. Because I don't want to, you know, spend the whole episode bashing everything that's wrong about them, rather than then not providing anything. Okay. So alternatives. What are some of the main either piece of advice or tools that are kind of the go to low hanging fruit that you provide most of your followers? 

Ryan Allen  43:47  
The key part of it is understanding that the majority of parenting is figuring out your own stuff. It's looking at you in these situations, we also talk, we talk a lot, and I think you kind of mentioned it, is that whole S stuff like are they hungry? Are they anxious and stressed? Are they lonely? Are they tired? Are they sick, and we often focus that on the child, but we need to be focusing on ourselves as well. If you start to become aware of where you're at emotionally, and you start doing the skills to manage that, you will be amazed at how that will change your relationship with your child and how your child will start using the exact same skills that you are. I'm a huge proponent that parenting really is what we do to take care of ourselves and how we're modeling all this stuff, rather than how am I getting my kid to do the right thing? 

Danielle Bettmann  44:40  
Yes, I say often that it's parenting because it's about the parent, child thing.

Ryan Allen  44:47  
Absolutely. In that kind of philosophy carries in so many ways. The same thing with those charts that focus on the red and yellow and green. That can be a really great strategy. If we focus on emotional, like where they are emotionally, Mona Delahooke and her book Beyond Behaviors talks about this a lot, where instead of using it as a way to say, Hey, are you in red? Or are you in yellow? Are you in blue? Instead of looking at it as the parent looking at the child and saying, Oh, are they in red? Or are they in yellow? Are they in blue? And now, because I know that they're in blue, I know what I need to do in order to support them through that?

Danielle Bettmann  45:25  
Yes, it's like being able to read them and then understand, okay, based on what I know, here's the approach that's going to be most effective for them. And this level of dysregulation are in this headspace. And, yes, we are the experts of our kids, but we can be even more experts of them, when we figure out some of just that indicators of kind of what does that look like when my kids eyes glaze over, and it feels like they're possessed, and it feels like they become like the Hulk version of themselves. That's interesting anecdotal evidence to take into account, right? And I do that a lot with my clients where I'm like, okay, let's put the picture together. And when you recognize you first need to actually just like, genuinely recognize and almost say out loud, okay, I am dealing with my child in this state. And sometimes I call it like, their alter ego, you can almost like name, the alter ego, a version of their name, that's like a nickname to be like, Oh, I'm not dealing with, you know, Sammy, I'm dealing with like Sam or Rita, because this is, you know, next level, but it's to help you context switch between your expectations, and checking in with yourself, because it's like an undertow, and the strength of their dysregulation can somehow like come for you, if you're not grounded enough in being able to check in with your own needs at the same time. Do you agree? Like, what else? What are your like, terminology for some, some of those moments?

Ryan Allen  46:55  
100%? I mean, you said it perfectly.  So much of it is not what do we need to do to our kid in the moment, it's how we're responding to it. It's all about us as the parent and what we're trying to manage in that situation, our kids are going to do things that frustrate us, that's just normal. It's what we're doing with that frustration, and how we are modeling our kids to take care of it when we react. And that's when we make those decisions that we end up usually regretting. Like usually, even parents who spank, usually they do it, and then they're like, I really don't want to do that. And they feel bad about it afterward. And it's because we're reacting, when we are able to kind of stop and realize that there's very few things in parenting with our kids that require an immediate reaction. It can really help us to slow things down, and be able to manage things better. You know, I think, when we were managing our first born, every time that we had a night where he wouldn't sleep, once we are actually like, consistently sleeping, I would get on Google, and I'd be like, not sleeping. And there was always like, well, this is the seventh month sleep regression, oh, no, this is the eighth month sleep regression. Okay, so every month is just a sleep regression. Every single one, but my wife and I, we would look at each other, we'd be like, what are we going to do? He's never going to sleep again. What do we need to do to fix this? And when I'm like, we don't necessarily need to do anything. We just need to let this happen. And we need to be there for it and just kind of like live in it. And it doesn't have to become a thing until it's actually a thing. 

Danielle Bettmann  48:34  
But that's so uncomfortable. It feels much more empowering to feel like you're doing something about it, and you're fixing it right away so that you can move on and it it's painful. Right?  And that's where a lot of that coping mechanism and parenting comes from is just trying to like, get yourself out of a jam that feels over encompassing and never ending and yeah, you don't want to sit in a meltdown for two hours. Nobody does.

Ryan Allen  49:01  
No, and you said it great. I love it's the uncomfortable. It's getting comfortable in that uncomfortable. There's that old saying and therapy to try and remember it is what is it? Our job is to comfort the disrupted and disrupt the comfortable. But parenting is all about being uncomfortable and being okay with that uncomfortable and allowing your kids to kind of exist and be. You know, my own son, he will kind of throw it at me sometimes. I've had moments where he's like, been crying for 10-20 minutes, and I'm like, Dude, come on now. And he's like, he'll stop and, like, stop crying. And I'll be like, okay good.  Then he'll be like, Daddy, I just I just want to cry. I'm like, okay, man, you cry. He just knows what he needs to do. And in that moment I'm like, that was me being uncomfortable and frustrated and annoyed and wanting him to stop crying, and there was nothing wrong with him crying, like he's allowed to cry.

Danielle Bettmann  50:05  
Yeah, it's like, zooming out and looking at the whole premise. Because you alluded to that carryover premise from the behaviorism, which is that like, the moment, right after a behavior occurs is like the most influential moment, that's when, all of this window of opportunity is and you have this golden window to respond either pairing negative with negative or positive with positive and you have to do it right then. And so we kind of have this like, almost subconscious pressure to respond or react immediately. And truly, if you gotta, like, just zoom out and realize that that whole premise is really broken. That's just not true.

Ryan Allen  50:46  
Yeah, there's so few things that we just have to like react to. And many times it's just kids being kids and exploring the world, right? Like, yes. Is your kid going to try and blow bubbles with their milk with the straw? Yeah. Do we need to intervene with that? No, it's okay. They're allowed to make a little bit mess. Yeah. But my instinct as a parent, or as an adult is like, that's gonna be a mess. And I'm gonna have to clean it up. And it's not just listening. That's not how we drink milk. Right? So we didn't make them stand out. But no, it's okay. They're exploring their world. And it's fine. So many things have been like, that was probably my biggest learning moment. And parenting is so many times where I will set a limit. And then he'll be like, but please, or I want to do this or whatever. I stop, and I'm like, okay, why am I really setting this limit? What reason behind it? And so many times it's like, there's really no reason to hold this boundary. None at all. It's just me wanting to get my own stuff in it. And he's fine.

Danielle Bettmann  51:45  
Yeah. So it's okay to change your mind sometimes. Yeah, you have permission to do that too as a parent. Well, I'm having so much fun, like, nerding out on some of this stuff with you. I have one more question and then we'll kind of wrap up. And I want to be able to put some of those book links in the show notes. And I just feel like there's so many great resources we've already thrown out there. My question is, especially if we are getting any dad listeners, one of the biggest triggers that I see as kind of a pattern is interpreting behavior as disrespectful. Do you have any thought on maybe why that can be one of the go to thoughts and what it might be instead? 

Ryan Allen  52:28  
Yeah, I think we've kind of already talked a little bit about it. It is the same reason that we think kids are bad kids. We interpret what they're doing. We take it personal, I think, many men have been raised in this kind of like, alpha mindset world. And because of that, we think that respect is kind of like everything, and anything that kind of like chinks in that armor, we are like, they're disrespecting me and I have to react right now in order to make sure that they know that I'm the dominant male. And if I don't, then I'm the pushover and I can't be the man. All these underlying like, men, just things that get like pushed onto us just start to take over. All that is, is our own survival instinct brain, kind of taking over trying to protect us. But if we really kind of sit there and think about it and look through it, you realize that it's not personal. It's just your kid being a kid, and you can show them how to manage that frustration in a way that will help them better solve and engage with people in the future. So yes, you can feel disrespected, and you can yell, and you can try to put them in their place. But you could also take that and be like, wow, I am feeling really disrespected right now. And then set a healthy boundary with it. I'm not gonna allow you to hit me. You can't hit me. It's not okay. Right? We can set healthy boundaries, and we can teach kids at the same time.

Danielle Bettmann  54:09  
Yeah, it's not one end of the pendulum only. Right? Like, either I just exert all this dominance, or I let them walk all over me. And we have no rules.

Ryan Allen  54:19  
Yeah and so many, I think, and I've seen this, I had a live couple weeks ago, where a dad was worried that their child was sensitive. And they wanted to, like, how can I make them less sensitive? What do I need, because I'm worried they're going to be just sensitive in the world and the world is not a safe place and I need to make them hard. That's the mindset that so many men have been brought up in this, you're not allowed to cry, you have to be tough and all that kind of stuff. But truly, there are going to be like men as well as women. There's a whole spectrum of their personality and their being and some are going to be more sensitive and some are less so and neither one of those is right or wrong as allowing them to be who they are and in that same breath, you don't teach people to be hard by being hard to them. I was reading, I can't remember the book I'm reading but they gave this great analogy. It's like, if you're teaching your kid how to play soccer, like when they're three years old, you get them out on the soccer field, and you're like walking around on the soccer field with them. And you're like, showing them where to go. And you're helping kind of like guide them to and fro. And then the next year, you're like, maybe you can take a step back. And then the same thing happens. And then by the time they're in high school, or well before that, I would imagine, they're out there on their own. And you're just kind of sitting back and watching and our emotions and being able to deal with difficult situations is the exact same, right?

Danielle Bettmann  55:45  
There's a progression of skill building, where they'll be able to kind of scaffold their way up, and we have to start small. Start supportive. Start, like, where their level is, and then build from there. And yeah, that's universal with so many things, whether that's emotional skills, physical skills, potty training, I mean, the whole gamut. So the way that you teach them to ride a bike, is the way that you kind of teach them to deal with maybe, you know, negative feedback from a friend or, you know, things like that, where exactly, they just don't know what they don't know. And they really need someone who they feel like is able to hear them out and be on their team. And when you can provide that, that's the foundation for so much more skills. 

Ryan Allen  56:34  
Yeah, exactly. And I think, again, it's focusing on that men and that dad kind of mentality, it's understanding that, that there's no one type of quote unquote, man out there, and every man is valid in who they are in that moment. And I think many of these men were probably made to feel less than because they did show some emotion. And now that is them reacting to that. So they see their own kid being sensitive or showing some emotions, and they're like, I'm not allowed to do that. And then they react, right? And then after you react, you start to kind of justify it in your brain, you're like, well, I'm trying to do it because of this. So you start to create that own kind of, again, self fulfilling prophecy, but truly, stop and take a minute, and really look at where that is coming from take, like, that honest viewpoint of it. And I think you'll see that it's not really, that you necessarily believe it, or agree with it, but you can see that it's coming from maybe your own childhood or your own, like the people you're hanging out with, or even society's views of what men are supposed to be.

Danielle Bettmann  57:46  
Mm hmm. You're gonna challenge that a little bit. It's like hitting it in one spot, and then all of a sudden, it starts to shatter. Okay, maybe not. This is this has been so much fun. Remind listeners how they can connect with you after listening to this episode?

Ryan Allen  58:01  
Absolutely. So as long as Tik Tok is still around, I'm there. So that is @preschooltherapy. And then my Instagram is @preschooltherapist, and I have a website, the same

Danielle Bettmann  58:17  
Okay, that'll be all linked in the show notes. So they can click from there. And then the last question I ask every guest that I have on is how are you the parent your kids need?

Ryan Allen  58:26  
You told me you were gonna ask this question at the beginning. And I'm like, I've been like thinking about it. I think every parent is the parent that their kid needs them to be it truly, and I didn't get to say this and I wanted to, but a lot of is just being a good enough parent, it's being you know, 30% is what you're really aiming for. You don't want to aim for 100%, it's 30%. And I feel like that's where I am. I might get what we've met all the basic needs, so fed, watered, clothed, all that kind of stuff. Emotionally, I am supportive of him. And I am trying to break down some of those toxic masculinity things and help him be able to kind of continue that cycle breaking mentality, or raising them differently.

Danielle Bettmann  59:16  
Yep, exactly what he needs. And they're both lucky to have you. Thank you. We're lucky to have you here. Thank you for so much insight and wisdom and just getting into these things with me. We so appreciate your first person perspective and just being so relatable and honest. Really, really appreciate it. Thank you for your time today.

Ryan Allen  59:39  
Absolutely. It was so fun. I can't believe an hour went by just like that. 

Danielle Bettmann  59:42  
Right? It was so fast. Alright, we'll talk soon.

Danielle Bettmann  59:51  
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. I would 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.



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!