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Strong-Willed? Spirited? Spicy? Highly Sensitive? Deeply Feeling? OH MY!


Unfortunately, your child did not come home stamped from the hospital with the care instructions they need based on their particular temperament.

"Throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks"  likely feels more accurate!

If you've been struggling with your child and traditional discipline approaches just aren't landing... you feel like there's something different about them than their siblings or friends, but it feels like you're nearly the only one who sees it... today's episode is going to finally make all of that make sense!


  • The 10 most common characteristics of tiny humans with this temperament
  • How to make sense of the different terms out there
  • Why it feels like you need Dramamine to ride the emotional rollercoasters!


  • Why I chose "strong-willed" to identify the families I work with

IG: @parent_wholeheartedly

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


Danielle Bettmann  
Hey, it's Danielle. I cannot wait to dive into this topic because I cannot believe I haven't yet. I've been getting questions on Instagram or over consultations and DMS of family saying what is the difference? and how do I know? and how do I help my partner understand this? Do you have an episode on this? And I was like, I don't and I need one. So here it is. And while we're here, as an intro, right now, when I'm sharing this, it is mid or intro to back to school in 2023. So if that's you, and you're listening to this in real time, I do want to remind you I have an episode from two years ago. It's called back to school in 2021. That episode will help you get on your game base for the next season, helping your kiddos transition in real time. 

So here we are. It is August. That's insane. I'm so excited for Wholeheartedly CALM. I have been meeting with the coolest parents there is an epidemic of PhDs in Wholeheartedly CALM right now. Some really really cool parents and I am just over the moon to work with them. We are having the coolest conversations digging so deep. So vulnerable. So cool to see them supporting each other. I just have the coolest job in the world. I just have to tell you that. And if you are new to me, I am not good at doing like intros to who I am every episode I just assume you've all been with me since the very beginning but that's not true according to the statistics. 

So as a reminder, I am a parenting coach for parents of strong-willed kids aged one to 10 and I work with them primarily through a group coaching program that is three months long. It's called Wholeheartedly CALM and it is where defeated parents find validation support and proven techniques to parent their strong-willed kids with composure, connection, confidence and cooperation. Where we have no guilt, no shame, no judgment, just growth. And it is for families who have done it all tried all the things literally everything. every course, every book, there'll be all the things and they still need more and I help them completely transform their relationship with their child and the culture in their home so that three months later, they are in a completely different place. Parenting feels much more peaceful and at ease. They have playful mornings and peaceful bedtimes. They can get through care routines without things bothering them. They just unlock a whole new level of cooperation with their strong-willed child by changing the way they communicate. And they're able to feel like they break free of feeling hostage in their own homes. They go typically from two to three meltdowns, tantrums, outbursts, moments of defiance that feel like they get to that point of past the point of no return. Or they themselves are past the point of no return. And that goes from three times a day to two times a week. It's never going to be perfect, but we love 90% less. And that less is because we're eliminating the need for those behaviors at the deepest root of them, of what they're communicating and why they're they're putting in preventative measures that get ahead of things and defuse things before they ever start.

Because with a coach who knows your family and a small group that just gets it, you can find the peace and joy even missing out on for far too long, and improve your patience and their behavior without intensive intervention and make better days inevitable when you commit and invest at such a high level. So that is what I do. It's the coolest thing ever and we've been having just amazing breakthroughs and wins and I just can't believe I get to work with parents from all over. It's the coolest. Anyway, I am here today to really help you wrap your mind around whether or not your child is strong-willed, And if so, what does that mean? How do you work with the way that they're wired because they're not going to change their personality and their temperament. But how does that understanding just change the game and crack the code of how you move forward with entirely new sanity and strategies and solutions?

So what are these terms that you could have seen or heard from other parents or social media? Highly Sensitive deeply feeling? spirited? strong-willed Spicy. What do they mean? Are they interchangeable? Are they not? What does it all mean? I had a parent asked me recently and I was like, oh the ask this is so fun to talk about because, of course every kid is different, right? We want to put that caveat out there. Nobody fits perfectly in a box we're never meant to. And the more that we do these like personality quizzes and find people that think and verbalize things in a way that we haven't been able to before. It feels like we're able to get to know ourselves in a whole new level. And just make things make sense so that we don't have to overthink them or second guess them or panic about them over and over and over again anymore. It's just like, oh, yeah, that's me. Right? And you can get to know your child on that same level to where things that were just baffling before are like, oh, yeah, knowing what I know about you. Now that makes complete sense. So, what I want to caveat right off the bat is that yes, every child is different. There are characteristics that present differently based on if the child is introverted or extroverted. Their sibling order is a very real thing. That definitely makes an impact. How a parent was parented and whether they are strong-willed themselves, that can bring out right some genetic predisposition predispositions or exacerbate traits that were already there. And there could be things that work together and overlap a lot where there are traits that are very similar where a child with ADHD can have a lot of the same traits as a child that strong-willed Does that mean that every child that strong-willed has ADHD? No. does is every child with ADHD strong-willed No, but is there a lot of overlap were the things that work for both of them? Overlap. Can they can be parented in very similar ways? Yeah. But how do you know that? Depends on the child, right? 

But we know a few characteristics that are interchangeable when it comes to each of those terms. And, again, those terms come up because they're defined by the life experience of that particular content creator or coach or, you know, kind of thought leader in that space. And they've chosen that name for a reason. But I ended up choosing the term strong-willed because that's what parents were using with me when they would describe their child I really hadn't even come across that term until I was coaching for at least several months to almost a year. And then I started to notice this trend and then I started to notice that yeah, that was what I didn't really have a term for for my second daughter and to me, it's a very positive term. Strong-willed means you have a very strong sense of self and you are very passionate and driven and persistent. And that is a skill set that last you a lifetime. It is a huge benefit and it is extremely strength based. So when I picked that term, that's what it meant to me in what I see with my own daughter and a lot of the kids that have my clients that I work with. And there are a lot of challenges that come up when you're experiencing parenting a kiddo like this, because the traditional approaches don't resonate with them. And you need an a different approach entirely and no one taught you that they did not come with a hello my name is and I am strong-willed label at the hospital, so you end up exacerbating with stress and change and kind of trying to put them in the wrong box, a square peg in a round hole. A lot of other attributes that come up that just puts you on edge or makes you feel like you don't know what you're doing as a parent and then it creates this vicious cycle and feeds this ugly narrative and perception that a child the child works from and then you find yourself in dug in and really deep hole. So let me just back up again and say all those terms that I mentioned to me, they are speaking to the same group of characteristics of a temperament and a personality that I will describe to you in a second. That again, every child is different. It can mean something a little bit different to each practitioner, but I want to help you understand that broad generalization to help you feel confident that you are making your child make sense to you in a way that allows you to find the approaches that really work for the dynamic that is already super strong in your home.

So what are a few of those characteristics that you can check off in your Buzzfeed quiz for about your child? Number one, the biggest indicator is the emotions, the range of emotions, the big, big, big emotions, the high highs and the low lows. There is no in between there is no chill. With a strong willed child. At least in the first six years. I will say they do chill out, especially when you know how to set them up for success. The environment is there and your relationship is rock solid. But until then, they are on a pendulum and swinging between really really excited and happy and fun to be around and playful and goofy and helpful to an absolute Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario they become almost like an it's their Alter Ego. Their eyes look different. They are not themselves. They are just raging. And you have no idea where this came from, or you've never taught them some of the things that they say or do in those moments of just frustration, disappointment, anger. All of their emotions feel very big. Disappointment feels extra big. Happiness feels extra big, shame and vulnerability feel very big to them and it feels like the emotion is so big, that it's scary. And that's why they end up lashing out or acting out or trying to communicate in some other way. So big emotions, deeply feeling, sensitive, that type of thing. They do love big as well. So they love big they have a huge sweet big heart. And you get these good moments with them at the same time or within 30 seconds of these lows. And so you end up having emotional whiplash or riding on an emotional roller coaster alongside them. And you get hung over and throw up at the end. But that part of them is there and you get to nurture it and you get to see those moments and you just want more and more of those big heartfelt moments with them. So that's number two. They love big. Number three, they are smart. They are academically smart, but they're also incredibly intuitive. Where they can read between the lines, they come to really smart conclusions. They're very sensitive to their surroundings where they pick up on things that other kids might not. And that leads them to be able to know kind of what feels like manipulation to you, but really is just them continuing to make sense of their environment and their interactions with their authority figures and kind of figuring out how do I get my needs met? Oh, yep. Okay, I can draw the dots, connect the dots between here and this is what I need to do. It makes sense to me it is justified and then they move on. So you really can't pull wool over their eyes. You cannot you know dismiss things or not be honest because they they will absolutely no they will read you like a book and they feed off of the vibe of knowing how others are feeling and you know, they'll they really want to talk about the elephant in the room because they know it's their system number three. 

Number four. They are a lot. They are a lot because their just their personalities, a lot. The temperaments a lot. Their thoughts are about their emotions or a lot. It just leads to feeling very exhausted as their parent in the early years, because you're just trying to keep them on the tracks and stop the train before it's already way down the line off the tracks and it feels like you're always a step behind them. You never know what's gonna set them off next, and to either overcompensate or try to get ahead of it. It's a mental load that is 10 times already on top of what you're already dealing with. So it's just feels like a lot, especially when you're ill equipped right? 

Another super classic textbook trait of strong-willed kids is that they do while at school or for other authority figures. And that is aggravating because then it feels like they know the rules and they can't keep it together. They just choose to let it all out when they get in the car. And you take that personally because then they challenge you but supposed to be a compliment, right? That they feel safe to be their full selves with you and you're like, No, that's a punch in the face. But typically, if they have something else going on that you want to maybe look into more of an evaluation or they've experienced a capital T trauma that you want to bring them to therapy for or pursue medication. It will translate to environments at least that and so you know if what you're experiencing the challenges experiencing are primarily only in one environment like home and when you bring up concerns to a teacher, they look at you crazy, like that's not the kid that I know what are you talking about and it makes you feel a little bit like what am I the only one that sees this? You know, they can can come up with maybe extended families they feel really comfortable and have lots of hours in with them. But primarily that it's it's at home and it's with you. That's when you know you're dealing with the strong-willed child. There is constant negotiations on absolutely everything. It feels like you can't just tell them to do something and they say okay, feels like everything is pulling teeth, and they just push back no matter how simple the request is. And the way that you're communicating with them just feels like it invites a discussion and defiance almost and you're like why? Why can't you just do what I asked one time. Another aspect is that life feels like it's on their terms. They have their idea and it's their way or the highway. And if it doesn't go their way then they fall apart and they cannot deal with reality. And so that's what leads you to feel like you're you know how has held hostage to their demands? Just no fun for anyone that definitely affects siblings.

Few more characteristics here. strong-willed kids, right, they have that strong sense of self. They know exactly what they want, which is great, unless it's the opposite of what we want. And you need to be able to navigate that really, really strategically. Like you are a hostage negotiator and you're trying to free the hostages. That's the level of expert communication you need in these moments because they are not going to be swayed with any bribe or threat user out there that might incite an emotional response but is not going to actually change their mind or make next time go any differently. They have unspoken unmet expectations that you never agreed upon. They were never verbalized, and you had no idea that was even what they were thinking until it all comes crashing down. And they're met with reality. It wasn't the way that they thought it was gonna go. And now you are picking up the pieces dealing with the ensuing meltdown. And again, there is really powerful ways to get ahead of that and prevent that, that are game changers. But when you are always in that reactive mode rather than the preventative mode, you're gonna be dealing with this all the time. There personality traits that we've already just defined. They become much more exacerbated by changes like a new sibling, new home, new school, in and going on with parents stress, you know, sickness, being overtired, being over hungry. Any of those things are then going to just make it 10 times more obvious and harder and a challenge and a struggle to feel like you can manage the day to day and get through it and survive. They feel so strongly that even though they are super smart, and super expressive, they're usually strong communication skills often get reduced to sounds or aggression, or outbursts when they cannot articulate what's wrong or their anger or identify their emotions in a way that feels emotionally intelligent. So you have a kiddo that is grunting at you that is roaring at you that is whining and making like repeating the same word over and over and over is a marriage thing. These like moaning sounds when you know that they can verbalize you. They've done it before they can do it again. Why are we resorting back to like cavemen words? Or like, you know, super toddler regression in moments of big emotions? That is super, super common. And I always joke with my clients like what's your child's flavor of this? And they'll know exactly what I'm talking about. So if you know you know strong-willed Kids often feel very misunderstood. And they get very stuck in a gear and it feels like there's nothing you can do to snap them out of it or help them get over it or move on. They're just one track mind they have their blinders on. And no logic and reasoning is getting through. It's just over their head and you're talking a different language. It's like you're the peanuts teacher (wa wa wa wa) and none of it is changing their mind. But they get very stuck in a gear and then they don't feel like you're listening to them. So then they start to feel very misunderstood. That, you know, they jumped to conclusions like you know, you don't really love them or you don't love them as much as their sibling or the only way you give them attention is when they act out or the narrative is that they're you know, the the dynamic is perpetuated every time they feel like they have to act out. Then it reiterates the narrative that they're a bad kid, and then they feel like a bad kid when they act out again and then it just feeds this perception that feels unfair, that feels like their behavior then is justified. And it's like a self-fulfilling prophecy that you can't get ahead of or change and if you don't, if you could be the best parent in the world. It won't get to that deeper level of perception.

And lastly, like all kids, strong-willed Kids are very in tune with these buckets of power and control and attention and approval. And that's really the only thing that impacts their perception or their state of mind or their behavior is what is working for me what behavior works for me to get these buckets filled. I'd rather have negative attention than no attention. I would rather it be a power struggle, then feel disempowered or feel like I don't have any control over my life. And that ends up driving the ship way more than anything you're trying to do intentionally. And you don't even know that you're being self sabotage by by this whole cycle. So a big piece of understanding how your strong-willed child ticks is understanding what is working for them behavior wise, to meet these needs and kind of be that motivation and then changing that script by instituting much more mutually beneficial positive ways to get those needs met so that it diffuses and eliminates the need for the behaviors that are working to get them met. And then you can both move forward with healthy narratives of how we see the world and knowing that you both feel mutually respected, mutually understood and heard and have powerful communication tools to move forward and for the rest of their life.

So by now you are either nodding your head along with me or are a little bit confused, like what is this whole thing? Either way, you know in your parent gut if you know this is really resonating and it is describing as your everyday life right now. And if it is, you are not alone, you're in the right place. The second half of your parenting life begins when you realize your child is strong-willed it makes sense that traditional tools do not work with them everything you've been trying before. You have to unlearn and then learn a new approach. So that can be defeating, but it's also super empowering to know that there is hope. There are strategies out there you can be cautiously optimistic that you are at the beginning of a new beginning for your relationship. With your child and unlock new potential for the trajectory of your future being on a different path entirely. And that is no small feat. I want you to just like soak that in and help your partner understand it and be able to just come to this new realization of okay. What we're doing isn't working. And it's not our fault. Right? Nobody explained this to you at the hospital when you took home this child. It was likely not the way that you were parented so you have no model to go off of how were you possibly supposed to No, you weren't. So take that could have would have should have mentality off your shoulders. You knew what you knew yesterday and you made the best decisions you could yesterday with the information you had. And now today you're having a breakthrough and you can move forward with new insight that leads to new information that helps you make new decisions going forward. And that is powerful. So there is a lot of information out there. You can continue to kind of Google this term and find more information. But usually when families find me it's their last resort already. And they

are desperate because they know where they're at is unsustainable. And they want change yesterday. So I help them realize that it is possible to find true cooperation with the most stubborn child without medication or a commute. Because when you've tried everything and nothing works, you need individualized, personalized feedback to break free. You don't need to Google and Google and Google because SPOILER ALERT courses and books don't talk back. They don't answer your questions. When you run into a wall. They don't help you get unstuck. They don't help you apply and implement in the moment and you find yourself just giving up again. Because what you tried, isn't working and you're into a wall and then you disengage and you end up going back to resorting back to the desperate measures used before. Not liking who you are not liking being around them, and then the vicious cycle continues. So today, you have new insight that allows you to make new decisions going forward. 

When you are ready to have a personal honest conversation about the dynamic in your home, the goals that you have, the child that you have and their uniqueness, and you want to be able to find what options are available to you. And you just feel at home here like we could connect and we could hang out a little bit more. It's your turn to schedule your consultation. The link is in the show notes for that it's that is your best opportunity to be able to just have the space to have more of a conversation. If you want to be able to dive in first to a few more resources and run with that insight for now. Then, watch my free training. Authentic and unapologetic. It's on my website homepage Watch that with your partner. If you're if you're nodding along and you're feeling like you're looking in the window, is she spying on us? Has she been stalking us? How does she know exactly what we were just saying earlier today? Then you're in the right place and you can apply to work with me and learn more about my group coaching program and I be so excited to meet you and help you find the answers and the support you deserve because you're doing something super hard with a kiddo that is going to change the world. You just need to survive bedtime for now and that is what we're here to do. 

So if you're ready to learn the tools have how to negotiate like a hostage negotiator and level up to speak their language and unlock their ears. And you want to take control over your patience and composure and be proud of the way that you show up most of the time day. To day. And you want to get ahead of these perpetual needs of attention and control in beneficial ways that prevent and eliminate the behaviors from being a problem tomorrow and reach out. Let's have that conversation. I cannot wait to unlock the better days that are inevitable for your family. As soon as we you invest in that kind of commit to this work. It is not an easy button. It is not a quick fix. It is long term sustainable change transformational change for your family that takes a solid three months to change those habits and to feel grounded in your new tools. So you know you can handle whatever they throw your way moving forward.

Go ahead and do that now. Or watch my free training with your partner or send your partner this podcast episode. They would probably love to get that from you in an audio form so they can hear it from me not and get another time from you and it will unlock those days. For your family moving forward.

You are the parent your kids need and once you have more tools to feel equipped, you will actually feel like it. Let's do this!



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!