They know better than this!




You're 100% right. They do know better. These are smart kids we're talking about here, nothing gets past them!

So, if that's true, why are they still hitting, pushing, screaming, or whathaveyou? 

Explaining the rules for the 1,456th time isn't going to solve anything.

What will?  Tune in with curiosity.



  • The truth behind two incredibly common misconceptions
  • The painful sting of regret that's oh, too familiar
  • How it feels when the tables have turned 



  • Why it's problematic to tell your child to "make good choices."


IG: @parent_wholeheartedly



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, 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 earbuds, somehow sneak away and get ready to hear some hope from the trenches. You belong here, friend. We're so glad you're here. 

Danielle Bettmann  1:14  
Hey, it's Danielle. Your Positive Discipline Certified Parenting Coach for strong-willed kids ages 2 to 10. I help defeated parents find validation, support and proven techniques to parent their strong-willed kids with composure, connection, confidence and cooperation through a three month group coaching program based on the Wholehearted framework I have developed over years of working with families one on one. Now, if you have just found the podcast, go to to view a playlist of our most listened to episodes as well as where to start if you have a strong-willed child. 

Today's episode is going to be a great relevant one for you because we are debunking two very common misconceptions that nearly every parent has thought or said or dwelled on or ruminated on, and have found a lot of frustration and possibly resentment. So let's jump in right away. 

Now, the first one is the very, very common misconception when parents get hung up on the fact that strong-willed kids know better. So, let's say we're dealing with a strong willed child that's four and a half and they are continuing to push or hit or do some physical aggression against a sibling when they are in conflict. The parent is understandably frustrated because they have talked about this, and talked about this and talked about this over and over and over. They have been a broken record about how you don't hit in this house, how you use kind, gentle touches, how you get anger out, maybe even in a better, more different way and redirected this anger and we're still stuck in the same pattern, and the parent is saying to me, they know better. Now, this is super common with specifically strong-willed kids because they are very smart, very perceptive, observant and expressive. They put on a show for their parents, because they truly are very much understanding. They have their head on a swivel. These are smart kids. So as their parent, you know that about them and you know that their head is on a swivel, you know that they are putting two and two together, they are not dumb. So it is so understandably frustrating then to say, well, why are they not getting this? What is the problem? What is the breakdown? Clearly, they know better and they're still continuing to do this behavior. You're right, they do know better. Intellectually, consciously they know better. They have been hearing you, they understand the rules at your house. They needed to only hear it once or twice, because that value based lesson that you're trying to learn about what's okay ethically at your house, they understand truly they do and you're right. They know better. In the same way, you know better not to use the desperate tools and approaches in parenting that you have decided you don't feel good using, whether that's yelling or spanking or otherwise. So they know better, and you know better. 

Danielle Bettmann  4:55  
This child who was acting so irrationally, that you cannot seem to wrap your mind around and make sense of their behavior and can't seem to relate to -turns out, you have more in common with them than you think. Because you know better too, you know better in the same way your child knows better. What that actually means is not that you know what you don't want to be doing. Right? You do know exactly what behavior you're not supposed to do, or don't want to do. But there's a breakdown. You don't know how to overcome the challenges you're still faced with in the moment, whether that is a breakdown in impulse control, a breakdown in regulation, capacity, being able to do better, or even knowing what it is you're supposed to do instead. I think a lot of times when our patience short circuits, it's because it feels like our backs against the wall and that close to phobia feeling takes over, and that feeling of helplessness. I don't know what I'm supposed to do right now, I don't know what to do to get the end goal I need, which is getting out of the house or meeting this time deadline, this time crunch, and feeling at the end of your rope, at your wit's end, very desperate, very helpless. If that's how you end up feeling when you are acting in ways you're not proud of, even though you know better, then let's go ahead and give strong-willed kids the benefit of the doubt, to be able to say okay, maybe some of the same things apply. Maybe they do truly know the rule, and yet, there's a breakdown in their impulse control, and their capacity, their regulation to be able to do better, or know what to do instead. Something is not lining up. Also, in these moments that you are struggling to stay patient and know better, and then still succumb to more desperate approaches. The regret, the deep regret that quickly seeps in, sometimes in real time, when it's like that out of body experience where you can hear the words coming out of your mouth that you did not intend, and you know that it is a reaction and not a calculated intentional response that is mindful and following all the intentions you set that morning. When you feel that you feel yourself acting in a way you don't want to, but you can't seem to stop yourself,  the shame that creeps in either in real time or shortly afterwards or that night, when it just eats away at you that regret. Your strong willed child is plagued with that too, because not only do they know they know the rules, but no one is hardest on them but themselves. So when you, in that moment, mistakenly or not, react by heaping more shame on - in that discipline moment, it's really hard for them to see a way out of that pattern of behavior they found themselves in, they internalize the failure. It begins to be the way that they see themselves and make up kind of their identity of who they are, in a similar way that you might feel, on some days like you are failing your kids because of this temper and that creates this image of yourself, the way you see yourself is that you are not a good parent. So it's so hard. What we're saying is it's so hard when you are suffering silently filled with shame to differentiate the act or behavior that you find yourself doing, from your identity as an adult. So let alone how hard is it for a child whose brain is literally working to download software for the first time knows no different. There's no other perspective to kind of shine a light on what they are understanding. It's literally their job to make meaning based off of the data they collect and the world's response to it. So let's sit back and already go back to some of our takeaways from this conversation. They do know better in the same way that you know better.

Danielle Bettmann  10:03  
So surely if it's the same thing happening, there's a breakdown and there's a reason for that behavior that is not being intentionally malicious. So knowing that, we can also see how the immediate shame and regret that we feel when we know better, and we're not able to do it, that creeps in and becomes all encompassing, and not only makes us feel bad in that moment, but becomes this bigger issue of our self image.  If we struggle with that, as adults, how much more do our kids struggle with that, especially when they are wired in this truly exacerbated, passionate, intense, big feeling way. So some parents have realized that they really want to work to combat this, and want to help their child differentiate between their actions and their behavior, and who they are as a person, which is fantastic. We love this, we've just made this point. So one way that they go about doing this is to try to focus on bringing the child's attention and awareness to the choices they are making in the moment, letting them know with a lot of kind of shared vocabulary. They're making bad choices, they need to make better choices, they focus on telling them to make good choices. That was a bad choice. Right, that type of language. Now, let me ask you this. Does it feel helpful for me to tell you to make good choices in your parenting today? Why doesn't that feel good? Why doesn't that feel right? Number one, it's insinuating that every time you lose your patience, or you yell, that was a choice. You had a choice in that matter, and you chose poorly. It also doesn't feel good, because it's a little bit condescending. It's saying that there's some aspect of intellect involved, and you need to be smarter, in order to make better choices. Clearly, because you're struggling, it's got to be related to your thinking in the moment, which leads us to believe, I think you're a little bit dumb. That doesn't feel good for any human at any age. So that language can be problematic, because if a child is finding themselves in these situations, they don't see where the choice was, that they had in the matter what options they were choosing from, in that moment. They did not consciously see themselves at a crossroads, where they chose to turn down the best option - instead chose violence. If we're relating to this with a similar analogy about our patience, how often have you truly found yourself in a pivotal moment where you had the wherewithal to kind of have that out of body experience where you saw yourself at a crossroads and saw the way that you could act and then you saw this better option, and then you truly chose to lose your patience, yell, fall off the deep end and lose it on your kids?  Most often if you had a choice, you choose the better option. So therefore, if you did not, and could not, there was a reason for that. You no longer had a choice. Instead, your lack of impulse control, lack of capacity, lack of regulation, and that moment led you to the only behavior that was an option at that point, which was the poorer of the options. But it was not intentional, and it was not a choice. So they do know better and so do you and it's not a choice in the way that we think it is conscious and a form of manipulation. 

Danielle Bettmann  14:56  
So, what is it then, and what do we do about it? Our goal is to be able to look at behavior in a much more curious way so if we are truly trying to understand it, make sense of it, and respond in a way that is empowering our child rather than demeaning and diminishing our child. We want to be able to instill and have more compassion, not only for our child, but for ourselves. You do not need to beat yourself up for making bad choices as a parent, when you never had a choice to begin with. You do not need to create your identity of being a bad parent based off the behavior that you have been seeing as of late. You shouldn't do that for your child either, making them up to be a bad kid, as a result of their behaviors you've been seeing and heap shame on a child that already feels real shitty about how they have been doing because they know better. They know exactly what has been expected of them, and for some reason, they can't live up to it, but maybe their sibling can. How do you make sense of that as a four year old in a way that leads you to believe there's a way out of that? It's real hard. If it's hard for us as adults, we want to be able to look at their behavior in a new light, realizing they do know better and that's not the problem. It's not that we need to explain the rule for the 1546th time. Instead, we need to function on that premise. If that's true, they do know better. Why couldn't they do better? Are they missing a skill of being able to maybe cope with that big feeling? Do they know what their options are of what to do instead, in that moment, to send that message or get that need met they had at that time? Did they feel really justified to get the need met of attention and control in that moment and did whatever they could to feel okay, again? Is this behavior working for them? That they've noticed a pattern, they're just really exploiting something that feels very familiar, reassuring and predictable, even though it's negative? Do they have zero regulation, capacity to remember their skill sets? Or do something different that we've empowered them to be able to do? Or did they just have no filter whatsoever, because their filter was on and they had kept it together for far too long that day? The answer lies in those questions, because when they feel better, they will do better. Very, very, very rarely is there ever a circumstance in any of my clients that would prove that wrong.

Danielle Bettmann  18:22  
So I hope that at least brings in a little bit of a wider perspective, for you to be able to see what's going on in your home by zooming out. Again, that's very hard to do and it's very understandable to have those frustrations and to not be able to see it any differently when it is one inch from your nose. Right? The whole reason why this even needs to be a podcast episode is because it is counterintuitive, and absolutely not our instincts and our defaults as parents. You are not alone. If you struggle with this, you are in the right place. In case you missed it, I did announce a week or two ago I have a brand new, well new and improved, so new and improved version of my old masterclass, Authentic and Unapologetic, it's called Calm and Confident.  If you are looking to master more kind and firm tools, so that you are not crushing your child's spirit or walking on eggshells, it is for you. You can go ahead and find that at The link will be in the show notes, but this episode is also the key to unlocking more curiosity for your behavior as well. If you have a temper you didn't know you had, if you have not been able to keep your good intentions of not yelling or not spanking or resorting to the discipline tools that you know don't feel good - there's a reason and when you have more tools and more capacity, you will be able to do better because the problem is not that you don't know better - you know exactly what you don't want to be doing. Do you have the skills, do you have the knowledge and the ability to do differently? Give yourself that grace, that compassion and you can solve this problem and feel empowered to be able to be way more proud of how you're doing as a parent and stop being so hard on yourself, just like your child does. They will also feel that and do so much better when you do better. It is a trickle down effect, and that's what is so convicting about it and so empowering about it at the same time. So as your next step, if you're looking for more tools, go ahead and dive into that free training. It is filled to the brim with perspective. I highly, highly, highly recommend you do it, and go through it with your partner. That is the game changing, transforming aspect of it when you are seeing the same thing with the same lens with the same language - it's a whole new ballgame. Game Changer. All right. That's it for this week. I believe in you and I'm cheering you on.

Danielle Bettmann  21:17  
Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of Failing Motherhood. Your kids are so lucky to have you. If you loved this episode, take a screenshot right now and share it in your Instagram stories and tag me. If you're loving the podcast, be sure that you've subscribed and leave a review so we can help more moms know they are not alone, if they feel like they're failing motherhood on a daily basis. 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!