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  • Jessica Berk

Big Emotions, Tiny Humans: An Interview with Danielle Bettman of Parenting Wholeheartedly

I'm talking to parenting coach Danielle Bettman from Parenting Wholeheartedly, all about the very big emotions that can come from our little kids. She gives some awesome strategies in this interview, including at the end, some strategies from a hostage negotiator. So if you've got a strong-willed kid, this is a conversation that you don't want to miss.

Jessica Berk (JB)

I am so happy to be joined today by Danielle Bettman. She is a parenting coach for strong-willed kids, and her company is called Parenting Wholeheartedly. Welcome, Danielle.

Danielle Bettman (DB)

Thank you so much, Jessica. I'm so excited to be here.


Danielle has a great podcast that I had the pleasure of being on a few months ago. It's called “Failing Motherhood”, which is probably my favorite podcast title of all time, because don't we all feel that way? And I love that your mission behind your podcast is really making parents feel like they're not alone. Like we're all in this together. We're all facing the same kind of struggles.

I think that's important, because parenting can be lonely sometimes. I think you'll agree when I say that we're all facing the same things. We truly are not in it alone. And you and I have worked with enough families to be able to say that confidently.


Yes, absolutely.


Yeah. So why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about yourself and your business.


I'm Danielle. I have two daughters. They are nine and eight right now. They're 15 months apart. Oh my gosh. It's the longest, shortest time. It has gone so fast, but it has been a blur.

And I don't professionally recommend them being that close in age, but I have survived. I live in the Midwest in Omaha, Nebraska, in the United States, and I've been married to my high school sweetheart for 13 years. We've been together for 20 now.


My husband and I went to high school together, too.


Oh, no way. Yay! So, I have had my business now for almost four years, and it started out in person, locally, just kind of a la carte coming over to family's homes and saying, “How can I help? What's going on?”

That was because I have a degree in child development and teaching certification from birth through third grade. I was already working in classrooms and doing home visiting through a program by Save the Children prior to becoming a parent myself. And I realize what happens in a classroom is great, but what happens at home is what really matters most.

And parenting is the hardest job in the world. And we're all just trying our darnedest with not a whole lot of training to speak of, no village for sure, No guarantees we're doing anything right. And that's where I knew I could make the most difference, especially becoming a parent myself and realizing how textbooks are one thing…

But we need boots on the ground as far as support for our own capacity and sanity as parents and really just validating that experience for other parents. So the mission behind my business was to start to support families and go from there and see what worked.

And then the pandemic hit. I switched to all-virtual and I started my podcast, like you said, Failing Motherhood, two years ago now. I have really grown to support specifically parents of strong-willed kids where I've run into a lot of families where one kiddo is pretty easygoing and the other one has high highs and low lows and no in between, and they know exactly what they want and they have all these unmet expectations that come crashing down to reality.

Getting their shoes on or getting their car seat buckles on is just a lot harder at this age between one and seven. And so I've really dialed in my toolkit for parents to support, because that's my second child.

She is that one that still to this day will say the most exaggerated things and just have visceral reactions, but she also feels so much joy and she's so lovable and she has so much love to give. And so I have really tried to help families see that. Of course, they love their kids. Of course, they're doing the best they can as a parent.

They are the parents their kids need. This kiddo just requires you to level up to a whole new toolkit that makes you feel more equipped to handle them with confidence and like them again. That's the goal.


Yes. I love it. I was looking at your website before we got on and I love at the top of your website it says, “We know you love your strong-willed child. We help you like them again.” And I think that is such a great way to put it. I wanted to have you on because I know that so many families in the Awesome Little Sleepers community have strong-willed kids, and that's why they're part of this community and they're following along with me for help with sleep issues.

But also I know that they're dealing with lots of big emotions with their strong-willed kids all times of the day, not just at bedtime. And it's some of the things you mentioned, like the meltdowns and the tantrums about food and getting in the car seat and putting your shoes on or about nothing, just crazy nonsensical things that you don't even know how it's turned into a meltdown.

But here you are in the middle of Target and it's happening.


Yes. Yep, yep, yep.


And I feel like one of the questions that I get a lot about bedtime tantrums is “What am I supposed to do when my kid is having this meltdown? What am I supposed to do?” Which as a parent, is a totally valid and reasonable question, and we do need to have some strategies to deal with tantrums in the moment.

Mm-hmm. , but I wonder if that's even the right way for us to be thinking about it. Is that the most important question for us to be asking? So let's kind of talk about some of these big emotions and yeah, give us some help!


Yes, yes. This is what I do. And any question is a good question. If you're asking a question as a parent, it's because you care. And if you're defeated, it's because you're trying. So I already know you're a phenomenal parent. You're tuning in and you're seeking out resources and you want to know more about what's going on with your child, rather than writing them off completely, because that's also a valid response to something that's so stressful.

Catch the rest of the conversation (and the highlights below) in the video:


>>Watch this blog on my Awesome Little Sleepers YouTube channel! 👇


10:15 Tantrums are actually developmentally appropriate in childhood (!)

13:55 Using curiosity as an effective tool for understanding your child’s behavior

18:40 Simple ways to give your child appropriate control over their day

22:57 How to stay detached from your child’s dysregulation so you can parent

26:07 “Sanity comes before strategies”

28:57 It’s not the parent’s job to make sure the child is never upset

30:06 Four steps to calm after a meltdown

36:31 Tips from a Navy Seal on hostage negotiation that you can use with your child

If you are looking for additional support to sleep train your toddler, join me in my next Toddler Sleep Masterclass. It's free and I'll teach you all about my REST Method. >>Click here to save your spot<<


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