The Motivation of a Strong Willed Child is Attention

Image Courtesy of http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Strawberry

A few weeks ago I was running with the A team (fastest) on a Saturday morning instead of the C+ team I usually train with.

About a mile in one of the men turned and asked if my name was John Wilburn. When I told him it was he said excitedly “hey we went to school together!”

At first I thought we were classmates in High School till he said ”people used to call you strawberry didn’t they?”

Strawberry was the nickname given to me by fellow students in the fourth grade at the height of my run as “the greatest class clown that ever lived”


To this day the name brings back memories of all the comedy routines used to entertain fellow students.  My greatest creation and most popular was the deer skit which went like this.

  1. I acted out the part of a deer on the first day of hunting season who calmly walked around describing what he saw
  2. Number three was always a hunter with a gun, but I never saw him the first time
  3. Around number five I would scream, “wait a minute a hunter with a gun!” Which was always followed by a loud bang.
  4. At this point I went into a death scene so over the top Quentin Tarantino would tell me it was a bit much
  5. The death ended with my legs straight in the air to thunderous applause

You can break the stubbornness of strong-willed children with a clear set of rules and consequences. But there will always be those moments when all your hard work goes out the window, and they put on a show.  It’s easy in those situations to respond with discipline [1] but in a way that overlooks the reason WHY the strong-willed child had a relapse.

The attention of others is a very addictive thing

See I really tried to do the right thing and obey the rules, but when one of my friends said “hey strawberry do the deer thing again” I always found myself entertaining a group of kids in the most disruptive way imaginable.

Of course it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out strong-willed children are motivated by the attention of others [2] but we must find a way to help them resist this temptation.

As a recovering strong-willed child/entertainer I can assure you books, dvd’s, or talks do little to end our love of attention.

But there is one thing that can…
Eventually the routines stop being funny

As amazing as it may seem, in the fifth-grade my world-famous deer routine didn’t have it’s desired effect, so instead of basking in the glory of adulation all I got was awkward silence.

That why I stopped being strawberry…it wasn’t fun anymore.

Life is difficult for class clowns sometimes

  1. What was hilarious last year isn’t funny at all this year
  2. The kids who were your best friends last year your can’t remember your name
  3. There is a new cooler, funnier kid
  4. There’s a constant need for new material

We can use hardship like this because it gives strong-willed children the dose of reality that they need.

Trust me when I say the silence of children is a much better form of discipline than anything a parent can do

  1. this should be used , but keep in mind what the core problem is  ↩
  2. This is why I punished a class clown yesterday by putting her in the hallway all by herself  ↩

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