The Rebellion of a Strong-Willed Child Is Subtle

pity party
Image Courtesy of http://www.psychologytoday.com   /blog/ valley-girl-brain

Last week I helped some friends build the scenery for a Christmas outreach over the weekend. My role was clearly stated as that of a “hey boy” [1] because the other men had lots more experience building.

On Thursday I instinctively handed one of them a sledgehammer so he could drive a stake into the ground but instead of doing so my friend encouraged me to hit it in.  After trying to get out of it I proceeded to give five of the weakest strikes known to man [2] and then handed it back to him.

When he asked why I hadn’t finished the job I explained it’s better to let someone who had more experience do it, he countered with my need for more experience, which led to my giving three more strikes [3].

There is nothing wrong with this of course since none of us enjoy doing something we aren’t good at (particularly when others are around) and there are things I’m better at than these men (I do things in children’s ministry that would make them run home to mommy). However this experience reminded me of the strong-willed rebellion in my earlier years

At the beginning a strong-willed childs rebellion will be a very blatant thing (completely refusing to obey because they don’t want to). But as time passes and punishments are experienced, the child learns that can’t be continued.

So they create their own subtle form of Rebellion…mine was focused on self-pity

As a child there were a lot of things I couldn’t do well which affected my self-esteem. One of the greatest ways was having a pity-party (feeling really sorry for myself) when things went wrong [4].

I’m not sure how it started, but somewhere along the way I began responding with a pity-party when caught disobeying.

This subtle form of rebellion worked wonders.

  1. My parents focus immediately went to making me feel better instead of consequences
  2. They would go out of their way to encourage me (when I was supposed to be punished)
  3. Punishments were usually weakened, or even taken away altogether

Of course this meant pity-party’s became my go to reason for rebellion [5] and I started looking for any reason whatsoever to do it.  Soon they were more like pity-spectaculars than pity-parties (complete with pity-hats, pity-cake, and a pity-pony).

But eventually all of my attempts to gain pity no longer brought the desired effect [6] but instead what today is referred to as “corporal punishment.”

At that point there was a need for a deeper or stronger form of rebellion in my life, because the pity-party no longer satisfied.

Strong-willed children don’t wake up on morning and immediately begin rebelling in a violent way. Instead it’s a slow process of moving from one subtle rebellion to another. These rebellions are harder to see, but trust me they are there, and in order to meet their deeper needs we must be able to notice them.


  1. as in “Hey got get me a hammer”  ↩
  2. if we were on a beach a bully would have come over and kicked sand in my face  ↩
  3. at which point it was roughly two inches in the ground  ↩
  4. I’m so stupid, fat, ugly, etc  ↩
  5. I can’t believe I took that money I’m so stupid!  ↩
  6. because my parents and other authority figures caught on to what I was doing  ↩

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