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Introduction to the Opposites

Updated: Jun 21, 2022

This is a little trick that I use called The Introduction to the Opposites. If you're a Generation X’er like me you might remember this from a Nickelodeon show called “You Can't Do That On Television”, which was a Canadian Sketch comedy show. If you've never seen the show essentially out of nowhere in the middle of the show something would happen or a character would say something that seemed quite the opposite of reality or out of sorts, and one of the other characters would say, “This must be the introduction to the opposites”. For the next several sketches anything that happened would be the opposite of how people traditionally felt or what they might do in a certain situation. Very silly show and funny concept.

I came up with the idea of applying this in my own life when I was having a string of several very bad days in a row. I was having one of those periods of time where I had not gotten enough sleep, we were eating out a lot and my children and I were really tap dancing on each other's last nerves. These are what we refer to as Speed Bump triggers - where we stop prioritizing our needs and we find our triggers becoming more sensitive. So, I found myself slipping into that old feeling of just being extremely frustrated with everything that my children did. (See my video and other blogs on Triggers where I address many of these very items.) And as you know, the more frustrated I was getting, the more they slipped back into negative behavior.

After several days of spiraling, I thought - ‘What if for at least the next few days I just convince myself that everything my children are doing that annoys me is actually very fun, very creative, innovative, and even endearing.’ I decided I would essentially lean into, participate in and even validate what we might consider otherwise naughty behavior.

If your instant reaction to this is something along the lines of, “I could never do that, you

don't know how my children behave, I wouldn't even know how to do this” - please keep reading! It's easier than you think and it's a very fast way to create a really nice reset in the emotional energy of your home. And the end result is not your children feeling like they now have permission to “act up” or rewarding negative behavior, but rather both you and your children being more open to other forms of play and communication that work better for you both.

It’s a very simple flow...

Introduction to the Opposites:

  1. My child “acts up”

  2. I stop and think - ‘OK, how do I feel like reacting to this right now?’

    1. Yelling, taking away a privilege, timeouts, etc.

  3. Why do I feel like reacting that way?

    1. I’m annoyed. I’m being disrespected. I’m angry. I don't have time for this.

  4. What are opposite feelings?

    1. I’m happy with this behavior. I love it! They’re so wild and independent. They’re creative free-thinkers!

  5. What is the corresponding action?

    1. Jumping in and playing. Leaning in and joining. Acknowledging. Affirming. Enjoying.

  6. What happens next?

    1. My children recognize we’re playing. They shift into a state of connected play. I figure out a way to get the desired tasks or activities completed utilizing this form of play and directing it.

    2. We all get our needs met in the end - task completed and children had fun

What is the eventual outcome?


What does connection lead to?

Better long term solutions.

This taps into Playfulness and Patience in the Family P.A.C.K.

Here are some example of how I have used this with my children.

Example One:

Circumstance: My daughter refused to go to the bathroom, brush her teeth and get dressed for bed. She would run, hide, jump, play, sneak around - essentially anything other than just go into the bathroom when it was time and when I asked. I was losing my ability to remain calm and work out a better system - I was at the point where I wanted her to just LISTEN FOR ONCE! (Can anyone else relate?)

Frustration: Not listening, being silly

Typical Reaction: Timeout, loss of privilege, yelling - “Just get in the @&%@ bathroom and brush your teeth!”, etc.

Opposite Reaction: Finding it really fun that she needed going to bed to be a game. Leaning into the game aspect - tickle monster to the bathroom, hide and seek after teeth were brushed, carrying her like a flying superhero around the house.

Additional Trick: You have to do this over and over

  • I would superhero carry her into the bathroom to brush her teeth.

  • Then when she ran away again - I would pretend to be the tickle monster to get her changed into her pajamas.

  • Then when she ran away again - I would play hide and seek until she was in bed ready for her book.

This was not always easy - in fact some nights I was so tired this was really HARD… but not harder than butting heads with my willful, spirited child.

The outcome: After several nights of doing this we found a rhythm and I was able to talk with her during her calm times about what aspects of that could become a routine and how we could incorporate more play into the night-night routine.

Example Two

Circumstance: My son would have a complete meltdown every time it was time to do homework. He would whine and complain about it being too hard, he was too tired, there was too much - he even said his brain didn’t work that way. And this was after we had tried numerous other tactics - snack and free time before homework, homework in different rooms of the house, rewards for homework, etc. The most frustrating part is that he would always eventually do his homework, but he had to get the whine out first.

Frustration: So much time and energy wasted whining when he could have applied that energy to just doing his homework!

Typical Reaction: Offer a reward, loss of privilege for not doing it, getting frustrated and yelling - "Just do your homework!", etc.

Opposite Reaction: Acknowledge that he had to whine and vent before doing this homework. Actually cheer him on for creating conflict (yes, you read that correctly). Give him space to vent. Homework sucks. Sometimes there’s a lot of it. Join in and complain about the amount of work I have to get done as well.

Additional Trick: Acknowledging that his feelings aren’t in fact wrong - homework does suck, there is a lot of it sometimes, his brain is tired after school. Affirming his process - whining, venting, then jumping in and getting it done. “I know you need to vent, buddy. I understand. So, let's get our venting done so we can jump in and get started.” Then after a few minutes of venting, we would start with just ONE page - just one activity - usually the easiest one. Once he completed that he had the emotional and physical energy and endurance to get the rest done.

The Outcome: The anxiety he has about the amount of homework compared with his afternoon sluggishness resides. He has ODD, so sometimes conflict is just his love language. He needs to talk about why he hates doing something before he just jumps in and does it. The more I joined him - the more the tension released and he could ease back into his cheery self. Then, when he’s had his release and completes one page, he is magically able to do the rest relatively quickly.

There are so many other times I’ve used this method:

  1. Complaining during dinner

  2. Refusing to do chores

  3. Siblings Yelling/Fighting at each other

  4. Any time they just don’t listen

Family photoshoot, three children, yelling and laughing
Yelling at our family photoshoot to get our sillies out

I use my Opposite flow and give myself a chance to flip the script in my own mind. This gives me more emotional control over my surroundings - which I can then model for my children. It’s not about letting your children “get away” with negative behavior - it’s just a quick tool to help you calm your own pendulum swing, unpack your own triggers, remain emotional centered and finding a way to navigate this messy thing called life in a way where everyone feels loved, safe and worthy.

You can use this method in so many other places; at work, with your family. It's a very quick and easy way to trick yourself back into alignment, to get you over the Speed Bump (see our video on triggers coming soon) and make sure can find your alignment. The next step is to begin unpacking in yourself what triggers you to have that negative reaction to your children's behavior in the first place (we can help with this!).

If you read this and thought - wow that's brilliant - tell me more! - Reach out! We'd love to work with you!

If you read this and thought - that's ridiculous - it would never work that way - Reach out! We'd love to show you the science and work with you to find methods that truly work for you and your family.

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