You know that moment when the whine starts escalating and you just know that a full-blown tantrum is about to assault you with all its loudness and irrationality? I’m sure that that is not a moment that you usually look forward to – until now. That is the exact moment that you can make lasting change by stepping out of your own comfort zone and applying the law of requisite variety.
The law of requisite variety states that: “the part of the system with the greatest flexibility of behavior will control the system”. Now if the system is your family, I think most of us would agree that the part with the greatest flexibility of behavior is usually the child. Hence their uncanny ability to get what they want in most situations!
Time to change all of that. And my favourite tool for this is called the Pattern Interrupt. Basically it’s creating an extreme interruption to an unwanted behavior that then creates a new neural pathway that will interfere with that behavior in future. It works like this …
At that very moment when the whine starts to escalate, you throw yourself down on the floor, kicking and screaming and flailing around (just like they were about to do). The trick to this working is twofold:
1. You must do it BEFORE they get fully into their tantrum. You want to interfere with the neural connection right at the beginning of the behavior so that next time they are about to do it the new pathway kicks in immediately.
2. Your actions must be extreme and they must be congruent – in other words your child must actually believe that you are freaking out – half-hearted acting attempts are not going to do the trick. You need to give them a fright.
I used this myself with my youngest when she went through the terrible two’s and I know from experience that it works. The next time that whine starts escalating you look over and see that look of oncoming tantrum turn to confusion and then completely disappear. I love it! It’s also lots of fun and gives you an opportunity to vent some of your own frustration in the situation!
The more flexible you are in your behavior, the more in control you are of whatever situation comes up. If you’re feeling too stressed or overwhelmed to be able to apply the law of requisite variety, give us a shout – parenting is supposed to be challenging and to help you to grow, but it is also supposed to be fun.
By Mia Von Scha