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Thanks for the Wrong Order!
January 11, 2024
Look for solutions rather than punishments. Children need to learn how to fix their mistakes, not just pay for them.
-Rebecca Eanes, author of Positive Parenting

How would you feel receiving the wrong meal in a restaurant? Dine at The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders in Tokyo, Japan, and as the name implies, you have about a 1 in 3 chance you won’t be served what you asked for, but those odds are there for the best reason:

"The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders employs people with dementia as servers, fully knowing that sometimes they're going to get customers' orders wrong. Customers who eat there know this fact as well. It's all just part of the adventure of dining at a restaurant designed to increase kindness and reduce isolation for people with cognitive impairments," according to a story on Upworthy.

The restaurant is a collaboration between Shiro Oguni and a group home for people with dementia.

"The restaurant is not about whether orders are executed incorrectly or not," noted Oguni. "The important thing is the interaction with people who have dementia."

Upworthy notes, "It's a win-win. The people with dementia aren't as isolated, and 99% of the people who visit The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders leave feeling happy."

This article left me wondering whether we might apply the same concept in early childhood environments, where ‘mistakes’ are par for the course. What can shift when we truly prioritize connection and belonging over milestones and standards?


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Comments (7)

Displaying 5 of 7 Comments   [ View all ]
Kirsten Haugen · January 15, 2024
Eugene, OR, United States

You've all given me so much to think about and ponder. I apologize for my delay in responding.

Michele, in October, I lost both my mother and my father-in-law to dementia. My mom, a dear friend of the founders of Exchange, was diagnosed 15 years ago. In the early stages, she could have done this and it would have brought her joy. What you describe as painful and disturbing resonates with how the later years turned out. You have my empathy, and I deeply appreciate your forthrightness in sharing and for your deeper reflections on "joining our attention" to children's thinking.

Deborah, I've not heard "That's the correct answer to a different question" before - something new to think about! Thank you!

Kim - YES! Our name is "Exchange" and we are at our best when the conversation goes both ways like this. All of your comments help us think and grow, perhaps more than you all realize. Keep it coming! As you can see in my comments to Michele, I have walked the path of dementia with two of my parents/in-laws, and thought often of the connection between caring for children and caring for aging parents. You've given me more to think about.

And Frances, as always, I appreciate your thinking and sharing your thoughts. It reminded me of your awesome Guerrilla Teaching Tactics article.

Francis Wardle · January 11, 2024
University of Phoenix/ Red Rocks Community College
Denver, Colorado, United States

This is a wonderful thought question. I teach curriculum development in my community college for early childhood teachers. Curriculum is a place where outcomes, standards, goals and objectives all come together. Many programs - including Head Start - are required to use "approved" curricula. And often these outcomes and standards have to "be measurable". When I get to this part of the process (usually the lesson plan), I tell my students that the important objectives of any curriculum for young children "cannot be measured".

kim overton · January 11, 2024
San Mateo, CA, United States

First, I’m so glad I read the other comments first - additional pauses and food for thought. I also had a parent with dementia, sometimes it was very hard. For me, when I shifted to expecting different interactions: not knowing me, aggression, accusations, it was a lot easier for both of us. I showed up knowing that this behavior, these mistakes, were part of the development of the disease. This is not unlike human beings developing. There’s going to be mistakes, missteps, acting out, as children learn how to be in the world. I’m intrigued by the comment of nurturing their unique abilities and I agree with this. It’s not ignoring the mistakes, it’s a “redo”, guiding, and helping them to grow at a pace and in a way that works for that child. I also like to frame the mistakes (also an interesting word: miss takes/missteps) as par for the course rather than misbehaving which keeps me feeling lighter and connected. Thank you for a chance to think deeper on this!

“What can shift when we truly prioritize connection and belonging over milestones and standards?”

Dr. Deborah Bergeron · January 11, 2024
Heathsville, VA, United States

There is a great strategy I used in the classroom with kiddos and when leading teachers - when kiddos do not answer a question 'correctly' - just ask a new question. So, "What's 3+5?" Child eagerly raises hand and shouts, "9!" Teacher says, "That's the correct answer to a different question - What's 7+2?!" Let the student say 9 - and be correct. Celebrate the correct answer to a different question - then go back - there's a whole process here but the point is - we could see all answers as correct to some question out there - bring that forward. Celebrate it - keep the momentum going forward - the energy high - children feeling affirmed. Learning explodes!

Kirsten Haugen · January 11, 2024
Eugene, OR, United States

Aparna, beautifully stated! I love how you've made the connection from connection to security to intrinsic motivation to learning and resilience. So true. Thank you!

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