Susan takes her twelve-month-old, Jackie, to the park to play in the sand. Susan gets a phone call that distracts her from playing with Jackie. After a while, Jackie feels ignored, becomes fussy, and starts to cry. Susan gets off the phone quickly, but has a hard time calming Jackie. How can Susan make things better?
• Apologize and Reconnect. It’s an obvious first step, but sometimes it gets overlooked. Susan could say, “I’m sorry! We came to play together and then I got on the phone for too long.” Eventually, you can use an easy phrase like Mix-Up, Fix-Up to communicate your desire to reconnect with your child.
• Take Action and Repair. After apologizing and acknowledging your child’s response, keep your undivided attention on your child. Susan might redirect her attention back to her child by saying, “Let’s go play in the sand together! What would you like to build today? Let’s have some have fun!”
• Remember and Repeat. Successfully repairing the “Mix-Up” means having a specific cue to remind yourself not to make the same mistake again. Make it easy to do it differently by creating a routine for your new behavior. For example, the park has always been a place where Susan takes Jackie to have fun playing together. To remind Susan to stay connected to Jackie, she makes a plan to turn her phone off as soon as they arrive at the park. She can then be present and not feel distracted.
By demonstrating that mistakes are manageable and can be repaired in a shame-free manner, Mix-Up, Fix-Up makes your child more likely to admit his own mistakes.
Mix-Up, Fix-Up can become a “repair ritual” for your family.
• The rhyming words can inspire you and your child by giving you both a special way to admit to making mistakes, and a process for learning how to Fix-Up and repair.
• As your child gets older, save time and save face by asking him, “Is this a ‘Mix-Up, Fix-Up’?” And he can ask you the same!
The goal for you and your child is to learn how to handle your own mistakes and understand the importance of repair. Take the time to care and repair. You’ll strengthen your connection and build trust with your child.