As a dietitian, my specialized area is not in pediatric nutrition; however, when I became pregnant for the first time, I knew I needed to start learning more. I bought a book called Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense by Ellyn Satter, MS, RD, CICSW, BCD. This book was a great investment and has been a great source of knowledge for me. Today I am going to talk about one of Ellyn’s philosophies, which is the division of responsibility.
The division of responsibility simply states that parents are responsible for the WHAT, WHEN, and WHERE their children will eat. Children are responsible for HOW MUCH and WHETHER they will eat at all. In a lot of ways it really takes the pressure off of the parents when you practice this philosphy. If you’re anything like me, you have probably worried from time to time if your child was getting enough of what he/she needs nutritionally speaking. It is time to go back the basics and trust children to know when they are hungry. Know that children are just like us in that they are sometimes ravenously hungry, and other times they just aren’t that hungry at all. This is normal!
Although we do have to trust our children more, we also need to remember that new foods are “weird” to children. It takes them time to adjust and explore the new food. Going back to the division of responsibility, there is no need to pressure a child to eat a new food or make a big deal out of how they “don’t know what their missing”. (By the way, don’t feel bad if you have done this! I think most of us have, but it takes time to remember to refrain from these types of phrases.) Remember that you may have to offer a particular food more than a dozen times before it becomes an accepted food, so don’t give up.
Here are a few tips to help you make this work:
Relax! Mealtime should be fun and relaxing. If you have provided the food, you have done your job.
Offer snacks and meals on a regular basis. If your little one decides to go on strike at a meal, you don’t have to worry that he/she will starve because you know more food is coming in a few hours.
Always serve at least one familiar and accepted food at each meal and snack. This way you know that your child has something to eat and his/her plate won’t look so foreign.
Remember that not everyone can have his or her favorite dish at every meal.
Know that you will be tested. My son screamed through lunch a few weeks ago because he wanted cheerios instead of what I served him. I’m pretty sure most children have these episodes!
Don’t give up. Keep bringing back foods whether your child accepted them or not. It takes time for children to explore and accept new flavors and textures.
Don’t make a big deal out of your child not eating a particular food or any food. This is counterproductive.
I exercise because it can help to prevent dementia! I want a strong mind to go with my strong body as I age!