Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Division of Responsibility in Feeding

Remember that time, back in your childhood when you found yourself alone at the table, minutes, maybe hours even after the mealtime had passed, staring a pile of green something-or-other in the face?  Yeah, I think we all do.  Our parents' "You may NOT get down from the table until your plate is clean!" echoes fresh in our minds like it was just yesterday.  They meant well, really they did, but I think there are better ways to raise up healthy eaters.

Last year, I had the privilege of speaking to my Mother's of Preschoolers (MOPS) group on the topic of nutrition.  Although I am a "nutrition expert" by title, let me assure you that I'm right there in the trenches with you, maneuvering the challenges of feeding my own kids.  Feeding children is HARD and I've watched many-a-mealtime go downhill as it morphed into a battle of wills.  My growing passion is to help change the way families approach the table by removing some of the power struggles that can easily develop around food and mealtimes.  Since our kids will not reside under our roofs forever, my goal is to help others empower their kids to make their own good choices.  I hope to offer tips and tidbits on this blog that will give practical ideas to assist in this process.  Are you concerned with the way your child eats?  Join the club!  And read on. :)

In our society, there is so much focus on WHAT to feed our kids and so little focus on HOW to feed them.  I'll fess up.  I like to go "under cover" when we go to my kids' well check ups.  Who knows, maybe it's written in giant red letters on the outside of each of their charts "SHE'S A DIETITIAN" but really, I just want to know what doctors are telling "normal" people without a nutrition background about feeding their kids.  Granted, my children have an incredible pediatrician and you couldn't pay me enough to ever switch to anyone else.  And they have received wonderful medical care through the course of their lives.  But, I must confess I've been a bit surprised by scarcity of how-to feeding guidance that has been provided to me.

So if you're looking for a little more guidance on this big, rather important topic, I think I can point you to some things that can help.  The first thing I want to introduce you to is the Division of Responsibility, also known as "The Golden Rule of Feeding."  This approach to feeding kids was created by a fellow dietitian, Ellyn Satter, and I would highly recommend her book Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense if you are struggling with feeding your kiddos.  She also has a wonderful website with a lot more information if you are looking for additional resources. 

This Division of Responsibilities is an absolute must if one hopes to eliminate food fights and it sets clear ground rules for how mealtimes work in the home.  It differentiates the parents' role from the child's role when it comes to feeding:

THE PARENT is responsible for...


...foods are offered.

THE CHILD is responsible for...


...they choose to eat.

If I totally just blew your mind, go back and read it again.  And yes, I just said your kid gets to decide whether or not to eat what you serve.  Don't bail on me and call it all blasphemy just yet.  When I first learned about this feeding methodology, it went against nearly every grain in my body and I didn't think there was any way it could "work."  I am a control freak.  And I am the responsible adult.  Of course I should have a say when it comes to what my kids eat.  Certainly my kids won't eat vegetables if I make it optional?  

And the truth is, sometimes they don't eat vegetables.  A lot of times, actually.  But then there are random days like yesterday when I come home from work and they can't stuff their little faces with enough strips of red bell pepper.  So the thing is, I totally do have a say when it comes to what my kids eat.  My responsibility of choosing which foods to prepare and offer gives me a degree of control, at least when we are eating at home (when they are in others' homes, we are at the mercy of our hosts but I firmly believe that is healthy and ok).  Though they can opt to refuse what I serve, if I only serve nutritious options and don't break the division of responsibility and allow them to short order something else for dinner, then what they consume will be healthy.  You would be amazed at how many battles are instantaneously defused when a child realizes you aren't going to force them to eat.  And thankfully one meal or one week of meals or even one month of meals isn't the be all end all.  If food fights are commonplace in your home right now and you wouldn't exactly describe your child's diet as "healthy," take heart.  You certainly aren't alone!  There is much more I could say but in efforts to keep my posts short and sweet, I'll save it for another day. Stay tuned!


  1. I love this! Totally agree. As a fellow mommy of 3 I battle with food quite often, but take a similar approach to this. Keep sharing these tips! ��

  2. Great post Kelsie! This is a good reminder to me to hold up my end of the deal. :)

  3. Yes, friend! We need to hear more. :)


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