Eat and feed with joy

Division of Responsibility

I am frequently asked “how do I get my kid to eat healthier? They will only eat bread and I’m worried!” The answer is very straight forward, but the key is to remember our job is not to control our children, but to guide them towards healthy eating. We all know that once a child feels we have taken away their control they will rebel. They have very little control in their world and they are not going to give that up for anything. We have all been there –

parent: eat your vegetables before leaving the table
Kid: no!
parent: I told you to eat your vegetables. It is not a choice. I am your mother/father and you have to eat them before you can leave. If you don’t eat them then the TV is gone for the night.
Kid: [epic meltdown commences]

There are 2 key things to do in order to work towards your child eating a healthier diet.

1. You eat a healthy diet. Yes, practice what you preach and eat well. If you child sees you eating treats and skipping vegetables they are going to call you out and want to do the same. The standard is the same for everyone. Be the eater you want your child to be 🙂

2. Practice the division of responsibility. Ellyn Satter Institute is an amazing resource you NEED to read if you have any interest in promoting a positive relationship with food with your children. She is the master of stopping the power struggles. I used to give all my friends with new babies the book “Child of Mine” because it is amazing. They have a great website here –

So what is the division of responsibility?
1. You are the parent. It is YOUR JOB to provide your child with adequate food and healthy food options. That’s it.
2. Your child has a job too. It is his/her JOB to decide which foods s/he will eat and how much s/he will eat.

If you do your job, that’s all you need to worry about. They recommend doing family style meals so the hild has a chance to take more or less of the different foods. If you don’t want them eating oreos, then don’t buy oreos. It’s that simple. When you want a treat and buy oreos they can enjoy them at that time. No more power struggles. No more drama. And when the stress and drama go away, your child will enjoy eating more things and will branch out. If your child is older it does get trickier but she has some great resources on how to navigate when children can buy their own food.

This approach holds true for snack time too. Here’s an example:
Child: I’m hungry. I want a snack. Can you get me a snack?
Parent: Sure! You can have grapes or carrots.
Child: I don’t want those! I want cookies. Those things are yucky.
Parent: You’re upset you can’t have cookies. I’m sorry, but your choices are carrots or grapes.
Child: NO! I am not eating then. I’ll just starve! You’re the worst (or other insult…)
Parent: [calmly] if you decide you’re hungry later and would like carrots or grapes, let me know and I will get some for you. (now walk away and don’t engage them in their tantrum)

This works – seriously. The struggle is usually your internal battle of not pleasing your child. Remember what is best for them, not what feels good at the time. Your job is to teach them how to be healthful eaters!

The other part of the division above is about how much to eat. A child’s intake can vary like crazy! They can go on a bowl of cereal, carrots and a sandwich one day to an adult feast the next. If they have been allowed to self-regulate, they are able to choose how much food they need. Family style meals will allow them to fine-tune this internal regulation. You put the types of food they are allowed to eat on the table and they can pick how much they want. If they overeat, they realize what that feels like on their own and will better regulate later. If they don’t eat, they will survive. Kids can skip meals frequently and be fine. That means if they go to bed without dinner, it’ll be OK. Just remind them at dinner that the food shown are the same food they will get if they are hungry later. If they decline, they aren’t that hungry. They are going to push this power struggle to the max. You need to stay consistent. You’ve got this!

from Nutrition.Health.Life


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