It’s pretty normal for children to be selective about what they eat. Picky eating can be just a phase, especially in the toddler and preschool years. Even if it’s normal, picky eating can bring up worries, frustration and big power struggles.
Here is the good news: There are ways for you to encourage healthy eating habits, without resorting to demands, struggles or bribes. None of that works in the long run anyways and usually leads to kids dreading meal times.
Parents tell me they love this picky eating solution because it’s simple, clear and actually something they can follow through. Following through with a solution is often the hardest part of solving parenting challenges right? So Here we go…
If you want to feel calmer and more confident about meal times, this information from Elly’s Satter, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and family therapist may be very helpful. Her work on division of responsibility in feeding offers truly helpful and sound information.
Satter’s work has helped parents the world over that want to change feeding struggles, picky eating battles and prevent childhood obesity. The information here is very compatible with the core ideas behind positive parenting. The main message is one of trusting our children and inviting cooperation. I particularly appreciate the message of taking pressure and stress out of meal times and being respectful to a child’s capabilities.
These ideas, when put into practice have the potential to truly end picky eating struggles.
Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility In Feeding
Children have natural ability with eating.
They eat as much as they need, they grow in the way that is right for them, and they learn to eat the food their parents eat.
Step-by-step, throughout their growing-up years, they build on their natural ability and become eating competent. Parents let them learn and grow with eating when they follow the Division of Responsibility in Feeding.
The Division of Responsibility for infants:
- The parent is responsible for what. The child is responsible for how much (and everything else).
- Parents choose breast- or formula-feeding, and help the infant be calm and organized. Then they feed smoothly, paying attention to information coming from the baby about timing, tempo, frequency, and amounts.
The Division of Responsibility for babies making the transition to family food:
- The parent is still responsible for what, and is becoming responsible for when and where the child is fed.
- The child is still and always responsible for how much and whether to eat the foods offered by the parent.
- Based on what the child can do, not on how old s/he is, parents guide the child’s transition from nipple feeding through semisolids, then thick-and-lumpy food, to finger food at family meals.
The Division of Responsibility for toddlers through adolescents
- The parent is responsible for what, when, where.
- The child is responsible for how much and whether.
- Fundamental to parents’ jobs is trusting children to determine how much and whether to eat from what parents provide.
When parents do their jobs with feeding, children do their jobs with eating:
- Parents’ feeding jobs:
Choose and prepare the food.
Provide regular meals and snacks.
Make eating times pleasant.
Step-by-step, show children by example how to behave at family mealtime.
Be considerate of children’s lack of food experience without catering to likes and dislikes.
Not let children have food or beverages (except for water) between meal and snack times.
Let children grow up to get bodies that are right for them.
- Children’s eating jobs:
Children will eat.
They will eat the amount they need.
They will learn to eat the food their parents eat.
They will grow predictably.
They will learn to behave well at mealtime.
For more about raising healthy children who are a joy to feed, read Part two, “How to raise good eaters,” in Ellyn Satter’s Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family. For the evidence, read The Satter Feeding Dynamics Model. © 2015 Ellyn Satter. See http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/ for more about eating and feeding and for Ellyn Satter’s books, videos, and other resources.
For practical ideas on reducing picky eating and food struggles you can read: 16 Ideas for Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits. If you have any questions, please do let me know in comments. I’d love to hear from you.
Peace & Be Well,