The Top 5 Questions about Feeding Children: A Deep Dive into the Division of Responsibility
So you have looked at the Division of Responsibility and you are even trying it with your kiddies...
You are feeding your children predictably (every ~3 hours) at the table with all electronics off and all the toys/homework away; you are choosing what they should eat; and you are allowing them to decide if they will eat and how much they will eat. That is a great start to helping your children become competent eaters!
Now, let’s break it down by questions I typically get:
How do I feed my picky eater using the Division of Responsibility?
It can be frustrating to feed a family when you have one child who likes one food and another child who hates that food. And of course, you (the parent) have food preferences as well! The secret is to make sure that there is AT LEAST ONE FOOD on the table that everyone will eat. It might be a vegetable or fruit, a starch or a meat or yogurt, etc. So, you know no one will starve! Now, put all the food you are going to offer on the table, and let your child(ren) eat as much or as little as they like of WHAT IS ON THE TABLE. Your child may only eat yogurt or fruit for that meal. That is ok. Over time, through exposure, your child will learn to eat more foods and get the nutrition she needs. Honestly, it is very common for children to just eat one or two foods at a meal/snack; so parents can rest assured that over time (because the goal is to raise competent eaters) their child(ren) will learn a positive relationship with food and also grow in the way their genetics intended.
How do I introduce new foods to my child?
It can take UP TO 20 TIMES of introducing a new food before a child (of any age) will eat it. Never force a child to eat a food, even a new food. And never, absolutely never, force food into a child’s mouth. This will cause a very negative association with that food specifically, or food in general - something you don’t want to have to deal with. (Seriously, you don’t want that). Focus on regularly exposing your child to this new food (e.g. fish) – they will smell it, see it, see others eating it. You might put it on their plate and ask them to put it back if they don’t want it - leading them to touch it. By exposure and using their senses, they will usually warm up the foods. The best way to introduce a new food is to pair it with a familiar (and well liked) food; and remember, regular exposure.
How do I deal with my child’s demands for special foods?
“Eew. I don’t want [insert current dinner menu]. I want [insert child's favourite food].”
The short answer? Don’t cater to it. Avoid making special meals for someone in the family (this does not include allergies, although trying to get the whole family to eat the same food is very beneficial). When your little one throws a tantrum because he doesn’t want fish, he wants Mac and Cheese – fight the urge to give in. This is a great opportunity to teach your child that mom or dad (or whoever) worked very hard to make that meal, and that your child needs to be thankful for what he was offered. Tell him that he may eat as much or as little as he would like from what is offered but nothing different will be made for him until the next meal or snack in ~3 hours.
How much dessert do I give my child at a meal time?
If you want to offer dessert at a meal, ensure that each person gets only one piece/serving. Allow each child to eat their dessert wheneverthey want during the meal. They do not need to finish their plate to eat dessert as this would go against the division of responsibility. Again, this allows our children to listen to their fullness cues and stop when they are full; and helps build a healthy relationship with food. What I would advise against, is having dessert 30 minutes after you eat a meal or snack. This would fall into the ‘grazing’ category where individuals are eating in between meals/snacks.
How much unhealthy food do I allow my child at snack time?
If you choose to offer a less healthy food for a snack (e.g. cookies or cake or chips), allow your child to eat as much as she wants (or is available), at the table with no distractions, TV, games, or homework. Allow your child to eat mindfully. She will eat until she is full and then get bored and want to go play. As soon as she leaves the table, she is done eating and all the food goes away.
Final thoughts... on the Division of Responsibility
NEVER USE FOOD AS BRIBERY.
his just teaches children that there is good food (junk) and bad food (vegetables). This will not work in the long run, and actually cause more issues down the road.
Make meal times a happy time!
Make meal times a time to talk to your kids and find out about their day’s experiences. Build deeper relationships; ask about what they are learning or if they are having any issues with friends. Don't waste precious conversation time on fighting over vegetables.
Be good role models.
Kids are smart. “Monkey see, Monkey do”. If you make vegetables for the kids and then eat junk food, they will eventually follow suit. If you are eating well, they will want to eat well too.
In between meals/snacks: ONLY WATER.
No candies, juice, milk, snacks. If you choose to offer any of these foods, offer them during a snack or meal time. What this also means is that if you offer food, and your child does not like what you offer and chooses not to eat any of it, that’s ok. But they can’t come up to you in 30 minutes and say “Mom I’m hungry”. They need to wait until the next meal or snack time in ~3 hours. This time frame of ~3 hours allows your little one to get hungry, meaning she will be better behaved and more likely to try new foods.
You might be a little bit skeptical about this approach. I have used this approach in my clinics with picky eaters, my kiddies who need to gain more weight, my kiddies who are bigger. It works for EVERYONE in the family. Follow the division of responsibility and stop worrying about who ate their veggies. :)
If you have any questions, please send me an email at email@example.com.
Best of Health,