Guide Three: Mealtime Battles

Presenter: Natalia Stasenko

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Hi everybody. My name is Natalia, and I’m one of the moderators and feeding professionals supporting you in this group. In this video, I would like to talk to you about why meal times can become a battle. When you are worried about your child, and there are so many different reasons why you may be worried for your child, it’s so easy to get caught in this mealtime battle loop. Getting them to eat some food, right? Instead of helping them build confidence with new foods and developing their eating skills, we just try to get some food into them. And at the end, our kids may start resisting. Mealtimes will become more stressful. This stress may affect their appetite.

Possibly, they will be even less curious in exploring new food. They may start rejecting the food that they used to like. And so ultimately, we’re getting stuck in this bad loop. When the more worried we become about the eating, the more pressure we use in different ways at mealtime. The more, our children resist this pressure. And so we find ourselves in this situation when we’re really where we really don’t know what we should be doing next, should we apply more pressure? Should we just let our children do whatever they want to do and eat whatever they want to eat whenever they want to eat. This kind of dilemma is something that many parents experience.

Parents can use pressure at mealtimes. {Examples include}

  1. You’re asking your child to take one bite of a specific food.
  2. Or maybe you’re asking them to finish their plate.
  3. Or maybe you’re cooking them an alternative meal and then expect them to eat it, especially since you put so much effort into creating something else for them.
  4. Maybe you’re distracting them with a screen or feeding them with a spoon, just to ensure that you are getting this certain amount of food in them.

You might also see other family members and your friends around you using the same strategies. So, they seem like part of our normal everyday parenting. But, unfortunately, these strategies are not helpful in the long term. In this group, we focus on promoting something else. In this group, we promote the responsive approach to feeding children. As you’re scrolling through the discussions in this group and as you’re watching all the other videos in the learning units, you’ve been learning more and more about this approach, which is research-based and extremely effective.

This approach helps kids feel confident when exploring new foods and staying attuned to their hunger and satiety signals. This means that they learn to not over or under eat and get enough calories and nutrition to grow optimally. A formula that allows us to implement responsive feeding strategy in our family is called Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility.

You have probably seen this acronym in our group discussion many times. It’s D O R and it stands for the division of responsibility. So according to the division of responsibility, parents are responsible for what we serve for meals. The parents are responsible for planning the menu. They’re also responsible for when to serve meals and snacks. Meaning, parents develop some kind of predictable meal and snack schedule or structure or routine, and also parents determine where is the best place to feed children. The best place can be sitting at the table, not running around, and enjoying the meal mindfully.

According to the division of responsibility, children also have very specific responsibilities. One of them is to determine whether to eat. So kids should be able to decide whether they want to eat this meal that we put on the table at a specific time at a specific location. And they should also be able to determine how much they want to have.

Children can self-regulate how many calories they need and they need to be able to select from the options we’ve put in front of them. 

This is a short summary of the division of responsibility. It sounds very simple. Yet, it is very tricky to implement it in our own homes.  Simone, Jo and I have been doing it for years and we’ve been working with many, many families to implement this over the last few years. So, we know that there are a lot of hidden roadblocks to implementing responsive feeding strategies in family homes.

That is why we created our subscription site, which is called your feeding team. And in this subscription site, we dive deep into explaining alternatives to using pressure, using responsive feeding strategies and how exactly to implement responsive fitting in your home. You will get support. You will get a lot of support in this parenting picky eaters group. But if you think that having more time with us – Simone, Jo and I – and having discussions in a smaller group would be something that may work better for you. Feel free to check out our website (it’s and see if it’s the right fit for you.

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