Toddlers are a unique species. They love to exude their independence and decision making in different ways that may change from day to day. One area that may be the most frustrating is refusing meals. Ellyn Satter helps relieve this frustration by developing the “Division of Responsibility”. The division of responsibility outlines the responsibility of a parent to provide nourishing food and the role of the child to self-direct their intake. As long as they are provided without options, you have provided a healthy space and from there you need to remain strong in your choices no matter how loud they yell or how long their tantrum lasts. If the boundary is set, your child will be hungry and realize they won’t get chips instead of the ranch and carrots just because they threw a fit.
Trusting your child and having patience is an integral part of the process. As a parent, be an example for the type of eater you envision in your child. Remember, there is no such thing as a normal eater. A growing child can go through periods of growth where they eat everything in sight, or they can have days where they eat a small amount of food. Trust that their bodies will direct their eating and try not to force any idea of a specific type of eater.
Here are some tips to making mealtimes a good experience for you and your child:
- Make mealtimes enjoyable by putting a variety of colors and arranging food in fun ways
- Provide small amounts and allow second portions if they desire
- Eat together as a family
- Provide snacks in addition to meals
- Put dessert with the meal to alleviate rushing through food
- Try to avoid using food as a reward, instead use toys as positive reinforcement