Is Your Toddler Not Eating? 

Division of Responsibility is Your New Bestie

Krystyn Parks, MS, RD

Do you want meal time to be (relatively) stress-free? (Yes!) If your toddler is not eating that may feel impossible. Ready for a game changer? One of the simplest ways to reduce stress at meal times is to follow Division of Responsibility. We love this method at Foublie so let’s get to it.

What is Division of Responsibility?

Division of Responsibility is a theory created by Ellyn Satter that gives you a role for feeding your toddler and it assigns a role to your toddler. You can’t take on a role that isn’t your responsibility. Read this super human parent- you can’t do it all. It’s not allowed!


The Parent’s Role:

  •  You provide the foods that you want your toddler to eat.

I generally recommend offering at least 1 “safe” food, if your child is picky, but the main focus is what YOU want your child to eat, NOT what your child wants to eat. If you have questions about what your child should be eating, ask your Foublie coach!

  •     You set the time for meals.

Kids do really well with structure. As much as possible, set up a meal schedule that works for you and your family. Will you always be able to stick with it? Of course, not! And that’s okay! The idea is to set up structure so that your child knows that another meal or snack will be coming soon.

  •     You set the location for the meal.

Ideally, meals and snacks should be offered at a table and the whole family (or whoever is home) should eat together. This is a great way for you to model to your children how you want them to eat.



The Child’s Role:

  •  The child decided if they are going to eat.

Kids are naturally very intuitive eaters, meaning they will eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. If a meal or snack is offered and the child does not want to eat, that is ok! You can have them join you at the table while you eat your meal or snack, but do not force them to eat. Many times, younger children will just prefer to play instead of eat, but once they are sitting at the table they may be willing to try the meal or snack.

  •     The child picks what they eat out of the food offered.

With younger kids, you can plate small portions of each food for them. With older kids, you can let them plate the food themselves. As the parent, you do not need to pressure them to take one bite of each food, or eat all the vegetables if they want more pasta. As long as there are second servings available and everyone else has had a share, you can let the child eat however much they want.



Why is this worth a try?

The benefits of this approach..

  • The pressure is 100% taken off of you as the parent!
  • You can relax knowing that everything you offered are foods that you’re ok with them eating.
  • No more need to make second (or third or fourth) meals for each of your children. If they have a safe food available, you don’t have to worry about them not eating at all.

If your toddler does not eat the most well-balanced meal at that time, it’s ok. You will be offering another meal/snack in the near future. Every meal doesn’t need to be perfectly balanced in a healthy diet, it is more about the whole picture of the day or week. If you noticed your child ate only fruit at breakfast, maybe offer non-fruit choices for their next snack to help balance out their menu. Just continue to model healthy eating for your kids at every meal.

Finally, your toddler not eating is still an opportunity for exposure to food. Even if they didn’t touch one of the foods being offered, you still exposed them to it and studies have shown that repeated exposure is the key to kids trying new foods!

So give it a try and let us know how it goes! You’ve got this.

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