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Division of Responsibility with Picky Eaters

What is the role of the parent when you have a picky eater?

A lot of my clients start out listing all the things they’ve tried and how nothing has worked. It’s frustrating for parents of picky eaters.

Feeding your child and making sure they’re nourished is vital. Food is also a way to come together and connect as a family. Often parents hear bits and pieces of information on how to get their kid to eat – and trying to wrap that all into a family plan can snowball into mealtime battles and STRESS around food and eating.

When I tell parents about the “Division of Responsibility” with eating they’re often surprised about the simplicity of it. In the results driven parenting world behavioral approaches (with rewards and punishments) are often more appealing at first because they seem to have a very clear method paired with concrete results.

However, for the vast majority of picky eaters behavioral plans don’t work long term and they don’t support a healthy life-long relationship with food. For that, you need the child to feel motivated, empowered, and confident.

So what is the Division of Responsibility?

It’s a term by Ellyn Satter ( and it helps children become competent eaters. There are parent responsibilities and child responsibilities:

The parent’s job is to:

  • Choose and prepare the food.

  • Provide regular meals and snacks.

  • Keep mealtime relaxed

  • Model how to behave, eat, and respond.

  • Acknowledge that your child is still learning how to eat

  • Trust your child – they will grow into a body that is right for them.

The child’s job is to

  • Eat the amount that they need. they decide how much and what they eat)

  • Learn to eat they food you eat (by watching you)

As Ellyn Satter puts it – “When you do your job with feeding, your child will do his with eating”

If you have a picky eater and need help understanding or implementing the Division of Responsibility - reach out today and schedule a discovery call!


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