As a parent, you always want to do what’s best for your children. We want to help our kids grow through proper nutrition. But sometimes convincing a kid to eat his or her broccoli makes both of you completely miserable. Picky eating can make family mealtimes one of the least enjoyable and stressful parts of the day. 

The Division of Responsibility (sDOR) in feeding, developed by feeding expert Ellyn Satter, acknowledges the responsibility of both parents and children when it comes to feeding. Setting the stage for a proper feeding environment includes defining the roles of both parents and children. The goal is to empower your child to explore foods, teach them to listen to their hunger and satiety cues, and overall become a “good” eater in the long run! 

picky eating

The Division of Responsibility in Feeding

The Parent is Responsible For:

  • What foods the child is offered
  • When the food is offered to the child
  • Where the child is fed

Your responsibility as a parent is to choose, prepare, and offer a variety of foods for your child’s meals and snacks, until they’re old enough to be able to do it for themselves. The more interactions that children have with food, the more likely they will be to try it. This is especially true for kids who tend to resist new foods more than others. Next time you see your kids “playing” with their food, remind yourself that they are learning with their senses and try to give them a little more creative freedom. In the long run, you’ll empower your picky eaters to want to try new things on their own.

The Child is Responsible For:

  • How much of the meal given they consume
  • Whether or not he or she eats the food you provide them 

Sometimes we start to get worried when our child does not eat all of his or her meals and snacks. However, children have a remarkable intuition when it comes to food. The most important part of the Division of Responsibility is trusting that your child is eating enough of what you provide them with.

picky eating

Your role as a parent does not include forcing your kids to eat certain foods or worrying about how much they’re eating.

Isn’t that such a relief?!

As a parent, you must trust that your child eats the amount that he or she needs and is growing at a healthy rate. 

picky eating

More than The Division of Responsibility

Family meal time is so much more than the division of responsibility. It is also about sharing time as a family, coming together to the table to share and enjoy a meal. Parents set an example for their children, so making mealtimes part of your family’s life is extremely important for children to develop good relationships with food and establish healthy habits from an early age. 

To read more about the Division of Responsibility, visit the Ellyn Satter Institute

McDaniel Nutrition’s Family Nutrition Experts

Heather Young, MS, RD

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Heather Brown is one of our pediatric and eating disorder specialists at McDaniel Nutrition. She can certainly help you and your family explore the division of responsibility and come up with strategies that can help you find what works for you and your kiddos!

Melissa Brown, MPH, RD

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Melissa Brown takes a whole health approach to nutrition, working with clients to meet their nutrition goals and achieve their best health while developing a healthy relationship with food. She can help you and your family navigate the division of responsibility and picky eaters!

Click here to book your appointment with our dietitians!

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.