Parents know the kitchen table can be a battleground. Trying to get kids to eat, let alone eat healthy foods, can be the cause of many stressful meals. How will these food fights impact children later in their lives?
Child feeding expert Keira Oseroff, faculty member with the Ellyn Satter Institute, will be speaking at the Anchorage Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC) Annual Conference on January 25, 2017. Keira will be discussing how parents and child care providers can develop and maintain a positive feeding relationship that empowers children to eat and grow well. Ellyn Satter is the author of the “Division of Responsibility in Feeding,” which is the gold standard for feeding children.
We talked with Keira to learn more about feeding children.
1. Who is Ellyn Satter, and what does the Ellyn Satter Institute do?
Ellyn Satter is a registered dietitian and family therapist who has dedicated her career and writings to teaching people how to eat and feed their families with health and joy. She has become an international authority on best child feeding practices. Later in her career, she established the Ellyn Satter Institute (ESI) with the goal of continuing her life’s work. ESI teaches positive, joyful, and nutritionally responsible feeding and eating by reaching out to parents, clinicians, educators, researchers and policy makers, offering guidance in both prevention and treatment strategies.
2. What is the “Division of Responsibility” when feeding children?
Satter’s feeding model, “Division of Responsibility in Feeding,” is recognized as a best practice by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Head Start, and the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC).
Satter’s Division of Responsibility says that parents have certain jobs with regard to feeding their kids, and kids have their own jobs when it comes to eating. The Division of Responsibility spells out at each stage of child development what the “boundaries” are when it comes to feeding and eating.
3. You say that parents have a job to feed children, and children have a job to eat the foods they’re given. Explain what you mean by parents’ feeding jobs and children’s eating jobs?
Parents often describe meal times as stressful and filled with power struggles. The Division of Responsibility encourages parents to take a leadership role in feeding. Parents are responsible for the what, when and where of feeding, and children determine whether and how much they eat.
4. Many people are confused and stressed about what they eat and what they feed their children. How can we make eating more enjoyable?
It’s so difficult to tune out the noise that’s all around us. Everywhere we turn, whether it be from public policy, the medical field or pop culture, we are told what to eat, what not to eat, to move more and to weigh less. The noise easily turns into preoccupation about our food, our bodies, our kids’ food and their bodies. It becomes more and more difficult to tune in and trust ourselves when it comes to eating and feeding our kids. The noise and lack of trust are barriers to getting a meal on the table, to sit down with one another and enjoy one another and the food we share. When we become clear about our goal, that is to be together and share the same food, we bring the joy back to eating. When parents feed according to a division of responsibility, mealtimes become more relaxed and enjoyable for everyone.
5. How can parents feed their children to help them grow up at a healthy weight?
Research supports what we have seen for years. That is, when parents focus on the feeding relationship and learn to trust themselves and their children, kids do better with eating. Kids are more likely to grow up in the bodies that are right for them.
6. Why are you speaking to child care providers about the best ways to feed young children?
Being with children for so many hours a day, child care providers are in a key position to help kids develop a healthy relationship with food. They are tuned in to behavioral issues, familiar with developmental stages, and are ready to consider them in the context of feeding. Childhood obesity is a hot button topic ever present in the school environment. It’s important to equip child care providers with tools that contribute to the health and wellbeing of the kids they are charged to care for. And because they are in a unique position to connect with parents, the tools and principles can be shared for practice at home.
Photograph courtesy of Keira Oseroff