As a feeding therapist, I am always on the look-out for things to share with Parents and colleagues. Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility Model just about sums up everything I believe about children’s competence around food, trusting their instincts and reducing mealtime stress (for everyone).
Put simply (and like all true things, it is both simple on the surface and sometimes hard to achieve), it goes like this:
- Children do want to eat, and they do have the capacity to regulate their intake (in fact they often do this better than us adults).
- It is not a Parent’s job to make sure their child eats a particular volume, or even a particular food.
The Parent’s job is to decide:
- What food to offer
- When to offer it
- Where to offer it
The child’s job is to decide:
- Whether to eat
- How much to eat
That’s it! The rest is trusting your child.
I know this may not ring true for many Parents- if your child needs to be a certain weight for an operation, if they need more than the typical number of calories because of a health condition, if they have to be fed to a rigid schedule around their medications, or their vomiting, if they are very rigid and aversive in their approach to food.
Having a child who has complex medical and/or developmental issues can quickly distort this natural balance of responsibility around food.
I believe that one of the jobs of a Speech and Language Therapist is to try and work with you and the team around your child to restore this balance as much as we can. This balance may look less than perfect a lot of the time, but refocussing on your child’s competence and natural wish to explore food (it is in there, really, it may be buried very deep though) should be part of any good feeding plan.
It can be really difficult to focus on a child’s developmental relationship to food in complex medical situations. But feeding is more than just calories in. Hopefully, your Speech and Language Therapist will advocate for your child in this regard within your medcial team, and work with you to nurture your child’s competence around food.
Ellyn Satter has written several very good books, and has a website and Facebook page- Google for more info.
Posts from Find the Key Speech Therapy are intended for information. They are not intended, and cannot, take the place of advice from an appropriately qualified Speech and Language Therapist who knows your child. Find the Key Speech Therapy does not take responsibility for the use of any advice without appropriate professional guidance.