JUST ONE MORE BITE – HOW TO STOP BRIBING YOUR KIDS TO EAT

“Just one more bite of broccoli and you can get down…” We’ve all been there… It’s hard not to be anxious when your child won’t eat the healthy food that you’ve lovingly prepared, but over time the dinner table can become a battleground and more often than not, you end up pulling a bribe out in order to get your child to eat something good for them.

But, experts advise against this and suggest that it’s actually ok to let them dodge the broccoli if that’s what they want. Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility is a set of rules you can follow so that you can avoid bribing and end the mealtime battle of wills. Internationally recognised authority on feeding, Ellen Satter, says it’s actually much more important to hand the power of choice back to your child than it is to cajole them into eating the broccoli.

WHAT IS THE DIVISION OF RESPONSIBILITY?
Satter divides the process of feeding up into areas of responsibility. Roles for the adults and roles for the child.

THE ADULT
Firstly, it’s the adult’s role to make the important decisions related to what your child or children will be offered to eat, when you offer it and where you eat it. For example, you decide that you’re making sausage traybake, serving it at the dinner table at 5pm.

THE CHILD
Then Satter’s Division of Responsibility indicates that once the child sits down at the table with the food on, the adult’s responsibility stops there. You give them autonomy to make their own mind up about what they will eat, and how much of it they will eat. That means that even if they choose to eat absolutely nothing of what you’re offering, you don’t pass comment or attempt to persuade them otherwise. You respect their decision. You can say “That’s ok, you don’t have to eat anything you don’t want to.”

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MY CHILD EATS NOTHING?
The most important thing you can do is be ok with it in the moment but learn from it in the long-term. Try to avoid situations like this by planning meals with your circumstances in mind. If you have a picky eater, you can try to avoid a full-on hunger strike by planning something specific into the meal that they will eat. So, if and you’re serving up sausage traybake, make sure that you still have something (slightly) nutritious on the table that they are likely to take a few bites of. This may be garlic bread on the side or a specific kind of sausage, potatoes, or pasta in the traybake. Whatever you do, serve it up at the same time as all the other food rather than serving something after everything else has been rejected.

NO RESCUE MEALS
When following The Division of Responsibility, it’s really important not to resort to offering a rescue meal. This is a second offering of food in response to a rejection. No. Matter. What. This will undermine all the hard work you’re putting in. But… you can include a nutritious dessert option with every meal. Fruit and healthy yoghurt option is a good dessert and a great way to top up the nutritional profile of your family diet.

IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT ONE MEAL
And when you’re feeling worried about how little your child is eating, don’t dismiss the value of all the other food they eat throughout the day and week. A good diet isn’t made up of just one meal a day- it’s about good food in life, so line up plenty of decent options. Punctuate the day with the best quality food and ingredients you can offer for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and drinks.

SERVING STYLE AND ATMOSPHERE MATTERS
Another killer aspect that will help you nail fussy eating is to try to generate a gentle and relaxed atmosphere at the dinner table when you eat. Studies also show that children benefit hugely from adults eating at the table with them. Presenting food in sharing bowls on the table to help yourselves to will also provide your budding young foodie with plenty of exposure to a variety of foods. And seeing you enjoying eating them will definitely instil a positive association for the future, even if they don’t eat them on this occasion. I love to have music playing and have some ideas for interesting conversation topics that will help break the tension if any develops. Don’t worry, there are always moments of complete madness every meal in my house, and that’s fine, but the mood from the adults remains calm and happy.

MOVING FORWARD
How do you feel about adopting the Division of Responsibility? Apprehensive? It’s hard to make big changes, especially if you’re worried about the fallout at the dinner table and how you could possibly stay calm. But remember that you are free from all responsibility at the point when you put the food on the table, so you can relax and enjoy your own meal whilst they make their own mind up about whether to eat or not. Keep it chill.

If you need further support, feel free to contact me on alex@feedthebrood.com to find out more about the fussy eating courses and webinars I produce.