Some of the best parents I know struggle with dinnertime. As responsive parents (better known as authoritative parents) we want to let our children express opinions in their daily lives. We also want to listen carefully to their thoughts and give them options.
But when it comes to eating, we also want them to eat healthy.
So...what do we do when they just won't?
We do our job.
As parents, we have certain responsibilities. As children, they also have certain responsibilities. Eating expert Ellyn Satter calls this the division of responsibility.
These are the job descriptions:
- Parents choose the foods
- Children choose how much to eat (if any at all)
When kids are demanding different foods than you are serving, they are trying to do your job. When you start trying to encourage your child to eat more/less--then you are doing the child's job.
Everybody just needs to mind their own business.
This means no more coercing children to take a taste or flying the airplane into the hangar. After you do your job (which is to prepare and serve good, wholesome food) take a deep breath. Trust children to do the rest. If they choose not to eat--just let it be.
There is no emotional reaction from you. Because that's not your job. When you overstep your boundaries you have a power struggle on your hands.
And I can tell you from experience, kids who skip dinner eat a really big breakfast the next day.