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Ellyn Satter and the Division of Responsibility- How can it help your child's eating?

Updated: Sep 30, 2019

When I first started working with families with feeding issues, I found that there were three strategies that made a big difference and dramatically improved feeding when implemented.

  • Helping families to reduce stress and pressure around meal times.

  • Having family meals where the focus was on having time for connection (not on how the child is eating)

  • Creating a structure and routine around for meal and snack times.

I have repeatedly supported families to apply these strategies and seen peace return to their mealtimes and feeding significantly improve. Many families may need additional support or interventions with more challenging feeding issues but even in these cases these fundamental principles help to make an improvement in a child's eating.

In the field of family feeding and feeding relationships one name stands out, Ellyn Satter. Ellyn is a dietitian and family therapist with over 40 years experience or exploring the research around the child’s relationship with food and feeding. She has pioneered this work and has changed the way many health professionals approach family nutrition and feeding difficulties.

The Food Tree ethos and guidance is influenced by the research and work of The Ellyn Satter institute, specifically, what she describes as the Division of responsibility (DOR). When I came across Ellyn’s work initially I felt like it put a name and structure to all that i’d experienced and found to be beneficial when working with children with feeding challenges.

The Division of Responsibility focuses on changing the way in which we approach mealtimes with our family. It requires a mindset shift away from focusing on “getting your child to eat”. Instead it encourages us to focus first on providing the right atmosphere to facilitate and nurture your child’s self regulation and intuitive eating skills. It is a well proven and evidence based approach. Put simply it looks at roles and responsibilities at mealtimes.