Feeding Your Kids: Focusing on the “How”

Yesterday I gave a brief review of the conference I attended in St. Paul this past weekend called A New Paradigm for Weight: An Effective Model for Promoting Healthy Body Image, Eating, Fitness and Weight in Children, Teens and Adults. There were some great presenters, and I think Katja Rowell’s information is particularly important and relevant for PWN readers.

Katja was a family physician prior to founding Family Feeding Dynamics. While working as a physician, she was shocked at the number of feeding problems and children with disordered eating, and wanted to find an effective way to address this. FFD’s goal is to teach the importance of a healthy feeding relationship to health care providers, family therapists, parents and other childcare providers.

The foundation of Katja’s work lies in the Division of Responsibility:

When it comes to feeding, the child can decide IF, and HOW MUCH. The parent decides WHEN, WHAT, and WHERE. (Obviously infants decide “when,” but as they get older this responsibility transfers to the parents).

I like this because it’s simple and easy for parents to remember. Think about the “scenes” this type of division of responsibility can help families avoid: frustrated parents negotiating and bribing their kids at meals; tired kids left at an empty dinner table because they haven’t eaten all their veggies; parents using food as an afternoon “crutch,” only to result in a kid that is not hungry come dinnertime and therefore does not sit down for the family meal; kids consistently dictating what they want for meals and insisting on one of only a few foods, none of which are very nutritious; parents feeling defeated, tired and fed up with picky eaters; an overall association of stress and anxiety with mealtimes for kids.

On the flip side, think about what things COULD be like if the division of responsibility was adhered to: consistent family meals; relaxed meals during which families can talk about their days; kids are not eating too much (because their parents are restricting their food) or too little (because their parents are trying to force food) but rather just the right amount to keep them full; a consistent schedule so the child knows when he/she will eat again; eventual end of kids begging for unhealthy snacks, because they know they will not receive it; parents only have to prepare one meal, because the kids eat the same things as the adults; kids who associate food and eating with thinks like family, happiness, relaxation, and togetherness.

Doesn’t this sound great? Everything Katja said made so much sense, yet I have never heard it presented this way. Katja, as a former doctor and now an eating consultant, stated that conflict over food is “the norm.” It is very typical for children to be picky eaters and for battles to ensue at the dinner table. However, she believes this can be changed with a little work.

Katja also believes that BMI is a false clinical marker as it does not take into account body composition, and therefore is not a reliable predictor of health. Parents may go to the doctor and be told their child is “overweight” or “underweight” based on the BMI charts, and this sets off a cycle of eating battles at home and increased stress at mealtimes. The real things to look for, according to Katja, are weight accelerations or decelerations on the BMI charts. But if your child has a healthy, steady increase as they age and grow, parents need not worry if they are not exactly in line with what doctors label as “healthy” or "ideal."

Tomorrow I will talk about some ways to enforce the Division of Responsibility in your home.

You can visit Katja's website here. Check out her blog too - she provides real examples of the Division of Responsibility used in her own home and that of others.


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