The Division of Responsibility-the one feeding strategy you need!

by | Feb 14, 2021 | Feeding Toddlers, Weaning | 2 comments



Are you struggling with a fussy toddler? Maybe you’re starting to dread mealtimes. Or you’re simply fed up with your child demanding food all day long. You need to know about the Division of Responsibility.



The Division of Responsibility will change the way you think about feeding your child.


I’m so excited to share with you the ONE feeding strategy that will change your life! OK, it may not change your life, but it will change how you think about feeding your children forever.


It’s more of a philosophy around feeding with several different feeding strategies.



What is the Division of Responsibility in Feeding?


Quite simply, the Division of Responsibility (or DOR) as the name suggests, divides out the responsibility of feeding to you the parent and the responsibility for eating to your child.


The DOR was pioneered and researched by an American dietitian and family feeding therapist called Ellyn Satter. She has over 40 years of experience of working with families, health professionals, research and publishing books on feeding.


She sums up the whole philosophy quite simply by saying ‘when parents to their job with feeding, kids do their jobs with eating’.


It sounds straight forward, doesn’t it? But let’s take a look at the DOR in more detail and see what it means for managing food in your home.



In the Division of Responsibility, parents do the feeding.


You’re in charge of WHEN food is served.


This means you decide on the timings of all meals and snacks. It’s well recognised that a predictable feeding schedule works much better than your child grazing throughout the day.



You’re in charge of WHERE food is served.


Ideally, you should eat the majority of your meals and snacks at your family table if possible. If you don’t have a table, then a kitchen island or another designated eating spot will do. Family meals are also more important than most people think, as is eating without distractions like TV, screens etc.



You’re in charge of WHAT food is served.


It’s important to serve foods you want your child to eat, learn to like or that you like to cook and eat yourself. While it’s good to be considerate of your child’s likes and dislikes, it’s not a good idea to fully cater to them. So, do make sure there are at least one or two foods on the table that they generally do eat.


Now, your job is done!



So, you’re in charge of when, what, and where and then you’re handing over the baton to your child.





Your jobs with feeding are to:


  • Choose and prepare the food.
  • Provide regular meals and snacks.
  • Make eating times pleasant.
  • Step-by-step, show your child by example how to behave at family mealtime.
  • Be considerate of your child’s lack of food experience without catering to likes and dislikes.
  • Not let your child have food or drinks (except for water) between meal and snack times.
  • Let your child grow into the body that is right for him.



In the Division of Responsibility, children do the eating.


Your child is in charge of:


WHETHER: It’s up to them whether or not to eat what’s on their plate or the table.


HOW MUCH: It’s up to them how much they eat of the foods you’ve provided. Some days they might want to eat less than you’ve served and someday more.






Part of your feeding job is to trust your child to:


  • Eat the amount he needs.
  • Learn to eat the food you eat.
  • Grow predictably in a way that is right for him.
  • Learn to behave well at mealtime.




Division of Responsibility is perfect for ALL ages groups.


The division of responsibility in feeding applies at every stage in your child’s growing-up years, from infancy through the early years through to adolescence. From birth feed your baby on demand, letting him determine the timing and tempo of feeding. As he develops and becomes more regular in his eating patterns, you gradually take on responsibility for when and where to feed. Most children are ready to join in with the meals-plus-snacks routine of family meals by the end of the first year or the second year. After that, parents need to maintain the structure of family meals and sit-down snacks throughout the growing-up years. When you do your jobs with feeding, your child will do his with eating.



Staying in your lane prevents feeding struggles.


Most feeding struggles happen because either you or your child has crossed lanes! For example, if your toddler takes food from the fridge whenever they like and eats it wherever they want, they are taking over all three parts of your job: what to eat, when to eat and where to eat. If you try to coax your toddler into taking one more bite of dinner, then you’re stepping out of your lane and into theirs.



Lose your inner Irish Mammy!


However, letting go of ‘getting’ food into your child takes trust! You must trust your child to eat what they need to grow and develop naturally. And this can be hard. It’s hard to let go of the idea that you’re a bad parent if your child doesn’t eat a ‘good dinner’ or if they don’t eat their vegetables.



The Division of Responsibility rules in our house


What I love most about recommending this approach is that time and time again, it leads to happier and more relaxed eating for the whole family. And I have seen the powerful effect it’s had in my own family since I embraced this way of feeding. And I want to reassure you that this approach to feeding is not new (even though it may be new to you). It’s endorsed by feeding therapists, dietitians, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and doctors working in feeding.


Family Style Meals


Parent Provides, Child Decides!

Don’t waste any more time on feeding strategies that cause stress and pressure. Try the DOR today and see how it works.. Don’t worry if it’s a bit strange at first. You’ll soon see the benefits.



For more on the Division of Responsibility and other proven feeding strategies check out my Online Feeding Your Toddler Course-8 easy steps to enjoyable and successful mealtimes.



And why not subscribe to Solid Start and get tips on food, nutrition and feeding straight to your inbox every month?

Caroline O’Connor

Hi! I’m Caroline, a registered dietitian, lactation consultant and mum. And I’m passionate about helping parents confidently feed their children and enjoy successful and stress-free mealtimes. No super-human effort is required!


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And I’m passionate about helping parents feed their children with confidence and enjoy successful and stress-free mealtimes. No super-human effort is required!

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  1. Sinéad

    I agree completely with this- however there is a minute proportion of children who suffer from oral aversion due to gastrointestinal issues. For this minority of children “they’ll eat if they’re hungry” just isn’t a runner. We attended the feeding school in Graz, Austria and although we agreed with a lot of what they taught, some children are not able to eat due to severe nausea/vomiting/gastroparesis/etc.

    • Caroline O'Connor, Registered Dietitian and Lactation Consultant

      Hi Sinead. Yes, you’re right! We can trust children to eat what they need when they are healthy. If there are medical reasons preventing them from eating then these certainly need to be addressed. Also, even with ‘healthy’ children, the ‘they’ll eat if they’re hungry’ doesn’t work if the food they’re offered isn’t appropriate to their needs or is food that they haven’t learnt to like yet. That’s why even with healthy children we encourage that you always include food at meal/snack times that your child can reliably eat if hungry. For some children this may be a safe food, or even a specialised food.


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