I feel ridiculously awesome when my kids say: “Mmmm. Mom, this is SO good! Can I have some more?” I think most of me loves the fact that they are savouring and enjoying the food. My hope is to whet their palate so they keep coming back for family dinners after they leave our nest.
In the past, I would have been happy that they asked for more because it erroneously reassured me they were taking in enough calories, vitamins and nutrients to grow and learn. I’ve worked really hard on developing trust in my kids and have successfully reached a place where I could care less how much they eat from the dinner I’ve provided. I don’t say much as long as they tell me, “Mom, may I be excused? My belly is full.” Of course I still have the normal regressions but overall, this has lead to more enjoyable mealtimes for everyone. They now know that the kitchen is closed after lunch and will re-open for snack. Dieticians and feeding therapists commonly accept Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility. Her ideas about the feeding relationship are based on trust. Trust that a child can recognize hunger and satiety cues and has the ability to self-regulate intake when they are offered structured eating opportunities.
My job: to choose when and where I offer food. To choose what I am going to offer for snack and meals.
Kids job: to choose whether or not to eat. To choose what order to eat things in. To choose how much to eat.
This model is about respecting their choices and giving them autonomy with boundaries. Ellyn Satter’s work suggests that children who are trusted to regulate how much to eat develop positive self-esteem, learn responsibility and self- care skills, appreciate their bodies, and do not become preoccupied with food. Now, I appreciate how challenging this is to put into practice when you have a child who eats a total of 15 (or less) different foods and has a difficult time growing.
My other innate response to hearing those beloved words “Mom, can I have more?” is to offer that food repeatedly. This response rings true ten-fold for a family whose child has a narrow food repertoire to start with. It only encourages parents to offer that food every single day until the rest of time. When you offer the same food on a frequent basis, prepared in the same manner, you are reinforcing rigidities. Food jagging is when your child eats the same food, prepared in the same way every day or every meal. Eventually he will get tired of the food and more often than not, loose it from his food repertoire all together, permanently. Quell your inner desire to give your child the same foo, prepared in the same way at every meal, even if they only have a total of 5 different foods in their repertoire! Make a very small change to the way you present or prepare it.
If your child loves peanut butter sandwiches:
-cut it differently each time (half, quarters, diagonal, cookie cutters)
-prepare it with a different type of bread or tortillas (peanut butter roll)
-mix peanut butter with almond butter or cashew butter
-add sliced bananas
You may need to make even smaller changes, depending on how particular or sensitive your child is.