Feeding Roles


– Sticking to our own feeding role is one of the most important feeding tips we can give you.
– Your feeding role is to decide WHEREWHEN and WHAT foods are served to your child.
– Your child’s feeding role is to decide WHETHER they will eat or not and HOW MUCH they will eat of the food you have provided.
– Taking over bubs feeding roles or letting them do yours has short and long term negative consequences.

On this page:

What are my feeding responsibilities now?
The parent’s role
The child’s role
When we take over their feeding role
When they take over our feeding role

What are my feeding responsibilities now?

By now you should have meals and the feeding roles in place. These don’t change until your child is a teenager and starts controlling all the feeding roles. By then, if you’ve both stuck to these feeding roles, you’ll have given them a great start. You can be confident their feeding and nutrition will stay on track.

Feeding roles refer to which parts of feeding you and your child are responsible for. Neither you nor your child should have any say on the others role. The most important thing we can do is stick to our feeding roles to ensure your child grows up:

  • Eating the right amount of food
  • Eating a variety of healthy food
  • Having a good relationship with food

As your child gets older, they may start to argue about what should be on the menu but that’s not part of their role. Don’t give in, stick to your own role and in the long term you and your child will be thankful for it.

“You decide what I’m served, where I’ll eat and when I’ll eat. I’ll decide if I’ll eat and how much I’ll eat… “

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The Parent’s Role

You decide WHEN, WHERE and WHAT your child will eat. This means meals are your idea and you decide what food is on the menu. The child should have no say in this decision. In more detail, parents are responsible for:

  • Providing family meals
  • Choosing which food and preparing it
  • Not letting children have food or drinks (except for water) between meals and snacks
  • Making sure there are no distractions at meals times
  • Leading by example to show your child how to behave at family mealtime
  • Being considerate of children’s lack of food experience without catering to likes and dislikes 

“I’ll have the nuggets, soft drink and lollies please” The wrong person is deciding the menu!

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The Child’s Role

The child’s role is to decide WHETHER and HOW MUCH to eat. This means after we have served up, we leave them totally alone to eat without pressure. We don’t give any encouragement or guidance on what to eat from their plate aside from helping with cutting or managing a texture. If we try and control their eating by getting them to eat more or less, we interfere with our children’s ability to get to know their hunger and fullness signals. In more detail, your child is responsible for:

  • Choosing to eat or not eat at a meal
  • Eating as little or as much as they want
  • Learning to eat the food their parents eat
  • Learning to behave well at mealtimes

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When we Take Over Their Feeding Role

Taking over your child’s job by either pressuring or restricting their eating can have the opposite affect to what we want to achieve. We can run into both short and long term problems such as:

Short term

  • Greater stress at meals (for you and them)
  • Becoming a fussy eater

Long term

  • Losing the ability to know when they are full
  • Increasing the likelihood of being overweight
  • Eating less variety of food
  • Eating a less nutritious diet

For a while you may not notice any progress in your child’s eating. If we leave them to their feeding role they will be travelling forward slowly, as they get their skills and courage up.

For a more detailed look of parents the impact of parents taking over the child’s role go to: ‘Pressuring Toddlers to Eat’  ‘Restricting Toddlers Food’.

“We’ve served up, job over, it’s up to you now to do your job of eating.”

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When They Take Over Our Feeding Role

If your child starts controlling when and what they eat, their eating will become continuous, unpredictable and their diet may well become full of nuggets, chips and soft drink! You are the best person to decide the foods for them to eat and you may become their servant, preparing separate foods and mealtimes at their request. Don’t give in. They need to learn to eat what we eat. You and your child will be thankful for it.

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