The feeding roles of parent and older toddler

“Let me guess… parent provides, child decides?”

Absolutely correct! Your child now has a wider vocabulary so you may feel that they’re putting together a better argument to decide what’s on the menu. 

NOT true… keep the faith and stick to your own role!

What do ‘feeding roles’ mean?

The roles of feeding refers to which parts of feeding you should be in charge of and which parts your child should be in charge of. Neither you or your child should have any say on the others responsibility.

The parents’ role

We decide what food is on the menu. The child should have no say in this decision. If the roles change here, you’ll become nothing more than a servant trying to please a master or mistress.

Parents are in charge of
  • Providing regular meals and snacks
  • Choosing which food and preparing it
  • Not letting children have food or beverages (except for water) between meals and snacks
  • Making sure there are no distractions at meals times
  • Showing children by example how to behave at family mealtime
  • Being considerate of children’s lack of food experience without catering to likes and dislikes.

Your child’s role

Toddler feeding rolesThe child’s role is to eat as little or as much as they want. If we try and control eating by getting them to eat more or trying to get them to stop eating, we interfere with our children’s ability to know when they’re hungry or full and will put them off some foods.

Your child is in charge of
  • Deciding whether to eat or not
  • Deciding how much to eat
  • Learning to eat the food their parents eat
  • Learning to behave well at mealtimes.

Why sticking to the rules is important

Making sure we’re looking after our own feeding role is possibly the most important thing we can do to ensure our children grow up eating:

  • the right amount of food
  • a variety of healthy food and
  • having a good relationship with food.
What happens when these feeding roles are not followed?

Eating with family

  • Problems with fussy eating
  • Much greater stress at meals (for you and them)
  • Children who lose the ability to stop eating when they’re satisfied
  • Children more likely to be overweight
  • Children who eat less variety of food
  • Children who eat a less nutritious diet.

See ‘Pressuring toddler to eat’and ‘Restricting older toddlers’ food’ for more detail on the impact of parents taking over the child’s role.

Stay strong – these rules work

If they don’t eat and you feel they should, then be comforted by the knowledge that they’re not eating because they don’t want to or need to.

Your child’s progress when learning to eat may not be noticeable, but rest assured, they will be traveling forward slowly as they get their skills and courage up.

This is providing that you do your (and stick to only your) feeding role.