I have been a slow study on implementing the work of Ellyn Satter on child nutrition in my own home. Nonetheless, her suggestions do percolate for me and I see the simple beauty in her list of division of responsibility in feeding (see her list below). Over the past year, my dense skull has softened, through frustration and desperation at times, to let in this wisdom. At least, I think it’s going to work for me and my family, with my own modifications, of course.
My Mother was into natural foods, including breastfeeding babies, back when I was a kid, but I have no memories of her trying to discourage us at all about our Halloween candy. We gathered, gloated, binged, savored and even made it last until we finally figured that the last pieces were ones we didn’t like anyway and finally threw them away. My brother, sister and I, now between ages 30-37, are all health-conscious people who choose mostly unprocessed foods. All of us are healthy and at healthy body weights.
This year I thought about calling upon the Halloween fairy, who, it is reported, would whisk away unwanted or leftover Halloween candy in exchange a new dress-up costume that can be played with all year. I suspect she buys these costumes at half-price at the after-Halloween sales. However, Ellyn Satter’s evidence-based conclusions – and I’m not saying I LIKE all of them, I’m just saying they have the ring of truth – seem to pass Occam’s Razor: letting the kids learn to manage their candy stash is just simpler for me as a busy parent. Why do I have to orchestrate a complicated candy ransom that requires me to spend more money and act like Hallmark, creating new holiday “traditions”?
Furthermore, how many years am I buying into the mythology of the Halloween Fairy, and might I regret her existence once she has visited our house for the first time? Perhaps my children will learn of her by hearsay and request that we experiment by baiting her with the candy on the front stoop. If so, I’ll be waiting to see if she does in fact bring more fun material collateral in exchange for our haul of GMO corn syrup. Of course, the offer will always be open for them to trade an “unhealthy” treat for something out of our “treat basket,” which is full of options which I consider to be a little better than the ones they will likely receive by trick-or-treating. (Finally, I found a naturally-colored alternative to candy corn and M&Ms in the bulk bins of our local co-op store!)
So, instead of a Halloween Fairy tradition, what I AM planning to do is focus on visiting the homes in our neighborhood of all the people who attend our school. I’m going to email those parents ahead of time and find out times when they might be home so we can possibly see them. Maybe we’ll create a trick-or-treating traveling party. This effort, at least, does resonate with my values about creating community and will therefore make me happy. Maybe we’ll even visit fewer candy stops if we are on an itinerary to our “school neighbors.” Maybe, with the extra walking to get to their homes, we’ll burn off a few more calories. And just maybe, we’ll be making an effort toward greater community connection.
Parents provide structure, support and opportunities. Children choose how much and whether to eat from what the parents provide.
The Division of Responsibility for Infants:
- The parent is responsible for what
- The child is responsible for how much (and everything else)
The parent helps the infant to be calm and organized and feeds smoothly, paying attention to information coming from the baby about timing, tempo, frequency and amounts
The Division of Responsibility For Toddlers through Adolescents:
- The parent is responsible for what, when, where
- The child is responsible for how much and whether
Parents’ Feeding Jobs:
- Choose and prepare the food
- Provide regular meals and snacks
- Make eating times pleasant
- Show children what they have to learn about food and mealtime behavior
- Not let children graze for food or beverages between meal and snack times
- Let children grow up to get bodies that are right for them
Fundamental to parents’ jobs is trusting children to decide how much and whether to eat. If parents do their jobs with feeding, children will do their jobs with eating:
- Children will eat
- They will eat the amount they need
- They will learn to eat the food their parents eat
- They will grow predictably
- They will learn to behave well at the table
Copyright © 2011 by Ellyn Satter. Published at www.EllynSatter.com.
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