Ellyn Satter fans.. help! - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 2 Old 07-07-2016, 08:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Question Ellyn Satter fans.. help!

For anyone here who follows Ellyn Satter's Division of Responsibility theory of feeding kids...

I have three stepsons ages 6, 9, and 11. (I am their full-time mom, theirs passed away years ago.) We have a *lot* of struggles around food. Their dad and I've basically been doing the opposite of her plan--restricting quantities of junk food and sugar severely because of behavior issues, and forcing them to eat healthy foods and veggies because, well, we want them to be healthy. The screaming/whining/fighting is becoming unbearable and I'm thinking of trying to transition to Ellyn Satter's plan.

I have some questions I couldn't find covered anywhere though.

1) They either go to school or camp, where they have lunch around noon and no afternoon snack at all. They get home around 4pm. I know this is horrible but there's nothing I can do about it. They are ravenous when they get home and will easily eat an entire family-size bag of chips or pretzels if I let them have as much as they want, and then no appetite for dinner. We eat dinner between 5:30 and 6pm, depending on when their dad gets home from work. What should I do about snack? I've tried limiting them to "healthy" snacks -- apple & peanut butter, nuts, etc. but they refuse to eat any of it, are super cranky and rude because they're starving, they basically just scream and cry and slam doors. We currently let them have a limited portion of junky snack based on the serving size on the bag.

2) Satter's books don't seem to address limitations due to quantity of food made/budget, and apportioning fairly among siblings. She says kids should be able to eat as much of something as they want, but sometimes I can't make/buy that much food. For example, the oldest's favorite snack is $4 a bag -- he would easily eat 2-3 bags in one sitting if I let him. I can't afford $8-12 for one snack for one kid! If the quantities are limited, then the kids fight over who gets more (I guess that's normal...) so I end up trying to portion it out equally. Another example -- Satter mentions letting kids have as many cookies as they want sometimes. I bake large delicious cookies, but they'd be gone in one sitting if I did that, the kids would be screaming about who got more or less, and then they'd be pissed the next day when there were none for lunch/snack. I don't have time/energy to bake cookies every day (I work) and we don't like the chemical crap at the store, and the good organic cookies are too expensive to buy in large quantities. So I try to stretch them over the week (1/kid/day). How do you all deal with external limits on food like this, and siblings fighting over what's there?

3) With three kids, if I make enough for all of us to eat as much as we want, that's a huge amount of food. Satter says no one should be forced to eat anything, even if it's something they liked the day before and just "don't feel like" eating. We've run into that situation--in fact, our son ASKED for a particular meal and then refused to eat it when it was served. I don't feel comfortable spending $$$ on food, hours to prepare it, just to throw it away. With 3 kids that is a lot of food. How do you deal with the food and money waste, and the frustration of spending so much time and energy cooking for nothing?

4) They get up really early (5:30-6am). We tell them that's fine, but they have to eat breakfast before they go downstairs to play Minecraft etc. Once they're hooked into the video games, they won't get up even if they're starving, and they end up hitting each other out of hangry frustration. It's pretty much the only time of day they are allowed to play games, and lets us actually get some sleep. Should we not do that?

As you can probably tell, I'm super frustrated these days, but I also know our current system isn't working. I really want to try this system -- it seems really respectful towards both the kids and the adults -- but I want to have as many questions answered as possible before I shake things up again

Thanks for any help you can give! -ae2

(xposted to r/parenting)
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#2 of 2 Old 09-09-2016, 06:31 AM
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Your child is a competent eater when . . .

He feels good about eating. He enjoys food and joins in happily with family meals and snacks.He enjoys meals and behaves nicely at mealtime. He feels good about being included in family meals and does his part to make mealtime pleasant. He does not make a fuss.He picks and chooses from food you make available. He is okay with being offered food he has never seen before. He says “yes, please,” and “no, thank you.” He ignores food he does not want and also “sneaks up” on new food and learns to like it. Eventually he will learn to eat almost everything you do.He determines for himself how much to eat. Only he knows how much that is.Trusting him to eat as much he needs lets him grow consistently and develop the body that nature intended for him.- See more at: http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/htf/....ByOIGlDS.dpuf

'll try to answer your questions:

1) if you read Satter carefully, you will see that she is not particularly fond of the words "healthy" or "junk food". We shouldn't feel obligated to eat certain foods or ashamed if we eat others.
As for your particular situation, this is what I would do: some days I would serve pretzels or chips, some days I would serve carrots and hummus, or fruit and cheese for a snack (or whatever you consider healthy). What is important according to Satter is that you don't limit portions or force them to eat if they don't want to. I do this with my kids and "junk food" is pretty much a snack as any other. Occasionally, one or both of my kids refuse to eat their chips.
One more thing, if the kids refuse to eat the non-junk food snack, I wouldn't give them other options. I would have them wait until dinner. If they are hungry, they will eat. Also, rude behaviour would not be acceptable. Just give it a couple of weeks and they will learn.

2) Satter DOES address budget / food limitations. She says that if a food is desired by everyone (such as bacon) everyone should have their portion, but there should be other foods on the table for people to fill up on.
I would tweak a bit your approach. As far as the cookies are concerned, I would bake as often as I, the cook, wanted and let everyone eat their fill as a snack. Satter does not say we should feed them limitless quantities of cookies all the time. Let them be upset if there are no more cookies. They'll get over it. Look at it as being an opportunity for them to learn to like other foods.

3) The most important thing in Satter's approach is that you should have family meals and serve what you, the parents, enjoy eating. So ds wouldn't get a special meal just for himself. If he refuses to eat, his portion can be packed as lunch by one of the other family members. And I'm sure ds would have a hearty breakfast the next morning
If you teach them they don't have second options other than what's on the table, they WILL eat, I promise.

4) Satter also says that the most important ingredient at the table is you, the parent. I think they a bit too young (especially the 6 yo) to be expected to take care of themselves with respect to feeding in the morning. My two kids (7 and 12) also get up early and have screen time on weekends while we sleep in, but I don't expect them to eat breakfast first (and if I did, they would probably eat nothing, or eat in a hurry and leave a mess, and I would have to serve them a second breakfast anyway.) Depending on how late you, the parents, wake up, I would let them play and I would eat breakfast with them when I wake up.

I very much agree with Satter that my role as a parent in feeding my kids is not to forbid junk food, or restrict their diet to the latest fad (low fat, low sugar, organic or whatever), or to fatten them up, or to keep them skinny. My job is to raise competent eaters. Here is an excerpt from her website:
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