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“You’re an important part of this family too”: a message for picky and “under” eaters

Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Blog Posts | 3 comments

We spent the weekend at an indoor water-park. My calves are still sore from climbing all those stairs up to the water-slide, and I only went about ten times. No idea how my kid went at least 75 times, and is just fine…

Anyway, after a few days of eating out, I was feeling pretty blah, and just not hungry for breakfast yesterday. We eat almost every dinner, and most breakfasts together. I made some scrambled eggs for DH and DD, and sipped some coffee. M, now 6 1/2 asked what I was having. “I’m not hungry. I think I’ll just have some smoothie…” To which she replied, “Mom, can you just sit and keep us company while we eat? You’re an important part of this family too.” Ha!

I did, and I enjoyed my smoothie, and the company. This is a line she’s heard a few times, and will sound familiar to those of you who read Satter’s books.

Here’s where I use it with my clients. Primarily this phrase is helpful with picky eaters, or kids where parents have been concerned about weight or nutrition and have been pressuring kids to eat. (Remember pressure with kids and eating almost always backfires.) So, when you are transitioning to the Trust Model, to family meals, and planned sit down snacks, children will test you. They will say they aren’t hungry, or don’t like the choices for the meal. (In the past, not eating may have gotten them a granola bar, or some other favorite.)

In order not to pressure, and stay pleasant and neutral, ask the child to sit with you for the beginning of the meal. A preschooler may perhaps leave the table after five to ten minutes. The expectation is clear, they don’t have to eat anything at all, or try anything, but they do get to keep you company. (The Division of Responsibility says your job is to put a variety of foods on the table at meals, and your child’s job is to show up and decide how much or if to eat from what you provide…)

The phrase, “Can you just sit and keep us company while we eat? You’re an important part of this family too…” Is very helpful. It connects you to your child, it invites them, but doesn’t pressure them to eat. What have I seen at my own table, and heard from my clients? Most of the time, with this scenario, kids sit, and within a few minutes find something at the table they can eat, provided they aren’t pressured.If they don’t eat, that’s OK, they will have a chance again at the next planned snack or meal, and you have shown them that you can be trusted not to push them to eat. This builds their trust in you, and also sends your kids the message that you trust them and they can trust their bodies to guide their eating. Powerful stuff!

Have you tried it? How does it sound? Let me know how it goes!

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3 Comments

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  1. Ellyn Satter

    This is so lovely, Katja. To me it is heartwarming when our children’s messages come back at us. We need the encouragement at times, as well!

  2. Gene

    This is probably just my own damage, but I don’t think I would’ve taken that line well as a kid. To me, it sounds manipulative and disingenuous. I probably would’ve been suspicious.

    • katja

      Hmm, that’s really interesting. I guess what happens after the kid comes to the table. If the child comes, and is then pressured to eat or try something, then it would feel manipulative. If it is sincere, and if indeed the child is not hungry, and doesn’t want to it and is allowed not to eat, then I don’t see that. I thought it was sweet when my daughter said it. She wanted to enjoy my company at breakfast. Which part of it is manipulative? How about, “can you sit and keep us company for awhile?” Is there some way to convey the message that feels authentic to you?