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Division of Responsibility

Division of Responsibility: Overview

Parents are their children’s first and most important teachers! When parents are nurturing and caring, children feel safe to explore and learn about the world. Parents’ actions and attitudes are important in creating healthy environments for children’s development, especially when it comes to raising healthy eaters.

An important skill that children need is self-regulation. This means that children are able to control their emotions and behaviors. Self-regulation develops as children grow.
Research shows that young people’s success in the area of self-regulation is associated with school success and healthy behaviors. Children who have not gained skills in self-regulation are more likely to have trouble making friends and participate in risky behaviors.

Parents can foster the growth of self-regulation. The most import way is to model positive behaviors. Children learn from watching their parents. This is accomplished by showing self-control in words and actions even when frustrated or upset. Parents also need to set boundaries to provide a structured environment that is predictable. Parents should reward positive behaviors. As children grow they need to be involved in decision-making and given choices to help build their skills.

Self-regulation is important when it comes to healthy eating. Young children have a natural ability to regulate their intake of food to get what they need to grow. This natural ability declines with age. As children get older they need to learn how to actively regulate their dietary behaviors to eat a healthy diet. Parents help build this skill through what is known as a division of responsibility. Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding points out parent and child roles.

  • It is the parent's role to decide:
    • what to serve.
    • where and when to eat.
  • It is the child's role to decide:
    • whether to eat.
    • how much to eat of the food offered.
Nutrition Educator Training

Read the Scenario at the top of this page.

Then read through the materials on Division of Responsibility: Overview, Application, and Tips.

Note the Additional Resources (but you do not need to read them all at this time).

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