Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast "Gee Thanks, Just Bought It," which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, "Asking for a Friend," she's helping people with the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive. To submit a question for Caroline, click here.
I grew up with a tense relationship around eating and food, and I always vowed to never project that onto my kids. So far, I have been using Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility method (DOR), which says you dictate what food is served and the child decides which version of that food they eat and how much. It also pushes the idea that labeling food “treats” and restricting certain foods in exchange for other foods (“You can’t have a brownie until you have your broccoli!”) encourages a disordered relationship between the child and food and doesn’t allow them to truly become intuitive about what their body is craving because food is presented with rules and boundaries and restrictions.
I have read the books, I am part of many Facebook groups of like-minded parents and guardians and I feel that it has had a positive impact on what and how my kids view and respond to all different kinds of foods. Obviously, it is more detailed than that, but for the sake of this particular question, I’ll stick with the basics.
My problem is that my husband is really not on board with this program. He hasn’t read the books or done the research, he just thinks what most of us think: Kids need to be told they can’t eat candy and cookies all day or they will grow up to be adults who eat candy and cookies all day. If you follow DOR and Ellyn Satter’s work, this just isn’t the case, but I understand why he believes this as I once believed it, too.
How do I explain to him that his apathy toward this way of teaching our kids is actually going to be the thing that derails them without putting blame on him for not trying?
Now that our daughter is 4, she is starting to pick up on the way my husband talks about and interacts with food. Even if he thinks he’s being subtle like sucking in his breath or scoffing if she just eats a cookie on her plate and not her salad (we serve dessert on the same plate as dinner so as to not give dessert more value; sometimes she doesn’t eat the cookie at all), she is noticing. He still calls dessert items “candy” or “treats” which I really do not subscribe to — every food has a name and we just call it by its name instead of using words like “healthy” or “junk” or “special treat,” etc.
He insists on not wanting to read the Satter books or be in the Facebook groups, and he says he respects what I am teaching the kids, but that he’s just not really into it. How do I explain to him that his apathy toward this way of teaching our kids is actually going to be the thing that derails them without putting blame on him for not trying?
Down and out at the dinner table
I don’t envy your predicament as no one wants to tell their partner that they’re being the bad guy. What you describe here is actually quite normal, I think, and it really comes down to being on the same page about how you want to raise your kids.
A lot of couples might not think a conversation like that would include how the kids are fed and the language that’s used around food. In some families, that’s not an issue that comes up. I imagine in many families today it comes up more and more. As you know, issues around food can be sensitive and the way we talk about food in front of children can be impressionable — in positive and negative ways.
Have you ever tried talking to your husband about how food was presented to you as a child, and how that stayed with you over the years and affected your relationship with eating? It’s possible that he doesn't understand that this new way of discussing food isn’t just a fad but a real way to break some of the generational trauma many of us inherited from our own parents about what and how we eat. It’s possible that he doesn’t understand what the big deal is, which makes sense because he hasn’t read the book you swear by in this journey as a parent.
I think if you could have a heart-to-heart conversation about not just the “what” of this method, but more the “why” — why it’s important to you, why it’s important that both parents follow the rules and why it’s important for your children to have this messaging coming from both parents. I hope that you will be able to breakthrough to him and come together as a unit as you raise your kids together.
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