Family life is busy and when it comes to mealtimes, it can sometimes feel like a whirlwind after a long day. Some parents also note an increase in mealtime stress when trying to cook for picky eaters. Have you thought about the Division of Responsibility? 

However, regular family meals are worth the effort as they provide an opportunity to catch up and communicate with one another.  They also allow children to learn about food, eating and mealtime behaviours. 

Over the next month, Gen Physio blogs will focus on family mealtime tips to assist parents in reducing mealtime battles and helping children establish healthy eating habits and positive relationships with food. The first step in achieving this is to define our responsibilities through a feeding method known as the Division of Responsibility.

What is the Division of Responsibility (DOR) in feeding?

The Division of Responsibility (DOR) is an evidenced-based approach coined by Ellyn Satter, a dietitian and family therapist, internationally recognised for her authority in eating and feeding.  The DOR is not a diet or a set of rules.  Rather, it is a guiding principle that sets out the responsibilities of both parents and children come mealtime.

Parents and caregivers are responsible for the what, when and where of feeding, whereas children should have the freedom to determine how much and whether to eat the food provided. This means  parents’ role involves:

  • Choosing and preparing food
  • Providing food at regular intervals
  •  Being a role model
  • Creating a positive mealtime environment
  • Developing faith and trust that their child will eat the amount they need, develop their table manners and learn to accept new foods over time.

As such, gone are the days where children should be encouraged to ‘just have one more bite’ or ‘finish everything on your plate if you want dessert’. The DOR may seem counterintuitive at first, especially if these were statements you heard growing up.  However, when parents do their jobs of feeding, children will do theirs of eating.   

Click here for the infographic

Why is DOR Important?

When implemented in practice, the DOR has many beneficial outcomes including reduced stress and pressure at mealtimes from both parents and children.  Not only can this allow parents to feel more in control and less worried about their children’s eating patterns, it also provides children with an opportunity to develop a healthy relationship with food, at their own pace.  

Allowing children the time and providing a pressure-free environment when exploring and learning to like new foods is extremely important, especially in the younger years.  Extra pressure from parents to try foods, eat a certain amount of one food or limit a certain amount of another, can lead children to develop an unhealthy relationship with food.  This may result in children establishing a hierarchy of ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ foods, losing touch of their innate fullness and hunger cues, as well as causing a distorted idea surrounding food, nutrition and the ability to eat in moderation. 

Tips and Reminders for implementing the Division of Responsibility

The DOR is a feeding approach designed to identify the different roles between parents/caregivers and children.  We each have our own unique responsibility when it comes to eating and it’s important we try to stick to them as often as possible. Keep an eye out for next week’s blog that contains our Top 10 Mealtime Tips that will be sure to help assist you with establishing the Division of Responsibility at home.  

Don’t forget, it is the role of the parents and caregivers to decide what food is on offer, the timing of meals and snacks, and where the meal will take place. It’s then up to the children to choose what they would like to eat and how much they need until they’re satisfied. 

If you would like to learn more about the DOR and how to implement it in your own home to help reduce mealtime stress/improve your child’s food variety, give us a call at Gen Physio.  We have a friendly team of professionals that are dedicated to changing the lives of our clients. All of our clinicians are mobile and come to your own home to conduct an examination. Give us a call on 1300 122 884 to book a consultation today.


Written by Madi Chee

Madi graduated from the Queensland University of Technology with a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics (First Class Honours) in 2018.  Throughout placement and work opportunities, Madi has gained experience in a range of areas including weight management, gastrointestinal disorders, chronic health management, enteral nutrition, elderly nutrition and oncology. 

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