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Have you had problems with grandparents not accepting how you feed your children? Recently, a mother described the situation with her in-laws:

My husband and I have been successfully implementing Satter’s division of responsibility in feeding (sDOR) since our now 3-year-old was approaching 2 years of age. At this time, he was becoming skeptical of foods he ate before. My in-laws are not at all in favor of our approach and try to get my son to eat—both at our home and theirs. They constantly talk about food, act superior about what they eat, and warn us about the health consequences of what we eat and drink. My husband acknowledges the problem but hesitates to talk to them about it. I can’t cut off sharing meals with them because that would hurt him.”

Begin by considering your relationship 

ESI: Let’s see if we can defuse this by using the support, empathy and truth (SET) method. “We know you love Johnny and want the best for him. We also know you consider it important to eat certain foods. However, talking about food and eating makes us all anxious and confuses Johnny about the mealtime rules. We have been following Satter’s division of responsibility in feeding and would like you to do the same. (Explain what it is.) Our goal is not to get-food-into-him-right-now, but to raise him to be competent with eating. That means he will be comfortable and relaxed with all food. Since we stopped trying to encourage Johnny to eat any particular food or comment on who is eating what, he is relaxed at mealtime, and that is most important to us. Feeling good at mealtime will eventually let him learn to eat the food we eat and the food you eat. However, it takes nerve to hang in there, and we need your support.”  

If all goes well, they will ask, “what can we do?” and you can say something like, “Follow our lead. Don’t address food and eating in any way when we have meals together. Pay attention to little signs that he is sneaking up on new food (but don’t make an issue of them).”

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It isn’t! You and your husband will have to agree on this and take a united stand with them. It is that important. Your son’s lifetime relationship with food depends on it.

What more can you do?

If they respect your wishes, that is as far as you need to take it. If not, here are some further suggestions:

  • Give them a copy of the stage-related Feeding with Love and Good Sense booklet. Say, “If you have any questions, please discuss them with us when Johnny is not around. 
  • For your part, read Secrets of Feeding a Healthy family part one (How to eat) and two (How to raise good eaters) to familiarize yourself with eating competence and what following sDOR has to do with it.
  • Be prepared to show the grandparents the parts of the Ellyn Satter Institute website that talk about the division of responsibility and eating competence in detail. The two pages below have clear links to the research. 

We hope, for the sake of family harmony, your in-laws will give up being the food police. If not, you may have to refuse to share meals with them.

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