Division Of Responsibility a Very French Approach to Feeding

baby food guide 10

The Division of Responsibility is considered best practice when feeding children. It is based on the work of Ellyn Satter, around responsive feeding practices.

When I first started researching fussy eating some 15 years ago, I came across it and it made a lot of sense. I realised it was the principle that my parents had used in our family, even though they were unaware of it. Culturally, as I explained here, it is very much the norm to feed children within this set of rules in France.

So I dubbed Ellyn Satter the ‘Frenchest’ of dietitians!

DOR, is easy enough to understand. It requires parents to commit to applying it for many years to come and that’s not so simple.

Let’s see if we can get you started. All you need are a few keywords:



  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • If
  • How much

The responsibility is shared between you and your children: you decide what you will serve, where, and when.

They decide if and how much they will eat.

The reason it works is that with such a structure, there is no pressure.
There are no rewards, no nagging, no encouragements. There are neither positive nor negative comments on what, and how much is eaten. Your child can then thrive and be in tune with their hunger and satiety.

It’s interesting to me that Anglo-Saxons seem to be at a disadvantage when it comes to applying DOR, it simply is not part of our culture to impose the same meals for everyone in the family and we mums often found ourselves doing short-order cooking to satisfy everyone! It is also that we pay more attention to the nutrition value of our meal, rather than to structure and conviviality.,

The French have a huge advantage dealing with fussy eaters: they don’t have to over-analyse it: the family and the school canteen just take care of it very simply. The food offered is the same for all, you can eat it if you wish! You may be asked to taste it (not recommended for very sensitive children),  but you are never pushed.

At the French school canteen everyone is offered the same food, but because there is quite a range (usually 3-4 courses plus bread) children will find something to eat. Lilian Birch showed that children become better eaters when they eat with their peers. They will change their preferences in line with what the children eat at the table [i] .

There is no doubt in my mind that food refusal is one of the most challenging issues to deal with at home, particularly at dinner time, when everyone is tired. I always tell the story of how my own kids went through a stage where both of them would wind each other up at dinner time, making me feel anxious about their growth, their health, their development. But then I would take them to France, they would sit down for leisurely lunches or dinners with the family and I would not hear a thing, not a word of complaint! They would behave, I am not sure what they ate, but that did not matter in the long scheme of things.

Ô the relief! Battle-free meals, stress-free meals, were right there, and all we did was put conviviality, and DOR at the centre of the table, so easy. Try it for yourself, it works!

If you struggle to work it out. If your kids have meltdowns at mealtimes, then it may be time to get help.


[i] Birch, L. (1980). Effects of Peer Models’ Food Choices and Eating Behaviours on Preschoolers’ Food Preferences. Child Development, 51(2), 489-496. do:10.2307/1129283.

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