Your Child Will Grow Up to Get the Right Body

Ellyn Satter
March 22, 2010

Your child has a natural way of growing that is right for her, and she knows how much she needs to eat to grow that way. Her inborn way of growing is supported by, and in balance with, her inborn tendency to consume more or less food and her inborn tendency to be more or less active. If you maintain a division of responsibility in feeding and a division of responsibility in activity, including trusting her to do her part with eating and moving, you don't need to worry about her growing normally -- it will happen.

Your child's body shape and size are mostly inherited. She will resemble you with respect to being big, small or in-between. Her height and weight are normal for her as long as she grows consistently, even if her growth plots at the extreme upper or lower ends of the growth charts-above the 97th or below the 3rd percentiles. But if her weight or height abruptly and rapidly shift up or down on her growth chart, it can indicate a problem. In that case, consult a health professional who understands feeding dynamics to rule out health, feeding, or parenting problems.

Children who are unusual in any way -- in this instance, those who are especially big or small-need particularly good social skills. Rather than trying to change your child's size or shape, which will backfire, concentrate on teaching your child to cope. Help her develop good character, common sense, effective ways of responding to feelings, problem-solving skills, and the ability to get along with others.

To help your child grow in the way that is right for her:

  • Feed in the best way. Follow the division of responsibility in feeding.
  • Limit television, and give your child opportunities to be active. Follow the division of responsibility in activity.
  • Feel good about the body your child has, not the one you thought she would have.

Copyright © 2009 by Ellyn Satter. Published at For more about raising children who eat as much as they need and get bodies that are right for them (and for research backing up this advice), see Ellyn Satter's Your Child's Weight: Helping Without Harming, Kelcy Press, 2005. Also see to purchase books and to review other resources. 

For more information, visit Ellyn Satter's Facebook page.

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