Real Talk

Understanding The HALT Method: Discipline With No Drama

HALT is an acronym for parents that stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and/or tired—the four feelings that kids usually have.

Parenting isn’t easy and the situation escalates even more if our kids are in a state of HALT. HALT is an acronym for hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, which is usually why our kids aren’t behaving like we’re used to.

It’s like how we are; we don’t like working when we’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Most especially when we’re in this state and forced to, we’re not the best boss or teammate to anyone.

So how does this method work? Here’s a breakdown of the four letters:

1. H stands for Hungry

Nobody can work or think on an empty stomach. But unlike adults, kids can’t just “power through” it, nor can they do intermittent fasting. Because our kids’ metabolisms are much faster when they’re running, talking, or playing, they have shorter eating intervals compared to adults. So, if it’s been about four hours or so and they start having meltdowns or becoming irritable, they might be hungry.

That’s why some moms and dads always keep an emergency packet of crackers in their bags or their cars. While it may be for them if they’re going on long trips, they won’t hesitate to give it to their kids if they know that they can’t eat anytime soon.

2. A stands for Angry

A lot of things can anger a person. For kids, it can be someone who tore their drawing or called them names in school. Teenagers may be angry because of things they’ve seen while doom-scrolling through social media, like all the bad things happening around the world.

As adults and even more so as new parents, we had to exercise patience with all the new things happening so we have a pretty good handle on our anger.

Kids learn how to handle their anger through us and the best way to open a conversation about their anger is to offer a willing ear but at the same time, separate ourselves from the rage. Avoid calling them out immediately and instead ask, “Everything okay?” or “What do you need?” That way, it’ll make them solution-oriented.

3. L stands for Lonely

While some kids are okay with playing alone, they still want to be with us. We offer them comfort and safety that they subconsciously recognize. This means that leaving them for a while to do adulting things can make them feel abandoned.

So, it’s no surprise that when we suddenly come back from whatever it is we’re doing, they start acting out. In our exhaustion, we sometimes end up thinking that they’re doing this to torture us. But the truth is, they’re expressing that they’re lonely—a frustration that’s hard to describe because it’s a mix of rage and disappointment.

Although we want to sleep and decompress, our kids just want to spend time with us. Offer to read a book or watch a movie with them so it’s something we can bond over with them. Plus, it’s less physically straining too!

4. T stands for Tired

Fatigue has so many different forms that even adults have trouble differentiating which is which! And if we’re already having a hard time, what more our kids? Tiredness just washes over them with a variety of feelings that get overwhelming. They don’t know which one to address first, so kids scream and cry in hopes of making it either go away or calling attention to someone.

When this happens, ask them what they’re physically feeling first. Physiological pain like stomach aches and headaches are the easiest to treat because at least there are ways to externally relieve it. Once that’s addressed, the kids will calm down and then we can ask again what’s happening.

How to start the HALT Method: “What do you need?”

Kids go to their parents because they need something. As their source of food, strength, security, and comfort, they will always look for us when they’re having meltdowns because they trust us to know why. That’s why we HALT; we stop what we’re doing to figure out what’s hurting our kids.

Although some parents will feel that this method “spoils” children, the key to the HALT method is having the child identify with us what their issue is. Spoiling is if we solve the problem for them!

Besides, we’ll also notice that disciplining will have less drama once we recognize how our kids manifest those four feelings. The important part is that we are consistent with our HALT parenting and disciplining so that kids can learn how to verbalize their feelings as they grow.

More about parenting?

Conscious Discipline: Why Every Parent Must Know It
Effective Discipline Strategies in Raising Respectful Kids
Stephanie Zubiri: Soulful Parenting

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