Guest Blogger Kerry Brown, Parenting Specialist, Parent Connext™

Has your child ever had a bad day with a lot of meltdowns, and you can’t figure out why? Do you take your child’s behavior personally? In parenting, we can tend to become reactive to our child’s negative behavior because we are taking it personally. We feel the child’s behavior is at us or about us, but in reality, they are just expressing a need. If we can take a step back and QTIP (Quit Taking It Personally), then we can assess what the need is for our child. By doing this, we can help meet our child’s needs and then teach them how to recognize them in the future. One tool for healthy coping skills that are used in addiction recovery is the acronym: H.A.L.T. This is used to help people remember their basic needs and to prevent relapse by never getting too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. The same can be used for parenting, but with an additional letter S, so then it becomes H.A.L.T.S

H: Hunger. Is your child hungry? This one seems simple, but young children eat many small meals throughout the day, so healthy snacks can help improve behavior if it’s been a while since they had a meal. Also, being aware of your own hunger and how you are responding to your child. Being intentional about packing snacks and consistent meal times can help manage hunger meltdowns.

A: Anger. This is obviously an emotional response, but underneath it is often about control or lack thereof. Every human has a need for control in life, even children. People have different needs for control, and if you imagine it like a bucket that needs to be filled throughout the day, think about how often that is filled for a child and how often it can be emptied. Children do not get a lot of say in their day, and if they have a higher need for control or strong leadership skills, this can create meltdowns when it feels like their control bucket is empty. Providing 2 choices and a routine schedule so your child knows what to expect can help fill your child’s control bucket.

L: Lonely. This is about connection and attention. If children are not getting attention in a positive way, they will seek it out with negative behavior. All humans are wired for connection, so learning how you can connect with your child is helpful. The good news is kids only need about 10 minutes of quality time a day. The challenge with that is quality time is defined as one on one, the child is in charge, and there are no distractions. This part can be tricky. We often spend a lot of time with our children, but how often is it quality time? Creating intentional time to spend with your child either daily or weekly can increase connection which then increases cooperation.

T: Tired. Children need a lot of sleep and a consistent sleep schedule. When they are sleep-deprived, you may see more meltdowns and refusal to cooperate. If you look at the breakdown of how much sleep a child needs by age, make sure your child is getting enough. Also make sure to have a consistent bedtime, even on weekends. I am sure you have experienced the consequences of allowing your young child to stay up late on a special occasion or weekend, only to pay for it for many days after with his/her behavior? 

S: Stressed. This one has been added as it’s important to understand how children respond to the adult’s stress. They are a thermometer for their parent or caregiver’s stress, so they are often reacting to the stressful energy. Have you ever been stressed out because you are running late and tell your kids to hurry and get their shoes on, only to turn around and see that they are taking their socks off? This is them responding to your stress, and often they shut down or meltdown when they feel the stressful energy. This can just frustrate the parent more, which then escalates the child, and it becomes even more stressful and difficult. This is not to say that parents are not allowed to have stress, it’s just to be aware of how your stress is impacting your child. Then it is helpful to learn what you need to do to manage your stressful energy. Sometimes it is just communicating to your child how you are feeling and why you are feeling that way.